First look: Washington state visits Stanford for midday competition between Pac-12 teams that desperately need to win

First look: Washington state visits Stanford for midday competition between Pac-12 teams that desperately need to win

What is? Washington State (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12), caught in a midseason slump, has a good chance to snap its three-game winning streak when it takes on Stanford (3-5, 1-5 ) for a leaning conference featuring shows that desperately need to win.

Where is it? The Cardinal will host the Cougars at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California.

When is? The start is scheduled for 12:30 pm on Saturday. Forecasts call for temperatures in the 50s with a 50% chance of rain.

Where can i see it? The Pac-12 network will carry the broadcast.

Who is the favored one? The Cougars opened as 4-point favorites.

How was last week? WSU’s offense stumbled for the third straight game and another respectable performance from the team’s defense went to waste when the Cougars lost a 21-17 decision at home Thursday against 14th-ranked Utah, which was playing without quarterback. star Cameron Rising and his two best runners. .

The Cougars, also understaffed on offense, couldn’t overcome the negative plays. They gave up 10 tackles for loss, including four sacks.

“When I look at Utah, I’m going to be honest, I think it was the best tackle team I’ve ever seen in person, watching tape,” WSU coach Jake Dickert said Monday. “I don’t know if we broke too many tackles, and (Utah’s) physicality is supreme.”

Utah’s defense stifled WSU’s passing game and Ute’s offense used a persistent running game to rub down WSU’s defense, which produced 169 rushing yards. Still, the Cougars defense made several stops down the stretch. But WSU’s Air Raid offense never caught up after failing on five of its first six possessions.

“I never went into a game with a game plan that I thought wasn’t in the best interest of our players and program in that situation,” Dickert said Monday when asked about his team’s offensive performance, which featured heavy reliance. of screens and shorts. passes that were largely ineffective. “Now, do we run those plays? No. Was Utah much more physical on the perimeter than we were? Yeah. You can’t throw screens and get negative plays, and that’s what we end up with.

“It starts when we don’t get behind the chains,” the first-year coach added of the problems plaguing WSU’s new offensive system. “I want to simplify, I want to stay the course, I want to do even more of what our guys do well. But we have to stop having negative plays, penalties, call waiting, negative runs, negative screens. Utah physically outplayed us by a mile on Saturday. We can’t have that.”

Stanford snapped its two-game winning streak on Saturday with a blowout loss to No. 10 UCLA. The Cardinal fell behind by three touchdowns at the half as the Bruins cruised to a 38-13 victory in the Rose Bowl.

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet had 198 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. The Bruins finished with 324 rushing yards. Stanford totaled 270 yards of offense.

Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee, an NFL draft prospect, completed 13 of 29 passes for 115 yards. Cardinal deep backup running backs Caleb Robinson and Brendon Barrow, backed up due to injuries, combined for 69 yards on 18 carries.

Exploring matchmaking

All of the Cougars’ losses have been against Pac-12 teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 poll. Stanford faced five of the top six teams in the conference and lost every game.

The Cardinal opened conference play with a tough four-game stretch, including Pac-12 title contenders USC and Oregon, along with conference notables Oregon State and Washington. The Trojans, Huskies and Ducks all posted lopsided victories over Stanford, which suffered a heartbreaking loss on Oct. 8 to Oregon State. The Beavers scored on a last-minute 56-yard touchdown run to stun the Cardinal 28-27.

Stanford bounced back, leaning on his defense to earn low-scoring victories over Notre Dame (16-14) and Arizona State (15-14) before their setback in Los Angeles.

For both the Cardinals and Cougars, a loss on Saturday would dash postseason hopes.

“They want the same thing we do,” Dickert said. “Stanford is struggling to extend his season (achieve bowl eligibility).”

Like the Cougars, the Cardinal has been held back by a limited offense. Usually an impressive ground-and-pound team under veteran coach David Shaw, Stanford has been forced to change his identity this season. Starting running back EJ Smith is out for the season with an injury. Backup Casey Filkins is sidelined indefinitely due to injury. The Cardinal promoted two players from the practice squad, Robinson and Barrow, to take over reps at running back.

Stanford ranks ninth in the conference in rushing offense (126.6 yards per game, eight TDs). The Cardinal also ranks ninth in the conference standings in scoring offense (23.6 ppg) and passing offense (255.1 yards per game). WSU’s defense ranks in the top half of the conference in all major statistical categories and ranks first in scoring defense (20.8 ppg).

