Stanford aiming to kick a Dawg while it's down

Anybody know the last time the Stanford Cardinal were double-digit favorites over Washington? And no, we're not talking about basketball.

Washington (0-3, 0-1) at Stanford (2-1, 0-1)
Saturday, October 2 - 2:05 PM (PDT) – No live TV
Stanford Stadium – Palo Alto, CA (85,500/Grass)
Series All-time: Washington leads, 39-32-4
Last Meeting: September 27, 2003 - Washington 28, Stanford 17
Line: Stanford by 11

We'll probably be remanded for not really knowing (in other words, we didn't bother to look it up). But chances are that the Huskies have never been a double-digit Dawg to the "Cardinal" – you might have to go back to the Jim Plunkett-led Stanford Indians of 1969 to find a similar line. Coincidently, that was also the last year the Huskies opened a season with three straight losses. Washington bowed to Stanford 21-7 that day, suffering their fourth consecutive defeat of what would be nine straight.

Lately, it's been all Huskies in the series - they've won six straight, and 20 out of the last 22 meetings with the Cardinal. More often than not, it's been Washington owning the double-digit edge. And after a two-year hiatus, they picked right up where they left off last year, beating Stanford 28-17 in Seattle for Keith Gilbertson's first conference victory as the Husky coach.

However, for a third straight week Washington faces a team whose compass is pointed due north, while the Husky needle is still gyrating. And the Cardinal did not find anything moral about last weeks' 31-28 fall-from-ahead loss to top-dog USC – to a man, they felt they let one out of the pen.

"Deep in our hearts we know we could have - and should have - beaten them," sighed junior tailback J.R. Lemon. Stanford coach Buddy Teevens acknowledged, "We had our chances, and we just let it slip away."

Indications are they do not plan to let another one get by this Saturday against the bottom-Dawgs.

Teevens, now in his third year, has the Cardinal playing their best ball of his tenure out of the chute, beating up both San Jose State and BYU before battling the Trojans tooth-and-nail. And in a hint of foreboding, he neatly echoed the words of Tyrone Willingham a week ago when he pronounced on Tuesday, "Washington comes in a better team than their record indicates ... we probably anticipate more pressure from them based on what we've seen the last couple of weeks. We certainly expect them to bring their ‘A' game."

Teevens acknowledged Washington's switch to Carl Bonnell at quarterback, and figures to see more option. But he stresses that he's more concerned with his own team's continued improvement. "Our emphasis has been on us - we know what we need to do, and what we need to improve on."

"We've improved each step of the way this season, and we need to take another step forward on Saturday."

That is something Washington needs to do – for the first time this season.

TEAM STATS:  36.0 points, 387.0 yards
             (6th PAC-10, 116.0 rush, 271.0 pass)
             10-11 in Red Zone offense (2nd PAC-10, 8 TD)

RUSHING:     J.R. Lemon 30-174-1 TD (5.8), long 82
             Kenneth Tolon 34-131-2 TD (3.9), long 12 
PASSING:     Trent Edwards 57-98-1 (.582), 667 yards, 7 TD 
RECEIVING:   Alex Smith 15-162-1 TD (10.8), long 43
             Evan Moore 13-180-4 TD (13.8), long 30
             Mark Bradford 11-146-0 TD (13.3), long 76

First-year coordinator Bill Cubit starts seven sophomores – four up front – on a unit that is averaging nearly 100 more yards of offense per game over last season. Though USC buckled down and only allowed the Cardinal 36 yards in the second half, Stanford still takes care of the ball, turning it over just three times in their three games. Five redshirt-freshmen dot the two-deeps as well, foretelling a prosperous future in Cardinal fortunes.

Sophomore Trent Edwards has taken a leap forward in his second season, increasing his completion percentage by ten percent from last season while throwing for seven TDs and just one interception. Edwards – third in the PAC-10 in pass efficiency - threw for a career-best 297 yards in the win over Brigham Young, and hit 20 out of his first 26 aerials against USC. He threw for 159 yards and two touchdowns a year ago in Seattle. RS-freshman T.C. Ostrander beat out Federal Way-Decatur senior Ryan Eklund for the backup spot.

Senior tight end Alex Smith is sturdy and dependable with 70 career receptions - including six for 87 yards and a score against BYU. Smith and Edwards hooked up for both of Stanford's touchdowns in Husky Stadium last year. Sophomore receivers Mark Bradford and Eric Moore will be seen on the Cardinal hoops team at season's end. The 6-7 Moore has at least one scoring reception in each game (four in total), and can leap over any corner in the conference. Mercer Island native Justin McCullum – son of Seahawk Sam - caught a 21-yard scoring strike against the Cougars. The 6-4 junior averages 18 yards per reception.

Lemon and senior Kenneth Tolon split the tailback duty, and both have had some success. J.R. broke off a highlight-reel 82-yarder on the final play of the half against the Trojans, helping to hike his per-carry average to nearly six yards. Tolon, who rushed for 87 yards against Washington last year, is nearing 1,400 yards in his career and has tallied 11 times.

It's an offensive line that only seems young, with one junior and four sophomore starters. But all of them played extensively last year, and three of them were full-timers. Averaging 302 pounds across, center Brian Head is the elder statesman, while Ismail Simpson, Josiah Vinson, Jeff Edwards and Jon Cochran share 36 starts between them in their second seasons. They have allowed eight sacks in three games.

GAME OUTLOOK: The Cardinal averages a stellar 49 percent on third-down while Washington allows a league-worst 46 percent – a potentially lethal combination. And there's going to be a lot of Husky defensive breakdowns in the game film for Stanford to choose their attack from. Decisions, decisions ...

