A surprising first quarter has Stanford only holding a slim 3-0 lead over Washington State, with the two teams looking fairly even in the early going. WSU QB Jeff Tuel, returning from an early-season injury, was effectively shut down by the Stanford defense, keeping the Cougars off the scoreboard.
Play of the quarter: With the Cardinal in the red zone threatening to kill any Wazzu momentum late in the quarter, the Cougar defense stiffened and held Stanford to a field goal. The biggest play in the sequence was on a third and four inside the 10-yard line, when Stanford QB Andrew Luck threw a crossing route to Griff Whalen. WSU defenders were all over Whalen right as he caught the ball, bringing him down and forcing Stanford to kick a field goal.
Washington State defense gets to next level: The Cougars were expected to be little more than cannon fodder for the high-powered Stanford offense. However, WSU came out with a lot of fight and it showed. On Luck's first pass attempt of the game, Washington State picked off a deep ball; on the Card's second possession, Luck didn't have any success through the air either.
Tuel out of rhythm: Jeff Tuel looked out of sync in the first quarter, probably to be expected after returning this week from injury. The Stanford defense didn't do him any favors, constantly getting pressure and stuffing running lanes. It may be a matter of time until Tuel breaks out, but it will be interesting to see the continuing matchup between the Cougs offensive line and the Cardinal front seven.
Halftime. Stanford 10, Washington State 7
Washington State continued to stay close to Stanford in the second quarter, refusing to stay down even after falling into a 10-0 hole. The Washington State offense found its rhythm and posted solid gains against the Stanford defense late in the quarter.
Play of the quarter: With around five minutes remaining in the second, Stanford looked like it had fixed its first-quarter issues. The Card had a 10-0 lead and were driving, using their power running game to grind away at the WSU defense. However, Washington State knocked the ball out of Stepfan Taylor's grip and swiftly recovered, giving Jeff Tuel and his offense a chance to get back in the game. The fumble was a huge momentum shift, as the Cougars scored on the ensuing possession.
Stanford lacks sizzle: The Cardinal still seemed to lack the fire that drove them in earlier games, playing decidedly uninspired football. The offense did show some sparks, scoring a touchdown early the quarter; however, it hasn't really gotten into any rhythm at all, and Washington State's defense has been playing incredibly well. Meanwhile, the defense has played well through most of the game, but broke down on Washington State's last drive of the half, allowing running yards in uncharacteristic chunks.
Wazzu offense finds space: Jeff Tuel got into a rhythm in the second quarter, driving the Cougar offense to within a whisker of Stanford. The Card will have to find ways to stop Tuel and shore up the rushing defense; right now, the Cougars have all the momentum.
Officiating has many questions: This week's officiating crew has made at least a couple of questionable (and inconsistent) calls. On several challenges, odd decisions have come down; there were two plays in which Washington State receivers had the ball knocked out by Stanford defenders, but one was ruled an incomplete pass while the other was ruled a fumble. The refs also made two questionable pass interference calls on Johnson Bademosi in the end zone, as both easily could have been no-calls.
Second-half prediction: If I know anything about David Shaw, he won't let Stanford continue to sleepwalk in this game. I see the Card pulling away in one of their trademark strong finishes.
End of third quarter. Stanford 24, Washington State 7
The third quarter of this one certainly lacked for excitement, devolving rapidly into a defensive struggle. A few Cougar lapses led to a Stanford touchdown, while Jeff Tuel and his offense couldn't replicate that feat against the Cardinal defense. Stanford's most explosive offensive threat, Chris Owusu, is also officially out for the remainder of the game.
Play of the quarter: After entering the locker room with the momentum squarely on their side, the Cougars got the ball to start the second half with a chance to take their first lead of the game. Instead, the Cardinal defense forced a quick three-and-out, punctuated by Chase Thomas and Matt Masifilo's huge third-down sack of Jeff Tuel. That sack effectively killed any momentum WSU had; Stanford scored on its subsequent possession and took control of the game after that.
Stepfan Taylor asserts himself: Running back Stepfan Taylor shredded the Cougar front seven throughout the third quarter, repeatedly gashing WSU for chunks of yardage. Stanford's constant rotation of running backs—four have seen playing time in this game—keeps fresh legs in the game for the Card while wearing down Washington State.
Defense back on track: After showing some softness late in the first half, the Stanford defense came out of the locker room and shut down the Washington State offense with frightening efficiency. The Cougars never came close to scoring, and were forced to punt regularly.
Tight ends make their mark: Stanford's trio of standout tight ends—Levine Toilolo, Coby Fleener and Zach Ertz—were instrumental in getting the Cardinal offense back on track in the third quarter. All three made crucial catches throughout the quarter, including a 62-yard bomb to Fleener and two touchdown catches by Toilolo.
End of game. Final score: Stanford 44, Washington State 14
Stanford used the fourth quarter to pound Washington State into submission, scoring twice to put a definitive end to the contest.
Play of the quarter: Though the game's outcome wasn't really in doubt entering the fourth, Luck and Stepfan Taylor combined to put the final nail in WSU's coffin. Deep inside the red zone, Luck made a short shovel pass forward to Taylor, who followed his blockers right into the end zone to put Stanford up 31-7. The play took away any fight remaining in the Cougars, who played uninspired football the rest of the way.
Montgomery closes it out in style: Ty Montgomery, the true freshman receiver who has made a strong case for increased playing time in recent weeks, took the Cougars' final kickoff back for a touchdown on the game's last play. Montgomery also got into the game on a couple of offensive series, and could be a factor in Stanford's stretch run.
Luck turns in second stellar performance: Andrew Luck had another spectacular performance to follow up on his game last weekend against Colorado. Luck went 23-for-36 with 336 yards passing, four touchdowns, and one interception. It was all the more impressive considering that he was without his top receiver, Chris Owusu, for most of the game.
Defense keeps pressure on: Stanford's defense didn't let up in the fourth quarter, forcing a turnover on downs midway through the quarter before giving up a touchdown in garbage time. Jeff Tuel gained absolutely no traction all game; the final touchdown was scored with backup QB Marshall Lobbestael in the game.
Bowl implications: Stanford became bowl eligible with the win; the Cardinal remain undefeated at 6-0. Meanwhile, Washington State fell to 3-3; the Cougars will likely need to get to six wins and bowl eligibility to salvage head coach Paul Wulff's job.
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