McKee, a second-year starter, is generating buzz in the NFL, but the 6-foot-6 junior’s numbers have been disappointing. He has completed 61.2% of his passes for 1,972 yards and 11 touchdowns against seven interceptions.

“He’s a big, long guy who can really throw the ball,” Dickert said of McKee. “When you think of the Stanford offense, you think of all these big bodies and wingers. That is no longer.”

Stanford doesn’t have a game-breaking receiver, but the Cardinals have length and balance at receiving positions. His top five targets are 6-2 or better, and each of them has recorded at least 240 yards and a touchdown.

Will McKee have time to deliver the ball? Stanford is tied for 11th in the Pac-12 with 25 sacks allowed. The Cougars are last in that stat column with 30 sacks given up.

WSU’s passing rush totaled just three sacks in their last three games combined after recording four in an Oct. 1 win over Cal. Cougars should have a head start.

Cardinal’s defensive front will also likely pose some problems for WSU’s makeshift offensive line. Stanford and WSU are tied for third in the conference with 21 sacks.

It’s been a mixed bag defensively for Stanford, who ranks 10th in the Pac-12 in total defense (417 yards per game) and ninth in scoring (28.8 points per game). Pass rush is productive and pass coverage has been solid, but cardinal rushing defense is lacking. Stanford has allowed 300 rushing yards in two games and allowed more than 150 rushing yards in all but one. The Cardinals are second in the Pac-12 in passing defense (212.5 yards per game). His senior-charged secondary has allowed 150 or fewer passing yards in each of the past five games. Stanford held Oregon’s high-powered passing attack to 164 yards.

WSU’s offense could have trouble capitalizing on Stanford’s weakness. Like the Cardinal, the Cougars running back is exhausted due to injuries. WSU is the least productive rushing team in the Pac-12 with 83.5 yards per game.

The Cougars lean on the arm of quarterback Cameron Ward, No. 5 in the Pac-12 with 235 yards per game, but their passing game lacked consistency and explosiveness during the team’s three-game losing streak.

WSU averaged 13.6 points per game during their skid. The Cougars’ opponents averaged 25 points per game over that stretch.

“We have not met some of the expectations we had. We own that, and I think our offensive coaches are there to find ways to make sure we’re getting better every week,” Dickert said. “We’ve been a little bit stuck, but I’m excited about what we can do this week and where we’re going.”

What happened last time?

WSU and Stanford traded swings during an entertaining night game at Pullman on Oct. 16, 2021. Cougars running back Max Borghi hit a go-ahead touchdown run with 1:30 remaining in the game, and running back WSU winger Quinn Roff sealed the 34-31 result moments later with a McKee strip-sack. The Cougars, winners of three straight games, showered coach Nick Rolovich with Gatorade at midfield. Two days later, Rolovich and four WSU assistants were fired for failing to comply with the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

things to know

1. Running back Jaylen Jenkins and strong safety Jordan Lee both suffered injuries against Utah. Dickert did not have an update on Monday when asked if they would be available on Saturday. Jenkins came out of the lineup in the second quarter. The real freshman took over the starting duties on Oct. 8, when Nakia Watson was injured against USC. Lee limped off the field in the second quarter against the Utes after a heavy collision. The senior transfer from Nevada missed three games earlier this season with an undisclosed injury. “Most frustrating year of my life by far,” Lee tweeted on Friday. Redshirt freshman Dylan Paine will presumably take on the RB representatives if Jenkins isn’t available, but Dickert isn’t giving any guarantees.

“I might see somebody out there,” he said of the running back position, naming several wide receivers who could be in line to catch some carries. “Whoever we put back in there and however we shape it, we need to be ready to go. … Right now, it’s not enough. We’re not setting the race up enough.”

Paine took just two carries against Utah after Jenkins left the field. Lee would be replaced by redshirt freshman Jaden Hicks, who he did well in relief earlier this year.

two. WSU recently made a change to its first-team offensive line, benching right tackle Ma’ake Fifita and calling up redshirt freshman Fa’alili Fa’amoe, a former defensive lineman making his second start. at right tackle on Thursday. Dickert told members of the media Monday that he will keep Fa’amoe in the starting lineup.

“There are glimpses of what’s going to be,” Dickert said of Fa’amoe. That doesn’t mean it’s there now. … His athleticism, we think, is another level of talent, but it’s only scratching the surface.”

3. WSU has posted five straight wins in its series against Stanford. The Cardinal outscored the Cougars in eight straight meetings from 2008-15. Stanford leads the series 40-30-1.

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