Head coach Steve Sarkisian's restoration of the Washington Huskies to a Pac-12 power took one of its most significant steps Saturday, despite a loss.
In its upset bid of the fifth-ranked Stanford Cardinal, No. 16 Washington made a significant statement.
"The thing I think we proved to ourselves is that we can beat anyone in the country,” Sarkisian said, per GoHuskies.com.
The Huskies have come a long way from finishing winless just five years ago.
Washington’s near-upset was the most resounding lesson of Week 6: Stanford and Oregon may be the favorites in the Pac-12 North, but the Huskies won't go down without a Dawg fight.
The Huskies outgained the Cardinal offense, 489 yards to 279.
Senior quarterback Keith Price and junior running back Bishop Sankey effectively moved the ball on Stanford’s celebrated defense, combining for 475 via the pass and rush.
Sophomore linebacker Shaq Thompson continues to be a testament to the Washington coaching staff’s keen insight.
Since moving to his new position from safety, Thompson has become a ball-hawking stalwart of a continuously improving defense. His nine tackles led all Husky defenders.
Washington’s path to the Pac-12 championship game is decidedly more difficult than if it had beaten Stanford. Nevertheless, a win at home over Oregon in Week 7 would have the Huskies right back in the conversation.
Stanford is more than a measuring stick of Washington’s progress. It’s also the blueprint the Huskies are following for building a contender.
Stanford went from bottom-feeder in 2006 to a BCS bowl participant by 2010. The Cardinal spent two seasons trying to break into the conference’s top spot, much as Washington is doing now.
Stanford made that leap in the sixth year of the building process; Washington is its fifth year of rebuilding. The Huskies are scratching at the door, and Saturday showed how close they are to breaking through it.
Marcus Mariota Is Playing at 'Freshman' Level
Oregon redshirt sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota is performing like a freshman. Not a first-year player, mind you. More like an NCAA 14 gamer with the difficulty level set at "Freshman."
Mariota continued his impossibly prolific start to 2013 with five passing touchdowns and two more on the ground in the Ducks’ romp over Colorado.
He’s now pace for more than 50 combined regular-season touchdowns, with 14 passing and seven on the ground.
Were Mariota putting up these numbers in the digital world, he would have opponents reaching for the reset button.
EA Sports’ “Oregon QB #8” is rated a 90 overall. This is the best defense the video-game publisher could have offered to prove its player models were not based on actual student-athletes, because Mariota is much closer to a 99.
Dual-Threat Devin Fuller
Programs including Arizona, Georgia Tech and Rutgers pursued Devin Fuller as a quarterback recruit as he came out of Old Tappan, N.J., in the signing class of 2012.
UCLA signed Fuller as a wide receiver, and he's been solid in that role. But Thursday against Utah, Fuller had an opportunity to dust off his passing skills on a seven-yard touchdown strike.
His receiver? Quarterback Brett Hundley, who told the Los Angeles Times he enjoyed being on the other end of a touchdown throw.
"I never caught a touchdown pass before,” said Hundley, who briefly played receiver at Chandler (Ariz.) High. “That was fun.”
For Your Heisman Consideration: Ty Montgomery
Washington's all-around outstanding performance against Stanford made every big play the Cardinal could muster of the utmost importance.
Ty Montgomery was responsible for three of them.
Saturday’s performance included a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, a 39-yard touchdown reception against Washington’s excellent sophomore defensive back Marcus Peters, and a 68-yard return to set up Tyler Gaffney’s difference-making touchdown rush.
Montgomery ranks No. 4 nationally in average kickoff-return yardage at 33.5 per attempt. His five touchdown receptions tie him with such noteworthy names as Texas A&M’s Mike Evans and Penn State’s Allen Robinson.
Play of the Week
Colorado junior wide receiver Paul Richardson continued to demonstrate why he is among the conference's most electrifying players. Every week, he adds a new highlight to his reel.
You can take your pick from his Week 6 outing against Oregon. Richardson threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to fellow receiver D.D. Goodson, but the real show-stealer was a one-handed grab over Oregon’s All-American defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.
Cassius Marsh Thinks UCLA Is No. 1
UCLA defensive end Cassius Marsh plays with an excitable energy that fits the Bruins’ aggressive style. On Thursday, Marsh may have been a little too excitable.
Perhaps he was letting the Utah sideline know where he thinks his Bruins should rank in the AP poll when he flashed a single-fingered salute.
It’s probably for the best that Marsh didn’t know the Bruins would enter this week’s Top 25 at No. 11.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer. All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow Kyle on Twitter: @kensing45.