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2016 in Review: WSU out-Stanfords the Cardinal

The Cougs used some stingy defense to roll to a 42-16 victory over the Trees.

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NCAA Football: Washington State at Stanford Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 season is just a couple of months away. Let’s pass the time by rewatching last season’s conference games.

Nuss: On to game two! (Here’s game one if you missed it.) Heading into this game, I remember thinking that maybe this was the year we could finally get Stanford. The near miss the year before, the near miss in 2012 ...

BA: Absolutely, especially because there was a thought Grinch and Co. found a method to bottle up McCaffrey. He had 107 yards on 22 carries in Pullman the year before, with 30 coming on a run that should’ve ended in a fumble but refs. Before the season, not a single author here picked WSU over Stanford.

Nuss: oops

BA: Yeah well, predicting college football is impossible. Got a strong impression all the fans were confident for this one after whipping Oregon.

If you want to watch along with us and you have a Pac-12 Networks subscription, you can do so here.

Stanford Drive 1

BA: I hold my breath on every kick off.

Nuss: One thing that really stands out on this first drive — besides the fact that Stanford threw the ball three times to guys not named Christian McCaffrey (lolwut) — the coverage was tight and aggressive. Peyton Pelluer just about knocked down the first pass, Marcellus Pippins (and others) swarmed the WR screen pass, and Ryan Burns just had nowhere to go on 3rd down before he got popped by Parker Henry on a scramble. Great start.

BA: As far as looks go, Burns looks like a quarterback, so he has that going for him.

Nuss: That’s actually where the list ends, unfortunately.

WSU Drive 1

Nuss: And here we are talking trash about Stanford’s quarterback. Whoopsiedoodle. What in the actual world was he looking at?

BA: So there’s an Air Raid drill called Settle & Noose. It’s a drill to reinforce when and how to sit down against zone coverage. Falk thought Lewis was gonna sit, Lewis kept his route going. Simple miscommunication.

Nuss: Gabe Marks (coming from the right) settles about two yards past where Luke Falk throws the ball. Both guys supposed to settle? Either way, dammit.

BA: Yeah, receivers are taught to identify coverage just like a quarterback and both will sit in a hole in a zone defense. Stanford blitzed and played zone behind it, Falk sensed pressure and threw right at it — like you should — and Lewis didn’t sit in the vacant hole left by the blitzing backer, he ran through it and into a defender.

Nuss: Also, Rod Gilmore actually makes what probably is a good point (forgive me father, for I have sinned) — the pressure causes Falk to make a throw without really seeing the receiver, anticipating they’ll be on the same page. Additionally, the best part of Football In 60 is limited Rod Gilmore.

BA: Haha, he’s terrible. And...Falk tried to take advantage of the blitz, exactly like you should. You want to throw at a blitz or run away from it, that’s the general rule of thumb. The receiver just wasn’t on the same page.

Stanford Drive 2

Nuss: Goodness, Herc — can I call you Herc? Are we cool? — way to build off last week’s game. He absolutely abuses the right side of Stanford’s line on the first two plays.

BA: Yeah they weren’t ready for Mata’afa’s speed at all. ESPN loves that FG TARGET LINE.

Nuss: Super important info to know, four minutes into the game.

BA: Doink. Love when other kickers doink.

WSU Drive 2

Nuss: Frustrating end to the drive, where either Falk made a bad throw or Marks ran the route just a little too deep. Should have been an easy conversion. I remember being worried at the time (on the heels of the interception) that Falk had some nerves.

BA: Yeah that looked like a regular, good ol’ fashioned miss. I was more inspired by Wicks hammering a 10 yard run than upset at Falk for missing an out route on 3rd down.

Nuss: As the game wore on, it was clear that the players had been challenged to match Stanford’s physicality. No surprise that they started off on this drive by hammering with Wicks a couple of times.

BA: Yeah you gotta dial it up when playing teams like Stanford that try to make toughness an edge they have on you. They don’t like it when they aren’t the ones dictating tempo and physicality.

Stanford Drive 3

BA: Frankie Luvu is a guy that always plays really well and I kinda forget he plays really well. Made himself known on that series.

Nuss: The consistency doesn’t always seem to be there — that’s a guy I would absolutely love to see step up this year.

