Minutes after the fans stormed the field in celebration of No. 10 Washington’s biggest victory since — well, since a while ago, junior linebacker Keishawn Bierria was asked what UW’s 44-6 victory over No. 7 Stanford on Friday night should say about this Huskies team.
“To me,” said Bierria, who had eight tackles and a fumble recovery in the rout, “all it says is, we just beat Stanford. Next week’s going to be a test, and we’ve got to answer that call.”
There was a party at Husky Stadium on Friday, a sellout crowd of 72,027 celebrating each of the Huskies’ eight sacks with raucous fervor, the student section filling the playing surface afterward in a euphoric purple mob.
They will enjoy this one for a while. The Huskies will do their best to move on as quickly as possible.
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Oregon beckons next weekend.
Yes, the Ducks appear to have regressed from the juggernaut they have been for much of this century. They lost a tough game at Nebraska two weeks ago, then lost at home last week to Colorado and its backup quarterback. Their defense doesn’t seem to have improved much under first-year coordinator Brady Hoke. Oregon is banged up, too; receiver Devon Allen and left tackle Tyrell Crosby are out for the season, and several other contributors have missed time due to injury.
But it’s still Oregon, and Oregon has beaten Washington 12 consecutive times, and no matter how badly the Huskies beat Stanford, they still have to contend with the Ducks for 60 minutes at Autzen Stadium in six days.
So while UW’s players deservedly basked in the spoils of their Friday night dominance, it didn’t escape them that beating Oregon will require the same kind of preparation that fueled this whipping of Stanford.
“It’s awesome for tonight,” UW coach Chris Petersen said, “and then we know what can happen next week if (we) don’t show up, and I mean show up with your ‘A’ game.
“We’ve just got to go back to work, and we know how challenging the next game can be. I mean that completely sincerely. We’ll enjoy this one tonight, and then try to figure out how to take the next step.”
They’ve already taken several in a short time, from a 7-6 final record last season to a preseason top-15 ranking to their first 5-0 start since 1992. Ranked 10th entering the weekend, the Huskies could ascend into the top five when the polls come out Sunday, and their performance before a national television audience on Friday only increased their already growing national profile.
All night, the Huskies showed why they must now be considered the favorites to win the Pac-12 North, battering Stanford again and again with a stifling defense that totaled eight sacks, held the Cardinal to 29 yards rushing and limited Christian McCaffrey, last year’s Heisman runner-up, to just 49 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Before Saturday’s games had been played, the Huskies had the national lead in sacks with 21, ranked 11th nationally in yards per play allowed and ranked eighth nationally in scoring defense.
“They’ve been doing that to us for a while,” quarterback Jake Browning said of UW’s defense, which also dominated during live periods in training camp, “so I was going to be kind of mad if they didn’t do that to someone else.”
Through five games, Browning already has 17 touchdown passes, one more than he threw in 12 games last season. He ranks in the top 10 nationally in that category, as well as passing efficiency, completion percentage and yards per attempt.
Those numbers, combined with UW’s elite defensive credentials, are why the Huskies will be expected to beat Oregon for the first time since 2003.
“They’ve won a long time,” Petersen said, referring to the 12-year losing streak. “All that stuff’s in the past, though. It’s just like us going to Arizona, and we hadn’t won (in Tucson) in 10 years. That had nothing to do with this team. None of that has anything to do with this team. This is just a new team. That’s just our approach.
“…We haven’t studied (Oregon) at all, but we know that’s a hard place to play, and they have really good coaches and a lot of speed. It’ll be the next challenge for us.”
According to ESPN, the 13.2 viewer rating for Friday night’s telecast was the second-highest rating for a college football game in Seattle since ESPN began tracking that statistic in 2000 (UW vs. Stanford in 2012 was the highest). It was also ESPN’s most-streamed regular-season Friday game ever, drawing a total of 354,000 unique viewers who watched a total of 18,200,000 minutes.