A healthy Washington football team was a big underdog on the road against Pac-12 North leader, Stanford. With its starting quarterback sidelined due to injury, the Huskies stood little chance against the Cardinal on Saturday night.
With Jake Browning out with a shoulder injury, the Cardinal made the most of a pedestrian UW offense and ran away from the Huskies 31-14 at Stanford Stadium.
Redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels made his first career start and was ineffective, completing 9-of-21 for 118 yards and a rushing touchdown. Carta-Samuels, who entered the game with three career pass attempts, finished the first half just 3-of-10, as the Huskies totaled just 58 yards of total offense, had eight plays go for no gain or less, and converted two first downs.
“When we can’t get anything going in the first half offensively, it just puts too much stress on everybody else,” head coach Chris Petersen said. “Makes it a very, very hard game.”
The Huskies have scored only one first quarter touchdown this year, and have scored 13 first-half points in the last four games. The UW’s first play in Stanford territory didn’t come until its first drive of the second half.
In four Pac-12 games, the Huskies have failed to pass for 200 or more yards, and finished with 231 yards of offense Saturday.
Stanford took advantage of its top weapon offensively, sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey, who finished with 300 all-purpose yards. McCaffrey carried 23 times for 109 yards and a touchdown, and caught five passes for 112 yards and touchdown, leading the Cardinal in both categories.
The Castle Rock, Colo., native scored both of his touchdowns in the third quarter. The Huskies entered the game having allowed just 14 third-quarter points.
“He’s a great back,” sophomore safety Budda Baker said. “He read the holes. Went slow and then hit it. They use him everywhere.”
The Cardinal finished the night with 478 yards of total offense against the Huskies, who entered the matchup first in the Pac-12 in total defense. Stanford scored 30 or more points for the sixth-straight game, the first time they have done so since 2011.
With Carta-Samuels ineffective for most of the night, freshman running back Myles Gaskin carried the offensive load for the Huskies. Gaskin finished with 108 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, becoming the UW’s first true freshman running back to rush for 100 yards or more in three straight games.
Gaskin spoke to media for the first time in his UW career following the game.
“The [offensive] line has been doing their job,” Gaskin said. “Making holes wide open for me. I give all the love and appreciation to them. They just do their job and they make it easy for me.”
On the UW’s first scoring drive, the opening series of the second half, Gaskin carried on all five plays for 57 yards, capping it off with a 14-yard score.
But Stanford quickly answered. Redshirt senior quarterback Kevin Hogan hooked up with McCaffrey for a 50-yard score on the following drive, and McCaffrey scored on a run from 7 yards out on Stanford’s next drive after forcing a UW punt, putting the game out of reach.
Carta-Samuels put the final points on the scoreboard with 11:36 to go in the fourth, avoiding a sack and finding the end zone from 7 yards out. On the drive, Carta-Samuels completed passes of 14, 24, 10, and 33 yards.
“He caught a couple of [deep passes],” offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said. “We had some other ones that were called early, we just didn’t have time to throw them. It would’ve been nice to get a couple balls up early.”
Stanford wasted no time putting the first points on the board, marching 62 yards in just six plays to take a 7-0 lead on the first drive of the game. Hogan found junior tight end Austin Hooper for a 21-yard touchdown to give Stanford the first score. The Cardinal’s shortest play of the drive was 4 yards.
The Cardinal doubled their lead to begin the second quarter, going ahead 14-0 with just under 13 minutes to play in the half. The Huskies put the Cardinal in second-and-19 early in the drive, but a 22-yard carry by McCaffrey extended the chains. Stanford ran the ball four straight times on the goal line to punch it in, with redshirt senior running back Remound Wright recording the touchdown from 1 yard out.
The Huskies were also banged up on defense. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Keishawn Bierria and redshirt senior linebacker Travis Feeney both played but were limited due to injury. Junior defensive lineman Joe Mathis suited up but did not play, junior cornerback Kevin King was hurt in the third quarter and didn’t return, and junior safety Brandon Beaver didn’t make the trip and is out for the season with a torn ACL, Petersen said postgame.
Baker led the Huskies with 10 tackles, and intercepted Hogan, who finished 17-of-24 for 290 yards and two touchdowns, late in the fourth quarter.
The Huskies will return home to face Arizona next Saturday at 8 p.m. at Husky Stadium.
Reach Sports Editor Erik Erickson at email@example.com. Twitter: @Erik_Erickson