By TIM BOOTH | AP Sports Writer
SEATTLE (AP) — Wayne Taulapapa rushed for a career-high 120 yards and one touchdown, Washington’s defense sacked Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee eight times and forced two fumbles, and the 18th-ranked Huskies beat the Cardinal 40-22 on Saturday night.
Playing as a ranked team for the first time this season, Washington (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) used a stingy defense and a handful of big plays on offense to win its Pac-12 opener under new coach Kalen DeBoer.
Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. threw for 309 yards and second-half touchdowns of 30 yards to Rome Odunze and 21 yards to Giles Jackson on a screen pass. Odunze had eight catches for 161 yards, his first career game over 100 yards receiving.
But Washington’s defense deserved equal recognition for the constant pressure it was able to put on McKee. The Huskies sacked him six times in the first half.
Stanford (1-2, 0-2) lost its eighth straight conference game dating to last season, the longest skid under coach David Shaw.
The Huskies have scored at least 39 points in all four games, and this time they did it without an otherworldly performance by Penix, who still managed to top 300 yards passing for the fourth straight game. Penix was 22 of 37. Will Nixon added a 3-yard touchdown run and Peyton Henry kicked four field goals.
Taulapapa was a less-heralded offseason transfer for Washington but earned the starting nod at running back for a reason. He showed flashes in the first three games but found massive gaps to run through against the Cardinal, averaging 9.2 yards per carry.
Taulapapa’s longest run came midway through the second quarter when he scampered down the sideline for a 34-yard touchdown two plays after a Stanford turnover. It was the first 100-yard game of Taulapapa’s career, both at Virginia and Washington.
McKee was 17 of 26 for 286 yards and three touchdowns. He hit Michael Wilson for 23 yards in the second quarter, John Humphreys on a 17-yard TD and found Wilson again on a 78-yard TD late in the fourth.
But it was Washington’s pass rush that set the tone early. The Huskies entered the night with seven sacks on the season and had six in the first half on McKee. Bralen Trice and Alphonzo Tuputala got to McKee twice in the opening half. But the biggest sack came from Jeremiah Martin when he was able to slap the ball from McKee midway through the second quarter.
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Faatui Tuitele recovered the fumble and two plays later, Tualapapa broke free for his touchdown run and a 17-0 lead.
The Cardinal was without leading rusher E.J. Smith and starting right tackle Myles Hinton due to injuries. Casey Filkins rushed for 100 yards in place of Smith.
Stanford: Stanford’s turnover problems from the first two games emerged again. Along with McKee’s two fumbles, he was also intercepted in the first quarter deep in Washington territory when Filkins bobbled a pass directly into the arms of linebacker Cam Bright.
Washington: How dominant have the Huskies been on offense? For the first time this year they were forced to punt in the first half. Washington has punted just nine times in four games.
Stanford: The Cardinal is on the road again next Saturday at Oregon.
Washington: The Huskies go on the road for the first time this season and on a short week traveling to UCLA next Friday.