After the meekest showing of its undefeated season, No. 5 Washington will seek improvement on offense against host Stanford on Saturday.
The Huskies (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12) barely made it past last-place Arizona State 15-7 last week.
“It didn’t go the way that you’d expect as far as the night, but there was a lot of grit and there was a lot of guys that just stayed the course and just kept fighting,” Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said. “I know I say that a lot, but we have a solution-oriented group of guys. … Collectively as a team, we’re going to continue to fight and find a solution and a way to win.”
After scoring 31 points or more in each of their first six games — including 56 vs. Boise State and 59 against Cal — the Huskies were held to three points for the first three quarters against Arizona State. Their only touchdown came defensively, via Mishael Powell’s 89-yard pick-six with 8:11 to play.
DeBoer was not concerned that the Sun Devils delivered a blueprint for how to slow his offense.
“There’s a chess match within the game, you know, that takes place certainly. But we have those answers I think built into what we do,” DeBoer said.
Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. completed 27 of 42 passes for 275 yards but threw two interceptions after entering the game with just three picks all year. Penix is still a Heisman Trophy candidate thanks to his four games of four touchdown passes or more this season.
The Washington athletic department is pushing a “Penix for Heisman” campaign, but DeBoer said that is secondary to his senior quarterback.
“He’s so focused — I mean, the reason he came back was not about winning an award,” DeBoer said. “He came back to play because he wanted to do something special for this football program and win a championship for this football team.”
The Cardinal (2-5, 1-4) had a notable game on Oct. 13 when they rallied from a 29-0 halftime deficit to stun Colorado 46-43 in double overtime. But last week, Stanford fell flat in a 42-7 loss to then-No. 25 UCLA.
Stanford coach Troy Taylor said he will mix things up in practice in search of a faster start.
“You just can’t put yourself in a hole and expect to be able to come back and win,” he said.
In last year’s meeting in Seattle, Penix went 22-for-37 for 309 yards and a pair of touchdowns as Washington beat Stanford 40-22.
“We’re a completely different team,” said Taylor, in his first year at Stanford. “Washington … is very similar to the same team. So I think you can get something out of (last year’s tape) for sure.”
The Cardinal will need another big game from quarterback Ashton Daniels, who went 27-for-45 for 396 yards and four touchdowns in the comeback over Colorado.
Taylor said leading rusher Casey Filkins (206 rushing yards, one TD) is expected back after missing the UCLA game with an injury.
Neither team does that much on the ground, with Stanford (127.4) ranking 98th in FBS in rushing yards per game and Washington (103.9) ranking 117th. The Huskies managed just 13 yards on 13 carries against Arizona State.
Washington has won two straight in the series to hold a 45-44-4 edge all-time.