SEATTLE -- Stanford was on the ropes, down 17-13 and facing a fourth-and-4 play from the Washington 34 with two minutes remaining.
It went to a predictable advantage. Quarterback Josh Nunes lofted a pass toward 6-foot-8 tight end Levine Toilolo against 6-foot cornerback Desmond Trufant.
Trufant picked off the pass, continuing the theme of the night: the underdog coming up big.
Washington (3-1) stunned eighth-ranked Stanford, 17-13, at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night in front of 55,951 mostly black-clad Washington fans.
The black was fitting because Washington was able to bury its recent demons against Stanford (3-1) and snap a four-year losing streak.
Bishop Sankey ran 20 times for a career-high 144 yards. Kasen Williams caught the go-ahead score among his 10 catches for 129 yards.
Washington had a third-and-2 at Stanford's 35-yard line when quarterback Keith Price sent a screen pass into the flat for Williams. He sidestepped the first cornerback and nearly fumbled the ball as he trucked down the sideline. Williams regained control and Stanford cornerback Ed Reynolds jumped on his back 6 yards from the goal line.
Williams powered into the end zone to give the Huskies a 17-13 lead with 4:53 remaining.
Washington's stout defense made the turning point possible. Stanford mustered just 65 yards rushing.
This year’s shift to a 3-4 scheme had not been effective against the run prior to Thursday, but it finally came together against a powerful Cardinal ground game on national television.
Stanford hit back with a bruising, blitzing approach on Price, which turned into a big play for Stanford when defensive end Trent Murphy vaulted his 6-6, 261-pound frame into the air to tip and intercept Price’s attempted pass to Kendyl Taylor in the third quarter.
Murphy rambled for 40 yards to score the game’s first touchdown, putting Stanford in front 13-3.
Instead of being deflated, Washington responded. Faced with a fourth-and-1 play from its own 39, the Huskies lined up to go for it. Price handed to Sankey, who stuttered then zipped through a surprised Stanford defense for a 61-yard score that rejuvenated Washington and pulled it to 13-10 at the end of the third quarter.
Despite a competent defense, Washington trailed at the half when Stanford’s Jordan Williamson tacked on a 28-yard field goal with 1:10 remaining in the second quarter for a 6-3 lead.
Oddly, the Cardinal threw more than it ran the first 30 minutes. Equally strange, Washington, which has had problems running all season, gained more yards on the ground than Stanford, 62-47, against a Cardinal defense that leads the nation in fewest rushing yards allowed.
Sankey gained 65 yards in the first half alone, which was more than halfway to Stanford’s average allowed per game of 125. The Huskies also shifted wide receiver Taylor into the backfield for three carries in the first half.
Willamson kicked a 31-yard field goal with 9:12 remaining in the first quarter to open the scoring following consecutive three-and-outs from each firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas