Stanford 101

COMING OFF A last minute loss to Oregon, the Cougars would love to be facing the Stanford teams of the last two years. Unfortunately, the Cardinal are through getting pushed around. This year's squad is playing a pissed-off brand of football that often hallmarks a team on the verge of breaking out. But Stanford is coming off an emotional loss of their own, and with the loser of this game facing the prospects of bowl elimination, both teams will be playing all out for 60 minutes.

When: Saturday, October 16, 7:15 p.m.
Where: Martin Stadium (sold out, 37,600 capacity)
TV: Live on Fox Sports Northwest
Last Meeting: 2003, WSU won 24-14
Line: WSU by 1.5
Forecast: Showers in the morning, partly cloudy in the afternoon, high of 59.


Players to Know:
Trent Edwards, QB: WSU made the assumption (as I did) that Kellen Clemens wasn't good enough to beat them on his own last week. Whether the Cougars choked or Clemens had the game of his life is irrelevant, they can't afford to make the same mistake with Edwards. The WSU secondary needs to show up ready to make a statement. On the year, Edwards is 97 of 169 passing (57 per cent), has thrown for seven touchdowns and just four interceptions. He has looked very solid, and is one of the primary reasons for Stanford's success so far.

JR Lemon, RB: Lemon has provided the second offensive dimension that Stanford has totally lacked the past two years. The junior has rushed for 377 yards and five scores, while maintaining an impressive six yard per carry average. Kenneth Tolon provides a bit more of a scat back when the offense needs a change of pace. Neither has been much of a receiving threat. Lemon hurt his knee against Notre Dame, but is expected to play this week.

Alex Smith, TE: Oregon's tight end Tim Day gave the Cougars a ton of problems last week. As Smith is already Stanford's leading receiver, expect him to see even more passes this week.

Evan Moore, WR: Stanford has a host of receiving targets in Moore, Mark Bradford, and Smith. Bradford is the deep threat and Smith has been a solid possession receiver, but Moore is usually the one that kills you. At 6-7, 235 pounds he is a nightmare for smaller corners to defend and has 21 catches for 320 yards and four scores. Also a backup forward on the Cardinal basketball team, he'll remind Cougar fans of their own former two-way star, Mike Bush.

Overview: The Cardinal run a pass oriented offense that is pretty comparable to WSU's on a statistical basis. They rank right in the middle of the conference in most offensive categories. They look for the big plays and have the personnel to execute them. Alternatively, they have struggled to put together long drives constantly and tend to shift all the pressure to their defense late in the game. The Cardinal did not achieve a first down against USC or Notre Dame in the fourth quarter.

Strategy: As ugly as last week's defensive effort was, the Cougs should take a lesson from the debacle in Nebraska and not abandon the things that got them here. The Cougars are built to blitz, and blitzing is what they should do. Stanford will try to beat the blitz with passes to the Smith. Rather than worry about this being a problem, the Cougars should plan around it and try to use it to their advantage. Despite their poor showing against the pass last week, expect the Cougs to look a lot more comfortable against an offense that is fairly similar to their own. The key will be avoiding giving up the big plays, and clamping down on the tight end. The Cardinal tend to score early, so the Cougs need to be ready to play ball from the opening kickoff.


Players to Know:
Oshiomogho Atogwe, FS: In spite of the defense's weak passing statistics, Atogwe is an excellent safety. He is a heavy hitter, a sound tackler and will pick off any stray passes that come his way.

David Bergeron, LB: Stanford features a crew of veteran linebackers that are led by the 245-pound Bergeron. The three-year starter has 29 tackles this year and had a blocked punt in South Bend last week.

Jon Alston, LB: Alston is more of a hybrid linebacker/defensive end and is Stanford's best pass rusher. He is a blitzer by nature, but will make plays all across the field. He is second on the team in tackles with 31 and leads the team with three sacks this year.

Overview: The biggest difference between this Stanford squad and the groups WSU's has faced the past two years is their defense. They've got one. This is no longer the punching bag group that the conference was becoming accustomed to. This group attacks you and is pretty good at forcing turnovers. They are low on star power, but heavy in experience with six seniors and four juniors in the starting lineup. Their initial success with a new 3-4 defensive alignment and seems to have rebuilt their confidence.

Strategy: While the overall defense has improved, Stanford still ranks dead last in pass defense, which is always a dangerous prospect against the Cougars. Expect them to put a little extra emphasis on our receivers. This group put up a valiant effort against USC and Notre Dame, but faded in the fourth quarter. If the Cougs fall behind early, don't give up hope. The Cougar passing attack should have the advantage late in the game.

Kicker Michael Sgroi is decent from short range, but loses accuracy fast beyond 40 yards. Punter Jay Ottovegio has a sound 40.6 yard average, but fumbled a snap late in the game last week that essentially cost the Cardinal the game. Stanford has blocked three punts this year and have also returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

WSU: QB Josh Swogger (probable, ankle/knee), DT Ropati Pitoitua (questionable, high ankle sprain), WR Marty Martin (probable, shoulder), TE Cody Boyd (out, shoulder), TE Troy Bienemann (doubtful, shin), DE Matt Mullennix (out, knee).
Stanford: Starting tailback JR Lemon tweaked his knee against Notre Dame but is expected to start. Right guard Josiah Vinson has had back spasms but is probable.

This is do or die time for the Cougs. They need three more wins to get bowl eligible and Stanford is one of the few beatable teams left on the slate. The Cougs have had problems on both sides of the ball over the past few outings, but they've got to find some way of beating the Cardinal. They shouldn't abandon the offensive and defensive strategies that have gotten them this far, but there is also something to be said for just out hustling and out working your opponent. Sometimes when things just aren't working, you've got to take off your white collar, put on a blue collar, and just get to work.

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