By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
It's just a mere coincidence, right?
Andrew Luck, virtually everyone's lock as the overall No. 1 pick in the next NFL draft, doesn't have a big night throwing the ball but it matters not as Stepfan Taylor, Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson powered seventh-ranked Stanford to a school-record 446 yards rushing in beating No. 22 Washington, 65-21, on Saturday night in Stanford Stadium.
The victory elevated Stanford into the No. 4 position in the Associated Press Top 25 this week and moved the Cardinal to No. 6 in the BCS standings.
The previous team rushing mark was set on Nov. 7, 1981, when junior quarterback John Elway and running back Darrin Nelson helped the Cardinal rush for 439 yards during a 63-9 victory over host Oregon State.
Elway, who was a No. 1 overall NFL draft pick in 1983, threw six touchdown passes in the game, four in one quarter, and he barely played in the second half.
Luck played into the fourth quarter against the Huskies, but he did a lot of handing off to the running backs as the Cardinal (7-0, 5-0 Pac-12) extended the nation's longest winning streak to 15 games. Taylor ran for 138 yards, Gaffney 117 yards and Wilkerson 93 yards.
"We were very aware of it when we broke it," Luck said. "What a testament to the O-line, the coach, the tight ends, to the fullbacks and wide receivers. It was a total team effort (Luck added 23 rushing yards to the total) on the ground."
Elway and Luck are two of Stanford's finest quarterbacks of any era. What they were saying about Elway in the early 80s are what they are saying about Luck these days.
"The college quarterback most prized by the pros," Ron Fimrite wrote in Sports Illustrated's Nov. 16, 1981 issue, "is John Elway, and he throws bullet passes with cross-hair accuracy.
"Elway, who is considered by professional scouts to be the hottest college passer since Bert Jones, could be Andy Hardy, or Jody Baxter in "The Yearling." His hair falls like straw over an unlined forehead. His blue eyes are clear and his mouth, thick-lipped, is filled with alabaster teeth.
"That's the head. The rest of him is pure pro quarterback: lanky (6'4", 202), long-limbed, the chest of a weightlifter. Watching him fire his passes, reading about his record-shattering performances, one is likely to forget that this superman is, at 21, still a boy."
Luck's hair curls slightly and his physique is a little different, but you'd swear you met the homecoming king, the student body president and the lead singer of the school choir all wrapped into one. And to be sure, Luck (listed at 6'4", 247) remains boyish in his enthusiasm for the game and life.
Facing the first ranked opponent of the season, Stanford pounded the Huskies (5-2, 4-1) in a critical Pac-12 North matchup.
Luck threw for 169 yards and two touchdowns and completed 16 of 21 passes but was overshadowed by a running game that has quietly been among the nation's best the last few years.
"They're special athletes and it's fun to have four of them, four really good ones," Luck said of the running backs. "It's a fun thing to be a part of."
No matter what happens next week at USC, the victory also almost guarantees that Nov. 12 matchup against Oregon at Stanford Stadium will decide the North's representative in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.
Taylor and Gaffney each ran for a touchdown and Wilkerson had two. Wilkerson's 38-yard scamper late in the fourth quarter gave Stanford the most yards rushing in a single game.
In a first half where the offenses ran wild, with Stanford taking a 31-14 lead, the biggest play might have come on defense.
Michael Thomas broke the game open when he stepped in front of a receiver over the middle and picked off a pass from Washington's Kevin Price. He raced 62 yards down the sideline, stepping over the diving quarterback to put Stanford ahead, 38-14, at the break.
"Every one did their job," Thomas said.
Taylor and Gaffney became the 10th running back duo in school history to rush for 100-yard running games.
"It was exciting to see everyone go out there and have fun," Taylor said. "When we came back in at halftime I told Gaffney, 'let's try to get 500 out there.' It was a great feeling. It's been like that every game with the offensive linemen, fullbacks and tight ends as well."