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Special Teams Spark Stanford Against Washington

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Ty Montgomery provided big plays that took the wind out of Washington's sails. Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images.
Ty Montgomery provided big plays that took the wind out of Washington's sails. Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images.

Stanford held on for a 31-28 win against Washington on Saturday, bringing the Cardinal one step closer to a winner-take-all showdown against Oregon for the Pac-12 North title.

Anything You Can Do, Ty Can Do Better

Ty Montgomery was expected to step into the No. 1 receiver role this season, but no one expected him to step up in such a big way.

He provided an explosive touchdown return on the opening kickoff when Stanford beat Washington, 31-28, on Saturday night — though the blockers deserve credit because he went untouched. Montgomery then carried the ball for 25 yards on Stanford's first play from scrimmage. Two touches later, he was walking into the end zone with a much-needed score. Oh yeah, and he had a 60-yard return that yielded a touchdown drive. He finished with 290 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.

When Washington was looking to get momentum before halftime and at the end of the third quarter, Montgomery stole their thunder. Every time Washington drew blood, Ty Montgomery pushed the Cardinal back to arms length.

Montgomery is the most important part of the Stanford offense. I don’t think the offense gets going unless he has loosened up the defense. He certainly made Hogan look better, and Tyler Gaffney's running lanes began to open up as Montgomery had success stretching the defense.

Slow, Slow Football

When Washington decided they wanted to ruin their own party by penalizing themselves (the Huskies' offense incurred seven penalties for 56 yards), Stanford slowed the game way down. The Cardinal chewed up clock by handing the ball to Gaffney again and again. Kevin Hogan proved unreliable (12-of-20, 100 passing yards), so Stanford went back to what they did best. Get up by 10 points and the Cardinal will rely on its defense to fluster opponents. The patient Stanford of old that we learned to respect last year was back in action, working poisonously slow.

This was Shayne Skov's best game of the season. He put a huge lick on Sankey in the second quarter, hurried Kieth Price during a key third down in the third, then sacked him in the fourth. He tackled in and outside of the box and is likely the reason for skid marks on the Huskies linemen’s pants. He lead the charge to tally five sacks when the Huskies line had only allowed three in the previous four games.

Washington Too Fast?

While guys like Skov and AJ Tarpley — who managed a key red zone interception — played well, Washington’s speedy offense was able to rack up endless amounts of yardage on the Cardinal. Keith Price passed the ball around with ease (with a career-high 33 completions) until he reached the red zone. The Cardinal generated turnovers and defensive stops, which kept Washington from converting yards into points.

Both Ben Gardner and Skov went down suspiciously during the fourth quarter drive that resulted in the A.J. Tarpley interception. Players are being taught to fake injuries all over the country. Maybe Stanford has that same class on campus.

Holstering Hogan

Hogan threw for only five yards per attempt with an interception and touchdown. It looked a lot like Hogan last year against elite defenses, credit to Washington. While he was not a game-changer passing, Hogan provided life with his legs and rushed for a score. David Shaw relied on his running game, much like I had expected he might do in big games. While he let Hogan air it out in the first half, Shaw changed his game plan, running 20 times and passing only six in the second half.

Pac-12 Picture

Stanford should sit atop the Pac-12 in the rankings based on resume. No, they haven’t scored 55 points in every one of their games this season, but they’ve beaten much better opponents than Oregon and UCLA. And they beat Oregon the last time the two teams played. The win against Washington proves they are the Pac-12's finest.