Stanford tames Huskies, 23-13

October 8, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 8, 2019

A scrappy Stanford team controlled the lines of scrimmage and played its best football game yet to beat No. 15 Washington on Saturday evening, 23-13.

Running back Cameron Scarlett and quarterback Davis Mills posted career-high marks of 151 rushing yards and 293 passing yards, respectively, as the unranked Cardinal improved to 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the Pac-12.

The game got off to a somewhat ominous start for Stanford, which is playing at home throughout October. The Cardinal scored on its first drive thanks to a 20-yard kick by senior Jet Toner. But Washington (4-2, 2-1) went ahead by a 7-3 score when junior quarterback Jacob Eason threw to wide-open sophomore tight end Cade Otton for a three-yard touchdown to cap the Huskies’ first possession. It was reminiscent of the Oregon contest, which saw the Ducks take a 7-3 lead after their first possession.

But on that evening, the Cardinal offense was silenced until the fourth quarter, when they found themselves trailing 21-3. In the intervening week, Stanford traveled to Corvallis and beat Oregon State in what turned out to be a tightly contested battle. In doing so, the Cardinal learned some important lessons.

That experience and confidence showed in the play of the battered offensive line, which allowed just one sack and helped the Cardinal rush for a season-high 189 yards even as the unit lost yet another starter, senior guard Henry Hattis, midway through the third quarter.

It showed in the effort of the Cardinal’s defensive front, which sacked Eason twice and harassed him on several other occasions. It showed in the performance of the secondary, which let senior receiver Aaron Fuller grab nine balls for 171 yards but also saw junior cornerback Paulson Adebo break up four throws and freshman CB Kyu Blu Kelly intercept Eason on a crucial fourth-quarter drive for what turned out to be the contest’s only takeaway.

It also showed in the running of Scarlett, whose barreling four-yard touchdown rush in the third quarter provided crucial points for the home team. And it showed in the play of Mills, who scrambled three times for 26 yards and completed 21 of 30 passes for 293 yards.

Mills’s lone touchdown came during the Cardinal’s third drive as the hosts trailed 7-6, and it was a true team effort. On second and three, immediately after Scarlett had rushed for seven yards, Mills turned to reliable No. 22 as if intending to hand off the pigskin. But the Portland, Ore., native instead stepped forward to engage oncoming junior defensive back Elijah Molden as the junior slinger retracted the ball, pivoted and threw a beautiful pass.

Simi Fehoko pulled down the oblong spheroid around the 8-yard line and continued at speed past the goal line for his first career score. Pocket protection, route running, passing, receiving: All the elements came together flawlessly to give the hosts a 13-7 advantage with 10 minutes until intermission.

The Huskies kicked a field goal on the ensuing drive to cut the margin to 13-10.

On Washington’s second possession of the third quarter, the Cardinal defense flushed Eason from the pocket on third down, and junior outside linebacker Gabe Reid pulled him to the turf at the visitor 7-yard line. Stanford took over at the Huskies’ 47.

Shortly afterward, Mills connected with junior tight end Colby Parkinson for a 22-yard gain and junior wideout Osiris St. Brown for 17 yards to convert third down. A few snaps later, and the very next play after Hattis was carted off the field, Scarlett bulled through the defensive line and into the end zone for a four-yard touchdown.

It was only Scarlett’s second score of the season, but it was perhaps the team’s most significant one this year. The run extended the Cardinal lead to 20-10 and gave the team its first two-score advantage over a ranked opponent in a second half in 2019.

In response, Washington drove 79 yards on seven plays. But when Eason misfired on third down, sophomore kicker Peyton Henry came out to nail a 38-yarder, preserving his perfect mark on the year and once more reducing the Huskies’ deficit to seven points. The Cardinal followed up with an 11-play (!) series that took 7:07 off the clock despite only gaining 34 yards; it resulted in a punt.

Three plays later, Eason lofted a ball along the left sideline, where Fuller was racing alongside Kelly.

If the visiting wideout hadn’t gotten tangled up in the Stanford freshman’s feet and fallen to the ground, there would have been a battle for the ball. But as things worked out, Kelly was free to turn toward the quarterback, leap into the air and reel in the ball as he fell backwards at the visitors’ 40-yard line with 10:46 remaining in the game.

The Farm gridders were poised to take a big lead, but they were facing a big problem: Mills had left the game after feeling discomfort in one of his knees. The Cardinal were down to their third-string signal caller, sophomore Jack West, who dropped back to throw just once in the two series he played.

Instead, head coach David Shaw and offensive coordinator Tavita Pritchard fed Scarlett, who had entered the game as the conference’s leading rusher with 413 yards. The Cardinal only advanced to the visitor 18, with the bulk of their 22 yards coming on a face mask penalty against the Huskies, but it was enough. Toner was sent out for his third field-goal try, which he nailed from 36 yards. That put Stanford back ahead by 10 points, 23-13, with 8:04 to play.

Eason got his troops close to midfield, but a penalty left the Huskies facing second and 19 at their 38. Two incomplete passes forced Washington to punt, and that cued Scarlett once more.

The redshirt senior, enjoying his first 100-yard game, ran the ball nine times for 29 yards, inducing the visitors to use their last two timeouts. Freshman Ryan Sanborn was called upon to punt, but the Huskies were down 10 with 54 seconds remaining. UW had only reached their 39 when time expired.

It was the Cardinal’s sixth straight home win against the Huskies, who haven’t won in Stanford Stadium since 2007. This was also the second time in a row that an unranked Cardinal squad upset a ranked Washington team at home.

Shaw’s team, which moved up to second place in the Pac-12 North Division, is still unlikely to catch Oregon for the division title. But the program is now well-positioned to extend its bowl streak, a goal they can advance with a solid effort in their next game against UCLA on Oct. 17.

Helpful links

Washington-Stanford team statistics — ESPN
Washington-Stanford box score
Washington-Stanford play-by-play
Washington-Stanford interactive box score —
Washington-Stanford statistics (PDF) —
Stanford 2019–20 football roster
Washington 2019–20 football roster
@memomoment game tweets, part 1
@memomoment game tweets, part 2
@memomoment game tweets, part 3

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