WSU: View from the Press Box

Stanford's biggest win of this young season Saturday was also the first most Cardinalmaniacs™ could not see. Fortunately, The Bootleg was on location and able to continue our popular game log series. Relive the 24-21 win over Washington State through a pair of eyes in Pullman, capturing the story of how this game unfolded - beyond the box score.

Mike Eubanks' shoes are tough ones to fill, but I will do my best to bring you insight and commentary from this contest in Pullman.  After sleeping at the team hotel in Moscow, Idaho, home of the Idaho Vandals, Stanford boarded the buses at 11:45 AM and arrived at the stadium at 12:03 PM, plenty of time before the 2:00 PM kickoff.

Despite entering as 13-point favorites, the Cougar program and faithful do not appear likely to take Stanford lightly.  The Spokesman-Review's headline screams "WSU needs to play game with urgency."  More pertinently, head coach Bill Doba sung Stanford's praises on a Washington State preview show aired on the local ABC affiliate this morning.  Then again, Doba specifically acclaimed Stanford's offensive line and secondary, considered by most to be two of the weaker units on the team.  Maybe he saw something different on film, or maybe he was just doing the whole polite coach-speak thing.

The Bootleg will be watching several elements of this contest rather closely.  First of all, both teams' depth charts are murky at key positions.  For Stanford, as many Cardinalmaniacs™ know, junior linebacker Michael Okwo left the first half of the Oregon contest with an injury, and his participation in the game is a major storyline.  Additionally, head coach Walt Harris announced co-starters at four positions this past week, and we will have the first word on who actually sees the field.

Perhaps even more crucial to Stanford's success, however, is the status of wunderkind Cougar receiver Jason Hill.  The latest I have heard is that while the coaching staff officially lists the junior as a game-time decision, Hill is preparing to play.  Whether he can serve as more than a decoy will depend on the strength of his thigh.

Hill has topped 100 yards receiving for two consecutive contests; Cougar senior running back Jerome Harrison has topped 100 yards rushing for seven straight games; and sophomore quarterback Alex Brink passed for a school-record 531 yards in last week's loss to Oregon State, shattering Drew Bledsoe's mark of 476.  Scary numbers, especially considering the yardage Stanford's defense has been allowing.

12:01 PM: The convoy of team busses rolls up onto a beautiful campus.  The hills, the brick buildings, the changing leaves and the college town atmosphere reminds me of another fine place to watch a football game: Ann Arbor (Mich.).  That is not a complement this lifelong Michigan fan disperses often.

12:15PM: I just arrived at the press box and I am even more convinced than 10 minutes before that this is an ideal football atmosphere.  The stadium just feels alive, no further explanation necessary.  Another thought: this is the type of program Stanford could realistically aim for in the next few years.  The team has winning seasons, even reaches the odd Rose Bowl or two (1998, 2003), and has a small but boisterous fan base that creates an impressive atmosphere in a cozy (no track) stadium.

12:40PM: The student section, field-level seats from the 25 to the opposite 15, just filled up with a sea of red, 80 minutes before kickoff.  These kids should be loud and just feet away from the Stanford offense.

1:24PM: 40 minutes until kickoff and the students now take up three entire sections of the stadium.  The rest of the stadium is so sparsely populated that about 60% of those in attendance are students.

1:30PM: USC 7, Arizona 7 – I know it is only the second quarter and that USC usually explodes in the second half, but this is just ridiculous.  Here in Pullman, Stanford is warming up as the Cougars go through team stretches.  The wind is minimal, the sky is partly cloudy and, seeing as Martin Stadium is artificial turf, the field conditions look ideal.

1:44PM: If any one image can speak volumes about the ethos of this place, perhaps it would be the defensive scoreboard overlooking the corner of the end zone.  Like most stadiums, Martin Stadium has an offensive scoreboard detailing first downs and passing, rushing and total yards.  However, I have never before seen a defensive scoreboard that tracks sacks, tackles for loss, three and outs and takeaways.  The football purist inside of me is ecstatic, even though Michigan just lost on a last-second field goal.
 

