Stanford tosses its hat back into football title hunt

Stanford defended its house Friday night, beating No. 9 Washington 30-22. Photo courtesy of Stanford Athletics.

Bryce Love touched greatness again Friday after a couple of weeks of ordinary. He bounced back at just the right time, leading host Stanford to an important 30-22 victory over Washington in a Pac-12 Conference football game Friday night.

Love rushed for 166 yards, scored three touchdowns and put the Cardinal back into the North Division title chase.

After complicating matters with last week's loss to Washington State, Stanford simplified things a little. They still need a bit of help over the next two weeks, but it's not complicated.

A win over California, which strides into town for the Big Game next Saturday at a time to be determined, and a Huskies' victory over the Cougars in the Apple Cup and Stanford advances to the Pac-12 championship game. Anything less probably means a bowl game at Levi's Stadium against Michigan.

"They have one of the better players in the country running the ball and he showed up tonight, did a nice job," Washington coach Chris Peterson said. "They threw the ball real effectively too. Costello had some nice balls, put them right on their numbers and made plays. It's just a combination. They just played better than we did. We didn't get anything done on special teams, they did. They tackled better than us."

Costello threw for 211 yards on 16 of 27 passing. JJ Arcega-Whiteside continued his amazing season, with five catches worth 130 yards and critical third-down conversions.

"Very proud of K.J. Costello. Coming in in a tough situation. Back-to-back games as a red-shirt freshman, facing the top two defenses in the conference," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "Played okay last week, not great, a lot of things went wrong around him, including yours truly. And then came in today fired up, ready to go, made some big time throws. JJ was phenomenal tonight as well."

Bobby Okereke also picked a good time to play his best game in a Stanford uniform. Okereke forced a critical turnover, recorded a pair of sacks and four tackles for a loss among his 10 total tackles, which was one shy of Frank Buncom's team-leading 11.

"He's really started to take his game up to another notch," Shaw said of Okereke. "He's seeing the game quicker. He played really well early in the year, but he was still reacting. Now he's anticipating and that's a huge difference, because he's got speed, length, athleticism, and now he's feeling the game and making some unbelievable plays."

It was vintage Stanford all the way around. They held the ball for over 36 minutes, including 12:06 in the third quarter. They ran the ball effectively and turned the game over to the defense.

"Second half, it was about as good as we have played as a unit defensively," Shaw said. "The guys knew what to do, they did it fast. "

Jet Toner threw in a trio of field goals to help put the game out of reach.

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