Sports

Stanford football prepares to focus on Washington State

 

After absorbing a 44-6 loss at Washington on Friday night, Stanford has an extra day to regroup and prepare for Washington State on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Recent history suggests the Cardinal will rebound.

Since 2010, Stanford has lost consecutive games only once. That occurred in 2014, when the Cardinal fell to Oregon and Utah, the latter in double-overtime.

Last year, Stanford dropped its opener at Northwestern, and then reeled off eight straight wins. In 2013, the Cardinal bounced back from defeats to Utah and USC to win three in a row. And in 2012, Stanford rallied from a tough loss at Washington -- coincidentally, the season's fourth game -- to beat Arizona in overtime the following week.

Stanford (3-1, 2-1) has been a resilient under David Shaw, the Director of Football. As he often says, you're never as good or bad as you think you are.

Shaw doesn't believe in excuses or pity parties. While his team was minus four starters and traveled on a short week to Seattle after hard-fought, emotional victories against USC and UCLA, it proved no match for the talented Huskies, who fed off a raucous crowd and clicked on all cylinders.

Washington climbed from 10th to fifth in Sunday's AP rankings, while Stanford slipped from seventh to 15th.

There is plenty to play for this season. While Washington gained the upper hand in the Pac-12 North Division, the Cardinal's only concern this week is Washington State. And with good reason.

After starting the season with losses to Eastern Washington and Boise State, Cougar head coach Mike Leach called out his players and they have responded with decisive wins against Idaho and Oregon.

Saturday night against the struggling Ducks, the no huddle "Air Raid" offense was unstoppable, but not in the conventional way. Talented junior quarterback Luke Falk threw for 371 yards, but the Cougars also rushed for 280 and six touchdowns during the 51-33 rout in Pullman, Washington. Falk spread the ball around, as 10 players caught passes.

Stanford has beaten Washington State eight straight times, but was fortunate to escape Pullman with a victory last Halloween.

Playing in the rain and unable to get untracked offensively, Kevin Hogan brought the Cardinal back by running for 112 yards and two scores in the 30-28 win. Conrad Ukropina's 19-yard field goal with 1:54 remaining was the difference, as the Cougars missed a 43-yard attempt as time expired.

During his weekly meeting with the media on Monday, Shaw urged the Pac-12 and NCAA to change wording regarding its targeting rule after wide receiver Francis Owusu sustained a helmet-to-helmet hit at UCLA.

The officials on the field ruled a catch and fumble, and despite a booth review, the call stood and no penalty was assessed because the crown of the helmet wasn't used. Owusu suffered a concussion and did not play against Washington.

Shaw urged the NCAA to act sooner rather than later to protect student-athletes.

In a rare, in-season move, the NCAA agreed Friday and amended rule 9-1-3. It now states that any part of the helmet above the facemask is considered the crown.

"David deserves a lot of credit for raising the issue and pressuring us to raise the issue," said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.

Shaw was pleased for the future safety of the game.

"This is phenomenal," he said. "That hole in the rule book is filled in."

Extra Points: Christian McCaffrey continues to lead the nation in all-purpose yards and averages 214.50 per game … Washington State ranks second behind Washington (-2.33) in punt return defense (-1.33) … Cougar redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Hercules Mata'afa recorded 3.5 of his team's eight tackles for loss against Oregon and is among the national leaders … Current and former Stanford Olympians will be recognized on the field at halftime during the Washington State game … It marks the first home game with students back on campus.

Quotable: "Time to put our heads down, grind, and work." - Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas

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