But last year the Cardinal used a win over WSU to get back on track after suffering an embarrassing loss to UC-Davis. Disenchanted fans are once again looking to senior quarterback Trent Edwards to right the ship before the entire season spirals into oblivion.
| Cougars (2-1) vs Cardinal (0-3)|
AT A GLANCE
2:00 pm Pacific Time
Players to Know
Trent Edwards, QB: Heading into this season, Edwards was a senior leading an offense with all 11 starters returning. Many had him pegged for a monster year. Now he simply looks like the only thing working on an otherwise sinking ship. Edwards has completed 63% of his throws for 683 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions in three games. He has also run for 112 yards. A surprisingly mobile QB, he has torched WSU the last two games in the series by using his feet to convert a number of third-and-longs.
Richard Sherman and Austin Yancy, WRs: With starting wideouts Mark Bradford and Evan Moore plus Marcus McCutcheon all out, Stanford becomes extremely thin at the skill positions with the two freshmen starting at the WR spots. Walk-ons Kelton Lynn and Michael Miller could also figure prominently -- Lynn and Yancy combined for 10 catches and 137 yards against Navy, while Sherman led the Cardinal a week earlier with six catches for 71 yards and a touchdown against San Jose State.
Basically, Stanford's offense is whatever Edwards can put together. They've struggled running the football and have likely lost their top three receivers and the starting fullback. Out of desperation, they've looked to true freshman running back Toby Gerhart to try to generate something from nothing. Gerhart is a California high school legend, but he hasn't been a difference maker so far. With the bulk of the receivers in sick bay, the Cardinal are also hoping true freshman receiver Richard Sherman can step in and immediately pick up some slack.
Keeping the ball out of Edwards' hands should be WSU's primary objective, but when he has it the Cougs must keep him contained. Edwards killed the Cougs with his legs last year. Stanford's running game looks poor and the Cardinal are thin for receivers. The Cougs need to do anything else they can to make Edwards life more miserable. Though that is becoming less of a task every week.
THE CARDINAL ON DEFENSE
Players to Know
Michael Okwo, LB: The senior linebacker missed the start of the season with a broken thumb. The team continues to hope his return can spark some improvements in the defense. He did his part against Navy registering ten tackles, two of them for a loss. But it is apparent that Stanford's flaws are deeper than any one position.
Panel Egboh, DE: Egboh is Stanford's most consistent defensive linemen and the leader of the youngest component of Stanford's defense. At 6'6 and 280 pounds, the junior certainly looks the part, and has 18 tackles through three games.
Stanford runs a base 3-4 defense. The Cardinal actually ranked dead last nationally in run defense before last week's track meet. They knew heading into the game that all Navy did was run the football, and they still surrendered 368 rushing yards. So far their opponents average 6.4 yards per carry and 336 rushing yards per game. The Cardinal haven't faired much better against the pass. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 76% of their throws, averaging 7.3 yards per attempt. Stanford ranks 97th in pass efficiency defense.
This is a team plays surprisingly stingy to start most games, but unravels fast so its vital to pile it on. The Cougs should run the football until the Cardinal over commit. Then take to the air and don't relent until the game is out of reach. Stanford has been outscored 52-6 in the second half this year, suggesting that they do not have the personnel to make effective adjustments.
THE CARDINAL ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Newcomer Aaron Zagory hasn't proven to be an effective kicker thus far. He has made only two of his first four attempts and none longer than 34 yards. Punter Jay Ottovegio is a sound veteran averaging 39 yards per punt this year. Stanford ranks among the worst in the country in most kick return and kick coverage categories.
Out – Bobby Byrd (MCL sprain), Chris Jordan (knee sprain), Matt Mullennix (torn ACL), Jesse Taylor (MCL sprain), Jason Stripling (shoulder surgery recovery)
Dan Rowlands (knee MCL sprain)
Probable – Fevaea'i Ahmu (partial stress fracture, foot), Andy Roof (thumb surgery), Markus Dawes (high ankle sprain), Don Turner (hip contusion), Courtney Williams (thumb sprain), DeMaundray Woolridge (thigh bruise), Lance Broadus (groin strain)
Out – Mark Bradford (WR, torn foot ligament), Evan Moore (WR, stress foot reaction), Nick Frank (FB, nerve damage), Marcus McCutcheon (WR, knee)
The Cougs have not earned the right to take anybody lightly. It would be easy to write Stanford off after the beating they took from Navy, but lest we forget, they beat WSU last year just weeks after losing to Division-II UC-Davis. They can do it again.
Stanford will be playing their second game in the newly remodeled Stanford Stadium and are desperate to christen it with a win. It has been redesigned to get the fans closer to the action and increase the effect of crowd noise. But early attrition from their fan base could also prevent a large crowd from showing up.
As if the fans needed less reason to cheer. The Stanford band has been banned from all sporting events after vandalizing their own rehearsal trailer. The Cardinal will have to rely on the Cougar marching band if they hope to hear their fight song this Saturday.
The Stanford game is historically the dividing line for the Cougar's season. Since 1977, anytime the Cougars beat Stanford they went on to a winning season. Anytime the Cougars lost to Stanford in that span, they went on to a losing season every year except one.