TEAM STATS:     14.7 points, 334.7 yards
                (8th PAC-10, 83.7 rush, 251.0 pass)
                8-12 in Red Zone defense
                (2nd PAC-10, 5 TD allowed) 

TACKLES/TFL:    Kevin Schimmelmann 22/2.0 
                Oshiomogho Atogwe  19/1.0    
                T.J. Rushing 16/4.0

PASSES DEF/INT: Oshiomogho Atogwe 2/1 
                Kevin Schimmelmann 2/0
                Leigh Torrence 1/1 

SACKS:          Five players 1.0 each

Here's where you find the upper classmen. Nine starters returned to coordinator A.J. Christoff's defense, and they're a big reason behind Stanford's 2-1 start. The Cardinal have given up only one score through the air, and they lead the PAC-10 in rushing defense, allowing 2.6 yards per carry – even more impressive when you consider that they've only collected five sacks.

In junior Kevin Schimmelman and co-captain Jared Newberry, Stanford boasts two of the more unsung linebackers in the conference – they just make plays. Schimmelman has found a home inside after three seasons at safety and OLB, leading the team in 2004 with 22 stops. Newberry has only eight tackles, but half of them are for loss – he led the Cardinal a year ago with 10 TFL. Senior inside ‘backer David Bergeron was suspended for the USC contest due to a team rules violation, so Mike Silva stepped in with a sack and a fumble recovery. Bergeron and his 115 career tackles return this week.

Up front, senior Will Svitek and junior Babatunde Oshinowo lead the way, though Svitek has been slowed by a knee injury and has been ably covered by senior Scott Scharff. Oshinowo has seven career sacks and 15 tackles-for-loss. Junior Julian Jenkins has a pair of fumble recoveries from the inside tackle spot.

Junior free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe starts for a third straight season, headlining a full complement of returning defenders in the secondary. Atogwe goes for a unique distinction - he has led the Cardinal in tackles for the past two seasons. The Canadian trackster has six career interceptions and eleven forced fumbles. Corners T.J. Rushing, Stanley Wilson and Leigh Torrence combine for 56 starts between them, and are a good reason why Stanford has allowed only one aerial touchdown in three games.

GAME OUTLOOK: The Cardinal, for all its secondary experience, does have the worst pass defense in the PAC-10 in terms of yardage allowed – mostly because San Jose State and BYU couldn't run a lick. Still, one would think that Stanford will be cheating the box ala Notre Dame, try and take away the run option, and dare the freshman to beat them through the air. Bonnell may end up having to do a lot on his own – the Huskies are also down receivers. Remember Marques Tuiasosopo's first freshman start? He ran for 95 yards, threw for 261 more, and generally gave Oregon fits – though the Ducks did end up winning it late.

PLACEKICKING:  Michael Sgroi 3-6 FG (long 41), 4-5 XP
PUNTING:       Jay Ottovegio 14-39.3 (long 50),
               .286 inside the 20
KICK RETURNS:  T.J. Rushing 6-41.8 (long 99), 1 TD
               Marcus McCutcheon 3-24.3 (long 31), 0 TD
PUNT RETURNS:  David Marrero 7-8.6 (long 12), 0 TD

Junior place-kicker Michael Sgroi hasn't exactly set the world on fire during his three seasons. He's only 19-for-34 in field-goal efforts, and his 41-yarder against Brigham Young was his longest since the 2002 season. He's also had four blocked, which skews the average. Jay Ottovegio was a high-school All-American kicker at St. Thomas Aquinas in Coral Gables, FL, and the freshman punter with a 39-yard average looks poised to handle both kicking chores when Sgroi departs.

T.J. Rushing shot Stanford right out of a 10-0 hole versus BYU with a 99-yard kickoff return, and added a 54-yarder against USC, making Rushing the NCAA kick-return leader. Sophomore reserve wide-out Marcus McCutcheon – son of Lawrence and brother of Daylon – averages nearly 25 per return himself, and the Cardinal rank second in the nation overall.

GAME OUTLOOK: Aided by Rushing's long-distance returns, Stanford owns a huge statistical edge in field-position when figuring kick and punt return yardage. They've also blocked a field goal and a punt this year – a discipline that has been foreign to Husky special teamers. The Cardinal faked a field-goal against USC last week, and has been known to try some radical things from punt formation.


This is the final game of a four-game Stanford homestand. They play four out of their next five on the road ... So what gets fixed first? The numbers don't lie. Scanning the current PAC-10 rankings is, to put it kindly, frightful for Washington. They are 9th in scoring offense and 10th in scoring defense; 10th in pass efficiency and 10th in pass efficiency defense (both by huge margins); 10th in punt returns and 9th in net punting; 9th in total offense and 9th in total defense; 10th in third-down conversions and 10th in opponent third-down conversions. Cal's Aaron Rodgers owns the conference's highest efficiency rating at 192.2 – the combined Husky QB rating is 81.9. Basement-dwellingly consistent ... It must be time for California to beat Oregon State this Saturday. Why? OSU is riding a five-game winning streak in the series, after Cal had won the previous six. Before that, the Beavers had won five straight, after the Bears had won the previous six ... USC doesn't play on the road again until October 30 ... with Charles Frederick doubtful this week, Washington's most experienced WR starter becomes Quintin Daniels, who will likely make his third career start. The Huskies will be down to five senior starters overall ...

ED. NOTE - Much will be written locally this week about Washington's first return to the site of Marques Tuiasosopo's heroic last-minute, pouring-rain effort of October, 2000 – and the tragic collision that befell Curtis Williams, ultimately claiming his life. We'd just like to say that is thinking of you, number 25 ...
Rick Samek can be reached at Top Stories