To be the bully, you’ve got to beat the bully at the bully’s place.
In the past few years Washington has done a lot to put its case forward as the best team in the Pac-12. But the one thing the Dawgs hadn’t done was go to Stanford and beat the Cardinal, who held the crown as the best in the conference the first half of the decade.
Saturday night, the Huskies went to Palo Alto. And, well, they got bullied. Again.
“They just executed their plan a lot better than we did,” head coach Chris Petersen said. “It felt like deja vu to about two years ago coming down here.”
You could say that it was deja vu to the past six times Washington has come to The Farm. The Cardinal climbed to the top of the Pac-12 on a bruising offensive line and a powerful running game. And just fast forward to the very end of Saturday night’s clash to see how that went for the Huskies.
Stanford took over after a punt with an even six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Two short runs got the Huskies one play away from getting off the field, down 23-13. On third-and-4, Cameron Scarlett took the handoff and was met at the line of scrimmage by a waiting combination of Levi Onwuzurike and Josiah Bronson.
Scarlett got low, kept his legs moving, and fell forward for 5 yards and a first down. The clock ticked under four minutes.
Two plays later, Stanford had third-and-5. Scarlett dove into the middle of the line, took a hit, broke through, and fell forward again, close to the line to gain. The chains came out, the referee emphatically signaled first down, and the Cardinal stayed on the field. The clock ticked down to three minutes.
“There were a lot of missed tackles out there," senior safety Myles Bryant said.
A loss of 4 on first down was the only reason that when Scarlett broke another tackle at the line to gain 8, it wasn’t to completely ice the game. Even when Washington ended up stopping the run, it barely did so; Scarlett ended up just inches short on third-and-6, but by the time Washington got the ball back, it had 54 seconds to work with.
“[There weren’t] any surprises,” Levi Onwuzurike said. “Just power on power, who’s going to make the tackle?”
Well, the answer to that question turned out to be a problem. Stanford ended the game with 189 rushing yards, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. The Cardinal had six runs go for 10 yards or more.
Sometimes, those big runs came because Stanford’s offensive line — which has seven freshmen on its two-deep — pushed the point of attack far enough forward that Scarlett wasn’t touched until he was 4 or 5 yards downfield. Sometimes it was because the Washington defense didn’t get a good angle and wasn’t in the right place to make a play.
And sometimes, at the end, everything went right up to the point where either the ballcarrier or the tackler was going to bully and the other one was going to be bullied. When it mattered most late Saturday, it was the Cardinal on the right side of the equation.
The bully that the UW knew was going to want to run the ball and control possession did just that, and for pretty much the entire game, the Huskies couldn’t do anything about it.
“I feel like coming into this game, we understood that we were a physical team,” Bryant said. “But I feel like they made us second-guess that.”
Reach Managing Editor Josh Kirshenbaum at email@example.com. Twitter: @J_Kirshenbaum
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