Photo credit: gostanford.com
By Ana Kieu
Cameron Scarlett had a career-high rushing performance for Stanford on Saturday, but David Shaw’s best call against No. 15 Washington was inviting former Stanford two-sport star Tyler Gaffney to be the team’s honorary captain.
A slashing running back who got stronger as the game progressed and left everything on the field, Gaffney played with a swagger and enjoyed contact, dishing out as much as he received. As a senior in 2013, Gaffney rushed for 1,709 yards and 21 touchdowns.
“I wanted him up here,” said Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football, following the Cardinal’s inspiring 23-13 victory against the Huskies on Saturday. “This was going to be an attitude game and I couldn’t think of a better person to come talk to the team, and he was awesome.”
So was Stanford.
Seeking to play its first complete game of the season, the Cardinal (3-3, 2-2 Pac-12) put it together against heavily-favored Washington (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12), which had outscored its previous three opponents by a combined 72 points. Stanford was relentless and wouldn’t be denied on a crisp evening in front of a loud and appreciative home crowd.
Scarlett, a fifth-year senior running back, made Gaffney proud by rushing a career-high 33 times for a personal-best 151 yards. Scarlett carried on nine consecutive runs and picked up two first downs on the Cardinal’s final possession, eating up five of the last six minutes on the clock.
“I had a quick word with him,” said Scarlett, who met Gaffney during his recruiting process. “His message was there’s going to be adversity and nobody in the country thinks we’re going to win this game. The only thing that matters is that we know we have what it takes to win.”
Scarlett’s key block on a blitzing safety enabled junior quarterback Davis Mills to hit sophomore wide receiver Simi Fehoko in stride with a 42-yard scoring pass early in the second quarter to give Stanford a lead it never relinquished.
“Can’t say enough about where Cam Scarlett is right now,” said Shaw. “Just playing such great football.”
After eclipsing 90 yards in three of the first five games — twice finishing with 97 — Scarlett was elated to surpass the century mark.
“I was sick and tired of running for 90 yards,” Scarlett said.
Going after it
Defensively, Stanford limited Washington to 88 yards rushing and hounded Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason (16-of-36), sacking him twice and hurrying him six times. Washington was 2-of-12 on third down.
“These quarterbacks have big arms and it’s really important to get pressure on them,” said junior outside linebacker Gabe Reid, who collected six tackles and an 18-yard sack in his first career start of the season. “We worked hard to get into the pass rush and a big shout out to the DB’s as well for playing tight coverage and giving us a chance to get back there.”
Freshman cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly made his first collegiate interception early in the fourth quarter and added two pass breakups. Junior cornerback Paulson Adebo equaled his career high with four pass breakups and had five tackles.
The unit’s hard work and physical play hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“All the respect in the world to our defense,” junior center Drew Dalman said. “They’re playing their butts off right now and making plays when it counts.”
Shaw knew it was only a matter of time before the speedy 6-foot-4, 226-pound Fehoko made a big contribution. He had two receptions entering the game but caught three for 91 yards and scored his first collegiate touchdown against the Huskies. Fehoko also recovered a Scarlett fumble in the third quarter.
“A lot of it had to do with the chemistry between Davis and me,” said Fehoko. “It’s been there for a while and it finally clicked.”
Tavita Pritchard, the Andrew Luck Director of Offense and Kevin M. Hogan Quarterbacks Coach, added the comeback and go route that Fehoko scored on earlier in the week.
“I knew it was up in the first 20 play calls and I was excited,” Fehoko said. “I got good reps against our scout team. On that play, I was kind of scared — I was focusing so hard on the ball. It was awesome.”
Mills received his second straight start and third of the season in place of injured senior K.J. Costello and threw for a career-high 293 yards, connecting on 21-of-30 attempts. He also showed good mobility, running three times for 26 yards.
“Guys made plays for him and he continues to grow,” said Shaw. “I thought it was a great performance by him tonight.”
Mills left the game in the fourth quarter with an undisclosed injury and was replaced by sophomore Jack West, who received his first playing time of the season. With a two-score lead, Shaw kept the ball on the ground and burned the clock.
“Jack knows the game plan inside and out,” Shaw said. “We just weren’t going to put the ball in the air.”
Stanford’s first-year players continue to impress. Walter Rouse and Barrett Miller started at left tackle and left guard, respectively, and were joined by Jake Hornibrook when senior right guard Henry Hattis went down midway through the third quarter.
“It was awesome being out on the field and playing football again with my guys and having fun,” said Hornibrook of his college debut. “It was a great experience.”
One of five highly touted first-year linemen, Hornibrook said the group has formed a special bond.
“We’re all in it together, just trying to get better,” he said.
Dalman has been impressed by the contributions of the entire class, many thrust into early action due to injuries. In all, 14 true freshmen have played this season.
“It’s just a testament to a lot of our young guys that were out there to step up,” Dalman said.
Ball hogs: The Cardinal finished with a nearly 18-minute time of possession advantage and ran 16 more plays. Shaw, citing UCLA head coach Chip Kelley, said time of possession is a meaningless stat unless you score touchdowns.
“Still hate getting inside the five-yard line and kicking two field goals,” said Shaw. “That one is going to stick in my craw for a while because we fought so hard to get down there.”
Stanford has a bye next week and has 12 days to rest up and prepare for UCLA on October 17. It’ll be a Thursday night contest at Stanford Stadium and kickoff is at 6 p.m.
The Cardinal entertains Arizona on October 26 and doesn’t travel again until November 9 when it treks to Colorado. Start times haven’t been announced.
Saturday was Breast Cancer Awareness Game. Stanford football student-athletes and coaches wore pink to draw awareness to breast cancer as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer survivors were honored throughout the game.
Washington was the highest-ranked foe Stanford has defeated since 2017, when it downed No. 9 Notre Dame … Scarlett’s 33 rushing attempts were the most by a Cardinal since Christian McCaffrey in 2015, when he carried 33 times against Oregon … Senior inside linebacker Curtis Robinson led Stanford with eight tackles … Sophomore wide receiver Michael Wilson (6) and junior wide receiver Connor Wedington (4) combined for 10 catches for the Cardinal … Washington had forced three turnovers in each of its last three games, converting six into touchdowns. However, Stanford committed zero turnovers … Senior Jet Toner converted all three field goal attempts to move past Rod Garcia into sixth place on Stanford’s career list for makes with 46 … Ken Margerum, a consensus All-America wide receiver for Stanford in 1979 and 1980, was recognized as part of the program’s 125-year celebration of Stanford football.
“We definitely left meat on the bone and know we can get better. Good to see us make progress and take another step in the right direction.” — Junior center Drew Dalman