2:05PM: Kickoff, and Stanford is unable to block the gunner.  Not a bad decision by redshirt junior receiver and returner Marcus McCutcheon to run the ball out of the end zone, but Stanford starts at the 11.

2:06PM: A Washington State offside penalty on the kickoff is a huge break for Stanford, as the Cougars must rekick, and McCutcheon now takes the kick to the 32 yard line.

2:08PM: The WSU media relations department tells us Jason Hill warmed up but is now in street clothes.  Huge break for Stanford.  Redshirt freshman Anthony Kimble starts at tailback for the Cardinal and takes the first carry seven yards on a toss to the left.

2:09PM: Redshirt junior quarterback Trent Edwards rolls and finds junior receiver Mark Bradford for a nine-yard gain and a first down.  Moving from left to right, redshirt junior tackle Jeff Edwards, redshirt junior guard Josiah Vinson, redshirt junior center Tim Mattran, redshirt freshman guard Alex Fletcher and redshirt freshman Allen Smith are the starters on the offensive line.

2:11PM: Good intuition by Mattran to snap the ball when WSU jumped offside, though a Smith false start two plays later negates the penalty yardage.

2:12PM: Fifth-year senior receiver Gerren Crochet can't find any space underneath, as Edwards' second-and-11 completion only goes for three yards.  McCutcheon and Bradford are the other receivers on both second and third down.

2:14PM: Redshirt junior Matt Traverso can't come up with a third-down catch, and redshirt sophomore Jay Ottevegio's punt bounces into the end zone.  An opening drive with two first downs produces no points.

2:15PM: Senior cornerback T.J. Rushing, junior strong safety Brandon Harrison, redshirt junior free safety David Lofton, and redshirt sophomore cornerback Nick Sanchez are the starters in the Stanford secondary on the Cougars' first offensive snap.  WSU splits two wide and attempts to run Jerome Harrison up the middle, but gains only one yard.

2:17PM: Second down give to Harrison goes for only four yards only because Harrison couldn't keep in bounds.  He had the corner and was looking at a huge gain.  Watch out.

2:18PM: Nice pursuit by fifth-year senior nose tackle Babatunde Oshinowo to blow up the third down screen to Harrison.  With Hill in street clothes, we can see the Cougars' plans A, B, and C are to find Jerome Harrison.

2:18PM: Stanford takes over at the 42-yard line and a first down bubble screen to Crochet to the strong side of the field goes for seven yards.

2:21PM: From 2nd & 3, an inside run by Kimble, and an Edwards sneak are needed to gain the first down, and only by inches.  On the next play though, Edwards runs a play-action, sees that no one is open and runs for an 11-yard gain and another first down.  Nifty.

2:22PM: Kimble carries for another five to bring it to the WSU 32, right into the soul of the student section.  Perhaps unsurprisingly then, a delay of game pushes Stanford back to 2nd & 10 at the 37.

2:24PM: A second-down shovel pass to Kimble goes for seven yards, and might have gone for a lot more had Kimble cut inside instead of toward the sideline.  Great play call, as Kimble saw loads of daylight.

2:25PM: The noise is really affecting the Cardinal, as Edwards is forced to call a timeout prior to third down.

2:26PM: Edwards runs for 13 on what appeared to be a designed draw.  That is the second first down Edwards has picked up on foot.  Hmm...

2:27PM: Edwards steps to his right and finds Bradford open and cutting towards the far (right) sideline at the two-yard lne.  Bradford has enough space to adjust his grip on the ball after appearing not to catch it cleanly at first, and steps into the end zone to culminate a 58-yard, eight-play drive.  Fifth-year senior Michael Sgroi's extra point is good; the ensuing kickoff is a touchback; and Stanford leads 7-0.

2:30PM: There is 5:27 left in the first quarter, and Washington State runs only their fourth play of the game.  The play is Brink's first completion of the game, an eight-yard gain.

