I’ve completed watching the replay of Washington’s win over Stanford Thursday night. Here are 10 more notes and thoughts compiled along the way (in no particular order):
— One guy who played a lot more, and appeared to play a much more important role, than his stat line would suggest is true freshman DL Pio Vatuvei, who was officially credited with one tackle. I originally wanted to try to jot down a fairly complete list of the different defensive groupings — how many times certain players lined up where, etc. — but the TV camera angles (and the black jerseys in some cases) made it too difficult. But let’s just say Vatuvei was out there a lot, mostly at defensive end. And when he was in there — often with Danny Shelton, Semisi Tokolahi and Andrew Hudson — that gave UW a line that, according to the official listings, weighed 281 (Vatuvei), 315 (Shelton), 340 (Tokolahi) and 249 (Hudson). And that’s not to include the times when Talia Crichton (264) joined them as a linebacker (an alignment UW appeared to use a half-dozen times or so, beginning with the second play of the game), and usually also with Thomas Tutogi (242) in then, as well. Simply a lot more heft for UW to throw at the Cardinal this year than in the past, and a staff able to make good use of it.
— JC defensive tackle Josh Banks saw his first action of the season (and his career) and obviously is no longer redshirting. I didn’t see him come in until the fourth quarter. Sione Potoa’e saw some time earlier in the game but may have been banged up. And UW was already down one player inside with Lawrence Lagafuaina’s injury during the week. Banks was in for a handful of plays in the fourth quarter and made a tackle on Stanford’s last series on the little flip to Stepfan Taylor. And figure Banks now to be in the rotation up front.
— John Timu’s been off-maligned but I thought he might have played his best game. Like a lot of defensive players, Timu (pictured sharing a tackle with Sean Parker above in a John Lok photo) lined up in some unusual spots at times. On a third-and-12 play in the second quarter, Timu initially lined up as a down linemen, then stood up at the snap and sniffed out a short pass and fought through traffic to help make the tackle. I asked Justin Wilcox about that alignment after the game and he said it was just one of the ways UW was trying to disguise from where it was bringing its pressures. No doubt, such alignments helped keep Stanford QB Josh Nunes a little off-balance all night.
— I imagine when Stanford coach David Shaw talks to the media this week he will mention missed opportunities and how he felt there were a lot of plays that could have been made in the passing game. Watching the replay makes clear that Stanford on a few occasions simply didn’t convert available chances, such as the pass on the last series — when Nunes threw just a hair long to Ty Montgomery, who also may not have read it perfectly — that might have gone for a touchdown. But that also was a big part of UW’s gamble to stop the run and force Stanford into much lower-percentage passing plays — plays that are that much-lower percentage this year with Andrew Luck gone.
— The plan to try to get Stanford into a lot of third-and-longs paid off more on review than may have even seemed like at the time. Stanford had 18 third downs and converted only five. Here are the yards that were needed on those 18 plays — 3, 2, 5, 5, 1, 12, 6, 3, 5, 7, 7, 14, 18, 8, 7, 5, 1, 10. Penalties played a role in setting up some of those. So did incomplete passes on first or second down as the Cardinal didn’t often do what might have been expected — just try to run on first, second and third down and pick up 3-4-5 yards on each and just keep steadily moving the ball down the field. One time Stanford tried that early, it failed, when UW stopped a third-and-one at the Stanford 40 on a play where the Cardinal gave the ball to Ryan Hewitt (No. 85, though officially a fullback) rather than Stepfan Taylor, who had picked up nine yards on the first two runs (a decision questioned heavily by the announcers). UW had 10 players up on the line and won the mano-a-mano battle up front. Stanford never again ran the ball for three straight plays (which calls to mind what UW coach Steve Sarkisian had said during the week about one of the reasons that Stanford was so good at running, that it usually remains committed to running for all four quarters even if it isn’t successful early. Stanford didn’t really remain as committed in this game, probably due to a combination of taking UW’s bait to throw, and Washington’s much-improved defense against the run).
— In the quirky stat of the game, each team had exactly nine punts for exactly 350 yards. The 30 most important for UW were undoubtedly the 30 that Travis Coons was able to get after he bobbled the snap and had to get off a kick with his left foot in the first quarter. Stanford had a 3-0 lead at the time and a little momentum. But getting off that punt pinned the Cardinal at its own 14 and Stanford went three-and-out and UW then followed with short drive to get a field goal.
— For all the hand-wringing there may be over UW’s offense, the Huskies finished with 313 yards, which is 33 more than USC got against the Cardinal on Sept. 15. Three plays — two Keith Price-to-Kasen Williams passes of 35 yards, and Bishop Sankey’s 61-yard run accounted for 131 of that total. Those three plays also essentially accounted for all of UW’s points — the one Price-Williams pass setting up the early field goal, the other the winning TD, and Sankey’s run also going for a score. UW otherwise didn’t have a gain of longer than 11 yards. But on this night that was obviously enough, and the replay makes clear that Stanford’s front seven will be among the best UW will face this year.
— I thought Price, by the way, played a lot better than his totals indicate. He was constantly under pressure and with only an exception or two made the right decision to make sure it didn’t end up a disaster for the Huskies. He also expertly got UW lined up and the snap off for the Sankey TD run that was the turning point, and made the decision to throw it to Williams for the winning TD (the play was as third-and-two and he had a run-pass option there, and if it doesn’t work, UW is obviously facing another fourth down). Put it this way — who wins that game if the two sides switch quarterbacks?
— As noted, UW shook up the offensive line a little to start the game, moving James Atoe to right tackle and giving true freshman Shane Brostek his first start at right guard. The other spots remained as expected, with Micah Hatchie at left tackle, Dexter Charles at left guard and Drew Schaefer at center. As far as I could tell, the only alteration to that came when Mike Criste came in at RT and Atoe shifted to guard. UW used that OL for the game-winning drive.
— Probably barely needs repeating that some of the late-game moves and calls all hit the jackpot. UW hadn’t had a lot of close games of late — Washington’s last 12 games had all been decided by nine points or more (or, obviously, by more than one possession) dating to the 31-23 win over Cal last Sept. 24. UW is now 10-5 under Sarkisian in games decided by eight points or less, and has won its last eight in a row dating to the loss to BYU to open the 2010 season.