UW Football | Rankin with the best
Washington running back Louis Rankin grew up in Stockton, Calif., about 90 miles from the Stanford campus. And at times Saturday, Rankin...
Seattle Times staff reporter
STANFORD, Calif. — Washington running back Louis Rankin grew up in Stockton, Calif., about 90 miles from the Stanford campus.
And at times Saturday, Rankin felt like he could look through the middle of the Huskies' offensive line and see all the way there.
"It was wide open," he said. "There was not anybody really around at all."
Given room to run, Rankin responded with 255 yards, the fourth-highest total in school history, and carried the Huskies to a much-needed 27-9 victory over Stanford. The triumph snapped a six-game losing streak for UW (3-6, 1-5 Pac-10) and kept alive hopes of a winning season and a bowl game.
"The whole theme this week was enough is enough," said center Juan Garcia, who spearheaded the dominating offensive line. "We were tired of everything the last six weeks. Let's just play ball."
Washington's much-maligned defense followed suit, holding a Pac-10 opponent to less than 10 points for the first time since a 51-3 victory over Washington State in 2000. The Huskies recorded six sacks and kept the Cardinal scoreless on a first-and-goal at the 1-yard-line in a key sequence in the second quarter.
"We know what we can do as a defense," said safety Mesphin Forrester, who recovered a Stanford fumble at the 1-yard line with UW ahead just 10-3. "To go out and really do it makes us feel a lot better, really confident. It's just a great feeling."
Feeling best of all was Rankin, who had his career game in front of about 60 family members and friends who made the drive from Stockton, some wearing his high-school jersey.
The Huskies figured out early they could control the line of scrimmage and decided to just hand the ball again and again to Rankin — his previous high in carries was 25 last year against Arizona State.
"When he was running like that and we were handling them up front and had a pretty good thing going with it, we wanted to stay stubborn with that," said offensive coordinator Tim Lappano.
Rankin had a 42-yard run in the first quarter, getting a block down the sideline from quarterback Jake Locker, that led to a UW touchdown.
"He just had really good vision today," Locker said. "He took what the defense gave him. He was really patient. When he found a seam, he hit it and he ran really hard. The first tackler couldn't get him down. And he finished runs today. It was fun to watch."
Rankin had 113 yards by halftime, though UW led just 10-3, missing a field goal and losing a touchdown when Anthony Russo's catch in the end zone was overruled on a replay. Locker also threw an interception deep in Stanford territory.
"I thought it should have been over at the half, but we let a couple slip away," Lappano said of his Huskies, who had a 303-156 edge in total offense at the half. "We told them at the half, 'We've got to finish.' "
Stanford cut UW's lead to 13-9 with 2:30 left in the third quarter and memories of recent second-half fades by Washington loomed large.
But Rankin, whose previous career high was 147 yards in the opener at Syracuse, dashed through the middle for 42 yards on UW's next drive to set up his own 1-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter to put the Huskies ahead 20-9 to seal the victory.
"That was the answer that you need," said UW coach Tyrone Willingham. "And this year we have kind of missed on some of those opportunities and shot ourselves in the foot. Today, we didn't do that."
The defense, which came in allowing a Pac-10-worst 474 yards per game, put it away by sacking Stanford quarterback T.C. Ostrander three times in the fourth quarter and never letting the Cardinal close to scoring on its last two drives.
Washington senior defensive end Greyson Gunheim had one of the sacks and later cited a players-only meeting held before practice Tuesday as a key in the team's performance. Gunheim said he and other seniors called the meeting and said he felt "a bigger commitment" from players this week and that the team had its best week of practice all year.
"That meeting did a lot to get everyone on the same page," he said. "It got the younger guys on the same page as the seniors because this is our last go-round and we've got to change things around. When that happens and you have that good week of practice, people are more confident and they feel better about the game, and that's what happened."
Locker capped the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown run with 21 seconds left, but it was indisputably Rankin's night.
The only Huskies to rush for more yards in a game are Hugh McElhenny (296 in 1950), Corey Dillon (259 in 1996) and Credell Green (258 in 1955).
"It's good to be remembered," Rankin said. "At the same time, I'm more happy that we got the win."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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