Sizing up the Card

WHILE ALL IS well on Planet Coug these days, except for perhaps the health of some offensive linemen, life down on The Farm is a bit of a zoo as Stanford and WSU prep for Saturday's match up in Palo Alto.

The Cardinal, having lost nine defensive starters from a year ago, are 1-3 so far and surrendering a whopping 39 points per game, worst in the Pac-10. And the brand new offense has yet to click, with inconsistent production coming from their most dangerous weaponry.

For a sense of just how trying the start of first-year coach Buddy Teevens' tenure has been, consider the following:

* At Notre Dame last week, Stanford led 7-0 but then gave up four TDs in the span of seven minutes -- two of them coming from the Irish defense. In the second half, the Card mustered but 78 total yards --- a surefire way to drive Teevens, formerly the assistant O-coordinator at offensive machine Florida, to distraction.

* The week before, Arizona State took the Cardinal behind the woodshed for a 65-point scorefest. Compounding matters was a Cardinal offense that committed seven turnovers.

* QB Chris Lewis, to quote the San Jose Mercury News, "has no ryhtym and little confidence" since returning from a one-game suspension that kept him out of the Cardinal's season-opening 34-27 loss to Boston College. While just one TD pass of joining Stanford's career top 10 in that category, facts are facts: His efficiency rating of 92.8 is last in the Pac-10 --- 31 points lower than the No. 9 guy. And in eight quarters of play this season, he has eight interceptions. Redshirt freshmen Kyle Matter could see some serious PT Saturday if Lewis struggles early. This season the youngster has completed 63 percent of his passes (31 for 49) for 453 yards and three TDs.

* Standout running back Kerry Carter, hobbled most of the season, has carried the ball just 20 times this season for 66 yards. That's made Casey Moore the backfield workhorse, with 255 yards on 39 carries.

* The Cardinal defense has just two seniors and two junior in the starting line up. The rest are redshirt freshmen and sophomores.

In handicapping the Cougars, Teevens says he doesn't see much in the way of weaknesses. "They are a very talented group," he says. "They're picked to finish No. 1 in the conference, and after watching them on tape that is for good reason. They are very thorough on offense. Defensively they are very, very sound. They have 19 sacks. They play as a group and that is very impressive."

TV: No live coverage. Replay on Fox Sports Northwest 10 am PT on Sunday.

THE LINE: Cougars by 6 1/2

INJURIES: For the Cougars, offensive tackle Sam Lightbody pinched a nerve against USC and is highly questionable; RB Allen Thompson, out since August, saw his first action of the season against USC and promptly dinged his shoulder and likely is out for the season; WR Sammy Moore (hamstring) is probable; OL Josh Parrish (broken leg) is out for at least three more weeks; OL Phil Locker (deep leg bruise), OL Riley Fitt-Chappell and LB Will Derting (high ankle) are questionable.

For Stanford, nose tackle Craig Albrecht (Achilles tendon) is out; receiver Nick Sebes (knee) and DT Babatunde Oshinowo (ankle) are questionable. TE Brett Pierce if out for the season.

Cardinal offensive line coach Steve Morton played for the Cougars under Jim Sweeney and served on the WSU coaching staff under Sweeney, Jackie Sherrill, Warren Powers and Jim Walden from 1975-86.

Seven Cardinal players hail from God's country: Flanker Justin McCullum (Mercer Island); WR Caleb Bowman (Sandpoint, Idaho); QB Ryan Eklund (Federal Way); TE Brett Pierce (Vancouver, Wash.); OL David Beall (Vancouver, Wash.); and standout WR Teyo Johnson and starting DE Amon Gordon, each of whom spent three years at Mariner High in Everett before transferring to Mira Mesa High in San Diego for their senior seasons.

The Cardinal lead the all-time series 30-21-1. The Cougars won a year ago, but the Card took the previous three and eight of the last 10 dating to 1990. The Cougars have not beaten the Cardinal in back-to-back seasons since 1988-89. Since 1973, Stanford owns an 18-5 record against WSU.

A year ago the Cougars came from behind in Palo Alto to win 45-39. Down by four in the fourth quarter and sputtering for much of the game, the Cougar offense, behind a determined line, held onto the ball for 12 of the final 15 minutes. Included in that span was a picture-perfect drive of 18 plays that covered 86 yards, ending with an 11-yard TD pass from Jason Gesser to Mike Bush. Other highlights included a second quarter blocked punt by Josh Moen that Richland's Jeremy Bohannon scooped up for a TD. When Allen Thompson went down with inury, John Tippins answered the call with 92 offensive yards, 75 of those on the ground at a jaw-dropping 5.8 yards a carry.

Teevens can't say enough nice things about Cougar corner Marcus Trufant. "He is probably as good a coverage guy as there in the nation. He is very quick, very athletic and is a good-sized guy. He's probably an NFL first round draft pick doing what he is doing at this point."

Teevens also likes the Cougar offense line. They are "probably the largest line I've seen. They are a big, stout offensive line that protects (Gesser) well."

Stanford's lone win this season was 63-26 over San Jose State.

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