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October 22, 2011STANFORD, Calif. - Stepfan Taylor knew it would take quite a performance for his fellow running backs to ever overshadow Andrew Luck. Maybe even one for the record books.
With a wild first half that might have been satisfying enough for most teams, Taylor turned to teammate Tyler Gaffney in the locker room and issued a challenge.
``I told Gaffney,'' Taylor said, ``let's try to get 500 out here.''
Taylor, Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson powered seventh-ranked Stanford to a school-record 446 yards rushing to blow past No. 22 Washington 65-21 on Saturday night in the Cardinal's most impressive victory all season.
The running backs gave the Heisman Trophy hopeful some rest as Stanford (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 to break the previous team mark of 439 in a victory over Oregon State in 1981.
``We were very aware of it when we broke it,'' Luck said. ``What a testament to the o-line, to the coaches, to the tight ends, to the receivers. It was a total team effort on the ground, and most of all to the backs making it happen.''
Facing the first ranked opponent of the season, Stanford pounded the Huskies (5-2, 3-1) in a critical Pac-12 North matchup.
Chris Polk ran for scores from 46 and 61 yards in the first half to keep Washington close early. He finished with 144 yards rushing as the Cardinal's defense clamped down.
Luck threw for 169 yards and two touchdowns and completed 16 of 21 passes but took a back seat - for once - to a running game that has quietly been among the nation's best the last few years. No matter what happens next week at Southern California, the victory almost guarantees that the Nov. 12 matchup against Oregon at Stanford Stadium will decide the North's representative in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.
Not a bad time for the Cardinal to fly south to the Coliseum.
``They are a good football team for a reason and why they do what they do and have been on a run they're on,'' Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said. ``They wear you out and they wear you down.''
With three running backs leading the way, Washington couldn't stop any of them.
Taylor and Gaffney each ran for a touchdown and Wilkerson had two, including a 38-yard scamper with 1:25 remaining in the fourth quarter that snapped the record set back when John Elway was the Cardinal's quarterback.
Stanford coach David Shaw practically apologized for the late score, admitting he just hoped to run out the clock with the backups in the game.
``You can't tell a runner not to run,'' Shaw said.
A week after a poor first-half showing at Washington State, Stanford started with a 76-yard drive on six plays capped by Jeremy Stewart's 2-yard TD run. Jordan Williamson kicked the first of his three field goals from 39 yards to put the Cardinal ahead 10-0.
Polk broke two tackles up the sideline on 41-yard touchdown run for his first score. Then he sprinted untouched through the middle for 61 yards to bring the Huskies within 17-14 early in the second quarter.
Just when it seemed the Cardinal might finally be tested, they ran away from yet another opponent.
Taylor ripped through a seem on Stanford's next play from scrimmage, running 70 yards for a touchdown without receiving so much as a hand swipe. Luck followed by connecting with Drew Terrell from 5 yards out for his second touchdown pass to give the Cardinal a 31-14 lead.
In a half where the offenses ran wild, 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 Keith Price. He raced 62 yards down the sideline, stepping over the diving quarterback to put Stanford ahead 38-14 at the break.
``They left a guy open. I just missed him. It was kind of just unfortunate,'' Price said of the interception. ``It's embarrassing anytime you lose like this.''
The Huskies, who were shutout 41-0 by Stanford last year in Seattle, had entered the Top 25 for the first time in two seasons this week behind Price, who entered game tied with Boise State's Kellen Moore for second in the country with 21 touchdown passes. Price's 2-yard TD pass to Evan Hudson that came early in the third quarter came with the game already a blowout.
Stanford still led 48-21 after the score, which was Hudson's first career reception. While Price was sacked only twice, he was under constant pressure. The sophomore finished with 247 yards passing.
Gaffney, anchoring the wildcat formation, had runs of 14 and 34 yards before capping off Stanford's first drive of the second half with a 4-yard TD. Taylor and Gaffney became the 10th running back duo in school history to rush for 100-yard running games.
``I think that will be something special down the road for guys to look back on,'' Luck said. ``Hopefully it's broken next week.''