Stanford Stumbles to Third Straight Loss

Stanford's defense got hit hard in the first half of today's lopsided loss to the Cougs of Washington State, but when it was all said and done, the impotence of the offense was the real story. As unenjoyable as it was to watch this game, so too was the task of writing a recap...

As according to the Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition:

-- A light dramatic work in which highly improbable plot situations, exaggerated characters, and often slapstick elements are used for humorous effect.

Here's a better definition: "Any of the three prior Stanford games, esp. the contest against Washington State."

Let's let the stats speak for themselves before I even provide a summary of the game.  Washington State controlled the game and won 36-11 despite Stanford holding a 8:40 advantage in the time of possession.  Stanford averaged 15 1/3 yards per kickoff return.  Stanford committed eleven penalties for 85 yards.  Stanford was 3/16 on third down and 1/5 on fourth.  Unofficially, I estimate that every time a Cougar attempted to pass, he had more than four seconds to throw.

Spending a hot day inside the oven better known as Stanford Stadium watching the team self-destruct was a day of much pleasure for masochists.  The tone was set early when Stanford was forced to punt after picking up a single first down.  Four plays into the initial WSU drive, Jermaine Green went around the end on a sweep, broke countless arm tackles, and sprinted 42 yards for the score.  Chris Lewis was picked off on the ensuing Cardinal possession.  Working with a short field, the Cougars proceeded to march right to the Stanford five yard line.  After a running play that yielded two yards, Stanford was flagged for a personal foul, giving the visitors first and goal at the one.  After Stanford held them to them to no gain on the next play, Stanford committed another personal foul.  The Stanford defense held tough once again, but on what should  have been fourth down, Jason Gesser found Jerome Riley in the end zone for another touchdown.

Those initial minutes of the game took the collective air out of the players, students, alumni, and all fans in general.  Early in the second quarter, WSU added another touchdown.  Not long after those who make the trip from Pullman returned to their seats, the visitors scored again.  The long snap on a punt was botched, and Eric Johnson was taken down in the end zone after having to chase the ball.  (This, would simply be a microcosm of all of the mis-happenings on special teams.  There have been chronic problems regarding long snapping, containment while covering returns, and blocking and execution when one of our own players attempt to return a kick.)  Before it was all said and done, Washington State led 23-0 at the half.

As students started to make their way out of the stadium in the second half, and livid and apoplectic alumni yelled jeers regarding the coaching staff, Stanford seemed poised to make a rally early in the third quarter.  After Stanford bogged down and was forced to kick a field goal, Jake Covault picked off a pass and returned it to the opponent's 32.  However, there was a flag on the field near the line of scrimmage.  The verdict was not one the Cardinalmaniacs™ wanted to hear: Roughing the passer.  The Cougar offense capitalized on this mistake and ended the drive with a field goal.

With substitutions en masse for both squads for the remainder of the game, Washington State added a touchdown and a field goal while Ken Tolon (who was actually a bright spot offensively for the Card) scored for Stanford.

Both teams used several quarterbacks throughout the game.  The Cougars used Gesser (who was fighting an injury) and Matt Kegel, as well as Chris Hurd.  Lewis played most of the first three quarters while Kyle Matter played sporadically in between possessions.  However, after Lewis poorly decided to run out of bounds well before he could pick up a first down on fourth late in the third quarter, he was replaced by Matter for the remainder of the game.

The overall lack of fundamentals and discipline has been distressing over the course of the last several games.  Stanford is faced with getting its act together or letting the entire season fall apart.  Next week is now or never for the Card.

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