Despite the Pac-12 officials making the game about them far more often than anyone would’ve hoped going in, Stanford’s 31-28 win over Washington was a fantastic football game. The defense in the first half was stellar and punishing from both sides, and Ty Montgomery was fantastic.
Washington had the more dynamic passing attack. They were the more undisciplined team as well, with 10 penalties for 89 yards compared to just seven penalties for 48 yards by the Cardinal. The Huskies out-gained the home team by 210 yards and might have pulled off an incredible late-game comeback if Kevin Smith’s diving catch wasn’t overturned by a replay official. I’ve only seen the replays on Stanford Stadium’s standard-def scoreboard, so I don’t know if the ball hit the ground or not — regardless, them’s the breaks.
Stanford has built an incredible football program, and there have been two constants we’ve seen from this team since it became a national power — outstanding offensive line play and tough defense. That’s why it was so disappointing to see what David Shaw’s team did when the Huskies’ hurry-up offense got too fast and the game was in the balance.
Two of the team’s best defensive players, Ben Gardner and Shayne Skov, dropped to the ground as if crippled beyond repair during a fourth quarter Washington drive. The series ended with A.J. Tarpley intercepting Keith Price near the goal line, a pivotal play with the Cardinal clinging to a 10-point lead. Stanford earned that turnover, but what took place moments before was cheaper than day-old Domino’s.
Gardner stayed on the ground for about a minute with Stanford trainers attending. He was back in the game two plays later. Soon after that, the exact same scene with Skov. It was so transparent, so painfully obvious that both fifth-year seniors were encouraged/ordered to hit the turf and limp off the field to counteract the Huskies’ frenetic pace. Washington wasted little time in getting to the line of scrimmage once an official set the ball down, and ran 18 plays in that drive. The series lasted 5:37, an average of 18.7 seconds per play.
Tarpley made sure the drive ultimately failed when he hauled in the pass that was tipped by Trent Murphy, but the inability to stop teams from using perfectly healthy players as speed bumps is a failure in itself. Stanford should be better than that, but the truth is they aren’t better than Washington. A win is a win is a win, and the Cardinal are now looking at an undefeated record if they can win two more tough games at home against UCLA and Oregon. However, if the Cardinal needed to go the fake injury route on Saturday night, it’s hard to believe they won’t trip up at some point between now and the Pac-12 Championship on Dec. 7.
Update: I guess I wasn’t the only one to question what was going on in the fourth quarter, because Skov felt the need to tweet this:
Lmao people saying I was faking an injury, u think I’m gunna miss a play In crunch time to slow down the offense? Ur a fool if you do…
— Shayne Skov (@ShayneSkov11) October 6, 2013