Stanford Cardinal Look to Keep Pac-12 Hopes Alive Against Washington Huskies

PULLMAN, WA - NOVEMBER 04: Quarterback K. J. Costello
PULLMAN, WA - NOVEMBER 04: Quarterback K. J. Costello /

A tough loss for the Stanford Cardinal last week put them in a must-win matchup at home against the Washington Huskies.

Weather up in Pullman proved difficult for the Stanford Cardinal offense. Led by K.J. Costello, Stanford could not find any rhythm throughout the game against Washington State. As a result, the Cardinal fell to the Cougars, 24-21.

With the loss, Stanford fell out of first place in the Pac-12 North Division. For Washington State, hopes are alive again to claim first place should the Cougars run the table. The Apple Cup could decide the outcome with the Washington schools on top of the division.

Luke Falk managed to overcome being pulled against Arizona to guide Washington State to victory. Like Costello, Falk had difficulty as the weather played an effect on both offenses. The Cardinal defense was doing a decent job in keeping Falk in check.

Stanford Cardinal Football
Stanford Cardinal Football /

Stanford Cardinal Football

Unfortunately, Falk capitalized on defensive mistakes made by the Cardinal. The most significant error came just before halftime. After a holding penalty on the Cougars, Falk avoided being sacked and found an open Renard Bell in the end zone.

Falk finished with 337 yards passing and three touchdowns. He threw an interception to Bobby Okereke which resulted in a pick-six during the third quarter.

Unfazed by the mistake, Falk ultimately led the Cougars down the field in the fourth quarter for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.

Costello was an interesting choice by David Shaw for the game against the Cougars. In the previous week, Stanford struggled offensively against Oregon State with Keller Chryst under center. A late fumble by the Beavers, and a little luck, helped the Cardinal prevail.

Perhaps going with a two-quarterback system was not a good choice from the start. Chemistry is essential to find success, and with both Chryst and Costello getting reps, the Cardinal offense likely has trouble adjusting.

For now, Coach Shaw announced Costello would start this week. With the loss to the Cougars, Friday’s contest will be a tall order for the Cardinal. To get back into the Pac-12 picture, Stanford will have to find a way offensively to break through the nation’s best defense in Washington.

Washington (8-1) is allowing about 241 yards per game against opponents, and owns the second-best scoring defense, giving up nearly 11 points per game.

The Huskies are the only Pac-12 team with a chance to make the College Football Playoff. Washington in number nine in the most recent rankings, but as of now, Washington appears unlikely to enter the picture unless more chaos ensues in the coming weeks of college football action.

Jake Browning leads the Washington offense and has plenty of weapons at his disposal. The junior out of Folsom High School is tied for the school record of touchdown passes at 75. Keith Price is the current holder and Browning will have a chance to break the record.

Browning’s confidence took a hit after Arizona State pulled off a stunning upset against Washington in Tempe. The loss not only knocked Washington out of the playoff picture but also caused struggles on offense.

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Against Arizona State and UCLA, Browning threw zero touchdown passes and one interception in the two games combined. He turned in his worst passing performance of the season against the Bruins with only 98 yards passing.

He appears to have shaken that adversity off, as he regained his form before losing to Arizona State. Against Oregon, he threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-3 victory. The win was Washington’s first over Oregon at home since 2003.

On the ground, Myles Gaskin can be tough to bring down should he break free. After a slow start to the season, Gaskin has made his presence known in keeping defenses on their heels. Last week he rushed for 123 yards and one touchdown.

Dante Pettis is who the Cardinal need to keep in check, primarily on special teams. Last week, Pettis set an NCAA record with his ninth punt return for a touchdown in his career. The 64-yard return was Pettis’ fourth of the season. He would also add a receiving touchdown against the one-dimensional Oregon Ducks.

Bryce Love returned last week from an ankle injury and immediately made himself known against Washington State. Love ran off a 52-yard touchdown run to give the Cardinal an early lead. 10 of Love’s last 11 touchdowns have come from 40-plus yards out this season.

But Love had trouble after his outburst as he turned in a season-low 69 yards rushing. He could have a problem again as Washington is allowing about 91 yards per game rushing. Washington’s defense did not let a running back to rush over 100 yards until last week when Oregon’s Royce Freeman broke through for 122 yards.

Walker Little is also out for the game against Washington, which could make the running game difficult. Since coming in as a starting tackle, Little has helped to set the edge and make blocks downfield for Love to break off big plays.

Consistency on offense will be pivotal for Stanford in hopes of spoiling Washington’s College Football Playoff aspirations. Coach Shaw hopes Costello delivers a better performance at home.

Next: Stanford Cardinal Face Washington State Cougars

Last year, Browning threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns in Washington’s 44-6 blowout win over Stanford in Seattle.

Stanford is clinging onto the Pac-12 North while Washington is looking at the big picture. A Friday night affair under the lights at Stanford Stadium will provide plenty of entertainment. In the end, a more precise picture will unfold as to who the frontrunner is for the division.