SEATTLE – Reverent tones seem a requirement for Washington coaches and players asked to evaluate Stanford’s defense, a veteran group that elicits effusive praise from opposing Pac-12 offenses.
Even from Huskies’ offense, apparently, which ranks fifth in the nation at 574 yards per game.
Stanford’s defensive front seven isn’t just good. It’s “probably the best we’ll see all year,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said.
Stanford’s safety Ed Reynolds isn’t just good. He’s “one of the best safeties I’ll probably see this season,” UW quarterback Keith Price said.
So if No. 15 Washington fails to move the ball as well against the No. 5 Cardinal (4-0, 2-0 in Pac-12) as it has against its first four opponents, it won’t be for lack of respect.
At least some level of failure is expected. And the Huskies (4-0, 1-0) can’t let that affect their psyche.
“We understand that they’re probably going to win plays,” Price said after Wednesday’s practice, in between a phone interview with Sports Illustrated and a video segment for Saturday’s ESPN broadcast. “That’s what good teams do – they win their fair share of battles, just like we are. It’s just a matter of who can have more explosive plays and eliminate the turnovers.”
That’s how the Huskies beat the Cardinal last season. A depleted offensive line had trouble protecting Price, who spent much of that night running for his life. But two big plays – a 61-yard touchdown run by Bishop Sankey on fourth-and-1, and a 35-yard touchdown pass from Price to junior receiver Kasen Williams down the sideline – provided the Huskies necessary separation in a 17-13 victory.
Those two plays also accounted for nearly 31 percent of UW’s total offense that day. But even prolific offenses found themselves stymied by the Cardinal a year ago. Oregon scored only two touchdowns in a 17-14 overtime loss later in the year, the first time the Ducks had been held to that low of a point total since losing 19-8 to Boise State in the 2009 season opener.