After two difficult defeats, junior defensive lineman Solomon Thomas addressed his teammates in the quiet postgame locker room on Saturday night following a 42-16 loss to Washington State. He called for renewed passion, self-reflection and commitment.
"My message was to look each other in the eyes," Thomas said. "It was about how much we love this game and how blessed we are to play it. We have too much talent and have put in too much work to be playing how we're playing. We have to do whatever we can to fix this."
Thomas cited execution and focus. Even with a rash of injuries, he knows players are not performing to their potential.
"We're a million times better than that," he said. "What it's going to take to prove that is a lot of preparation and looking at yourself in the mirror."
Sophomore Frank Buncom made his first career start at cornerback and provided a big lift by intercepting a Luke Falk pass and returning it 26 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter. It was the first collegiate pick for Buncom, who shared team-high tackling honors (6) with Justin Reid, Joey Alfieri and Dallas Lloyd.
"Our team goals come before anything else," said Buncom. "That's just the truth of the matter."
Lloyd pilfered his second pass of the season and Stanford has five overall.
Senior David Bright started at right tackle in place of injured Casey Tucker. The Cardinal managed one offensive touchdown, that coming on a 1-yard pass from Ryan Burns to JJ Arcega-Whiteside on the final play of the game.
"It hurts to see that right now we're not a physically dominating team," said Bright.
This is new territory for most Cardinal players. The last time Stanford dropped two games in a row was in 2014.
"It's a bad feeling," Bright said. "There's no getting around it."
Offensively, the usually potent Stanford running game managed only six yards on its first seven carries and finished with a season-low 61 overall.
"It's disappointing up front because we pride ourselves on being physical," he said. "We're going to have to go back and really look at this film and see what was going on out there."
Bright has a pretty good idea.
"I think we beat ourselves," said Bright. "It's tough to come back when we're doing that to ourselves. Finding that rhythm is a big thing for us. We're looking forward to next week as another opportunity.
"We want to keep the quarterback clean every game. Having Ryan (Burns) back there -- he's one of my great friends, so I take that personal. When he gets hit, it makes me mad. We have to get better."
Cornerbacks Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder did not play for the second game in a row due to injuries. Not that they didn't contribute.
"They're very vocal, heady guys and good at picking up tendencies," Buncom said. "They'll yell to us from the sideline what they're anticipating. They're still very into the game."
Stanford (3-2) plays Notre Dame (2-4) next Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. Kickoff on NBC is set for 4:30 p.m. PT. The Fighting Irish have dropped three of their last four games, falling Saturday at North Carolina State, 10-3.
Extra Points … Stanford dropped out of the AP Top 25 poll … Arcega-Whiteside has now caught a touchdown pass in three straight games … Freshman wide receiver Donald Stewart made his first collegiate catch in the fourth quarter, a 7-yard pass from Ryan Burns … Joe Lacob, MBA '83 and majority owner of the Golden State Warriors, served as honorary captain … Stanford's current and former Olympians were recognized at halftime … Representatives from all 36 varsity sports were introduced as Stanford received the 2015-16 Learfield Sports Directors' Cup awarded to the top intercollegiate athletics program in the country. It marked the 22nd consecutive year the cup has come to The Farm … Former Stanford golf standouts Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers attended the game.
B Quotable … =="We'll watch the film, we'll correct it, and we'll be back and ready to go." - Stanford quarterback Ryan Burns.