Sports

A homecoming for Cougars' linebacker Kaufusi

Stanford hosts Washington State in its homecoming game Saturday

By Rick Eymer

Palo Alto Online Staff

East Palo Alto resident Sekope Kaufusi will be returning home Saturday, and he expects a huge following.

Kaufusi, who earned his first career start for the Washington State football team in its 24-7 loss against Arizona this past weekend, has been busily trying to round up enough tickets to cover all the requests he's received.

"I don't think I'm going to make it," he said. "My friends may have to buy tickets."

That's just fine with 12th-ranked Stanford, which hosts the Cougars for a 2:10 p.m. kickoff for Saturday's homecoming. Kaufusi said he had about 100 text messages and Facebook posts following the televised contest against Arizona.

Kaufusi, who attended Woodside High, recorded eight tackles, two for a loss, against the Wildcats and made the highlight show with a booming hit on Wildcats' running back Keola Antolin that brought a loud response from the home crowd.

He was part of a Cougars' effort that turned in its best defensive effort in two years. The 24 points allowed and 352 total yards were the fewest they have allowed since 2008.

Washington State still ranks close to the bottom in total defense, but Kaufusi says he can see a difference.

"I feel like the team is improving as a whole, as well as individually," Kaufusi said. "As a unit we're coming together and you can feel a camaraderie that's been missing for a couple of years. Every step we take is forward, I don't feel like we're losing anything."

Washington State has won four of its last 32 games under third-year coach Paul Wulff but the Cougars have played a better brand of ball the past few weeks, giving UCLA, Oregon and Arizona fits.

"They play every play hard and they don't beat themselves," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. "They are competitive, with a lot of young players who throw their bodies around. Their passing game is really good. They remind me a lot of our team a few years ago. They are one of the most improved teams in the conference."

Notes: Sophomore running back Stepfan Taylor has rushed for over 100 yards in each of his past three games -- Notre Dame (108), Oregon (113) and USC (104). Only four backs in Stanford history have rushed for 100 yards or more in four straight games, the last being Toby Gerhart, who closed his collegiate career with seven 100-yard efforts . . . Stanford is off to its best start since the 2001 season when the Cardinal was also 5-1 after its first six games . . . This is just the sixth time since 1970 Stanford has started 5-1 . . . A win over Washington State would give Stanford it's best seven-game start since 1970, also 6-1 . . . Stanford is 5-9 following bye weeks dating to the 2000 season . . . The Cardinal is 14-2 in the last 16 home games dating to the final home contest of the 2007 season . . Stanford averages 43.3 points a game, fifth in the nation.

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