The Cardinal haven't just won games this season, either— they've done it in dominating fashion, with the margin of victory never dropping below 26 points. On the other side, Washington State showed that, while the program still has quite a way to go on its climb out of the Pac-12 basement, it has made great strides in recent years. The Cougars were competitive in the first half, entering the locker room down just 10-7.
Play of the game: Things looked somewhat worrying for Stanford fans at halftime. The Cardinal looked flat and uninspired, while Washington State showed a lot of fight and almost looked evenly matched with the visiting Card. With momentum on its side, the Cougars got the ball back to start the second half and a chance to seize the lead. Instead, the Stanford defense forced a three-and-out, highlighted by Chase Thomas and Matt Masifilo's emphatic sack of Cougar QB Jeff Tuel. Washington State was forced to punt and Stanford scored on the ensuing possession, erasing whatever positive momentum the Cougs had going. After that play, Washington State never threatened again in any serious way.
Luck bolsters case for Heisman: Andrew Luck had his second consecutive passing performance of over 300 yards, shredding the WSU pass defense for 336 yards through the air on 23-of-36 passing. Luck also threw four touchdowns and one interception (which came on his first pass attempt of the game). Oddly for Stanford, the offense was actually tilted more towards the pass in this one, with Luck's 36 throws outpacing Stanford's 30 rushing plays. Luck also distributed the ball fairly evenly, making completions to six separate receivers. The Cardinal tight ends all figured prominently in the game—Coby Fleener led all receivers with 128 receiving yards and a touchdown catch, while Levine Toilolo caught two touchdown passes.
Wide receivers come up short: Luck's performance did have one downside: it showed just how weak Stanford's corps of wide receivers is behind Chris Owusu and Griff Whalen. Owusu left the game in the first quarter with a possible concussion, and Whalen was the only wide receiver to have any receptions in the game (though he caught seven passes for 76 yards). Receivers like Corey Gatewood and Jamal-Rashad Patterson had an extremely limited impact. I would expect true freshman receiver Ty Montgomery, who returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to close the game and has generally distinguished himself on special teams, to see more playing time at the wide receiver position in the second half of the season. He did see some time in this game as well, but was not rotated in very regularly.
Defense stands up once again: Stanford's defense continued to shine in this game, holding Washington State to 257 total yards and just 48 rushing yards (translating to a 1.7 yards per carry average). The front seven created a lot of pressure on Tuel as well, knocking him down for five sacks. Though the defense has looked very strong to date, even after losing standout linebacker Shayne Skov for the season, it will be difficult to tell how good the unit really is until it faces an elite offense.
Card solve penalty issues: One black mark on Stanford's earlier performances had been penalty issues. Last week against Colorado, Stanford gave up three personal foul penalties, and the issue was one head coach David Shaw had highlighted as an area for improvement. Stanford certainly delivered in that category on Saturday, with only three penalties for 14 yards. Two of them were (questionable) pass-interference calls on Johnson Bademosi, and the third was an offside penalty against Trent Murphy.
Polls and bowls: With the win, Stanford is bowl eligible for the third consecutive year. However, the Cardinal's early-season strength of schedule is extremely weak and no higher-ranked teams went down, so it's unlikely that there will be any movement in the polls next week. It will be interesting to see where Stanford ends up in the first version of the BCS standings, set to be published on Sunday night. Meanwhile, Washington State is still three wins away from bowl eligibility; many pundits have speculated that the Cougars will need to get to a bowl game to save head coach Paul Wulff's job.
Next week, Stanford returns to the Farm to take on Washington, which improved to 6-1 after obliterating Colorado. Washington State will take on Oregon State—though the game is a home contest for the Cougars, they will play the Beavers at Seattle's Qwest Field.
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