Stanford Cardinal Look To Rebound Against Washington State

Sep 30, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) rushes the ball against the Washington Huskies during the second half at Husky Stadium. Washington won 44-6. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) rushes the ball against the Washington Huskies during the second half at Husky Stadium. Washington won 44-6. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports /

A lopsided loss to the Washington Huskies last week have left the Stanford Cardinal reeling. The Cardinal look to get back to winning ways at home against the Washington State Cougars.

Last Friday in Seattle may have been the darkest hour in Stanford Cardinal head coach David Shaw’s tenure. The script was flipped as the Cardinal were outmatched against the Huskies on both sides of the football.

Instead of Stanford getting stronger throughout the game, Washington came out swinging and did not stop. In the end, a new contender emerged in Washington, leaving Stanford no longer in control of their own destiny.

The likes of a 44-6 defeat has not been seen at Stanford since the name Jim Harbaugh was even mentioned as a candidate to coach Stanford. Before Harbaugh, the program was in a downward spiral being the bottom-feeders in the then Pac-10. A downfall that began with a 2005 home loss to UC Davis. Walt Harris only lasted two years as Stanford coach before Harbaugh was brought in to rebuild the program.

Now, unlike 2005, the Cardinal find themselves at a crossroads entering Saturday’s matchup. Although no longer in control of the Pac-12, the season is not lost.

For now, the mentality should be taking one opponent at a time. By looking ahead, the task at hand will be lost, putting the season in complete jeopardy.

An energized Washington State team looks to score a victory on the Farm after embarrassing an Oregon Ducks team 51-33 in Pullman.

A banged-up Ducks team was no match for the Cougars who piled up 651-yards of offense. Stanford cannot expect help from Oregon this week as questions surround the starting quarterback position.

A matchup with Washington could well perhaps spell the end of Oregon’s 12-game win streak against their Northwest rivals on Saturday.

Luke Falk has been the prototypical style quarterback Mike Leach needs to implement his “air raid” brand of football. Last week, Falk threw for 371-yards with one touchdown. Like Jake Browning did last week for Washington against Stanford, Falk picked apart the Oregon secondary. He found his receivers easily down the field as an inexperienced Oregon defense missed assignments or did not play man coverage.

The “air raid” offense will be a concern for Stanford as defensive starters Alijah Holder and Quenton Meeks are out again. Stanford’s defensive line needs to find a way to disrupt Falk in the pocket.

Stanford could find success as the Cougars’ offensive line is not as strong as the one they faced last week against the Huskies. Also, the Cardinal cannot let Falk scramble out of the pocket as he has the mobility to turn up the field. Should Stanford limit the passing, the defense will return to normalcy by shutting down Washington State in the fourth quarter.

To shut down the offense, the Cardinal defense will have to limit the impact of receiver River Cracraft. The senior had four receptions last week for 73-yards, keeping the offense on the field. Along with Cracraft, Kyle Sweet, and Tavares Martin Jr. will all look to find space in the Stanford secondary to make plays.

The Cardinal cannot afford to let the up-tempo offense find a rhythm to start their drives. By shutting down the passing attack, Washington State will be one-dimensional offensively, which Coach Leach cannot afford to be. Especially, on the road.

With the success of completions down the field, the Cougars run game was able to make an impact last week. Jamal Morrow led the assault with 122-yards and scored two touchdowns while shaking off Oregon defenders. James Williams also rushed for 91-yards and had two scores in the win.

Oregon’s defensive line consisted of freshmen and a few veterans but was overwhelmed from the start. This week, the Cougars rushing game is facing a harder test with the Cardinal defensive line.

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Stanford’s offensive line needs to allow Christian McCaffrey to make an impact on the game. His 49-yards rushing and 30-yards receiving last week made no difference in a Cardinal offense that fizzled from the start.

The offensive line needs to win the battle at the line for McCaffrey to get into second gear to run up-field. This will also allow Bryce Love to contribute by finding gaps created by the offensive line. McCaffrey doesn’t mind carrying the load, but having support will make his job easier.

From the start, Stanford quarterback Ryan Burns was not ready for the atmosphere inside Husky Stadium. Even after sitting for a series to observe Keller Chryst, the results remained negative. Part of the struggle was the resilient Huskies defense which had eight sacks on the night. This did not allow Burns to feel comfortable in the pocket and track his receivers down the field.

Although Washington State was successful last week against Oregon, the defensive line doesn’t have the bite that Washington does. Burns should have the time to let plays develop without having a defender breathing down his neck. Receivers Trenton Irwin and Michael Rector need step up in critical junctures of the game. Since his emergence against UCLA, JJ Arcega-Whiteside has been a reliable option and hopefully has the same success at home.

Next: Stanford Cardinal Fall to Washington Huskies

Though, no longer in control of their destiny, Stanford is not out of the Pac-12 or College Football Playoff picture. Every game is now a must-win in order for the selection committee to give the Cardinal consideration. The Oregon Ducks were able to make the playoff in the 2014-15 season after an early loss to the Arizona Wildcats. Anything can happen from this point on. Stanford has plenty to play for.