The Washington State defense has a problem, and it’s not about Andrew Luck or the high-powered #7 Stanford offense invading Martin Stadium on Saturday.
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Okay, that is one of the problems the Cougars are facing, but there is something else that is a little more concerning. It’s an element of the defense that could continue to prove disastrous if not addressed.
For the second time in three games the defense has worn out as the game stretched deep into the fourth quarter.
The lack of depth at key positions is obvious. In both of those losses, San Diego State and UCLA stuck to the running game as means of tiring out the Cougar defense late in the ball game. UCLA and SDSU have combined for 169 yards rushing and 2 TD’s in those fourth quarters, and both teams have combined for 261 total fourth quarter yards while scoring 35 fourth quarter points.
That is something can not be overlooked. Especially now that the Cougs are getting into the bulk of their Pac-12 schedule.
The Washington State defense has a very difficult task in front of them this week.
It’s a challenge most teams cannot meet. The #7 Stanford Cardinals are a gifted football team. They execute every phase of the game at a high level. They do not turn the ball over, and they do not shoot themselves in the foot with penalties.
They are a team that scores at will, 231 points scored, and they win by an average score of 46-10.
Luck is completing 70% of his passes, and could very well be the best quarterback college football has ever seen.
The Cardinal also can beat you on the ground. Stephan Taylor has 84 carries for 459 yards and 5 TD’s. Meaning the Cardinals are a very balanced offense designed to keep defenses honest. Anyway you try to spin this, the Cougars have themselves a challenge on their hands.
In order for the Cougars to win this ball game they will have to do two things.
Play smart defense:
The Cougars can win the defensive battle despite their lack of depth. Take away Standford’s ability to go deep. Luck disguises this aspect of his game very well.
He uses the short passes and draw plays as a means to draw the safeties in. Then when seeing one on one mismatches, he will take his shots down field. The Cougs must not play into this. By playing deep, they are giving Luck the short zones.
Yes you are conceding 5-15 yards, but by doing that the Cougs will be able to draw better up front matches in the form of better pressure. The Cougs will have better success if they can put Andrew Luck on the run.
Stop the run:
It seems simple enough, but the Cougars cannot let Stefan Taylor become a factor. Through five games Taylor is only averaging 16 carries for 91 yards and 1 TD per game. The Cougars must keep him right at that average to have a chance in this game.
If Taylor is able to become a factor, it means Luck will be even more deadly. Which means this game could get out of hand very quickly.
For Washington State to have any success on offense, the Cougars must stick to what they do best; the vertical passing game.
Stanford’s defense is very physical up front. They do not allow teams to run the football. They are only giving up 61 rushing yards on average per game, and as a defensive unit, they have 17 sacks.
The Cougs can counter the Stanford pass rush by using quick hitting slants and two-step drops off their shotgun formations. It’s a way of attacking the heart of their defense with what makes them successful, speed.
The Cougs can easily stay in this game if they play smart on defense, and attack Stanford on offense. It will not be easy though.
Stanford is clearly the better team in this game, but Washington St. has some advantages.
They have the home crowd, which could be an energy boost in late stages of the game.But they are not the same team from years past. Stanford will will not be able to blow the Cougs out. The Cougars are too good to allow that to happen anymore.
If they can keep the game within 7 points by the start of the fourth quarter, then anything can happen at that point.
The Cougs must not be intimidated by what Stanford has in weapons. Instead focus on what your able to accomplish with your talent, and then go out and execute.
You will find that success will come more easier that way.
News, Notes, and Injuries
Marshall Lobbestael will be the starting QB on Saturday. Paul Wulff has indicated that Jeff Tuel has been been cleared to play. He will be getting more reps with the first team and could very well see the field this weekend in emergency situations, but that his timetable for his return as the starting QB looks to be next week vs Oregon State.
WR Isiah Barton (ankle) and OL Wade Jacobson (back) were held out of the early morning sessions of practice. Both returned in the the afternoon, but neither ran. Wulff said both will resume running drill today, and both should be available on Saturday.
Former Cougar QB Ryan Leaf will be on campus Thursday, Friday, and before kickoff Saturday, promoting his book 590 switch.
Also yours truly will be in attendance this Saturday representing the NWSportsbeat.com team. I will be at the Sports page for the pre-game. So stop on by, say hello, and let’s talk some Cougars football.
WSU vs Stanford
Kickoff @ 4:30pm
Tv: Versus ch. 34
Radio: KTTH 770 am
Vegas Line: Stanford -21
Steve’s Not-So-Hopeful Prediction: 42-28 Stanford