This is a loss that will be painful to look back on for Cardinalmaniacs™. So many "what ifs" will haunt the Stanford fan base, in a game that was too much Wazzu and not enough Card.
From the get-go, Stanford wanted to establish the run in this game, and did just that with great success. Rushes of 14 and 20 yards from Brian Allen and Randy Fasani moved the opening drive down the field and led to a Stanford TD in the air. That strike from Fasani found Darin Naatjes in the endzone, the first of his two scores on the day. Stanford's next scoring drive scored by land, and totaled 65 of 69 yards on the ground. Brian Allen picked up the TD and all the rushes on that drive but one (Fasani), which was a microcosm of Stanford's offense for the day. BA ran wild this Saturday, for 133 yards on just 20 carries. 3 of those carries resulted on TDs, and 6 of the carries resulted in gains of 10 or more yards.
Then tack on a solid afternoon from Kerry Carter, averaging almost 5 yards per carry on 10 rushes, and you get a clear picture of ground-bound greatness. All in all, Stanford picked up 219 yards on the ground, including losses from a whopping seven sacks.
But this game will ultimately be remembered for what Wazzu succeeded in doing to Stanford, which was a lot of quick-strike scoring and opportunities seized. In a first half that saw 59 total points and a two-score lead by the Cougs, there was a striking imbalance of mistakes. Back-to-back scores by Wazzu broke a 21-21 tie on two critical Stanford miscues. The first was a blocked punt that the Cougs ran easily into the endzone, while the second was a telegraphed Fasani dump-off pass against the blitz that was picked up at the line and run for an even easier score. There was also Chris Lewis' endzone TD on an underthrown ball to an open Brett Pierce, and a Casey Moore fumble that gave Wazzu a very short field for another of their scores.
Wazzu did plenty of things right in addition to capitalizing on Stanford mistakes. One that stands out was a halfback pass for a TD late in the first quarter. QB Jason Gesser made quite a few key scrambles, and found his receivers on an unnerving number of third-and-long situations. One of those go-to receivers for Wazzu who scorched the Card was hoops standout Mike Bush, which gave Stanford a rare chance to see what a Teyo-type athlete can do to them. He caught just 4 balls, but 2 were for scores and they totaled 97 yards.
This all being said, Stanford at one point scored 18 unanswered points, and held the visiting Cougs scoreless for some 26 minutes. Stanford looked in control, moving steadily but surely down the field on offense, and stuffing the bad guys on defense. But then Randy Fasani was knocked out of the game at the sideline on a first down scramble - the worm turned.
Stanford's offense stalled through the entire 4th quarter, with both Lewis and a banged-up Fasani at the helm. And Wazzu's offense began to find ways to move on the Cardinal "D" once again. A 39-35 lead faded to a 39-45 defeat.
Of course, the Card were just one play away from a totally different ballgame. Trailing by just a field goal, Stanford looked downfield to tie or regain the lead in the middle of the fourth quarter. Fasani specifically looked downfield on a key 3rd and 7 and saw Caleb Bowman wide open around the Wazzu 25. Fasani underthrew a bit, but Caleb had no defenders of concern and was under the ball. But it bounced off his chest and hands to the ground, as he crumpled to the turf. Nobody was more crushed that Caleb, who has faced hands issues throughout his career.
Stanford punted, and never really had a shot to tie or win again. Wazzu flat executed what they needed to to control the clock and build their lead, while Stanford couldn't muster even a first down in their final drive attempt.
The Cougs are on Cloud Nine at 6-0, undefeated in the conference along with UCLA and Oregon, while the Card tasted defeat for the first time and are left looking for answers.