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Rule of Tree Rewind: Luck, Cardinal Run Over Huskies

Andrew Luck rushed for 92 yards, including this 51-yard touchdown on the Cardinal's first possession, in yesterday's 41-0 win.
Andrew Luck rushed for 92 yards, including this 51-yard touchdown on the Cardinal's first possession, in yesterday's 41-0 win.

Versus announcers Kelly Stouffer, Ron Thulin, and Glenn Parker didn’t waste any opportunity to reference the fact that Stanford is known as much for its academics as its athletics during yesterday’s broadcast. After three different Stanford players lost their helmets, one announcer opined that it was because the Cardinal’s smart players’ heads were bigger. We also learned that the S’s on Owen Marecic’s helmet stand for 'Smart' and 'Stud.'

The smartest play of the game came on Stanford’s opening possession, when Andrew Luck kept the ball on a read-option after faking a handoff to Stepfan Taylor and ran untouched down the left sideline for a 51-yard touchdown. "Incredible fake by Andrew," Jim Harbaugh said afterward. "I thought Stepfan (Taylor) had it for 20 yards." The S's on Luck's helmet apparently stand for 'Super' and 'Sneaky.'

Taylor would eventually have it for 104 yards, his fifth consecutive 100-yard game. After rushing for 278 yards against the Huskies, Stanford is averaging 224 yards per game. That’s the 12th-best average in the nation and five more yards per game than the Cardinal averaged last season. (Toby Gerhart had five catches for 67 yards in Minnesota's loss to New England today, by the way.) In short, Stanford’s offensive line was dominant as usual, and the Cardinal defensive line was equally so, making for an ecstatic head coach.

Seattle Times columnist Bud Withers recounted the scene outside the Stanford locker room before Harbaugh and a handful of his players addressed the media:

"Dominating!" Harbaugh hooted at his players. "We kicked their ass every which way! One hell of a job on both sides of the line! Dominant, dominant!"

The Shutout: The Cardinal limited Washington to 107 yards, the second best defensive performance in school history. Coupled with its 35-0 shutout at UCLA on September 11, Stanford has two shutouts in a season for the first time since 1972, when it blanked San Jose State and Washington at home. The last time the Cardinal had two road shutouts in the same season was 1968, when Stanford closed the season with wins at Pacific and California. Washington hadn’t been shut out at home since 1976. "This defense is more talented than what we have shown the past couple of weeks," said sophomore linebacker Shayne Skov, who led the team with eight tackles. "We made it extra motivation to get back on track and show the Pac-10 that this defense is a force." The Cardinal's Total Defense ranking improved from 58th to 30th this week.

Good Pass Rush = Good Pass Defense: Before Saturday, Stanford's defense had three sacks in its previous three games and had been torched by quarterbacks Daron Thomas, Matt Barkley, and Jeff Tuel. The Cardinal generated all sorts of pressure against Washington quarterback Jake Locker, including three sacks. Stanford now has 19 sacks this season, which is tied for 33rd among FBS schools. The Cardinal secondary was the biggest beneficiary of the improved pass rush. Locker completed only 50 percent of his attempts for 64 yards and was intercepted twice.

Whitaker Misses: Nate Whitaker, who was 11-for-11 through seven games this season, missed a 40-yard field goal attempt toward the end of the first half. Given the rainy conditions and the way Stanford was moving the ball, I was a little surprised Harbaugh opted to attempt a field goal on 4th and 3 with the Cardinal leading 28-0. Whitaker started a new streak with two field goals in the second half.

BCS Update: Stanford remained No. 13 in the latest BCS Standings, which were announced tonight. The Cardinal has a chance to move up with a win over Arizona on Saturday. The Wildcats (7-1) are 15th in the standings, while Oregon, which defeated USC, leapfrogged Auburn for the top spot for the first time.