2:31PM: Washington State obviously believes they can run on the perimeter of Stanford's defense, and after Jerome Harrison rumbles for 69 yards down to the Stanford five-yard line, it is hard to disagree.  The play – sweep right – is essentially the same call that Harrison nearly broke open on WSU's second play from scrimmage.

2:33PM: That might have just been the tackle of the season that redshirt junior inside linebacker Michael Silva (starting in place of Okwo) delivered on third down to keep Harrison out of the end zone.  All for naught, though, as Brink's fourth down sneak goes for a touchdown, capping an 80-yard six-play drive.  WSU 7, Stanford 7 with 3:03 remaining in the first.

2:36 PM: Edwards rolls to his right and finds junior fullback Nick Frank for a 13-yard gain and a first down at the Stanford 33.  Edwards has bootlegged right at least three times in this first quarter; Harris and his staff must have seen something.

2:37 PM: And on the next play, Edwards fakes another bootleg right, which opens up a hole for redshirt sophomore tailback Jason Evans up the middle.  Unfortunately for the Card, Mattran is called for holding and Stanford now faces a 1st & 20.

2:39 PM: A screen to Bradford and a rush up the middle by Kimble go nowhere, meaning that Edwards' third-down 18-yard scramble comes up just short.  Stanford will face a punting situation when the teams switch sides and start the second quarter.

2:43 PM: Okwo has not played yet today, reportedly because of an ankle injury that will likely sideline him for the game.  Stanford downs an Ottevegio punt at the 10, though the ball was continuing to roll towards the goal line.

2:44 PM: Harrison up the middle for a 13-yard gash, and right when I was going to type that he appears faster than anyone else on the field, he stays down on the ground for a minute.  He stands and jogs off the field by himself, so I am guessing he just got the wind knocked out of him.

2:46 PM: Nice deflection of Brink's first-down pass by fifth-year senior outside linebacker Jon Alston.

2:46 PM: DeMaundray Woolridge picks up eight on second down, and a third-down out route completion results in a another Cougar first down.  I think Harrison would have busted that second-down carry for a touchdown because Woolridge was brought down by a shoestring tackle, and Harrison is a little faster.

2:48 PM: Oshinowo is called for a personal foul for facemasking.  The 15 yards move the Cougars to the Stanford side of the 50.

2:50 PM: Brandon Harrison intercepts a sitting duck from Brink.  Brink was hit while throwing, most likely by Oshinowo.  Indeed, the replay confirmed Oshinowo hit Brink's throwing arm.  Way for Oshinowo to redeem himself after the facemasking call.

2:51 PM: False start on Vinson backs Stanford up to the 32-yard line for a 1st & 15.  Edwards scrambles on the first down for a 13-yard gain, and he now has 54 rushing yards with 11:13 to play in the second quarter.  As Evans gets stonewalled on a second-down toss sweep, Edwards' importance to the running game becomes all the more evident.

2:53 PM: A third-down in-route is bobbled, but caught by fifth-year senior Justin McCullum, moving the sticks.

2:54 PM: On first down from the Cougar 49, Edwards fakes short and goes long for Bradford.  Like against Oregon the week previous, Bradford appeared to slow down right before the ball arrived.  The referee kept his flag in his pocket, however, with no pass interference call.

2:55 PM: Only seven Cougars in the box on 3rd & 2, and Stanford goes with split backs.  Edwards rolls right, perhaps looking to set up a screen and throw back to his left, but is sacked by defensive end Mkristo Bruce, who powered outside Jeff Edwards.

2:57 PM: Ottevegio's punt is fair-caught by Cougar receiver Michael Bumpus inside the one-yard line.  Between WSU's miscues and injuries, Stanford is getting every reasonable chance at a victory.

2:58 PM: The field position is so poor that Brink sneaks for a yard on first down before Trandon Harvey drops a would-be first down on second down.  Third down sees a run up the middle by Harrison, who has reentered the game, go nowhere, and the Cougars punt from their one-yard line.

3:00 PM: A 50-yard punt saves the Cougars in the field position battle, compounded by an open-field block in the back from redshirt freshman cornerback Wopamo Osaisai that wipes out a nice Rushing return.  Stanford starts at their 36, which is decent field position, but not what you would want when your opponent punts from their one-yard line.

