Washington-Stanford Preview

The Associated Press

The feeling of disappointment and despair in the locker room after losing 17-13 at Washington last season is something that Stanford players will never forget.

What happened on the field is even more painful to recall.

The offense has undergone a major makeover under quarterback Kevin Hogan since that setback in Seattle, and players and coaches believe it will make all the difference when the fifth-ranked Cardinal (4-0, 2-0) host the No. 15 Huskies (4-0, 1-0) in a critical Pac-12 North showdown Saturday night.

"Kevin's mobility changes things,'' Stanford coach David Shaw said Tuesday. "He allows us to be a much more diverse offense.''

A year ago, Stanford failed to score an offensive touchdown against Washington. Former quarterback Josh Nunes completed 18 of 37 passes for 170 yards and an interception, often throwing at the feet of receivers or misfiring completely. The Cardinal, who ran for a school-record 446 yards in a 65-21 win over Washington in 2011, were held to 65 yards on the ground.

"Definitely not an experience I want to have again,'' left tackle Andrus Peat said.

Hogan saw his first action in that loss, carrying the ball once for five yards on a read-option keeper. This time, he won't be as much of a spectator.

Hogan is 9-0 as a starter since taking over for Nunes. He has completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns with three interceptions this season. He also is the team's third-leading rusher with 103 yards.

Stanford has shifted from an offense that relies on short and intermediate passes to tight ends to one that goes deep to wide receivers who are continually creating separation.

Hogan threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-17 victory on the same field in Seattle last week against Washington State, showing just how far the offense has progressed in a year's time. He found Devon Cajuste for touchdowns of 57 and 33 yards in the first half and hit Michael Rector on a 45-yard TD in the third quarter.

"It's something that you need to be able to prove to a defense before they start to respect that. With the run game that we've shown in previous years, we haven't had that type of passing game,'' said wide receiver Ty Montgomery, who leads the team with 20 receptions for 327 yards and four TDs.

The Huskies, under first-year defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox last season, also caught the Cardinal off guard. Shaw said Washington's defense did some "different things against us that they hadn't shown before'' and Stanford failed to make the proper adjustments during the game.

The Cardinal can take some positives out of last year's game.

They sacked mobile quarterback Keith Price three times and tallied seven tackles for a loss, though Washington was dealing with several injuries to its offensive line, which has since been rebuilt. Trent Murphy also returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown to help Stanford take a 13-3 lead late in the third quarter.

The defense has dominated most of its opponents since - and it hasn't crumbled late like it did against the Huskies when Kasen Williams caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Price with 4:53 remaining for the winning score.

"We're older, wiser I think at different positions,'' Shaw said. "The same guys I think are just better than they were a year ago. Just older and a year wiser, hopefully.''

While Stanford is seeking its second 5-0 start in three years, Washington is trying to open 5-0 for the first time since 1992.

The Huskies are coming off an impressive performance in last Saturday's 31-13 victory over previously unbeaten Arizona. A massive wind and rain storm blew through the area and forced Washington to make significant changes to the game plan.

After averaging 325.3 passing yards in the first three games behind Price, the Huskies became almost one-dimensional, relying heavily on the run game. Bishop Sankey set a school record with 40 carries and rushed for 161 yards and moved back into the national lead averaging 151.8 yards per game.

It also showed that Washington still has power and grit on an offense that's gained attention for its fast pace and big numbers early in the season.

"I go into team meetings on Monday mornings now and I don't feel like I have to pump up the team or pump up the game,'' coach Steve Sarkisian said. "I think we have a unique, quiet confidence about us. It's not arrogance. It's not that way at all. It's just a quiet confidence that I think our guys have a real sense of belief in one another.''

Sarkisian has been linked to the USC vacancy after the weekend firing of Lane Kiffin, and stressed to his team that he has no interest in being anywhere but at Washington.

"This was a cool opportunity for me this morning to go in our team meeting and use it from a personal standpoint. And for them, too,'' said Sarkisian, a former USC assistant and Los Angeles-area native. "Those kids are sitting at home in their dorms and their apartments and they're watching ESPN, too. So this is a great chance for us to show and prove there are zero distractions.''

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