WSU banks on hometown advantage

Nov. 4—A return to Gesa Field might be just what the Washington State football team needs to get back on track.

WSU is 3-1 at home this season and 1-3 on the road. That lone home loss was by far its worst of the season — a 38-point beatdown by Arizona that was the largest defeat in Pullman in 15 years.

So the Cougars (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) will be eager to rinse out that bad taste and halt their four-game losing streak when they face the Stanford Cardinal (2-6, 1-5) at 6 p.m. today (Pac-12 Networks).

It has the feel of a must-win game for a WSU team still hoping to get to its eighth straight bowl game.

"We've got a good football team that's coming in here," WSU coach Jake Dickert said. "Maybe their record doesn't show that but in this league, I've said it many times, that doesn't matter. You can throw that out the window.

"We're fighting to continue our season and keep playing."

Scouting the Cardinal

Dickert might be onto something.

Stanford has just two wins but it has had some notable results in the last five weeks.

The Cardinal lost to that same Arizona team that pummeled WSU by just a single point. They also toppled media darling Colorado 46-43 in double overtime. And Stanford last week lost by just nine points to No. 5 Washington.

"I think they're a team on the rise," Dickert said.

Going into the season, Stanford didn't know who its quarterback would be. The team settled on sophomore Ahston Daniels, who passed the ball a whopping 48 times and racked up 448 yards of total offense and three touchdowns in the loss to UW.

He's a threat through the air and on the ground — a type of QB the Cougs haven't seen much this season.

"Obviously (Daniels) has been phenomenal," Dickert said. "He reminds me of (WSU QB Cam Ward). He's really hard to bring down and sack. He's very accurate with the ball and they're willing to take the ball down the field."

Wide receiver Elic Ayomanor is fourth in the Pac-12 in receiving at 92.1 yards per game.

The Cardinal rush the ball by committee with five ball-carriers over 100 yards on the season but none over Casey Filkins' 215.

Stanford uses unique formations at times, with the quarterback under center and two wing backs in an old-school style of play.

What WSU must do

Here are some keys to the game for WSU:

— Convert red zone trips to points. Kicker Dean Janikowski is 9-of-10 on field goals this season, but WSU has struggled to get in the end zone late in games often after marching down the field on their first try. The Cougars need to finish drives.

— Swarm the ball. Sometimes, a group needs to go back to the basics. It was no secret tackling was a big focus in practice this week. WSU has allowed 500-plus yards in each of its last three games.

— Find a spark. WSU is in need of a morale boost, especially on defense. Whether it's a veteran like edges Brennan Jackson and Ron Stone Jr. or freshmen who have played more in recent weeks like linebacker Buddah Al-Uqdah, someone needs to make a game-altering play to help get a spark. The Cougs haven't had a turnover since Kapena Gushiken returned an interception 88 yards against UCLA on Oct. 7.

Odds and ends

WSU enters the game as 13-point favorites. ... The Cougs have won the last six games between these two teams going back to 2016, but the Cardinal won the previous eight before that.

Quote of note

"They're now settled in on their quarterback and I think that has really improved their team. Obviously, they're scoring a lot of points here lately and it's against good competition, so I think it's two teams that are hungry to get a win ... we want to get to a bowl game." — WSU coach Jake Dickert.

Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, or on Twitter @StephanSports.