The bill came due Friday for the Stanford football team in the form of a 44-6 loss to Washington.
Stanford had generated a tremendous amount of respect in the college football world for what it had accomplished the past several years and the manner in which it came about.
The whole “here it comes, you know what’s coming, stop us if you can, but you probably won’t be able to,’’ style of ultra-physical football.
That style started with the revival of Stanford football under Jim Harbaugh. Who woulda thunk? I didn’t. I thought Harbaugh, the former Paly QB and longtime NFL signal caller, would probably continue the offensive tradition Stanford, once known as Quarterback U, was recognized for: the finesse passing game. Instead he released his inner Bo Schembechler on the college football world before taking the 49ers job.
Assistant David Shaw took over from Harbaugh and continued both the run of Stanford excellence and the physical style in which it was achieved. Again, this was from a former wide receiver and Bill Walsh disciple.
Last year was in some ways the epitome of the Harbaugh-Shaw era. Christian McCaffrey set an NCAA record for all-purpose yards on his way to a second-place finish for the Heisman Trophy -- an award he should have won.
The only way you succeed when you all but telegraph your punch is to have a manpower advantage at the point of attack. Last year’s Stanford team had that with an outstanding five-man interior line and tight end unit. When further domination of the point of attack was required the Cardinal became famous for loading up the line of scrimmage with additional linemen.
It’s a little different story this season. Three of those offensive line starters from last year are gone. So the depth on hand is nowhere near as strong as a year ago.
It’s still a pretty darn good group as seen in the wins over Kansas State and USC, but last week Stanford turned in a lackluster offensive performance until the final minute against UCLA. And on this Friday in Seattle, against a psyched-up Washington team, the Cardinal came crashing back to earth.
McCaffrey’s Heisman hopes were dealt a sizable blow as the Huskies’ defense held him to 49 yards on 12 carries and five receptions for 30 yards.
With Washington jumping out to a big lead early Stanford had to get out of its preferred offensive approach. Ryan Burns completed 15 of 22 passes for 151 yards and Stanford’s one touchdown, a 19-yard pass to JJ Arcega-Whiteside.
Former Palo Alto High standout Keller Chryst completed 3 of 5 for 33 yards. But Washington came up with eight sacks after Stanford had allowed only four over the first three games.
“Stanford has such a unique style of offense,’’ Washington coach Chris Peterson said. “We don’t see it much that smash-mouth style.’’
And Stanford’s defense, a beacon of consistency all through the Harbaugh-Shaw years, was torched as Washington rushed for 214 yards and passed for 210.
It was Stanford first loss by 30 or more points since the Arizona State game in 2007.
“That was about as poorly as we can play, start to finish,’’ Shaw said. “The guys were not ready to rally to the challenge.’’
The Cardinal (2-1. 3-1) hope to get its Mojo working next Saturday when pass-happy Washington State visits Stanford Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. contest.