Hobbled Love and inspired defense carry Cardinal to a 30-22 upset victory over Washington

November 15, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 15, 2017

Tailback Bryce Love ran for 166 yards and three touchdowns Friday evening to lead the Stanford football team to a 30-22 victory over Washington.

The Cardinal moved to 7-3 overall and 6-2 in the Pac-12 while handing the 8-2 Huskies only their second loss, both in conference road games. The upset kept Stanford alive in the conference’s North Division championship race but likely ended the league’s hopes of earning one of the four berths in the College Football Playoff.

Love’s performance came on a weekend when other Heisman Trophy front-runners faltered: Penn State’s Saquon Barkley managed 80 all-purpose yards and a pair of touchdowns in a home win over 4-6 Rutgers, while Notre Dame’s Josh Adams compiled just 40 yards in a 41-8 road loss at Miami. More impressively, Love recorded his yardage against the nation’s leader in total defense (240.9 yards per game). The Huskies defense, which had allowed only three rushing touchdowns through its first nine game, was also second in the nation in scoring defense (11.1 ppg) and sixth in rushing defense (91.1 ypg).

The most striking thing about Love’s evening, however, may have been that he enjoyed his stellar performance while still suffering from the tweaked ankle that he injured against Oregon.

The game opened with Washington quashing a Cardinal drive by sacking K.J. Costello on third down. The visiting squad followed up with a commanding 12-play, 88-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard Myles Gaskin touchdown run.

Stanford answered with a 14-play, 84-yard series that culminated in a 1-yard Love rushing touchdown. The possession featured only one play longer than nine yards, a 39-yard pass from Costello to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside that set up goal to go at the Washington 2-yard line. The series also had a heart-stopping play on which Costello recovered a fumble and converted fourth and 1 at midfield.

But the Huskies responded with a 15-yard scoring Gaskin run that capped a seven-play, 89-yard drive. The Huskies faced third down just once, as was the case with Washington’s first possession.

Stanford had moved the ball well to that point, but the Huskies forced a three-and-out on the Cardinal’s third series. The game seemed on the verge of spiraling out of control when Washington marched from its own 23-yard line to the Stanford 23.

On third and 6, however, linebackers Kevin Palma and Joey Alfieri held Gaskin to a five-yard gain. Huskies head coach Chris Petersen eschewed a kick and handed the ball to Gaskin again on fourth and 1, but safety Frank Buncom and Alfieri combined to stop the tailback at the line of scrimmage.

Costello and company came back out and advanced to the Huskies 21, mainly on the strength of another 39-yard Costello–to–Arcega-Whiteside connection and a 15-yard Trenton Irwin reception. When the drive stalled, sophomore kicker Jet Toner booted a 38-yard field goal. That left Washington with a 14-10 lead with 92 seconds remaining in the first half.

The Huskies got the ball to start the third quarter but were held to a three-and-out, giving the Cardinal its first opportunity to take a lead since the game’s opening drive.

To that point, Love hadn’t looked like his old self. His first 13 runs had covered a mere 43 yards, with long gains of six, six and eight yards. And indeed, his 14th carry went for a loss of one yard.

But then Love’s pre-injury explosiveness began to re-emerge. Right after being stopped in the backfield, he exploded for a 21-yard run. On the next snap, he gathered a shovel pass from Costello that went for 11 yards and a second consecutive first down.

The Cardinal possession appeared to be in jeopardy when Costello was sacked on third down, but a facemask penalty on Washington set up first down at the Huskies 13. Love carried it in from there to put the Cardinal on top, 20-13.

This marked the turning of the tide. After the Cardinal defense limited the visitors to a five-snap, 28-yard possession, Costello led an 81-yard drive highlighted by 26- and 14-yard strikes to Arcega-Whiteside and a 17-yard Love run. The series concluded with a 32-yard Toner field goal that gave the hosts a 20-14 lead.

Three snaps later, senior inside linebacker Bobby Okereke stripped the ball away from Gaskin, leading to a recovery by junior defensive end Dylan Jackson at the Huskies 31. The Cardinal couldn’t fully capitalize on this opportunity, but Toner’s third field goal of the night, a 31-yarder, put Stanford on top by a 23-14 score.

Shortly thereafter, Okereke sacked Jake Browning for an 18-yard loss, forcing the Huskies to punt from their 6-yard line. Trent Irwin’s 14-yard return was enhanced by a personal foul penalty on the Huskies, setting up first down for the Cardinal at their opponent’s 14-yard line.

Stanford jumped on this chance. It took just two Love carries, the latter of which went for nine yards, for the Cardinal to find the end zone. That made the score 30-14 in the fourth quarter with 8:48 on the clock.

Staring defeat in the eye, Washington mounted its first substantial drive of the second half. Browning led his compatriots on a nine-play, 75-yard series that ended in a 1-yard touchdown run by Gaskin, who finished the night with 120 yards and three scores on 18 carries. Browning’s two-point conversion toss to Dante Pettis was successful, shaving the Cardinal lead to 30-22 with 4:22 left in the game.

The Cardinal, needing a score to put the game away, couldn’t quite manage one. Instead, it did the next best thing, eating up nearly two minutes. Virtually all of the team’s gains came on the drive’s first play, a 35-yard Love run that was extended by another facemask penalty on the Huskies.

Cardinal coach David Shaw summoned Toner for his fourth field-goal attempt of the night, from 47 yards out. He missed, giving the Huskies one last chance to rally.

But a holding penalty wiped out what would have been a 17-yard Lavon Coleman run. After Okereke recorded a nine-yard sack on third down, setting up fourth and 21, Browning rushed for nine yards. The Cardinal then took possession with 1:23 on the clock and kneeled out a thrilling 30-22 upset victory over a top-10 conference foe.


Helpful links

Washington-Stanford team statistics — ESPN
Washington-Stanford box score
Washington-Stanford play-by-play
Washington-Stanford interactive box score — GoStanford.com
Washington-Stanford static box score
Stanford 2017–18 football roster
Washington 2017–18 football roster
Game (and some other) tweets — @memomoment

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