THUD! Cougs dismantled in Seattle shakedown

RATLIFF COMES UP SHORT

SEATTLE – Washington State's annual game at CenturyLink Field seems to get uglier each year and this one might have been the worst. The Cougars not only lost 55-17 against Stanford, but junior quarterback Connor Halliday exited with an injury in the second half. And the defense looked nothing like the unit that shut down then-No. 25 USC or shut out Idaho.

TURNING POINT:
Late in the first quarter, junior wide receiver Isiah Myers dropped a third-down pass that would have given the Cougars a new set of downs. Senior Mike Bowlin magnified that with a wobbly punt that only went 38 yards because of a generous roll. Stanford took advantage of the consecutive gaffes when Kevin Hogan scrambled for an 11-yard gain on third down and then found Devon Cajuste for a 33-yard touchdown pass on the ensuing play.

DEFENSIVE PLAYS OF THE GAME:
There isn't much for the Cougars' defense to celebrate. WSU allowed Stanford to score on each of its first three drives -- and got worse in the second half. But here are a few highlights:

  • After sophomore Michael Rector, a former standout at Tacoma's Bellarmine Prep, hauled in a 48-yard reception on the game's opening drive to the Cougars' 17-yard line, the defense held Stanford to a field goal.

  • Sophomore linebacker Darryl Monroe made a perfect read on the last play of the first quarter when he shot through the hole and stopped running back Tyler Gaffney for a 1-yard loss.

  • Senior safety Deone Bucannon intercepted a Hogan pass in the end zone when corner Damante Horton was beaten on the play in the second quarter.

  • Sophomore BUCK linebacker Destiny Vaeao stuffed senior running back Anthony Wilkerson on first down at WSU's 39-yard line immediately after the Cougars' fourth-down pass was unsuccessful. WSU forced a three-and-out that resulted in the Cardinal's first punt of the game during the third quarter.

    OFFENSIVE PLAY OF THE GAME:
    Fans often bemoan conservative coaching calls on third-and-long but WSU, which faced a third-and-22 on its first possession, went the aggressive route as Halliday found true freshman wide receiver River Cracraft for a 23-yard gain over the middle.

    UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENTS:
    WSU did a somewhat good job of containing the run – at least through three quarters – as the Cardinal had 109 rushing yards on 28 carries through 45 minutes. But the biggest thing was WSU's inability to generate anything resembling a pass rush. Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan had all day to throw.

    INTERESTING STAT:
    The Cougars had an opportunity to win in the waning moments of last year's 24-17 loss in Palo Alto. No such luck in 2013 as Stanford converted 5 of 8 third-down attempts in the first half, while the Cougars failed on all six of their attempts.

    MEANINGLESS STAT OF THE GAME:
    Thirteen wide receivers caught passes for the Cougars, but they should hardly celebrate the achievement. Outside of Cracraft and junior Kristoff Williams, WSU's receivers featured few explosive plays. Even more glaring were the ones they did not make. In addition to Myers' drop, junior Bobby Ratliff could not corral a Halliday pass on third-and-4 when the game still was competitive during the first half. It was no better after halftime as the Cougars dropped several passes from both Halliday and Austin Apodaca.

    MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACKING:
  • Halliday has struggled with his decision-making at times this season (nine interceptions in four games) but Halliday was the best thing about this game and Saturday should have also answered any doubt that he is the team's best option at quarterback.
  • In only his second career game, Apodaca featured at times an awkward, sidearm throwing motion and showed his inexperience when he threw directly into the path of senior outside linebacker Trent Murphy, who returned the gift interception 30 yards for a touchdown. Given the unknown severity of Halliday's injury – he appeared to favor his ankle as he limped off the field during the third quarter but it also could have been his ribs – and Apodaca's struggles, it will be interesting to see if coach Mike Leach elects to burn highly touted Tyler Bruggman's redshirt.

  • Bowlin came to WSU to serve as a kickoff specialist. But he also has been asked to punt, an area where he has increasingly become a liability. WSU special-teams coach Eric Russell gave senior kicker Andrew Furney some punting work at a recent practice and that needs to continue based on Bowlin's two shanks Saturday. The Cougars cannot afford to continue giving away field position.

  • The notion that WSU has one of the nation's top pass defenses also ended as the Cardinal threatened to average 20 yards per reception late in the game. Worse, they Cardinal gashed Wazzu's secondary and linebackers virtually at will.

    SPECIAL TEAMS EDGE GOES TO …
    This essentially goes to the Cardinal by default. Stanford had no glaring mistakes on special teams, while Bowlin struggled with his punting and a high snap helped contribute to Furney's first miss of the season on a 45-yard field goal attempt late in the first half.

    UP NEXT
    Ending an eight-game losing streak at California at 1 p.m. Saturday is essential. The Bears, who were blown out Saturday at Oregon, are the only Pac-12 team with a losing record.

    SCORING DRIVES:
    FIRST QUARTER:
    STANFORD 3-0
    10:55: The Cardinal capped a seven-play drive with a 28-yard field goal by Jordan Williamson. Key play: Sophomore wide receiver Michael Rector had a 48-yard reception to WSU's 17-yard line.
    WSU 3-3
    6:03: Andrew Furney capped a 12-play drive with a 36-yard field goal. Key plays: True freshman wide receiver River Cracraft fell inches short of a first down on third-and-22. On the ensuing play, junior Wayne Lyons cornerback was called for pass interference to give the Cougars a first down.
    STANFORD 10-3
    2:49: Junior Devon Cajuste had a 57-yard touchdown reception on third-and-9.

    SECOND QUARTER:
    STANFORD 17-3
    14:25: Cajuste caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from Hogan. Key play: Hogan scrambled for an 11-yard gain on third-and-6.

    THIRD QUARTER:
    STANFORD 24-3
    10:42: Strong safety Jordan Richards returns a 30-yard Halliday interception for a touchdown. Halliday was hit by senior outside linebacker Trent Murphy as he released his pass that was intended for Rickey Galvin.
    STANFORD 31-3
    8:45: Rector 45-yard touchdown pass from Hogan. Key play: Stanford took over at its own 46 after Bowlin's punt went just 27 yards.
    STANFORD 38-3
    6:41: Murphy 30-yard interception return off redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Apodaca.

    FOURTH QUARTER:
    STANFORD 41-3
    11:40: Williamson 27-yard field goal.
    STANFORD 48-3
    10:58: Remound Wright scored on a 53-yard touchdown run. STANFORD 48-10
    8:24: Sophomore wide receiver Gabe Marks hauled in a 47-yard touchdown pass from Apodaca. STANFORD 55-10
    6:29: Barry Sanders rushed for a 22-yard touchdown. STANFORD 55-17
    0:27: Apodaca scrambled before delivering an 8-yard touchdown pass to Rickey Galvin.
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