Cougars face a tall order against Stanford D

IT IS NO secret that Washington State has struggled to move the ball this season. Now the Cougars (2-5 overall, 0-4 conference) face No. 19 Stanford that some regard as the conference's top defensive unit. WSU coach Mike Leach discussed that topic and the Cougars' offense during Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches' teleconference.

Statistically, Stanford (5-2, 3-1) is not the conference's top defense. The Cardinal allow 347.7 yards of total offense per game, which ranks 34th among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

"I think they might be the most physical defense in the league," said Leach, whose team plays Stanford at 3:15 p.m. Saturday (TV: Pac-12 Networks). "Other folks who have played them might have a better idea."

The Cardinal's most impressive defensive performance came during Saturday's 21-3 Big Game victory at California. Stanford held the Bears' talent trio of running backs – C.J. Anderson, Brandon Bigelow and Isi Sofele – to 18 yards on 19 carries. When factoring in quarterback sacks, California finished with just three rushing yards.

"I think they're pretty good," Leach said. "They did a really good job stuffing the run."

WSU has been shutdown throughout the season running the ball – the Cougars average just 40.6 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 119th nationally – but also have been inconsistent throwing the ball. Two-thirds of the way into the season, Leach has not firmly committed to senior signal-caller Jeff Tuel or sophomore Connor Halliday. Both have started this season.

"I think we probably could've been a little better," Leach said. "We've ended up in a situation where we've played musical quarterbacks. If we ended up with one guy, we could've been a little better."

He said that is not just related to an unsettled quarterback position.

"We're not very consistent," said Leach, adding that the offensive line has struggled. "I don't think it's any one thing. It's a combination."


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