SEATTLE — The Washington Huskies shed aside four years of frustration against Stanford to deal the Cardinal a stunning loss Thursday night.
And they did it in a most unusual fashion — with their defense — holding the eighth-ranked Cardinal without a offensive touchdown on the way to a 17-13 win at CenturyLink Field.
The Huskies had one of the worst defenses in the nation last year, which resulted in the firing of defensive coordinator Nick Holt and the hiring of new coordinator Justin Wilcox.
Wilcox’s magic worked Thursday as the Huskies held Stanford to 65 rushing yards; the Cardinal had rushed for 446 yards last year in a 65-21 win over Washington in Palo Alto.
Stanford also got a poor game from first-year starting quarterback Josh Nunes, who completed just 18 of 37 passes for 170 yards.
“It was a combination of them playing well and us not playing very well,” said Stanford coach David Shaw, whose team had upset USC on Sept. 15.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said simply that his team believed in the new game plan and never gave up, even after falling behind 13-3 in the third quarter after Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown.
“We knew coming in it was going to be this kind of game,” he said. “We just had to keep hunting and pecking to find some plays and we finally found some.”
Indeed, Washington scored on a 61-yard touchdown run by Bishop Sankey on the last play of the third quarter when Sarkisian gambled and went for it on fourth-and-1.
Washington took the lead with 4:53 left when Kasen Williams scored on a 35-yard pass and run from Keith Price, which also followed a fourth-and-1 conversion in Stanford territory.
The win set off a wild celebration at CenturyLink Field as Washington fans spilled onto the field, happily cheering what was Washington’s first win over Stanford since 2007.
Sankey wound up gaining 144 yards on 20 carries. Price completed 19 of 37 passes for 177 yards with the one touchdown and one interception.
Tight end Zach Ertz led the Cardinal with 106 yards on six receptions.
Stanford had owned Washington the last three years, outscoring the Huskies 140-35 in games in which it had rushed for 1,045 yards.
Washington showed a much-improved defense early on, keeping the game to a 3-3 tie after the first quarter.
Stanford got on the board first following a nine-play, 49-yard drive, but it was forced to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Jordan Williamson.
Washington, which operated largely out of a no-huddle offense early on, used a 35-yard pass from Price to Williams to move into position for a 43-yard field goal by Travis Coons late in the first quarter.
The Cardinal then scored the only points of the second quarter on a 28-yard field goal by Williamson that capped a 72-yard drive that featured a 35-yard pass from Nunes to Ertz.
Otherwise, though, it was a tough half for Nunes, making his first road start. He completed just seven of 18 passes in the first half for 105 yards, at one point throwing the ball into the ground three feet in front of a wide-open receiver.
More surprising was the inability of Stanford’s running game in the first half to get much going against Washington’s defense. Stepfan Taylor, who had rushed for 153 yards in the win over USC, had just 46 on 11 carries in the first half, and Stanford was held to 47 rushing yards overall.
Washington’s offense, though, didn’t fare much better. Price was just 8-for-18 for 76 yards before halftime and was constantly under pressure against a veteran Stanford front seven.
Taylor finished with 75 yards on 21 carries.
NOTES: The game was billed by Washington as the “Blackout of the Century” with the Huskies wearing all-black uniforms that they have unveiled once or twice a year since 2010. … Due to injuries, Washington started its fourth different offensive line in four games. This one featured true freshman Shane Brostek starting at one guard spot. He is the son of former Huskies star Bern Brostek, who also played eight years in the NFL. … Stanford came into the game not having lost in September since 2008. … The Washington-Stanford series dates to 1893, and Stanford is considered the first major college opponent the Huskies ever played.