Cajuste recorded a career night
For the first time in at least recent memory, Stanford football does not have a glaring weakness. The Cardinal's tour de force in Seattle destroyed Washington State 55-17. Here's a postgame evaluation of our pregame keys.
Give Wazzu a Rude Awakening on the Ground
A year after limiting the Cardinal to under three yards per
carry, Washington State was again determined to prevent Stanford's
running game from establishing positive headway. The Cougars'
problem: Kevin Hogan was the Farm Boys' quarterback this time, and
he had explosive weapons with which he could make Wazzu pay for
cheating up front.
Mike Leach's defense immediately committed safety help to the box in
an effort to suffocate Stanford's ground assault, but David Shaw --
clearly anticipating that move -- had his vertical counterattack
ready right out of the gate. Though Hogan's game-opening downfield
attempt to Ty Montgomery skipped off the receiver's hands, the
Cardinal tapped the well of aerial aggressiveness early and often
often. The strategy worked: Hogan averaged over 23 yards per attempt
in the first quarter. This eventually pried open the door for
Stanford on the ground.
The Cardinal finished with 238 rushing yards on 40 carries (6.0
yards per carry). First, they burned Washington State with speed
from Montgomery and Devon Cajuste. Then, they bludgeoned the Cougars
the old fashioned way. Remound Wright (2 carries, 56 yards) was the
team's leading rusher, but Stanford enjoyed contributions from its
entire backfield stable. Jackson Cummings saw his earliest career
action to complement the efforts of Tyler Gaffney, Anthony Wilkerson, and Barry Sanders, who scored his first career touchdown.
The Cougars had entered the game having surrendered only 17 points
over the course of their previous three games. Their success against
USC, Southern Utah, and Idaho might have temporarily erased the
memory of the 297 rushing yards they gave up to Auburn in the season
opener. But Stanford's performance quickly reminded everyone
involved that the Cougars stood no chance against a balanced attack
featuring elite size.
Grade: A (Washington State, so preoccupied with
stopping the run, stood no chance of stopping Stanford's passing
attack. Once demoralized, they couldn't stop the Cardinal's rush,
Take Deone Bucannon Out of the Game
Washington State's strong safety, who entered as the Pac-12's top
tackler (35), tacked on a team-leading nine more stops to go with
his interception of Hogan's underthrown end zone fade intended for
Devon Cajuste. Simply put, the guy is a stud. His team may have been
overmatched, but Bucannon would not be denied his usual production.
Still, Stanford prevented him from making game-changing plays at
critical junctures. Bucannon's interception came when the Cardinal
was already leading by three scores. The Farm Boys came out of the
gate firing downfield, and this prevented him from using his
physical frame to disrupt Stanford's running game. This was a common
theme Saturday evening: From the get-go, Shaw's club pushed the
Cougars back on their heels. The Cardinal set their own tone. They
never let Wazzu's primary defensive playmaker take center stage.
Grade: A- (One poor Hogan throw allowed Bucannon to
snare a ball-hawking interception. Otherwise, Stanford's early full
throttle approach never him to effectively utilize his
Force the Cougars into Mistakes
Entering Saturday's game, Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday was an interception machine (eight picks on the season).
Nothing changed this weekend at CenturyLink Field. Stanford shut
down the Cougars' run game, leaving Leach's club no way to mitigate
Derek Mason's ferocious pass rush. The Cardinal's two-sack effort
didn't come close to matching the school record they racked up
against Wazzu the year prior (10 sacks), but their pressure was
again supremely effective this time around. Backfield matters
reached a cringe-worthy status for Wazzu, as Trent Murphy ultimately
knocked Halliday out of the game with one of his unit's many
inhumane hits. That bone-crunching blast set up Jordan Richards'
interception return for a touchdown on the back end.
In a fine deja vu moment, Murphy himself also got his chance to
enjoy the end zone. After removing Wazzu's starting quarterback, he
intercepted back-up Austin Apodaca and rumbled to the house. Just a
year prior on the very same field, Murphy had also intercepted a
backfield pass on his way to a lumbering score that featured plenty
of speed considering his 6-6, 265-pound frame. This time, No. 93's
six points came in the opposite end zone.
The Cardinal has now recorded a takeaway in 28 staight games.
Grade: A+ (Stanford returned two interceptions for
touchdowns. They'd last done that in 1969, also against Washington
David Lombardi is the Stanford
Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com
and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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