Stanford 101: Grounding the Cardinal

JIM HARBAUGH has brought in the energy and enthusiasm missing at Stanford under Walt Harris. The emotional upset over USC is the kind that can carry a program clear through recruiting season but the Cardinal have lost three of four since then. Injuries and player suspensions have derailed the offense and Stanford doesn't have nearly the potential WSU does to run the table the final three games.

THE CARDINAL ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
Tavita Pritchard, QB: As has been well documented, he is the nephew of WSU great Jack Thompson and son of David Pritchard, a starting center for WSU and member of the Cougar's 1981 Holiday Bowl team. Tavita did his family proud with the remarkable win over USC, essentially wrestling the starting job away from senior T.C. Ostrander. Pritchard's passing stats have been less than impressive, completing under 50 percent of his passes for 700 yards 4 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, but the coaches see him as their future and want him to get as much experience as possible and he has playmaking ability. Pritchard hurt his non-throwing shoulder last week but is probable for Saturday. Neither Pritchard nor Ostrander has much mobility but Pritchard has the most of the two.
Anthony Kimble, RB: Stanford hopes to get it's top rusher back this weekend from a shoulder injury but he is still listed as questionable. Kimble has a team best 429 yards and six touchdowns this year.
Corey Gatewood, RB: Converted from defensive back, Harbaugh is high on his potential and he could see a marked increase in his number of carries against WSU.
Cougars (3-6) vs Cardinal (3-6)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
3:30 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
Martin Stadium (35,117)

TELEVISION:
FSN

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
WSU by 10.5

LAST MEETING:
2006 WSU Won 36-10

THE SERIES:
Stanford leads 32-24-1

CF.C PREDICTION:
WSU 34, Stanford 14

Mark Bradford and Evan Moore, WRs: Stanford's best playmaker, receiver Richard Sherman, is suspended for Saturday's game. The Cardinal still have some solid receivers but they will need to step up.

Overview
Stanford has struggled to establish the running game but has some solid receivers in their passing game. They don't move the football with much consistency but generally get a big pass play or two at some point in the game.

Strategy
Even though Stanford's best weapons are their receivers, WSU would be wise to keep the pressure on the running game and quarterbacks. Without a consistent running game, Stanford's young quarterback will struggle. The Cougar defense must improve their yards allowed on first down and their third down conversion rate against.

THE CARDINAL ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
Pat Maynor and Clinton Snyder, OLBs: Maynor and Snyder are a pair of aggressive linebackers that have generated 11 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss between them. Alex Brink needs to decipher their blitzes and adjust his protection accordingly.

Overview
Stanford runs a 4-3 defense but will also implement their version of a 3-4 on occasion. Their defense has a ton of young players filling the depth chart. Their inexperience generally creates a snowball effect to any mistakes they make but they also flew around to the football and started strong against Washington. They typically will wilt in the face of a dominant running or passing game and offenses generally pick up steam against them as the game progresses.

Strategy
Stanford has the same 'nothing to lose' mentality that WSU does at the moment. Expect plenty of blitzes to try and generate turnovers, Stanford has already doubled the number of sacks it had all of last year, sitting at No. 11 nationally with 29 sacks. Young players can run off an emotional high very easily so the key is to stay deliberate and not give up any big defensive plays. Brink needs to make quick, accurate decisions and then the receivers and backs need to make yards after the catch.

THE CARDINAL ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Stanford have the edge in special teams heading in and will want to leverage that advantage as much as possible. Expect them to pressure the Cougars when they punt and perhaps to try a fake kick or punt themselves.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Washington State has the the better personnel on both sides of the ball so Stanford needs some game changing special teams play to win this weekend. Stanford has won the last three meetings in Pullman, which could give some of the veterans that early confidence. If WSU successfully operates its offense without giving the ball away in the process it should be another home win for the Cougs. Michael Bumpus needs one reception and Alex Brink needs one touchdown to break the all time records at WSU in their respective categories. It would be a treat for Cougar fans if it happened on the same play


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