Sept. 27, 2009
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) - Stanford used a simple philosophy to spoil Washington's first game as a ranked team in six years: give the ball to Toby Gerhart and just watch him run.
Gerhart overpowered the Huskies with 27 carries for a career-high 200 yards and a touchdown and the Cardinal beat No. 24 Washington 34-14 Saturday night.
"It's just a mindset," Gerhart said. "Watching on film, teams got some yards on them. We felt we could do the same thing if we went straight downhill on them. It worked out."
The Cardinal (3-1, 2-0 Pac-10) took no time to reverse the momentum following Washington's shocking upset of Southern California last week, getting a 91-yard touchdown return of the opening kickoff by Chris Owusu.
The rest of the game was handled by a physical defense that held Jake Locker in check and a running game led by Gerhart that gained 321 yards. Most of those yards came on a simple off-tackle power running play that coach Jim Harbaugh described as the mainstay of the Stanford arsenal.
"We were the favored team, we were playing at home. We expected to do that and to win," Harbaugh said. "We wanted to do that decisively."
Andrew Luck added a 9-yard quarterback keeper for a score and Delano Howell intercepted two passes for the Cardinal, who opened the conference season with consecutive wins for the first time since Tyrone Willingham's last year on The Farm in 2001.
The Huskies (2-2, 1-1) were riding high coming into the game. Their 16-13 win over No. 3 USC last week put them in the AP poll for the first time since October 2003. But they couldn't follow it up against Stanford, losing for the third time in four years to the Cardinal.
"You never have a gimme in this conference," said Locker, who was 16 for 31 for 190 yards with three turnovers. "You can't sleep on anybody. We had a good week of practice and I felt good about where we were. We just couldn't get it done."
This marked Stanford's second win in its last 23 games against ranked teams, with the only other one in that span coming at No. 2 Southern California two years ago. The Cardinal hadn't beaten a ranked team at home since 2001 against UCLA.
The Huskies defense had no answer for Gerhart, who suffered a concussion last year against Washington. Gerhart ran through Washington defenders all game in the best performance of his career. He topped the 100-yard mark early in the second quarter and passed his previous high of 148 yards against San Jose State last year in the third quarter.
"That kid is an absolute stud," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. "He's able to bounce off tackles. If you don't get him at the line of scrimmage, you're going to have trouble bringing him down."
That took the pressure off Luck, who was 7 for 14 for 103 yards, with only one completion to a wide receiver. His touchdown run on a perfectly executed fake gave the Cardinal a 34-14 lead and started the chants of "Overrated!" from the Cardinal crowd.
Owusu opened the game with a kickoff return touchdown for a second straight week, following his 94-yarder last week against San Jose State with the 91-yarder to stun the Huskies. It's his third kickoff return for a score this season, tying the Pac-10 record held by Southern California Anthony Davis (1974) and UCLA's Matthew Slater (2007).
"We weren't really that surprised," Stanford linebacker Clinton Snyder said. "Once he gets that ball, he's running full speed."
The teams then traded turnovers on the next four possessions, with an odd one allowing Washington to tie the score. Luck scrambled on third down, and as he got near the line of scrimmage, he flipped the ball to tight end Jim Dray. The pass went backward for a lateral and Justin Glenn picked it up for the Huskies. Glenn didn't run and until he realized that the officials hadn't blown the play dead. He then ran 51 yards for the game-tying score as Stanford's players were unaware of what happened.
"It was boneheaded, immature," Luck said. "I wish with every ounce of my soul I could have it back. It was tough."
Gerhart ran for a 60-yard score on the next play from scrimmage for his longest career run, giving Stanford the lead for good.