3:03 PM: Edwards rolls right for another nine-yard gain by foot.  When the conventional rushing attack is not working, a mobile quarterback is essential to keep the opposing defense honest.

3:05 PM: J.R. Lemon sighting, as the fifth-year senior tailback picks up two yards on a 2nd & 9.  With the rushing attack minus Edwards netting only 18 yards to this point, is this merely getting Lemon some playing time, or a more significant shakeup of the roster?

3:08 PM: Lemon stays in on third down and cannot come up with the screen pass thrown to his ankles.  Bumpus again fair-catches Ottevegio's punt, this time at the 11.

3:09 PM: Redshirt junior Trevor Hooper, inactive since an injury in the Navy game, enters the contest replacing Lofton at free safety, alongside Brandon Harrison, and immediately has an impact on first down, as one of four Stanford tacklers on Jerome Harrison's rush.

3:11 PM: Three first downs later, Washington State has the ball at the Stanford 40 with 3:05 left in the half.  On the latest play, Harrison was bottled up in the backfield, but Stanford could not penetrate and make a tackle for a loss, so Harrison broke outside and rumbled for 21 yards.

3:14 PM: Senior defensive end Julian Jenkins cannot contain or catch Alex Brink, who scrambles for 11 yards to the Stanford 25 on a roll to his left.

3:15 PM: Washington State is picking on Stanford's defensive ends, as Brink rolls right and finds plenty of time to throw.  Bumpus has separation and is on his way to hauling in the go-ahead touchdown until fifth-year senior linebacker Timi Wusu displays incredible catch-up speed to motor up to Bumpus and deflect the pass with an outstretched right hand.

3:16 PM: Shoestring tackle by redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Udeme Udofia ends the drive and brings out the special teams for a 36-yard attempt, which kicker Loren Langley pulls left.

3:17 PM: Justin McCullum hauls in Edwards' pass to his back shoulder.  Stanford looks to run the hurry-up offense, but Edwards is sacked on the subsequent play as Mkristo Bruce again powers outside left tackle Jeff Edwards.  Stanford calls a timeout with 49 seconds left in the half and a 2nd & 13 from their own 34.  Buddy Teevens would have ran out the half in a situation like this, so it will be interesting to see whether Harris' gamble pays off.

3:20 PM: Sure enough, McCullum catches a slant to the Cougars' 42 in front of star free safety Husain Abdullah.  Edwards overthrows McCullum on the next pass, but rebounds to hit Crochet for a 21-yard gain over the middle.  Nice hands by Crochet to haul in the high throw, and nice body control to take the hit after going up high over the middle and still come down with the ball.

3:22 PM: After a first down spike, a curious call on a give to Lemon.  The field goal unit rushes on (as Stanford has no timeouts) but Michael Sgroi's field goal is deflected by defensive tackle Aaron Johnson, the second block of his career.  If Stanford loses a close contest, the decision to handoff to Lemon with 21 seconds left in the half and no timeouts after a first down spike will be questioned.  More curious is the choice not to spike on third down, but instead rush the field goal unit onto the field.

3:45 PM: Sgroi's kickoff to start the second half sails out the back of the end zone.  The ball might travel further here in the high altitude.

3:46 PM: Cougar receivers drop both first and second down passes that hit them in the hands.  WSU may well look back in two months and realize this was their worst performance on the season.

3:48 PM: An instant replay review confirms the second down pass to Harvey was still incomplete.  The play did not look that close to me.

3:48 PM: On third down, the middle of Stanford's defensive line pressures Brink into throwing the ball out of bounds.  After, to the best of my recollection, never running shotgun in the first half, Wazzu turned to it twice on their opening three-and-out of the second half.

3:50 PM: 53-yard punt with great hangtime fair-caught by Rushing.  Either Cougar punter Kyle Basler is Superman, or it is the altitude after all.

3:51 PM: Despite limited success in the first half, Anthony Kimble opens the second half at tailback and cuts his way to a four-yard gain on first down.  Second down brings a eight-yard gain after Kimble shows great patience in waiting (and then cutting behind) his block.

