FROM STANFORD — After each game, we plan to provide a capsulated recap hitting on some of the key moments, plays and numbers. Here’s what we took from Washington’s 31-28 loss to Stanford here Saturday night:
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME — Technically most of his damage came on special teams, but it’s hard to argue that Ty Montgomery’s impact on the final score was any less important than anyone else who played in this game. Montgomery returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, and had a 72-yarder immediately after a UW touchdown in the third quarter that set up another Stanford score. All told, he returned four kicks for 204 yards, in addition to the 39-yard touchdown pass he caught from Kevin Hogan with 11 seconds remaining in the first half. On a night where Stanford’s offense was less than dominant, Montgomery was.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME — If Washington had won, this could go to Marcus Peters, who had an interception and stopped Kevin Hogan on that 3rd-and-1 late in the fourth quarter. But Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy was all over the place, sacking Keith rice twice for a loss of 11 yards, and tipping the fourth-quarter pass that was ultimately intercepted by A.J. Tarpley. Tarpley also had two tackles for loss, and Shayne Skov had 14 total tackles and 1.5 sacks.
PLAY OF THE GAME — The obvious choice is the Kevin Smith non-catch, but I think the real turning point came late in the second quarter. Washington scored its first touchdown to cut the lead to 10-7, and had a chance to take that momentum into halftime and receive the second-half kickoff with a chance to take the lead. But Cameron Van Winkle’s kickoff was “about 20 yards” shorter than Steve Sarkisian wanted it, and that gave the Cardinal the ball at their own 39-yard line with about a minute left. Hogan eventually found Montgomery for a touchdown, and that allowed Stanford to remain ahead by two scores heading into the locker room. That was huge.
STAT OF THE GAME — A couple stand out: first of all, the Huskies outgained Stanford 489-284, though that’s partially due to how much damage the Cardinal did in the kickoff return game. Secondly, UW’s penalty situation continues to be a major concern. The Huskies were flagged 10 times for 89 yards, numbers that will likely keep UW atop the nation in penalties committed. A lot of those flags were drive-killers, too, especially in the first half when the Huskies failed to score until their final possession.
QUOTABLE — “We just didn’t cover, man. We knew this kid was a good returner and we thought we were going to fit the returns well and we just didn’t. It’s unfortunate that played such a factor in the game. But you have to play all three phases. It’s not just one or the other. It’s not just O or D. You’ve got to play all three phases and we just didn’t cover well tonight. We didn’t kick great either, and that set up the lack of covering.” — UW coach Steve Sarkisian on his team’s kick coverage woes
WHAT IT MEANS — There probably wasn’t much doubt that UW was talented enough to play with a team like Stanford, so who knows whether they really had anything to prove in that regard. What matters is that the Huskies were good enough to win this game and didn’t. You can scrutinize the final replay decision on Smith’s catch/no-catch all you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that UW continues to be held back by its penalty problems, and as Price said afterward, that’s just not something they can get away with against a team as good as Stanford. That kind of sloppiness is easy to overlook when it comes in a 38-6 win over Boise State, or a 34-24 win over Illinois. But those mistakes are glaring in a close game against a top-5 team. And they need to be corrected — along with the kickoff coverage — before Oregon comes to town.
UP NEXT — No. 2 Oregon (5-0, 2-0 in Pac-12) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple