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Notebook: Washington

Oct 28, 2021

THE BYE WEEK fulfilled its promise as Stanford heads into the final stretch of the regular season, with four of five games at Stanford Stadium, beginning with Saturday night's contest against visiting Washington. 

Several players are returning from injury or are close. David Shaw, Stanford's Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football, said tight end/defensive end Tucker Fisk, inside linebacker Tristan Sinclair, and running back E.J. Smith are probable. Also, receivers John Humphreys and Mike Wilson, and safety Noah Williams are questionable, but nearly ready for action. 

The bye week also provided a chance to take stock in its season so far. At 3-4, and with a victory over current No. 7 Oregon, it's not quite clear where the Cardinal stands. 

"I want to say we're a better team than 3-4," Shaw said. "But 3-4's how we played. We're capable of better, every coach and player on our team thinks we're better than our record. That doesn't matter. We have to play better to win games."
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ONE OF THE season's revelations has been the play of first-year starting quarterback Tanner McKee, a sophomore seeing his first significant action since his senior year at Centennial High in Corona, California, in 2017.

McKee brought stability to the position after Davis Mills, a rookie starting for the NFL's Houston Texans, turned pro. McKee has completed 65 percent of his passes, with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions, and averages 246 yards passing per game.

"You put the film on now and he doesn't look like a guy in the first half of his first year starting," Shaw said. "He looks like a veteran. Dare I say he looks like one of the best, if not the best, quarterback in our conference. 

"From time to time, he can reach those heights. I'm looking for that continued growth. He's not perfect yet, he's striving to get better. Guys like Tanner just need more suns coming up and more suns going down. Every practice, every game, just the accumulation of experience will continue to help him." 
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BRYCEN TREMAYNE is on crutches and back around the team after a leg injury suffered against Oregon that necessitated immediate surgery. Tremayne had 20 catches and five touchdowns this season, serving as the primary target on fades to the end zone and was the team's biggest offensive threat. In his stead, tight end Benjamin Yurosek and receiver Elijah Higgins have been Stanford's primary targets.

Shaw said Tremayne is planning a return next season when the one-time walk-on would be a fifth-year senior. 

"As you can imagine, it was a pretty rough 48 hours after the surgery," Shaw said. "For any member of a team, one of the worst things is isolation -- going through something really difficult, and going through it by yourself in a hospital room.

"Since then, he's gotten his crutches and he's got a cart. He's been able to make it out to a couple of practices and make it to the meetings, and he's been great. He's appreciated all the support he's gotten from our doctors, trainers, and especially from his coaches and teammates. It's just great to have him around. 

"In our team meeting the other day, he had so much positive energy. He's been through the worst. Those around Brycen know he's a worker. Now that the surgery's over, it's all about the recovery and rehab, and getting ready for the 2022 season."


Benjamin Yurosek. Photo by Glen Mitchell/
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INSIDE LINEBACKER Jacob Mangum-Farrar provided his thoughts on the Cardinal defense:

"We have a good amount of grit and effort, and we've shown that we can be a dominant defense," he said. "But points of improvement have to be our execution, physicality, and making a play when we're supposed to. Not allowing super explosive plays. Staying consistent. Getting off the field."
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FULLBACK HOUSTON HEIMULI, on whether his role as captain has changed during the season: 

"My role has been trying to lead by example or lead by my work ethic and what I do," he said. "Now, it's changed a little more into, How can we focus in on ourselves? In what ways can I help my players be on those details?

"My role is to figure out how to help our team succeed from here on out, and that's looking introspectively on my part too and playing better. Getting better. That's as well as I can put it."
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WITH A FOUR-GAME limit for redshirts, true freshmen must decide whether to halt their seasons or continue and use a season of eligibility. Shaw said players help make those choices. 

"We want to make sure that we communicate," Shaw said. "If they're playing a significant role and want to keep playing, then we keep playing them. But there are certain guys that get to that fourth game and want to save that redshirt. 

"I don't hold that against them at all. It's their college football experience and their careers. We try to be respectful of their opinions in this process."

Shaw draws from his own experience as a Stanford receiver, though the four-game rule was not in effect in 1990. A single play could exhaust a season of eligibility. 

"My receivers coach, Brian Billick, asked me," Shaw said. "He gave me that choice and I think that was the right thing to do. I'm glad I chose not to and saved that year. Other guys have chosen the other way and I'm perfectly fine either way. But I like to give those guys that choice."
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STANFORD'S PERFORMANCE IN Seattle last year marked a resurgence in the Cardinal's ground attack. Stanford rushed for 191 yards, converted 10 of 13 third-down conversion tries and both fourth-down tries, and Austin Jones ran for 138 yards and scored two touchdowns. 

Just as notable, after Washington cut a 21-point deficit to 31-26, Stanford ran out the clock over the final 7:54, with a 14-play, 79-yard drive that ended on a Jones fourth-down conversion run to the Husky 9-yard line.

The last time Stanford closed a victory by using more clock was Sept. 26, 2009, when the Cardinal consumed the last 8:09 of a 34-14 home triumph against Washington. But at no time since at least 1999, had Stanford closed out a one-score game by using more time.

Heimuli remembers that game well. 

"Last year, we were all in that flow of things, and that's what I want to see this year, especially out of myself and a lot of us in this run game," he said. "Our run game has great potential, but little mistakes per person, myself included, have harmed it sometimes." 

"We can play physical, Washington plays physical. But it's going to come down to who's going to pay more attention to the details. Who's going to do things right most of the time?" 
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MANGUM-FARRAR, limited to two games over the past two seasons, has been a steady performer since returning the lineup in Game Two against USC. 

"What I went through over the past couple of years, it was a fight for sure, mentally and physically," he said. "We call it 'being a technician,' just taking ownership of your body and your recovery, treating it like a professional. 

"Playing has been so fulfilling because I've been waiting on it for so long. And now it's finally here. I'm just enjoying every game, every play." 
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Chester Wilcox of Stanford eludes Washington defenders in 1922. Photo from the Stanford Quad.

STANFORD LEADS THE series, 44-43-4, and holds the distinction of being Washington's oldest rival, having first played on Dec. 29, 1893. 

The contest was in West Seattle in front of 900 fans, with most arriving by ferry. Fullback Martin Kennedy scored four touchdowns in a 40-0 Stanford victory. It was Washington's first game against a college opponent. 

Stanford was on the third of a four-game Northwest road swing, played entirely from Christmas to New Year's -- a span of eight days. On the trip, Stanford outscored its opponents, 154-0, and finished the season with five consecutive shutouts. The only blemish in Stanford's only year under former Yale halfback Pop Bliss was a 6-6 Thanksgiving Day tie with Cal. Stanford went 8-0-1 and claimed itself champion of the West Coast. 
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THE HUSKIES ARE among three FBS teams to have scored in every red-zone opportunity this season, with 14 touchdowns and five field goals in 19 trips. 
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WASHINGTON'S SEASON, in many ways, mirrors Stanford's. The Huskies also are 3-4 overall, and are 2-2 in the Pac-12 to Stanford's 2-3. 

"They're just like us," Shaw said. "They've been explosive in the passing game. They've shown flashes of being able to be very physical and efficient in the running game. They've shown that they can get after the passer in pass rush and can do a good job against the run. But, like us, they've had some ups and downs.

"This is going to be a battle."