BY SPNW Staff 09:00AM 09/28/2013

Stanford gives Cougars’ uptick a real test

The Cougars, who host No. 5 Stanford Saturday at The Clink, won three in a row for the first time since 2006 and seek their first 4-1 start since 2003.

Washington Statel play its annual Seattle Game against Stanford Saturday at CenturyLink Field. The Cougars are 5-5 in the home of the Seahawks and a 10-point underdog to the Cardinal. / Wiki Commons

GAME: Stanford (3-0 overall, 1-0 Pac-12) vs. Washington State (3-1 overall, 1-0 Pac-12). WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m., CenturyLink Field. MEETING: 64th (Stanford leads 37-25-1). COACHES: David Shaw, Stanford; Mike Leach, Washington State. RANKINGS: Stanford 5 AP, 5 USA Today/Coaches. LINE: Stanford by 10. TV: ESPN. RADIO: KTTH 770 AM.

Cougars fans get to find out how good an improved Washington State team is against Stanford. The Cardinal features depth and talent on offensive and defensive lines. Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan, the junior whose 87.9 (out of 100) raw QBR rating in 2013 and 9-0 overall record as a starter, make him among the most underrated players in the conference. 

Stanford’s BCS Championship aspirations are as real as those of No. 2 Oregon, a team it beat last year 17-14 in Eugene, in a game that showcased two dissimilar offensive systems. The difference with WSU’s Air Raid attack is comparable, though to be fair, Stanford’s run-first style conflicts with the rest of a conference that features seven teams running some form of a spread attack.

Coach David Shaw would rather line up in I-formation, two tight-end sets and use six-foot-one, 221-pound running back Tyler Gaffney to bowl over defenders (or as former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh might say, “bring the knuckles.”) Gaffney, a former Single-A baseball player, has 323 yards and five touchdowns and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry.

“I think they are one of the top programs in the country,” WSU coach Mike Leach said Monday. “Offensive line and defensive line, no question, they are real tough. The biggest thing you notice about Stanford is their size and strength.”

So deep is the Cardinal up front that it has a formation with nine offensive linemen. That’s right. Nine. Then the school made a video about it.

Not that Leach, who allows his quarterback to throw up to 65 times a game, won’t do something as untraditional. In the waning seconds of last week’s 42-0 win against Idaho, he subbed in safety Deone Bucannon as the Vandals drove inside the Cougars’ five-yard line to preserve the school’s first shutout in a decade.

Stanford safety Ed Reynolds will  sit out the first half after being ejected for targeting a defenseless receiver in Stanford’s 42-28 win against Arizona State last week. That should bode well for quarterback Connor Halliday, who has 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions but is completing a career-best 66.3 percent of his passes.

Clouding the thought of a blowout Cardinal win is the Cougars No. 10-ranked scoring defense, a unit that has improved incrementally under the guidance of second-year defensive coordinator Mike Breske. The Cougars lead the Pac-12 in pass defense (118.2 yards per game) and have held their last three opponents to two combined touchdowns.

However, history is working against them. WSU allowed 10 sacks in a 24-17 loss to Stanford last season, and the Cardinal is 7-2 in the teams’ last nine meetings.

Further perspective: WSU hasn’t upset a team in the AP Top 5 since defeating Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl. Then again, until last week, the Cougars hadn’t shut out a team in 10 years, either.

SERIES: Dates to Sept. 3, 1936, when Washington State won 4-13  in Pullman. The Cougars trail the all-time series 37-25-1 with the Cardinal owning wins in the last five meetings. WSU’s last victory came in 2007, 33-17 in Pullman.

WSU HEAD COACH: Mike Leach (90-53 overall, 6-10 WSU): Hired Nov. 30, 2011 to replace Paul Wulff, who went 9-40 in four seasons, Leach’s 2012 Cougars led the Pac-12 in passing at 330.4 yards per game and finished the season by beating Washington in the Apple Cup. In 10 seasons at Texas Tech (2000-09), Leach earned 10 bowl bids. The Susanville, CA., native, who was raised in Cody, WY., recorded a school-record 84 victories. Leach’s offenses led the nation in passing six times and three times accumulated the most total yards. In 2009, the Red Raiders finished second in passing offense and fourth in total offense, both marks tops among BCS conference schools. Prior to Texas Tech, Leach spent one season as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma (1999). That year, the Sooners set six Big 12 and 17 school records.

