Double kill in Seattle

Evan Baron | Evergreen football reporter

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Riding a three game winning streak, the WSU football team had momentum Saturday night when they took the field at Century Link Field in Seattle and felt they could pull off the upset against No. 5 ranked Stanford.

The Cougar defense ranked as one of the top defenses in the country, along with an offense that averaged 328 yards of passing per game.

The final outcome of the game was the complete opposite of what the Cougars expected. Last week fans saw WSU quarterback Connor Halliday having all the time in world to throw and receivers making play after play; this week was a different story. Instead, Halliday was repeatedly hit after each throw he made, receivers were dropping balls, and the defense was struggling, leading to a 55-17 win for Stanford. 

“Stanford’s a great team,” WSU wide receiver Gabe Marks said after the game. “They had a good scheme for us and played well.”

Starting the game, Stanford came out with a heavy passing attack, which surprised the WSU defense.

“I felt like they came in with a good game plan,” WSU linebacker Darryl Monroe said. “I commend their coaches. We came in and expected to do what they did in previous games, and it’s not what they did.”

Known for running the ball heavily, the Stanford offense took the opposite approach as Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan was not afraid to throw the ball down field. He completed a 47-yard pass to Cardinal wide receiver Michael Rector and 57-yard touchdown pass to Cardinal tight end Devon Cajuste in the first quarter. 

“They went against what they normally do and that kind of caught us off guard, but that’s no excuse,” WSU safety Deone Bucannon said. 

Hogan finished the first quarter with four of five passing for 118 yards and one touchdown, which helped Stanford edge out to a 10-3 lead at the start.

Halliday started right where he left off against Idaho last week, leading the Cougars on their first drive down to the Stanford 19-yard line. He could not reach the end zone, forcing Andrew Furney to kick a 36-yard field goal.

Though the Cougars kept this game close at the start, the second quarter was when Stanford started to pull away. The second play of the second quarter, Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan faked a handoff to his running back fooling the WSU defense, delivering a pass to a wide open Cajuste for a 33-yard touchdown. 

Stanford started running the ball more, and it continued to wear the WSU defense down in the second quarter. Even though Bucannon made an athletic interception in the end zone to give WSU the ball back, the offense could not capitalize. Multiple drops by the receivers and weak protection of the quarterback hurt the Cougars’ chances of coming back.

“We’re better than that,” Marks said. “I don’t expect us to struggle on offense. I was surprised.”

Entering the third quarter down 17-3, the WSU offense needed something positive, but instead continued to falter. The amount of hits Halliday acquired took a toll on his body. His night was finished with 10:42 left in the third quarter. Stanford defensive end Tyler Murphy drilled Halliday as he was throwing the ball. Halliday’s pass was intercepted by Jordan Richards for a Stanford touchdown and put the Cardinal up 24-3.

“They just outlast you, they’re good,” WSU Head Coach Mike Leach said. “At times our technique would break down and they’d capitalize on it.”

Halliday tried to stay in the game after his final hit, but limped off the field after just one play. Freshman redshirt quarterback Austin Apodaca came into the game, receiving a welcome party from the Stanford defensive line. Just like Halliday, Apodaca took a couple big hits from the Cardinal defense.

“It’s college football,” Apodaca said. “Those guys are physical on the other side of the ball.” 

Apodaca struggled at first when he was thrown into Halliday’s position. He threw an interception to Murphy, which resulted in a 30-yard touchdown run for the defensive lineman.

“It’s definitely frustrating, we know we’re better than that,” Bucannon said. “We don’t have a doubt in our mind that we can compete with anybody.”