On a historic day in Stanford, California, the Cardinal (7-3 / 6-2 PAC-12) were finally able to close out an elite opponent, holding #9 Washington (8-2 / 6-2 PAC-12) to only eight points in the 2nd half. With the upset victory, #20 Stanford can capture the PAC-12 North with a win versus Cal in the Big Game this weekend, and a loss by #15 Washington State at #14 Washington the following Saturday. College football, like college hoops, is pure madness.
The historical significance of this contest could be found on both sidelines. For the Cardinal, head coach David Shaw (2011-present) tied legendary Stanford coach Glenn “Pop” Warner (1924-1932) with 71 career wins on The Farm, the most in school history.
For Washington, junior RB Myles Gaskin (18 rushes / 120 yards / 6.7 YPC / 3 TDs) also had three touchdowns on the day, tying him with Bishop Sankey for the career TD total (37) at UDub.
However, it was the other running back that truly stole the show in this one. Heisman frontrunner Bryce Love (30 rushes / 166 yards / 5.5 YPC / 3 TDs) played hurt for the second week in a row, but showed as much heart as anyone in college football this year. Amazingly, Love has not been able to practice since his ankle injury vs. Oregon, but he certainly shows up on game days, as the Huskies had only given up three rushing touchdowns on the entire season before Love scored his three TDs in front of the Cardinal faithful on Friday night.
“He goes out there from start to finish and pours his heart out for his teammates,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said. “I don’t know if you could ask for anything more of a football player. I don’t know if you can find a better football player in America than Bryce Love.”
If there is as good a player in the country, he may just be on the same team. Senior defensive lineman Harrison Phillips (2 tackles / 2 TFL / 1 QBH / 1 PD) took on double- and even triple-teams all night in the trenches, allowing the Stanford linebackers and safeties open lanes to the ball. For his overall efforts this season, Phillips was named a semifinalist for the Lott Impact Trophy, awarded to college football’s defensive best in character and performance.
Junior safeties Justin Reid (6 tackles / 1 TFL / 2 PD) and Frank Buncom IV (11 tackles / 1 PD) were among the Cardinal defenders who filled those open lanes most aggressively. Senior linebacker Bobby Okereke (10 tackles / 4 TFL / 2 sacks / 1 forced fumble) had another huge performance for the Stanford D, and another clutch takeaway as well. Early in the 4th quarter, Okereke made an athletic strip of the ball from UW’s Myles Gaskin, and junior defensive end Dylan Jackson (2 tackles / 1 fumble recovered) was able to come up with the pill in the ensuing melee.
Also noteworthy in this contest: the Stanford coaching staff did a much better job this week of allowing sophomore QB K.J. Costello (16 for 27 passing / 211 yards / 73.6 QBR) to throw the ball downfield. Last week in their loss at #15 WSU, the Cardinal passing attack was conservative at best. Stanford will have to maintain this dynamic next week and going forward, if they wish to finish the ’17 campaign in triumphant fashion as they still can.