WSU STATS / NOTES

  • SEASON SUMMARY: Record: 3-1. Home: 2-0. Road: 1-1. Neutral: 0-0. Vs. Pac-12: 1-0. Vs. Pac-12 North: 0-0. Vs. Pac-12 South: 1-0. Vs. Non-Conference: 2-1.
  • Points For: 124 (31.0). Rushing Yards Per Game: 63.0. Passing Yards Per Game: 328.8. Total Offense Per Game: 391.8.
  • Points Against: 48 (12.0). Opp. Rushing Yards Per Game: 147.0. Opp. Passing Yards Per Game: 118.2. Total Defense Per Game: 265.2.
  • WSU makes its 11th appearance at the home field of the Seahawks, a series that started in 2002 hosting Nevada in the first football game in the new stadium. WSU beat the Wolf Pack and have also defeated Idaho (2003), Grambling (2005), Baylor (2006) and San Diego State (2007). The Cougars are 5-5 at CenturyLink. In the 2011 game, Oregon State posted a 44-21 victory over the Cougars in front of 49,219 fans. Last season, Oregon won 51-26 in front of 60,929.
  • Quarterback Connor Halliday has three 300-yard games and two four-touchdown games through the season’s first four weeks.
  • Sophomore WR Gabe Marks was one of six receivers added to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List this week. Marks ranks second in the Pac-12 with 31 receptions, fourth with 348 receiving yards and tied for the team lead with three touchdown catches.
  • The 42-0 win over Idaho Saturday gave the Cougars their first shutout since 2003 (Idaho, 25-0 in Seattle) and the first home shutout since 1999 (Louisiana-Lafayette, 44-0).
  • Through four games, four true freshmen and five redshirt freshmen made their collegiate debuts.
  • WSU’s Oct. 5 game at California kicks off at 1 p.m. and be televised by Fox Sports 1.
  • Dad’s Weekend game against Oregon State Oct. 12 is sold out.

COUGARS OFFENSIVE LEADERS

Rushing

Player G Att. Yards TDs Long Y/G
T. Caldwell 4 21 120 0 24 30.0
Marcus Mason 4 24 90 0 17 22.5
J. Laufasa 4 13 65 4 13 16.2
Austin Apodaca 4 3 8 0 7 2.0
Team Total 4 77 252 4 24 63.0

Passing

Player G Att. Cmp. Yards TDs/INT Effic.
C. Halliday 4 187 124 1288 10/8 133.2
Team Total 4 194 127 1315 10/8 131.1

Receiving

Player G Rec. Yards TD Long Y/G
Gabe Marks 4 31 348 3 43 87.0
K. Williams 4 17 134 0 28 33.5
D. William 4 10 241 3 55 60.2
River Cracraft 4 10 111 0 21 27.8
Isiah Myers 4 10 96 1 17 24.0
Bobby Ratliff 4 8 73 0 16 18.2
Team Total 4 127 1315 10 55 328.8

COUGARS DEFENSIVE LEADERS

Category Skinny
Tackles Bucannon 35, Monroe 31, Sagote 30
Sacks Monroe 2.0, Coen 2.0, Cooper 1.5
Interceptions Horton 3, Bucannon 2, Brown 1
Passes Defensed Sagote, Brown, Hornton, all 2
Forced Fumbles Bucannon 2, Taliulu, Gauta 1
Fumbles Recovered Bucannon, Taliulu, 1 each

Pac-12 Standings / North

Schools Overall Conf. Next
Stanford 3-0 1-0 Sat, at Washington St.
Oregon St. 3-1 1-0 Sat, vs. Colorado
Wash. State 3-1 1-0 Sat, vs. Stanford
Oregon 3-0 0-0 Sat, vs. California
Washington 3-0 0-0 Sat, vs. Arizona
Cal 1-2 0-0 Sat, at Oregon

Pac-12 Standings / South

Schools Overall Conf. Next
UCLA 3-0 0-0 Oct. 3, at Utah
Arizona 3-0 0-0 Sat, at Washington
Colorado 2-0 0-0 Sat, at Oregon St.
Utah 3-1 0-1 Oct. 3, vs. UCLA
USC 3-1 0-1 Sat, at Arizona St.
Arizona St. 2-1 0-1 Sat, vs. USC

STANFORD NOTES: The fifth-ranked Cardinal opened the season with a 34-13 win over San Jose State and added wins over Army (34-20) and Arizona State (42-28) . . . The Stanford roster includes five players with connections to the state of Washington, including SS Calvin Chandler (Lakewood), OG Joshua Garnett (Puyallup), TE Charlie Hopkins (Spokane), WR Jordan Pratt (Gig Harbor) and LB Sam Shober (Monroe) . . . After serving as Stanford’s offensive coordinator for four years, David Shaw was appointed head coach Jan. 13, 2011. A 1995 Stanford graduate, Shaw has guided the Cardinal to 11-2 and 12-2 records. He was Pac-12 Coach of the Year both seasons. Shaw began his coaching career as an assistant at Western Washington in 1995.

Washington State 2013 Schedule/Results

Date Opponent WSU Rnk Opp Rnk W/L Score Rec.
8/31/13 at Auburn L 31-24 0-1
9/7/13 at USC 25 W 10-7 1-1
9/14/13 vs. So. Utah W 48-10 2-1
9/21/13 vs. Idaho W 42-0 3-1
9/28/13 vs. Stanford 5 —– —–
10/5/13 at Cal —– —–
10/12/13 vs. OSU —– —–
10/19/13 at Oregon 2 —– —–
10/31/13 vs. ASU —– —–
11/16/13 at Arizona —– —–
11/23/13 vs. Utah —– —–
11/29/13 at Wash 16

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