BA: Yeah, he’s probably going to have to step up quite a bit.

WSU Drive 3


BA: Wazzu added the shovel pass to their repertoire this past year and were able to gash a few teams with it. The shovel is another way to get after teams that are real aggressive up front. Falk takes a normal drop and delays a beat while the RB, in this case Jamal Morrow, steps up like he’s pass blocking before turning around and receiving the toss from Falk.

It’s really all on two players — the center and right tackle — to do the play side blocking. The Center waits a beat then hunts for the first wrong colored jersey up field. The RT holds his block just long enough to keep the DE from blowing up the RB, then steamrolls whoever he can downfield. A little hook and arrow on the opposite (strong) side pull the nickel and OLB to the wrong sideline. Sexy play design.

Nuss: And there’s that gorgeous Y-Cross to Cracraft again. Instead of carrying it all the way across the field, though, he sees the vacancy in the middle and presses it upfield. Such a master. I will miss him. :-(

BA: Great route, great throw. Can’t do it a whole lot better than that. WSU is running the ball so well, they pull guards on play-action (which you should definitely do). Guard pulls like it’s Power at the goaline and Martin beats a couple guys on a backside post. Love this play in the redzone.

Stanford Drive 4

Nuss: We talked last week about Royce Freeman’s run feeling inevitable — that 23 yarder from McCaffrey here also felt like that. We’d been bottling him up well; Isaac Dotson made a great open field tackle the previous play. And then Dotson seemed to have him bottled up here again, and then ... well, that’s what McCaffrey does.

BA: Definitely felt a year past-due for that. At the end of the first quarter I remember not being sure who their best starting quarterback was and surprised Stanford didn’t know either. As good as McCaffrey is, there has to be some kind of passing game. Even Kevin Hogan managed to do that.

Know what was bad ass though? Stopping them when they got in that Jumbo short-yardage package, or it would have been if not for an insanely generous spot.

Nuss: I will miss Shalom Luani. He comes from seven yards off the line of scrimmage to do this. Stupid Pac-12 Refs.

WSU Drive 4

Nuss: When I watch plays like this Martin TD, I get uncontrollably excited for what he’s going to do this season.

BA: So pumped. That drive was really well managed by Falk, he was throwing darts. Little chunks here and there against a pretty well coached zone defense.

On that TD, Stanford showed that same two-high safety look they’d been giving against WSU. At the snap the field safety crashes the line on a blitz and the boundary safety rolls to deep middle as the defense shifts to Cover 3. Martin staggers his release to hip-pocket Sweet and they do a little switch (post and corner, reversing who is the outside and who is the inside receiver), with the mesh by Cracraft and Johnson-Mack pulling in 3 other defenders.

Again Falk throws into the space vacated by a blitz. Martin did the rest, just an absolute show of athleticism to get to the pylon.

Nuss: Underrated part of the play — the downfield block by Johnson-Mack.

Stanford Drive 5

Nuss: Super sexy strip sack turnover. It came on the heels of a third down conversion, but what was crazy about this was how it felt like Stanford just really wasn’t going to be able to string together a bunch of plays in a row.

BA: Their offense really felt like it’d be stagnant after that sack-fumble. Slide protection to the backside and both RBs stay to help protect after play-action...but WSU had a twist on and Pelluer took advantage of the lane it opened up.

WSU Drive 5

Nuss: Rather than be annoyed with #SpecialForces, I’m going to choose to continue my love affair with River Cracraft. Let’s go Y-Sail to the outside this time.

BA: With Stanford playing a lot of quarters, that corner route (and the bench by Gabe on 3rd down) are going to be tough on that boundary corner. Never punt. Also goes for attempting field goals. I’m fine just eliminating that from our playbook all together. Full on Pulaski Academy.

Nuss: I’m 100% on board with this.

Stanford Drive 6

BA: Burns started making some real nice throws on this drive. Though it ended alright (doink), I went into halftime wondering if the Real Stanford would come out in the second-half, like they’d quit sleep walking or something. All that goodwill about them feeling stagnant kinda evaporated real quick.

WSU Drive 6

Nuss: Once Gabe took that OPI, that was pretty much the end of that.

