Statiscally, Stanford ranks among the best defenses in the country. The Cardinal proved those numbers were not a fluke as they shut down WSU's high-powered aerial attack, limiting the Cougars to just 17 points in a 34-17 Cardinal victory. Connor Halliday and the Cougars were able to muster a solid drive early, but could not move the ball consistently.
The game wasn't the offensive shootout that WSU played last week, but it was another mostly-tight game where WSU did just enough to hang around, but couldn't make the plays it needed to get over the hump. Stanford got off to a good start, scoring on its first two possessions to take a 10-0 lead. At the end of the first quarter it looked like the game would be a shootout, at least on one side. WSU's best defense early on was Stanford making a mistake. The Cougars settled in to a certain extent, forcing the occasional punt, even creating a crucial turnover and doing enough to hang around.
The problem for Washington State was the Stanford defense was as vaunted as advertised. Stanford played more physical than WSU at the line of scrimmage, consistently collapsing the pocket on Halliday. When Halliday did get time to throw, the windows closed quickly. Cougar receivers who caught the ball were punished immediately. There were times when a WSU receiver caught the ball and appeared to have space to move, only to see several Stanford defenders swarm quickly and shut down nearly everything after the catch. The WSU offense wasn't up to its normal self and while there were a couple plays left on the field, the Cardinal defense was the big reason why. The Cardinal are very good defensively and WSU just couldn't match the performance.
The lackluster offensive performance wasn't without a strong game from River Cracraft. He set a school record with 15 receptions. Vince Mayle was fairly bottled up, outside of one long 41-yard catch. Dom Williams didn't play much and appeared to be less than 100 percent when he did play. The Cougars just took a beating, both physically and strategically.
There were a myriad of issues on both sides of the ball. Defensive lapses leading to big plays. Missed communication on offense. The biggest issue overall was the offensive line. A week after not allowing a sack, WSU got beat up front in a big way and it disrupted everything the Cougars tried to do. A late Stanford touchdown, after some curious late-game effort from WSU, made it a 17-point game, probably a fitting score to the play on the field.
Washington State drops to 2-5 with the loss. The defense played well enough to maybe steal a win on the road if the offense had held up its end, but WSU's season in a nutshell has been consistently inconsistent. Historically good offensively a week ago to struggling to muster anything this week. The Cougars will be on a bye next week and it's probably good timing as Halliday and the rest of the team took a pounding against the physical Cardinal squad.
Close, but only close enough to come away with a loss. The story of Washington State's 2014 season.