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Loss to Stanford was turning point for Huskies

Watching Washington after his team pounded the Huskies, 41-0, last season, Stanford’s David Shaw was shocked.

“I remember I saw them on TV the next week and I said, ‘Wow. They’ve put this thing back together,’ ” Shaw said Tuesday during the weekly Pacific 12 Conference football coaches’ conference call.

Such a loss can be devastating, but it turned out to be invigorating for the Huskies.

No. 25 Washington, which is 5-1 overall and 3-0 in Pac-12 play, has won nine of 11 since and is ranked for the first time since 2009 as it heads into Saturday’s rematch with the No. 8 Cardinal (6-0, 4-0).

“They’ve kind of been on that roll, ever since last year,” said Shaw, who was Stanford’s offensive coordinator last season and is now its head coach.

Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian said that loss marked a turning point for his program in that it prompted his coaching staff to step back and reevaluate.

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They found a lot of holes — chiefly, inconsistent play and a lack of energy and passion.

That has been adjusted, as has the team’s unity, which Sarkisian said is much better heading into the Stanford game this season. However, he added, “I don’t know if that equates to us playing better or not, or any of that.”

It should at least be an interesting quarterback showdown.

Stanford’s Andrew Luck, a fourth-year junior, is a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, and Washington sophomore Keith Price is no slouch, having passed for a league-high 21 touchdowns with only four interceptions.

In reserve

Oregon Coach Chip Kelly considers injury updates as top-secret as nuclear launch codes, but this much is known: Star tailback LaMichael James has a dislocated elbow and didn’t play last weekend against Arizona State. Starting quarterback Darron Thomas left that game because of an apparent knee injury.

Whether James plays Saturday against Colorado may be trivial since his backup, Kenjon Barner, is pretty good too. Barner had 171 yards rushing against the Sun Devils.

If Thomas is out, freshman Bryan Bennett, a former Encino Crespi High star, could step in.

Bennett filled in for Thomas in the Arizona State game and displayed some of the athleticism he showed as a football and track star in high school. He completed two of five passes for 22 yards and ran five times for 65 yards.

At Crespi, Bennett long-jumped 22 feet 10 inches, triple-jumped 46-6, broad-jumped 10-6 and showed off a 36-inch vertical leap.

“In terms of his athletic ability, he can really pick ‘em up and put ‘em down for a quarterback,” Kelly said. “He also has the arm to go along with it.”

Back to the future

Washington State’s Marshall Lobbestael, a fifth-year senior, thrived while starting at quarterback in place of Jeff Tuel, who was out because of a broken collarbone. Lobbestael passed for 1,570 yards and 14 touchdowns with four interceptions in the Cougars’ first five games.

Yet, against Stanford, the hot-armed Lobbestael went back to the bench and a rusty Tuel went back under center. Why?

“He was really ready and wanted to play,” Washington State Coach Paul Wulff said. “We just feel that when he’s at full strength, we’re a better football team.

“We knew there was going to be rust, but we had to get him in there to break some of it off.”

Tuel completed 17 of 30 passes for 145 yards in a 44-14 loss.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

twitter.com/baxterholmes


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