BRENT STECKER

Total domination: No. 10 Huskies hammer No. 7 Stanford 44-6

Sep 30, 2016, 9:22 PM | Updated: Oct 1, 2016, 2:42 am

When the No. 10 Huskies kicked off to start their huge Pac-12 North battle with No. 7 Stanford, they opted to kick it to Heisman front-runner Christian McCaffrey instead of out of the end zone.

It opened an opportunity for Washington to send a message, and it was indeed delivered.

The Huskies hammered McCaffrey at the 21-yard line on that return, bottled him up from there on out and produced five sacks before halftime. Meanwhile, UW’s offense produced at a level seen previously in so-called warmup games against Idaho, Portland State and Rutgers, but certainly wasn’t expected against the defense of a top-10 team.

Stecker: Extra motivation for UW Stats | Video highlights, postgame interviews

So in front of a national television audience and raucous crowd of 72,027, a record for Husky Stadium since it was reopened in 2013, UW blew Stanford out of the water 44-6 for not just the biggest victory of the Chris Petersen era, but perhaps since the glory days of Don James. And what a fitting night to do it, considering James’ 1991 national championship team was honored at halftime.

The Huskies were able to do everything they wanted to on Friday night. Quarterback Jake Browning had pinpoint precision with his receivers, John Ross showed strong route-running ability to go with his elite speed, and running back Myles Gaskin topped the century mark while twice finding his way into the end zone.

But as impressive as UW’s offense was, it was the defense that was the story. Matched up against the most highly-touted offensive player in the nation in McCaffrey, the Huskies’ defense didn’t flinch, didn’t go away from its strengths while trying to wrap him up and completely dominated the line of scrimmage.

The Huskies took a 23-0 lead into halftime, and if Stanford was going to have a chance to mount a comeback in the second half, it quickly slipped away. The door was cracked open for the Cardinal as the Huskies started the third quarter with a three-and-out, but UW’s punt hit off the back of a Cardinal player before McCaffrey could corral it, and the Huskies pounced to take possession. UW took advantage of the good field position, needing just five plays to get Gaskin into the end zone on an 8-yard run.

Stanford had a promising drive in the middle of the third quarter, but a sack on fourth-and-2 put an end to that in the red zone, and though it managed a touchdown later in the frame, by then even the slimmest of hopes had been crushed for the Cardinal.

Turning point: The opening drive for Stanford. Even before a point was scored, the Huskies were in control. UW shook off a penalty on the first play from scrimmage by responding on the next play with a sack of Cardinal quarterback Ryan Burns. On second down, the Huskies stopped McCaffrey on a handoff for no gain, and then they sacked Burns again to force a punt. Seven plays later, they were in the end zone and had a lead they would never relinquish.

Biggest takeaway: UW obliterated the No. 7 team in the country and has now established itself not only as the front-runner for the Pac-12 North title but also thrust itself into the national conversation. The Dawgs will certainly be climbing in the polls on Sunday, and the only question is how many spots will they jump. Don’t be surprised when you start hearing “Washington” and “College Football Playoff” in the same sentence next week, either.

Players of the game: Linebackers Psalm Wooching, Joe Mathis and Victor Azeem. Wooching had three sacks, Mathis had two, and both were hugely instrumental in setting the tone on defense and making sure Stanford never felt comfortable when in possession. Meanwhile, all Azeem did was lead the team with 11 tackles while also breaking up a pass.

Passing grades: Browning had a stellar 202.6 rating, completing 15 of 21 attempts for 210 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. For the year, he has an incredible 17 touchdowns to just two picks. His top target was Ross, who had 82 yards and a touchdown on four receptions. Dante Pettis (60 yards, TD) and Chico McClatcher (44 yards) also had four catches apiece.

Taking stock at RB: A week after Lavon Coleman was the best back on the field at Arizona, Gaskin was still the clear No. 1 in Petersen’s offense. Gaskin rushed for 100 yards and two scores on 18 attempts. Coleman remained quite impressive, however, as he had 74 yards on 11 attempts, including a 25-yard touchdown in garbage time.​

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Total domination: No. 10 Huskies hammer No. 7 Stanford 44-6