Last night's 55-17 loss to the No. 5 Stanford Cardinal was a disaster in most every conceivable way for the WSU Cougars. They showed they weren't quite ready for primetime, getting run over by a physically gifted and mature football team -- a lethal combination against a team still trying to figure a number of things out.
Additionally, they lost their starting quarterback, Connor Halliday, to what looked like a hip injury after he was crushed on an ill-advised throw that turned into a pick-six and started the avalanche that eventually buried the Cougs.
He wasn't the only one to have a hard time holding up against the physicality of the Cardinal. Austin Apodaca was down briefly after taking a shot to the ribs shortly after replacing Halliday, running back Teondray Caldwell mysteriously disappeared, and cornerback Daquawn Brown (who replaced Nolan Washington in the first half) came up limping during garbage time.
The extent of any of these (or any other) injuries isn't known, since everyone is Happy And Healthy™ -- asked after the game what he would have done at quarterback if Apodaca had actually been injured, Mike Leach said, "we mighta gone back to Connor" -- but it's reasonable to assume that WSU isn't going to be at full strength heading into a big game at Cal that is almost a must-win if this team thinks it has bowl aspirations.
WSU coach Mike Leach (full comments in the video above)
On the play of Stanford...
"I think one of the biggest things is maturity. They are a very mature team and they play like one. They have the discipline to stay in and do their thing. They outlast you. They come at you physically. At times our technique would break down and they'd capitalize on it. You have to play extremely sharp for an extended period with them."
General thoughts on the game...
"It was a closer game than the score. What killed us was the explosives on defense and the offense not finishing drives. We'd come down to the one play where we had to make something happen and we weren't able to do it. I thought for the most part we played hard from start to finish. I thought we fought hard. We didn't always fight smart."
On team mentality...
"We need to worry about being the best team that we can be. I think we struggled. There were a few plays that Stanford didn't have anything to do with - dropped balls and blown coverages. They didn't have anything to do with that."
On the play of quarterback Austin Apodaca...
"He forced the interception. That was a guess. It was unfortunate. I was proud of the way he settled in. He settled in pretty well at the end."
WSU QB Austin Apodaca
On coming into the game in the second half...
"I don't think it was any pressure. I was trying to do a little too much. I don't think it was any pressure. We have the same scenarios in practice. We just have to go out and execute and we got after it a little at the end."
On first career touchdown...
"It was cool. Gabe [Marks] made the play on that one for me. It was a good feeling, but I had to get over that and move to the next play."
On offensive struggles...
"It was a little surprising. At the same time, they're a great team. You have to give all the credit to them. At the same point, we always say that nothing they do should dictate what we do. We have to move the ball and have the confidence to move the ball on anyone. We have to have that mindset coming into a game like this."
Stanford coach David Shaw
About the game:
"I thought we played well. We played a good 60 minutes. We didn't play perfectly, but guys played hard and didn't worry about the score. We got a chance to play a lot of young guys and they played extremely well. It was nice to get those guys on the field and get them some experience with the team. Those reps are going to pay off for us big in the future."
Keys for the defense:
"We always try to stop the run, but they weren't going to run the ball. After we stopped the run, we played top down and tried not to give up the big pass. They did a good job early moving the ball, but if we can make them hold the ball then we could get after them."
Stanford LB Shayne Skov
About the defense:
"We haven't played our best defensively the past three weeks. We just came out and played team defense. It's about the effort the guys put out there as a unit. We put out a better and more posh product this week but we've got to keep getting better. We've got to come out every single week and expect dominance out of the group every single time."
Michael Rector, WR
About the passing game:
"Coming into the game, we didn't expect to throw as much but the weather allowed us to and the rain kind of died out. It turned out nice for us. We're not where we want to be right now, but we're looking to get better."
About being back in Wash. and seeing familiar faces in the stands:
"I thought it was very meaningful. Our offense was just a reflection of how good our team is. Our offensive line was protecting and Kevin Hogan was throwing good passes. It was really cool and special to celebrate with the guys and it was fun especially in front of the hometown."
Via WSU Athletic Communications
• Attendance: 40,095
• John Thompson made his collegiate deubut and recorded his first career reception. • Deone Bucannon picked off his 12th career pass, tying him for sixth-most in school history.
• Bucannon made nine tackles to push his career total to 314, ninth-most in school history.
• Halliday tallied 24 completions to up his career total to 358, ninth-most all-time.
• Andrew Furney made his 36th career field goal, fourth-most in school history.
• Gabe Marks caught a touchdown pass for the third straight game.
• Austin Apodaca threw his first career touchdown pass.
• Rickey Galvin scored his first touchdown of the season.