3:54 PM: Your offensive linemen are (right to left) Cochran, Fletcher, Mattran, Vinson, and Smith as Kimble catches an Edwards throw underneath the Wazzu defense, perhaps seven yards in front of the line of scrimmage, and doesn't stop running until he's in the endzone.  However, redshirt junior tight end Matt Traverso is called on an obvious hold that negates the touchdown and gives Stanford 1st & 10 from the Cougar 27.

3:57 PM: Bruce again makes a big play, stuffing Nick Frank for a one-yard loss on 2nd & 3. On third down, Edwards has an open Bradford cutting toward the far corner of the end zone and lets loose a beautiful spiral.  Bradford, however, loses the ball in the sun and it falls to the turf.  (Edit: Harris confirmed post-game that the sun was the factor, and took the blame for calling the fade route to that corner of the endzone.)  On fourth down, Sgroi pulls his kick wide left, marking two consecutive drives that Stanford has come away empty-handed despite significant penetration.  My gut feeling is that WSU, Harrison especially, is just a play or two from exploding for a few scores, and these points Stanford is leaving on the board are going to bite them.  Then again, Harrison does not appear to be the same explosive force he was before he got knocked down in the first half, and Alex Brink only passed for 41 yards in the first 30 minutes.

4:01 PM: Right on cue, Brink overthrows an open receiver on 3rd & 2, forcing a Cougar punt.  The reporter seated next to me just commented that these look like two bad teams right now.  As long as WSU's quarterback and receivers are not merely on different pages, but reading from different books entirely, Stanford is looking pretty.  The loss of Jason Hill is mammoth – this team passed for over 500 yards against a very good Oregon State secondary last week, and now will struggle to hit 100 against Stanford.

4:03 PM: Again on cue, a nice Rushing punt return is again negated by a penalty.  This time Timi Wusu is called for holding.  Wusu has seen significant playing time today, both on special teams and as a defender breaking up a would-be touchdown.

4:05 PM: If anyone wants to argue that Trent Edwards is not this team's offensive MVP, you must be watching a different football team in some alternate universe.  On this latest third down, Edwards rolled right, bought time, and fired an 18-yard rope to Crochet over the middle.  Few quarterbacks put that strength or that accuracy on a ball while stationary, let alone running for their lives.

4:06 PM: Again on cue (my thoughts seem to somehow be affecting the flow of the game), Edwards hits McCullum on a 19-yard slant pattern for six, capping a six-play, 60-yard drive.  The throw didn't exactly spiral so NFL scouts might not love the play, but a Stanford fan has to be smiling as the pigskin hit McCullum right at the "7" on his chest, with the Cardinal now leading 14-7 as double-digit road dogs.

4:08 PM: Sgroi set to kickoff.  Despite the field goal block and the field goal shank, Sgroi has kicked very well (although the air has to be playing a factor).  Right as I type his praises, Sgroi booms his kick into the back of the endzone for a touchback.

4:10 PM: Not to get ahead of myself, and not to take anything way from a win that Stanford could desperately use, but if Stanford does leave here with a win, right now I would argue it has more to do with Washington State's performance (and injuries) than Stanford's play.

4:12 PM: Nick Sanchez absolutely stonewalled Jerome Harrison's sweep to the right side, forcing a 3rd & 1.

4:12 PM: Longest Cougar passing play of the day, as Brink hits receiver Trandon Harvey for a 45-yard gain over Brandon Harrison.  The Cardinal catch a major break as Harvey trips on a fallen Harrison and lands at the 25-yard line because all that stood between the receiver and the end zone was turf.

4:14 PM: The pass play appears to have stretched Stanford's defense, as Brink bootlegs and finds Troy Bienemann at the Stanford eight-yard line.  Two plays later, T.J. Rushing is isolated with an angle on Jerome Harrison, but Harrison stutter-steps outside and passes Rushing on his way into the corner of the end zone.  The 80-yard, eight-play drive ties the game at 14.  Harrison now has 159 yards on 20 carries, though 69 of those came on the one long run in the first half.

