The Washington State performance did not match up to the hype before the game. The Stanford Cardinal convincingly defeated the Cougars 55-17 on a wet, rainy night in Seattle at CenturyLink Field. Although, the Cougars trounced two lower teams and even had an upset over USC, I still though the game was going to go the way it did Saturday. This is the reason: dominating the little guys has no correlation to playing on the same level as the alpha males. Stanford was No. 5 in the country for a reason and to hear Cougar fans talk like Stanford was going to be like USC, that's a disrespect to that program. The Cardinal are a nation title contending team and proved it. In my opinion, the Cougars underestimated the talent on Stanford and paid for it dearly.
Points of Optimism
All hands on deck
On a night where the Cougars looked outmatched in every aspect to Stanford, the receiving core was ready and able to catch the ball (minus a few key drops). The offense was as inconsistent as at USC, but multiple receivers were able to catch the ball for the Cougars. The Cougars had 13 different players register a catch.
Bright Spot at Back-Up
I know he threw pick and was playing against Stanford's second team for much of the second half but Austin Apodaca was still effective. He's got to work on his accuracy but still, he was able to lead the Cougars down the field for two touchdowns. It is hard to call this a great performance but there is a good sign at backup if Halliday were to get hurt, which he did during the Stanford game. No status has been given about Halliday.
Points of Concern
Secondary: Stats are NOT Reality
The Cougars came into the Seattle Game first in pass defense in the Pac-12. I always thought that this ranking was unrepresentative of what the Cougars defense actually was.
Don't believe me? I'll go in small detail each game. At Auburn, Nick Marshall was making his first start, he has only thrown for more than 200 yards twice this season, and has only thrown 4 touchdowns this season. At USC, Cody Kessler is not that good. He has only had one game where his Quarterback Rating was above 50.0. Against Southern Utah and Idaho, the Cougars were supposed to dominate against a smaller opponent.
To focus on Saturday, there were six times Cougars corners and receivers were burned. Three by Damante Horton, two by Nolan Washington and one by Taylor Taliulu and Deone Bucannon each. The Cardinal four out of the seven chances into big plays. Horton looked completely outmatched against all the Stanford receivers. Washington had trouble matching the crisp route running of the Cardinal receivers. Although, Bucannon had one interception, he got burned on a long pass to Michael Rector. I think the secondary regretfully underestimated the talent of the Stanford receivers.
Protection? What protection?
It's been a while since I've had to talk about protection struggles. The offensive line was over-matched and over-powered by the Shane Skov and Tyler Murphy and the rest of the Cardinal front seven. There was constant pressure on Halliday and Apodaca. Both quarterbacks had to take place off on the sideline because they were hit hard by a defensive player.
Lack of Explosiveness
It is great that the Cougars receiver caught a lot of football but the did not do anything with the rock. No Cougar receiver registered more than 75 receiving yards. How do you win a game against a strong defensive team if you cannot break a big gain? The receivers and runningbacks need to find a way to put themselves in more opportune positions.
I think the Cougars came into this game overconfident. Don't get me wrong, a win @ USC is big and two dominating wins against Southern Utah and Idaho are nice. However, how can you think you can do the same thing to Stanford as you did to USC? The idea flusters me because Stanford is on a whole different galaxy from USC. The Cardinal are the defending Pac-12 champs, the Rose Bowl Champs and the No. 5 team in the country. If the Cougars players thought they were going to be able to hold Stanford down easily, then shame on them. I heard fans say the result was "unexpected" or "I did not think Stanford would do that against us." What are you talking about? The Cougars have yet to establish themselves as a Top 25 team, what makes you think they can compete with a Top 5 team. I really hope I am wrong about my inferences but when Leach has to waste a timeout to get players' spirits up, that's a sign of overconfidence being shattered.