Stanford-Washington St. Preview

The Associated Press

It was a year ago this weekend that things came apart for a 3-0 Stanford team with a top-10 ranking against an unranked opponent in the state of Washington.

The No. 5 Cardinal will try to avoid a similar fate Saturday when they play Washington State in Seattle, 366 days after losing their perfect record at Washington.

The Cardinal meet the Cougars at CenturyLink Field for the neutral-site game a week after showing two faces in a 42-28 win over then-No. 23 Arizona State.

After leading 29-0 at halftime, the Cardinal (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) allowed the Sun Devils to get within 11 with over 6 minutes remaining.

"We took it to them in the first half, they took it back to us in the second half and that's what we're going to have in our conference," coach David Shaw said. "If you have a team down, you better keep going because the team's going to come back."

The Cardinal and Cougars (3-1, 1-0) enter with conflicting approaches on how to move the ball.

Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan is 8-0 as a starter, though his arm hasn't been tested much this year, in part because of the second-half leads his team has had. He's thrown 62 times for 546 yards, three attempts fewer than counterpart Connor Halliday had in the Cougars' 31-24 season-opening loss at Auburn.

Halliday connected on 31 of 43 attempts last Saturday in a 42-0 win against Idaho. He has nine touchdown passes in the last two weeks but has already thrown eight interceptions.

Stanford, meanwhile, has a takeaway in a nation-best 27 straight games.

That pass-happy approach in a Mike Leach-coached offense had the Cardinal's front seven salivating in last year's 24-17 win. They sacked then-Cougars quarterback Jeff Tuel a school-record 10 times.

"That was huge, you know, because we were in that game last year," Leach said. "That was huge. We need to do a better job protecting him, and, of course, a quarterback has got to avoid sacks."

The Cougars kept things close by limiting the Cardinal to 256 yards of offense, and they were one of four teams last year to hold Stanford under 150 yards rushing.

It was the Cardinal's fifth straight win over the Cougars, and Leach expects to see a very similar Stanford team this year.

"I think nearly identical," he said.

Cardinal running back Tyler Gaffney has 331 yards and five touchdowns this year, including two scores on 95 yards against the Sun Devils.

Cougars wide receiver Gabe Marks is second in the Pac-12 with 31 catches and fourth with 348 yards. The sophomore is coming off a career-best 11-catch, 146-yard game with two touchdowns against Idaho.

Defensively, the Cougars have limited opponents to 17 points in winning three straight for the first time since 2006, including a 10-7 victory at then-No. 25 Southern California on Sept. 7.

They've already matched last season's win total and are hoping to start 4-1 for the first time since 2003, though they have lost seven in a row against top-five opponents since beating Texas 28-20 in the 2003 Holiday Bowl.

Stanford has won 11 in a row, second only to No. 4 Ohio State (16) among FBS programs. It has started four consecutive seasons at 3-0 for the first time since 1908-11.

The Cardinal's last loss to an unranked opponent was last season's 17-13 defeat at Washington on Sept. 27.

Stanford senior safety Ed Reynolds will sit out the first half for targeting after he was ejected last Saturday for lowering his head and hitting Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly in the helmet.

What to Read Next