Prognostication Station: Washington

Can't wait for the 2010 season? Us neither. So instead of the boring, old opponent previews we've written in years past, we figured why not introduce you to this fall's schedule virtually? Everything that follows is based entirely off video game simulation, but The Bootleg will not be blamed if reality follows the script…

Seattle (Oct. 30, 2010)

The top of the Pac-10 standings look nearly as muddled now as they did at the season's start, after Stanford (6-2, 3-2 Pac-10) grinded its way to a 21-11 victory over No. 19 Washington (6-2, 4-1).

The Card ran for a season-high 310 yards, with short Jeremy Stewart touchdowns in the second and fourth helping build a 14-3 for the Cardinal. Both touchdowns came off long, 14-plus play drives in which Stanford ran its patented power play going left several times. The whole stadium knew what was coming, but Washington was simply powerless to stop it.

"That was fun," Stewart said. "It felt like high school again, where maybe you have the bigger line, and you just run it 40 times a game, because you know you're going to wear the other guys out and there's nothing they can do. I don't think they wanted any more of us by the fourth quarter."

Indeed, after Washington linebacker Mason Foster returned a tipped Andrew Luck pass for a 47-yard touchdown – and a Jake Locker two-point conversion cut Stanford's lead to 14-11 with three minutes left, Stepfan Taylor's 49-yard sprint untouched through the Huskies' defense iced the game with 2:20 left.

"I could have driven my Focus through the hole I had," Taylor said of his game-clinching score. "Part of that, yeah, was because they had everyone up in the box, so once you got past that first wave, there was no one there. But give a lot of credit to our line. They scored that last touchdown, not me."

There was plenty of credit to share, as 51 times Stanford ran, and just four times did they come away with a loss. The Card were a model of consistency, as only three carries went for over 20 yards, but 41 of their attempts gained at least three yards.

"We preach patience to our backs all the time," Coach Jim Harbaugh said postgame. "Don't feel like you've got to be Barry Sanders, just take the sure gain. Not that we're trying to stifle their athleticism, but if we can just get four, five, six yards a crack on our first touch, then we like our chances the next play, and the play after that."

The strategy worked, as just about the only thing that could stop Stanford's ground game was Stanford itself, as a lost fumble apiece from Taylor and Anthony Wilkerson killed likely Stanford scoring drives in the second half. Both times, the runners had entered the red zone on a first down-earning carry, and were pushing through contact for that last yard when an extra Husky defender would come rip the ball away. Furthering the sense of déjà vu, both calls were sent to the booth for review, but both fumbles were upheld, with runners' knees hitting the ground moments after the ball did.

"Those fumbles, that's just bad luck," Wilkerson said. "You carry it 51 times and gain 300 yards in a game, I guess you're probably going to fumble it once or twice. I wrap up and protect when I get hit, but when you're dragging three guys like we were a lot of the day, sometimes the ball's going to come out."

Stanford was able to overcome the cough-ups because of a passing game that was solid, if unspectacular (11-of-21, 170 yards), and, most importantly, a defense that held Jake Locker, the preseason All Pac-10 quarterback, out of the end zone all afternoon.

"I was surprised when they tried to match our offense and run, run, run it in the first half," lineman Sione Fua said. "They didn't go anywhere [26 carries for 21 yards, including sacks, on the afternoon], so you'll notice they went away from that in the second half. We had felt disrespected that they even thought they could run on us though, so we really brought some pressure and disrupted them when they were trying to come back.

"We almost had a shutout, and that would have meant a lot to us, but I'll take this."

Meanwhile, in Washington's locker room, there were hints of divisiveness, as Locker questioned an offensive game plan that saw him pass just 11 times in the first half for 55 yards.

"I'm a competitor, and I think I've earned my coaches' trust this season, even if they didn't show it today," he said. "But if we're going to go down, at least put the ball in my hands. Not just when we're down late and they know what's coming, but give it to me early, so we can carve them up."

But there was no carving today, as Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio leaned a little less heavily on the blitz, and some of the holes previous Stanford opponents found in the Card's defensive backfield were no longer there.

"It's like Sione just said," Fangio said. "He, Shayne Skov, Thomas Keiser, Chase Thomas, they got enough pressure that we could sit back in cover-2 instead of blitzing all crazy, and I think that really helped us today. Jake's really good, so when you force him into two interceptions, you know you had some really good coverage."

Scoring Summary
1st quarter
FG Wash: E. Folk 36-yd field goal, 7:42 left. Washington 3, Stanford 0.
2nd quarter
TD Stan: J. Stewart 2-yd run, 2:55 left. Stanford 7, Washington 3.
3rd quarter
4th quarter
TD Stan: J. Stewart 1-yd run, 14:57 left. Stanford 14, Washington 3.
TD Wash: M. Foster 47-yd INT return (2-pt good), 2:50 left. Stanford 14, Washington 11.
TD Stan: S. Taylor 49-yd run, 2:20 left. Stanford 21, Washington 11.

Box score

First downs1816
Total offense480232
Passing (Comp-Att-Yards-TD)11-21-170-022-38-220-0
Rushing (Att-Yards-TD)51-310-326-21-0
Third down conversions6-120-10
Fumbles lost21

Key Stanford player stats
RB Jeremy Stewart: 11 carries, 110 yards, 2 TDs
RB Stepfan Taylor: four carries, 76 yards, 1 TD
RB Anthony Wilkerson: 15 carries, 59 yards
SS Delano Howell, DE Thomas Kaiser: 1 INT apiece
LB Chase Thomas: 10 tackles, three TFL

Stanford schedule
@Stanford 35, Sacramento State 6
Stanford 22, @UCLA 16
Stanford 52, @Wake Forest 14
Stanford 30, @Notre Dame 27
@Oregon 16, Stanford 7
USC 31, @Stanford 7
@Stanford 36, Washington State 21
Stanford at Washington
Stanford vs. Arizona
Stanford at Arizona State
Stanford at Cal
Stanford vs. Oregon State

Inspired by reading stories like this as a kid in the Michigan student newspaper on game days, the author hopes you enjoy reading this series every bit as much as he enjoys writing it. The 2010 season is being simulated on EA Sports NCAA 2011, with the author playing all Stanford games and simulating the rest in a dynasty mode.
All statistics, game summary, rankings, player news and out-of-town scores are reported unchanged from game simulation. (I.e. Don't call the author pessimistic if Stanford struggles. Call him bad at video games.)
Got any idea for future weeks, especially if they're funny? PM dannovi.

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