4:16 PM: One benefit of having Rushing on the return unit is that teams often kick short to avoid him.  Here, despite not allowing a major kickoff return on the day, the Cougars elect to kick to fifth-year senior Kris Bonifas at the 27.  Bonifas advances to the 38.

4:19 PM: Gutsy 3rd & 1 carry by Jason Evans, who keeps churning his legs for a five-yard gain.  Add a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Johnson (the same Johnson who blocked Sgroi's field goal at the end of the first half) for an illegal blow to the head, and Evans has progressed the ball to the 33.  The next play, another 14-yard rip takes Evans to the 19, though a shiftier back likely would have scored a touchdown.

4:21 PM: For the third play in a row, the offense rests upon Evans' shoulders, as Edwards finds the back in the right flat for a nine-yard gain.  After bottling the Cardinal much of the first half, Washington State's defense is visibly tiring.  Stanford did run 10 more plays over the first half than did the Cougars, and held the ball for nearly 20 of the 30 minutes, a welcome reversal from the trends of the first three games.

4:23 PM: A run up the middle by Frank picks up a 1st & Goal, and Evans is then stuffed on a carry to the left.  On 2nd & Goal, Edwards again bootlegs (talk about free publicity!) right and fires a laser in Mark Bradford's direction.  The throw is a few inches above Bradford's head, but the true junior pulls in the bullet, allowing Stanford to reclaim a 21-14 lead with just 16 seconds left in the third quarter.  The drive lasted eight plays and went 62 yards.

4:27 PM: As the teams trade sides for the start of the fourth quarter, the shadows grow long at Martin Stadium.  From the vantage of the press box, Stanford will move from right to left, into the setting sun.  Washington State's receivers, therefore, will have to contend with glare as they look back to locate passes.  Perhaps it will cost them as dearly as it cost Bradford on his drop of a would-be touchdown earlier today.

4:31 PM: Dropped back into coverage, fifth-year senior inside linebacker Kevin Schimmelmann tips and nearly picks off Brink's pass over the middle.  On the next play, redshirt freshman defensive end Pannel Egboh makes a nice shoestring tackle of Harrison, simply refusing to let go of the powerful ball carrier.  Third down features an Alston sack of Brink, and in the game's most important series thus far, Stanford came up with an impressive stop.

4:33 PM: Here is where the great teams, and especially the great coaches, separate themselves from the pack.  Stanford is up by a touchdown with 12 minutes to go and the ball on their 28.  Do they run three times, punt, and let the Cougars try for a tying score, or does Stanford aggressively play call and attack the Cougar defense?

4:34 PM: First down is a Kimble run up the middle for no gain.  Fans have to hope Harris comes through with the playcalling on this pivotal drive.

4:36 PM: Second down sees Edwards scramble for nine on the designed pass, and third down sees Evans burst through the initial Cougar front for an 11-yard gain.  See how the threat of a second-down pass in combination with Edwards' mobility allowed the Card to move the chains?

4:37 PM: Crochet drops a 20-yard pass that hit him right in the numbers.  Fortunately, Edwards picks up the slack and runs a designed draw for another first down (good call) before a handoff to Kimble moves the chains yet again to the Cougar 27.  Stanford is now in Michael Sgroi field goal range, but probably wants some more yards to feel good about the attempt, especially considering that Sgroi has missed both attempts thus far today.

4:40 PM: Sure enough, Kimble picks up nine yards on the ensuing first down and is stuffed on second, setting up a pivotal 3rd & 1. Right now, Stanford's offensive line looks like it is simply wearing down Washington State's defensive front.  Coming into today's contest, few would have thought I would be typing those words.

4:41 PM: 3rd & 1 to Kimble up the middle for a short gain.  The down will depend on the spot.  I think he is a foot short… and sure enough the chains are about two feet short.

4:42 PM: Here comes Sgroi for what could amount to the game-winner… and it is true from 54, let alone 34.  The kick peaked twice as high as the goalposts, no exaggeration.  Stanford now leads 24-14 with just over seven minutes to play.