BA: Yeah, they took their shot and missed on a back-shoulder.

Stanford Drive 7

BA: This didn’t help ease the feeling Burns and the Stanford offense would come out operating a little higher than they did this first half.


WSU Drive 7

BA: Hoo boy, that was a sweet drive. Same corner route hit again for Cracraft. They ran corner/dig combos at that right boundary a couple times. Must’ve smelled a little blood in the water to that side of the defense.

Nuss: They just had absolutely no answer for him.

BA: Really didn’t. That was a great tone-setting drive for the second half. You’ve got some concerns Stanford might’ve raised their game a little and the offense comes out and marches for six.

Nuss: Side note — this is why I stress out a little about losing Cracraft. We saw what happened against Colorado and UW, which obviously wasn’t all because of his absence, but the lack of playmaking from that spot was noticeable. We’ve gotten spoiled by his presence.

Stanford Drive 8

BA: They’d been doing it all game, but WSU threw stunts at the OL on nearly every play that drive. Twist after twist after twist. Different sides, different angles. One of them finally hits home on time to force that duck. Man, what a play by Dotson to catch that too.

Nuss: I’m not sure there’s another lineman in the Pac-12 that accelerates the way he does when he gets into space. I’m just hoping this is the year we get the truly dominant performance we think he’s capable of.

WSU Drive 8

Nuss: Not Luke Falk’s finest drive. Moving on?

BA: Yeah, put a floater into a DB. At least he didn’t get hurt trying to make a tackle.

WSU Drive 9

Nuss: What. A. Freaking. Drive. Also, screw Justin Reid. This was fun though.


Picking up that first down was really huge. I don’t know how it happened exactly but Stanford completely lost CJ Dimry to get into the redzone and Gabe Marks to get into the endzone. Both of them blown coverages Falk was able to easily find.

Stanford Drive 9

Nuss: They’re toast. Hercules will not be denied. Sorry, running back tasked with cleaning up the lineman’s mess.

BA: No answer. There was the exhale that signaled the game was probably over.

WSU Drive 10

BA: And here’s where it dawned on me this could be a #beatemdown.

Nuss: Four consecutive runs to pick up a pair of first downs let you know that Stanford didn’t have a whole lot left in the tank. They didn’t quite become the road kill that the Ducks did the week before, but it felt sorta the same.

BA: That was one of the more incredible Cracraft receptions we’ve seen too.

Gets himself between the defender and the ball, shielding his reception from the defender with his body. How he consistently gets that body position is amazing.

Nuss: Same kind of route again, yeah? Also, the throw off the back foot is sort of bonkers, too.

BA: Yep, same kinda route. Slant/corner instead of a dig but same combo concept.

Stanford Drive 10

Nuss: Keller Chryst is a bad thrower of footballs.

BA: He put a few of those on receivers and they just dropped them. They looked pretty ready to be done with this football game.

WSU Drive 11

Nuss: OK, so not exactly like the week before against Oregon.

BA: Not exactly. Flipping the field would’ve been cool, at the very least. Help them get the game over with.

Nuss: Good news! The defense is about to flip the field!

Stanford Drive 11

Nuss: Those “rushes” above were awesome, because they were both quarterback pressures. Also, Chryst is still a bad thrower of footballs.

BA: Hercules was in his kitchen on every drop-back. No clue what he was looking at on that pick. Pretty basic coverage against him.

Nuss: That was the Luani special, undercutting the route. He did that more than a couple times over the last two years.

WSU Drive 12

Nuss: This felt like Stanford’s defense looked at each other like “wtf we have to go out here again?” I don’t think their heart was really in it after Wicks leaned on them a couple of times.

BA: I don’t really like saying a team quit or didn’t want to play anymore but Stanford was already thinking about their homework and lab projects and stuff.

Stanford Drive 12


BA: Yeah pretty much. Can’t hear your mild applause, vacant stadium, over my victory party.

Nuss: Honestly, though, it felt really, really good to be mildly annoyed for the second week in a row that the margin wasn’t bigger.

BA: If the Wulff Era taught me anything it’s that you should never forget how hard wins can be to come by.


We inserted the play by play for each drive. Did you like that?

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