The first half was fun.
The Washington State Cougars defense played an inspired first half of football, forcing two Cardinal turnovers. Unfortunately, the Stanford defense completely stifled WSU and held them to only a short-field touchdown aided by a few pass interference penalties.
The score was 10-7 in favor of Stanford at half, and the Cougars looked poised to compete as Isiah Barton returned the opening kickoff of the second half to the 50 yard line. The WSU offense could do nothing with the field position and they would not threaten again until garbage time in the fourth quarter.
The Cougar wide receivers, widely regarded as the most talented unit on the team, had a very rough day. Senior Jared Karstetter had trouble holding onto the ball. He fumbled twice, dropped a 20-yard gain, and nearly fumbled another catch. Barton and Marquess Wilson also got in on the drop party at times, often putting the offense in difficult third and long situations.
In the end, Stanford did to WSU what they have done to every other team they've played this season. They wore them down and pulled away in the second half. Junior quarterback Andrew Luck had a shaky start to the game, missing on several throws. However, in the second half he was finding plenty of time from his offensive line to connect with his talented tight ends downfield.
Jeff Tuel seemed a little off on his throws at first, but showed off his mobility to escape the relentless Stanford rush. He improved in passing as the game went along, but was not getting much help from his wide receivers. The offensive line also had a poor game, as they were completely overpowered by Stanford's blitz packages.
We weren't expecting to win this game, but it is disappointing that the Cougs were not able to be more competitive in the second half. There were definitely some holes to exploit on the Stanford defense, particularly with screens against the blitz packages. The players were just unable to execute their blocks. We even saw John Fullington tackling his own player, Henry Eaddy, on what could have been a very good gain.
Let's hope WSU can bounce back against Oregon State in CenturyLink Field next week. It was good to get Tuel some reps against the best defense he will see all year and have him come out unscathed. Everything should be easy from there, right?