|Cougars vs. Stanford|
|STAT OF THE DAY:|
Stanford time of possession 37:06. WSU 22:54
LEADING WSU TACKLERS:
Not just any walker, mind you. One of those newfangled kinds with hand breaks for the uber-mobile geezers. In this case, that would be Stanford senior quarterback Trent "Bootleg" Edwards, who ran the ball for 74 yards and passed for another 273 and three touchdowns.
In the fourth quarter, trailing by 10 with seven minutes left, a packed house of Cougar partisans rained down boos with their team stuck on its own 40 facing a fourth down and getting ready to send in the punt team. WSU called a timeout and came back on the field with the offense. Jerome Harrison, one of the few bright spots in what has to rank as the lowest moment in Cougar football since the dog days of 1998-99, took the ball for 20 yards and a first down to set up a 29-yard TD pass from Alex Brink to Greg Prator.
That narrowed the score to 24-21, and put a rare charge into this sunny Palouse afternoon with four minutes left.
It proved little more than a mirage in a day-long stumble through the desert. Save Harrison, who racked up 218 rushing yards behind some solid blocking, the Cougars were in a funk on both sides of the ball from the opening whistle. Where was the emotion? Where was the domination? The killer instinct?
Instead, there were mental mistakes. And missed tackles. And dropped passes. And a missed field goal. And another one of those maddening squib kicks.
And the field position. Oh, the field position. The Cougars started no drive beyond their own 21.
The defense -- despite Mkristo Bruce's 11-tackle, 2-sack show of fight and fury -- didn't have an answer for Edwards, whose modus operandi coming in clearly was to keep his feet moving. Not known for his wheels, he made like the second coming of Fran Tarkenton. Edwards also drained the time clock on every possession to narrow his team's window of susceptibility to what appeared to be the superior club.
The Cougar offense, facing one of the worst-rated defenses in the nation, couldn't find a rhythm and mounted no kind of ball control. They had to rely on huge plays --- a 69-yard run by Harrison and a 45-yard pass from Brink to Trandon Harvey --- to set up their first two touchdowns.
Brink completed 13-of-26 for 161 yards and two interceptions, including one in the last minute of play. Calls for Josh Swogger to get a shot behind center no doubt will grow.
This wasn't a loss. It was a calamity. Coupled with last week's inexplicable collapse at Oregon State it was an earthquake of a revelation to the faithful that had grown accustomed to 10-win campaigns: This team just isn't very good.
So much for a return to the post season. WSU won't be favored in another game this year.
Thank Jim Sterk for the three wins the Cougs had coming in to today. Idaho, Nevada and Grambling never looked so good. Without them, we might have shades of the early Jim Sweeney days dancing in our heads about now.
Sure, WSU's two best players --- receiver Jason Hill and linebacker Will Derting --- were in street clothes on the sidelines. But this was Stanford. Little ol' Stanford. Horrendously inept Stanford. The Stanford team that managed only a three-point win over Navy. It shouldn't have mattered that Hill and Derting were idle.
Move over Ty Willingham. There may be a second cellar dweller in the Evergreen State.
This game was agony. The Cougars were two TD favorites against a Stanford team that hadn't won a Pac-10 game since beating WSU here in Martin Stadium a year ago. The Cougars were two TD favorites against a Stanford team that lost to UC-Davis --- the same UC-Davis that has just reached the midway point of its transition from NCAA Division II to Division I status.
Stanford (2-2) piled up a mind-numbing 27 first downs to the Cougars' 19. They converted a whopping 9 of 16 third-down plays to the Cougars' 3 of 11. They held the ball 14 minutes longer. They committed no turnovers.
Cougar head coach Bill Doba was matter-of-fact in defeat: "We're just not consistent and need to get better."
That improvement will need to happen in a hurry, because the schedule over the next five weeks doesn't feature a Moped, walker or even a skateboard. We're talking semi-trucks, tractors and, in the case of USC, a regular old juggernaut.