Preview: Stanford at No. 18 Washington

Two of the top three quarterbacks in the Pac-12 square off Saturday when Stanford travel north to face No. 18 Washington.

The Huskies (3-0, 0-0) open conference play at home with senior left tackle Jaxson Kirkland expected to return after missing the first three games. With the veteran offensive lineman set to make his 2022 debut against the Cardinal there is an even greater onus on the unit to deliver.

One key area of emphasis heading into Saturday’s game is finishing drives off, particularly in the red zone. UW failed twice against Michigan State to punch it in from the Spartans 1-yard line.

Stanford has allowed the fewest red zone touchdowns – three; two touchdowns and one field goal – of any defense in the conference through the first three games this season. For UW to continue its unblemished start to the Kalen DeBoer era the offense will have to find a way to score when it gets inside the red zone.

One way to avoid any problems in the red zone is to score before reaching the opponent’s 20-yard line.

“We know they’re a tough team. They’re a team that’s always going to continue to fight,” junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Tuesday.

“We just gotta make sure that we keep throwing punches as well. We can’t let up. We can’t settle for anything. We just gotta make sure we go out there and play our football and play at a high level.”

On first down opposing quarterbacks are completing 80 percent of their pass attempts against Stanford’s defense. Penix has attempted the majority of his throws on first down through the first three games and it’s where he’s done the most damage.

Penix has thrown for 595 yards and four touchdowns on 30 of 50 attempts to start drives, with 17 passes going for 15-plus yards, tied for the most of any quarterback in the country with Nebraska junior Casey Thompson.

In previous years facing Stanford meant game-planning for a fullback and an old school style of offense. This season has seen a rather significant change to that formula.

Head coach David Shaw has implemented more of a mesh, run-pass option element to the Cardinal offense, which can force the defense into some problems.

“You can tell that they are very innovated and there are some things they do that really, really stress you,”

UW co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach William Inge said Monday.

“One thing we told our players here yesterday is we know we are going to be playing against a top-tier, elite quarterback. He can make throws that probably two or three quarterbacks in the country can make and we have a lot of respect for (Tanner) McKee from what we’ve seen on film.”

Stanford will be without junior running back EJ Smith this Saturday. Smith is the second leading rusher in the Pac-12 averaging 103 yards per game this season.

UW is expected to have all three of its injured – left tackle Troy Fautanu, left guard Nate Kalepo and Kirkland – offensive linemen healthy Saturday. Junior safety Asa Turner is likely out, but he could be a game-time decision.

Leave a Reply