4:45 PM: A quick check of the media guide shows that the last team to hold the Cougars to 14 or fewer was USC, in a 42-12 victory on October 30, 2004.  (Stanford won last year's contest, 23-17.)

4:47 PM: Solid defense has forced the Cougars into a 3rd & 11.  Brink scrambles out of a three-wide set, but is tripped by Schimmelmann, landing a yard short of the first down.  Bill Doba's decision to punt this ball with under six minutes to play will make the head coach a very popular man in these parts, no doubt.

4:48 PM: Realizing the folly of his move, Doba calls a timeout, but not until the clock ticks down to 5:22 to play.

4:49 PM: Heavy set in for the Cougar 4th & 1.  Harrison takes the carry to the outside and advances it 21 yards.  With so many defenders clogging the middle, Stanford's secondary did well to keep Harrison in front of them and force the Cougars to burn more clock on this drive.

4:51 PM: Harrison rumbles for a five-yard gain but goes down inches inside the sideline, keeping the clock running.  On second thought, the referees just huddled and announced that Harrison did indeed go out-of-bounds (looks to be the correct call), and the game clock is reset from 4:39 to 4:53.

4:52 PM: Harrison rips off another eight yards, and the Cougars have a first down at the Card 27, down by 10 with 4:40 and counting to play.  On the next play, Sanchez makes a great tackle to keep Harrison in-bounds on a one-yard loss, and the clock dips toward four minutes.

4:53 PM: Rushing never turns for the ball, and Greg Prator catches a touchdown right over the senior cornerback.  The score now stands at 24-21 with 4:01 to play.  That was only the third pass play on the 80-yard nine-play drive, showing how little confidence the Cougars have in their injury-depleted passing game, especially relative to Jerome Harrison and the rushing attack.  Stanford can win this game with about three first downs, so it will be important for the Cardinal not to shell up, but to run their full offense, much like they did the last series.

4:56 PM: This stadium just got loud, and Stanford is running a heavy set.  I like neither development as Kimble is stuffed for no gain.  The Cougars, with two timeouts remaining, elect to keep the clock ticking.

4:57 PM: Heavy set (only one wide receiver) on a second down give up the middle to Frank.  When just a few first downs wins the game, and your defense just got burned for a touchdown, these conservative calls might not represent the optimal strategy.

4:58 PM: Again the saving grace, Trent Edwards rumbles to the 38 on a designed draw.  The team very might have gone 0-11 this season without Edwards as its quarterback.  If you believe that, then Edwards must receive credit for every win Stanford does achieve.

5:00 PM: After two Stanford runs that gain three yards, the Cougars use their second timeout with 1:21 remaining.  Stanford now faces an interesting choice on 3rd & 7: run and drain WSU of their last timeout, or pass and have a better chance at picking up a game-winning first down.  Personally, I'd run Edwards on another draw.

5:02 PM: 3rd & 7: Edwards hits Crochet with a pass.  Crochet goes down, the ball squirms out and the play is ruled an incomplete pass.  A review upholds the ruling on the field, although watching the replays myself, I honestly think Crochet fumbled.  Seeing as the play was blown dead, I think you have to call it a catch and a first down because Crochet held on to the ball too long for the referees to claim he did not have possession.

5:05 PM: Just a minute to play with the ball on their own 14-yard line, and the Cougars call a draw to Jerome Harrison?  He now has 207 yards, and, more importantly, dances his way there to an all-important first down.

5:07 PM: Harrison jukes to yet another first down, stopping the clock with 39 seconds to go with the ball at the Cougar 38.  Pannel Egboh, injured on the play, tried to get off the field to allow the clock to restart, but could not.  Egboh, supported by two trainers, limps off the field to applause from the Martin Stadium crowd.

5:09 PM: After a false start on the Cougars, Brink fires up a duck that Nick Sanchez, my defensive MVP of the game, steps in and intercepts.  I have to run for the interviews, but Stanford escapes with a 24-21 victory.


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