October 26, 2010

Postgame Report Card: Stanford-Washington State (2010)

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By The Daily Axe Staff
WSU-Logo low
Washington State Cougars athletic logo

In case you haven’t had your fix of coverage of the Washington State game (our Quick Reads or the article on The Unofficial Stanford Blog) here are our grades for Stanford’s and WSU’s performances on the Farm this weekend.

Stanford Offense: B

For at least the second straight game (and the second half of the Oregon game) the Cardinal offense has not played up to its potential. Playing Washington State doesn’t exactly motivate players to put up outstanding performances, but Stanford is going to have to play better if they are to continue winning in the PAC-10. After all, the Washington State defense is putrid. The Card did work on establishing the run game, and underclassmen running backs Stepfan Taylor and Anthony Wilkerson both had career games. Still, the Stanford offense will most likely need to be sharper on Saturday to beat Washington.

WSU Offense: B+
PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 23:  Stepfan Taylor #3...
Taylor had a career game. (Image by Getty Images via @daylife)

The Cougars only scored 7 points in the first 3 quarters, but they busted out in the 4th for 21 points in 15 minutes. Jeff Tuel threw for nearly 300 yards and 4 touchdowns, and Washington State posted its highest point total of the season (it scored 28 against UCLA, as well). Even with the loss, Washington State should be encouraged by its end-of-game performance on the road against Stanford. Going forward, they will need to find a good running back. Saturday’s leading rusher for the Cougars, Carl Winston, picked up only 31 yards on 6 carries.

Stanford Defense: C-

The story here mirrors the story of the Washington offense: Stanford’s defense played well for 3 quarters and fell to pieces in the 4th. The breakdown was partially the fault of defensive back-ups that rarely see game experience, but even inexperienced Stanford players should be able to handle Washington State. We’ve said it before but it deserves repetition: Stanford never had a real threat to lose the game. But they played Washington State. The Cardinal’s conference schedule still includes Washington, Arizona, Oregon State, Arizona State, and Cal, all of which can light up the scoreboard. Allowing Washington State to score 21 points in one quarter is a frightening revelation, if only because that statistic extrapolated to account for what better offensive teams are capable of will surely discourage any Stanford fan.

WSU Defense: B-

There isn’t too much to say here, mostly because Washington State is a very bad defensive team and, strange as it may sound, limiting Stanford to 38 points should be somewhat of a victory for the Cougar defensive personnel. Washington State allows an average of roughly 39 points per game, so one would have expected Stanford to score in the 50 neighborhood. Nonetheless, the WSU defense did not do its best work against Stanford: keeping Arizona to 24 points the week before was much more impressive.

Stanford Special Teams: Credit

The special teams didn’t do enough substantial work to get a grade. The game wasn’t close enough for special teams to play a big role, although Richard Sherman’s recovery of Washington State’s onside kick in the 4th quarter is worthy of mention.

WSU Special Teams: A

They couldn’t recover the aforementioned onside kick, but the Cougars still get an A because punter Reid Forrest is remarkable. He averaged 57.3 yards per punt on Saturday, and had one punt go for 64 yards. Only one of his punts was returned (by Stanford’s Drew Terrell) and the Cougars coverage team was all over him by the time the ball got there.

PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 23:  Jeff Tuel #10 of ...
Tuel also put up big numbers. (Image by Getty Images via @daylife)
WSU Final Grade: B+

Finishing within 10 points of Stanford might be the highlight of Washington State’s season thus far. That sentence is in no way tongue-in-cheek. The Cougars came in as 34-point underdogs and barely let Stanford even score that many points, let alone cover the spread. For many Stanford fans, it will be difficult to understand that Saturday was practically a win for Washington State. To have played the #12 team in the country as closely as they did was a sign of drastic improvement in Pullman.

Stanford Final Grade: C

Various sports media outlets referred to Stanford’s game against Washington State as the Card’s “second consecutive bye week”. That’s going a bit far. However, Stanford should have put the hammer down on the Cougars. With Homecoming, 2 weeks of rest, and an opportunity to show that disappointing performances against Oregon and USC were overcome or mere anomalies, Stanford looked sloppy, unfocused, and generally disappointing. Ultimately, their performance probably is not very relevant. The Cardinal still got a win and didn’t hurt their chances of finishing second in the PAC-10. But a very good team, as virtually every national and regional outlet believes Stanford to be, should crush Washington State. Stanford didn’t, and a loss this week in Seattle could prove that the Washington State game was a harbinger of poor performance to come.

Until then, though, let’s hold the horses. Stanford could come out and convincingly beat Washington, thereby proving that last Saturday’s performance was a fluke.

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The Daily Axe Staff
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