PALO ALTO, Calif. - Perhaps Arizona’s Desert Swarm defense was reborn at Stanford Stadium. Or more likely, the Cardinal are bad enough to make any defense look historically impressive.
Chris Jennings and Chris Henry ran for first-quarter scores, and Arizona rediscovered its ground game while holding winless Stanford to the worst offensive performance in school history in a 20-7 victory Saturday.
The Wildcats (3-4, 1-3 Pac-10) dominated Stanford’s injury-plagued, inept offense, recording six sacks and holding the Cardinal to 52 total yards — less than half the previous worst performance since Stanford began playing football in 1918.
Arizona also won it on the ground, rushing for 220 yards after averaging 54.8 over the Wildcats’ first six games, including negative rushing yardage in each of their last three.
Injured quarterbacks Willie Tuitama and Adam Austin weren’t missed as Arizona escaped the conference cellar and snapped a three-game losing streak by sending the Cardinal (0-7, 0-4) to their worst start since 1960.
‘‘The whole time it’s just been about execution, and today we came out and performed,’’ said Henry, a native of nearby Stockton. ‘‘We knew we had to get out and get positive yardage. It gives the whole team confidence to get 200 yards against anybody, no matter who it is.’’
A nightmare season got even worse for the Cardinal when Trent Edwards, Stanford’s senior starting quarterback, played just one series before apparently injuring his foot while scrambling. Backup T.C. Ostrander then struggled before injuring his knee on the Cardinal’s final play.
‘‘It was a situation I’ve been in before,’’ Ostrander said. ‘‘Everything they did, we were prepared for. That’s what’s most frustrating.’’
Stanford managed just 17 total yards in the first three quarters before finishing with 52, including minus-6 yards rushing. In their ninth straight loss since last season, the Cardinal couldn’t even come close to the previous worst offensive game in school history, when they had 116 yards against Tulane in 1979.
‘‘We could not handle them physically up front, and that was the game,’’ Stanford coach Walt Harris said. ‘‘I thought our defense did a good job in that they got better as the game went on, and the interception gave us hope.’’
Sprinter-turned-cornerback Wopamo Osaisai returned an interception 72 yards for Stanford’s only touchdown.
The Wildcats held the ball for 38 1/2 minutes and ran 64 plays to Stanford’s 32 despite playing the second half with their third-string quarterback.
Kris Heavner, the Wildcats’ starting QB for two seasons before transferring to Baylor and then returning to Tucson, mostly handed off to Jennings, Henry and Xavier Smith in his first playing in time in two years.
Arizona coach Mike Stoops elevated former Wyoming head coach Dana Dimel to co-offensive coordinator before the game, putting him in charge of the Wildcats’ slumbering ground game. Arizona’s rushing attack dominated, and Stoops matched his victory total from each of his first two seasons with the Wildcats.