STANFORD, Calif. – The lasting image of No. 15 Washington’s 31-28 loss on Saturday will not be of physical domination by the 5th-ranked Stanford Cardinal. These teams matched well enough on that plane.
It will not be of the Huskies’ inability to compete on the road against an elite team. They did that well enough, too.
Instead, it will be of Stanford receiver Ty Montgomery, and the 204 yards he accumulated on kickoff returns, including a 99-yard touchdown on the game’s opening kick and a 72-yard return late in the third quarter that set up a Stanford touchdown.
That, and the Huskies’ 10 penalties for 89 yards, helped cost UW (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) a chance for a victory that would have had big implications in the Pac-12 North division race.
Instead, the Huskies suffered their first loss of the season, and it doesn’t get any easier with No. 2 Oregon coming to Seattle next weekend.
UW made this one interesting when Keith Price completed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jaydon Mickens to cut Stanford’s lead to 31-28 with 2:38 to play.
And the Huskies even got the ball back with a chance to tie or win. Marcus Peters stopped Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan on a 3rd-and-1 carry, and Stanford had to punt the ball back to UW with 1:51 to play.
After reaching Stanford’s 49-yard line, the Huskies threw four incompletions and that was that. The final was a ball that Kevin Smith was ruled to have caught for a first down on 4th-and-10, but the call was overturned after a lengthy review.
This game was decided before that, though. Stanford (5-0, 3-0) resorted to its grinding, smash-mouth style on its first possession of the second half, and it paid dividends.
Bruising running back Tyler Gaffney touched the ball on six consecutive plays, and quarterback Kevin Hogan capped the 10-play, 67-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to put the Cardinal back ahead by 10 points.
Washington answered – Bishop Sankey finished a 10-play, 64-yard scoring drive with a 15-yard touchdown run to cut Stanford’s lead to 24-21 – but Montgomery fielded the ensuing kickoff and ran it 72 yards to UW’s 19-yard line, another momentum-killer.
Stanford needed only three Gaffney carries to put the ball in the end zone again, taking a 31-21 lead with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.
Montgomery had already struck the Huskies with a 39-yard touchdown catch in the waning seconds of the first half, a grab that put Stanford ahead 17-7 less than a minute after the Huskies had scored their first touchdown.
Washington’s offense had better rhythm once the second half started. The Huskies scored quickly on their first possession of the second half, with Price finding Smith for a 29-yard touchdown less than a minute into the third quarter.
That’s when Stanford commenced its bruise-fest. Gaffney led the charge, and finished with 19 carries for 72 yards.