It was a Jekyll and Hyde performance for the Huskies as the game was a tale of two halves the entire night.
After an upset loss to the California Bears last week, the Huskies needed to refocus and come out to a fast start against Stanford.
From the opening kickoff, the Huskies imposed their will on the Cardinal the entire first half.
They came out and played inspired and energetic football which had been missing the last two weeks.
The opening drive of the game, the Husky defense forced Stanford into a three-and-out and forced them to punt.
When the Husky offense got the ball, they marched down the field on an 8-play, 73-yard drive, capped by a 2-yard TD run by QB Jake Browning.
For an offense that had been struggling mightily, a sustained scoring drive was just what the doctor ordered!
The Huskies welcomed the return of their senior star RB Myles Gaskin who had been gone the last two games. He was sensational on the night and finished with 148 yards on 28 carrries.
“You never really know, he had a lot of time off, so we felt good about that. We really rested him to make sure we weren’t going to put him in jeopardy. He’s a tough kid. It’s nice to have No. 9 back. He’s a game-changer.” Head coach Chris Petersen said about Myles Gaskin.
Also, much to the delight of the Husky fans was the return of TE Hunter Bryant who had been sidelined all season with a knee injury.
“He’s been practicing for a couple of weeks, we’ve been bringing him along slowly, the last two weeks he’s been solid and this last week we got him into the game plan, but it’s not like going out there full speed and having guys hit you. I thought how much we used him was a good way to get him back into the mix and that he’ll only gain confidence going forward.” Petersen said about Hunter Bryant.
Defensively, the Huskies were able to stifle the Stanford offense throughout the entire first half.
At the end of the first quarter, Browning found TE Drew Sample for an 11-yard TD, which put the Huskies up 14-0 and in great shape heading into the 2nd quarter.
One of the big keys to the game was the ability of the Huskies to win the turnover battle. The Husky defense was able to come up with three interceptions on the night.
On offense, Gaskin scampered into the end zone on a 6-yard TD run and gave the Huskies a 21-0 lead heading into halftime.
The Huskies dominated the entire first half and things were looking promising at halftime. The only blemish was a targeting ejection on Safety Jojo McIntosh in the 2nd quarter.
Offensive Coordinator Bush Hamdan called a great game the first half, after being the subject of much scrutiny lately for the Huskies offensive woes.
“That first half was really good and I thought in the second half we could have been a bit cleaner. One thing I’ll know is we will keep working hard to clean that up, and I think as we go down the stretch here it will really matter.” Petersen said about the offense.
When the third quarter started, a full reversal of the first half ensued and that Husky team from the first half was suddenly gone.
The Husky offense went three-and-out on its first drive of the half after looking so good in the first half. Stanford scored its first points of the game with a 14-yard TD pass from QB K.J. Costello to TE Kaden Smith.
Stanford closed the gap to 21-7 and gained some momentum and confidence.
The Huskies would regain some momentary rhythm on offense and march 70-yards on 10 plays, before settling for a 22-yard FG by Peyton Henry to make the score 24-7.
The Cardinal would answer with a score of their own towards the end of the third quarter, when RB Bryce Love ran for a 5-yard TD to make the score 24-14.
At this point, Husky fans were wondering what happened to the team that came out in the first half with energy and urgency? It clearly wasn’t the same team that played in the first half.
Heading into the 4th quarter, the Huskies were in for a dogfight with Stanford and they needed to find a way to finish!
Stanford would draw first blood in the 4th quarter with a 21-yard FG by Collin Riccitelli which made the score 24-17 for the Huskies.
The Huskies would go on a 9-play, 54-yard drive of their own and settle for a 38-yard FG by Henry with 5:09 left in the game. The score was now 27-17 and a two score game for the Huskies.
Offensively, the Cardinal would not go quietly into the night and answered back with a 33-yard TD catch by WR Trenton Irwin which made the score 27-23. Stanford missed the extra point after the TD.
When the Husky offense got the ball, they stalled and were forced to punt the ball to Stanford with 2:05 left in the game.
Stanford had a chance to win the game with a TD on the final drive. On the very last play of the game, Safety Taylor Rapp intercepted Costello’s pass in the end zone to secure the “edge of your seat” win for the Huskies.
It was a “too close for comfort” win for the Huskies and many were left wondering how a team could dominate the first half, and then regress back into the ailments that have haunted them the past few weeks.
The win moves the Huskies to 7-3 on the season and still in control of their own destiny going forward.
“That last week was really hard. There’s no doubt about it, when you lose any games it’s hard. On top of not scoring many points, all the offense, the players, the coaches, felt the weight of the world on their shoulders. They get it, it’s hard, you want to get it fixed, to go play and try to get it right. We made some strides tonight.” Petersen said about bouncing back after losing to Cal last week.
What the Huskies are looking forward to the most is the bye week, where they can actually heal up and rest themselves physically and mentally.
Next up for the Huskies is a matchup against the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday, November 17th at Husky Stadium.