Headed to the west side

By Chris Shaw Evergreen Football reporter

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In the fifth game of the 2013 schedule, Washington State University football will face the fifth-ranked team in the country.

Both the Cougars and the No. 5 Stanford will travel to Seattle to play Saturday night in a nationally televised game on ESPN.

Even though the teams will play in CenturyLink Field, WSU football is treating the game just like any of the other games played this season.

“Football is football,” Nolan Washington said. “I mean, if you play it in Seattle, if you play in Pullman, if you were playing down there, just winning, it doesn’t really matter. I just want to win.”

The Cardinal defense has allowed 20.3 points per game this season and has allowed passing attacks to gain a fair amount of yards, giving up an average of over 200 through the air. However, the team will enter the game with a streak of 27 consecutive games and a takeaway. The streak is currently the best in the nation.

In the last two games, the WSU offense has scored over 40 points, and quarterback Connor Halliday has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 9 to 3.

If wide receiver Gabe Marks is even partially open, Halliday will likely target him.

Marks was named to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List Tuesday and is coming off of a game in which he had two receiving touchdowns.

The Stanford team makes a difference on the ground as well. The defense holds teams to 123 rushing yards per game, while the offense relies mostly on seniors Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson to pace its own running game.

Gaffney has five touchdowns on the ground this year and averages over five yards per carry. Wilkerson averages 4.6 yards per carry and has about half the repetitions as Gaffney does.

The Cougars use three running backs to complement the typically pass-first offensive scheme. Jeremiah Laufasa, who usually plays in goal line situations for WSU, is the only running back to score a touchdown this season. He has four coming into the game Saturday.

“There’s always that joke about 20 carries, 20 touchdowns, those are your season stats,” Laufasa said. “But as the season comes, I’m just glad I can make plays for my teammates and help us win games.”

If WSU decides to run the ball, its offensive line will be challenged to stop the same Cardinal players who recorded 10 tackles for a loss in their previous game against Arizona State.

“Just going in and preparing mentally is the most important thing,” Laufasa said. “Just making sure we know what to do. Again, the most important thing is just going in there confident and knowing if we want to run for 100 yards, 200, whatever, just believing you can do it and preparing for it. I think that’ll be the biggest difference.”

The Seattle Game will begin at 7 p.m. As Marks said earlier in the week, the final score will show who “the better man” is.