First we start with what was wrong. Stanford's offense at the half was averaging 2.7 yards per play. Considering that Stanford's offense came in averaging 7.2 yards per play, it goes without saying that the Cougars were playing an outstanding game and Stanford was at a loss. Kevin Hogan, the conference's best quarterback coming into the night, looked caught in a fog of hesitation and frustration, as he underthrew passes, was sacked four times, and saw the Cardinal's power running game DOA.
But from out of the darkness comes......#LetHoganBeHogan. Stanford fans all year have emphasized how important the Cardinal quarterback's legs are to his overall effectiveness. After chasing a passing rhythm that would elude him, Hogan and the coaches took a look from the first half and turned it into the path to paydirt.
Hogan said that on a play on which Stanford had been forced to use a time out, he'd noticed that WSU's alignment provided him with running opportunities. And so Coach Shaw, who admitted "nothing else was working," put the ball in Hogan's hands and legs, and the senior did not disappoint. He ran for 138 yards on nine carries in the second half to help Stanford overcome deficits of 15-3 and 22-10. First, he burst up the middle for a 40-yard run that set up a Remound Wright vulture TD, and then he cut loose up the right sideline, and with a great block downfield from Michael Rector, scored a 59-yard touchdown of his own to pull Stanford within 22-20. He capped it off with a six-yard run for six that put Stanford up 27-22.
And that brings us to what had been working, and that would be the Stanford defense. Against the best red zone offense in the conference, Stanford repeatedly denied the thirsty Cougars the end zone, ultimately forcing WSU to kick five field goals. Then, they really jolted the Martin Stadium crowd with a pair of interceptions from true freshman Quenton Meeks. The first came at the WSU 31, when he jumped a bubble screen, and the second came with 3:27 to go, after the Cougars had regained the lead and the ball. Stanford then ran the ball down to the one-yard line, but was forced to settle for a field goal, setting up Washington State for one last chance.
At this point, I'd had approximately 75 heart attacks, my hands were shaking, and I was rocking like an old grandmother at sundown. Stanford seemingly ended the drama when Solomon Thomas smashed into Falk on a second and seven and the Cardinal recovered. However, replay reversed the call on the field and Stanford would be forced to keep defending. They had Washington State on a fourth and seven when Luke forced a laser down the seam to Dom Williams for 23, and then followed it up with another pass to Williams for seven yards. That set up Washington State up at the 27 for the game's final seconds: Kicker Erik Powell came out for a 43-yard kick that hooked wide right, and the Cardinal escaped. It was a miraculous Halloween miracle that pushed the Cardinal to 7-1 overall and 6-0 in the Pac-12.
That 6-0 cannot be overstated, as every other Pac-12 North squad has at least two conference losses. That means that a Cardinal win over Colorado would eliminate Washington State and the Oregon-Cal loser from the race. That would leave the winner of the Oregon-Cal game, who could only leapfrog Stanford if they won out and Stanford lost twice. That's a huge cushion to have headed into showdowns at home against the Ducks and the Bears.
But those are matters for another night. For now, be grateful that the Cardinal treated its fans to a Halloween fright fest that ended with the Good Guys surviving and advancing.
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