No. 14 Cougs face No. 24 Cardinal

WSU takes on conference opponent Stanford for North Division supremacy, both teams are 3-1 in Pac-12 play



Sophomore wide receiver Tay Martin attempts to avoid being tripped up by the Ducks defense during the game against Oregon Saturday night in Martin Stadium. Martin has 465 yards on 46 receptions with six of those catches resulting in touchdowns.

JOHN SPELLMAN, Evergreen reporter

There are two games No. 14 WSU football is hoping to win in Northern California this year. One is the Pac-12 Conference Championship in Santa Clara, California, but in order to get there they will need to first get a victory against No. 24 Stanford University on Saturday.

“Stanford has kind of changed their style of play,” Head Coach Mike Leach said. “Offensively they are throwing it a bunch now. They used to be grind, grind, then play-action. Now they are throwing it quite of bit, so offensively it is a different Stanford team than ones we have played.”

The Cougars are second in the Pac-12 North Division and the only one-loss team left in the conference. If WSU wants to remain in the playoff picture, Saturday is a must-win game for the Cougs against the Cardinal. Even with the added pressure, the Cougs have the pieces to keep up their 6-1 start.

WSU is led on offense by quarterback Gardner Minshew II, who leads the nation in average passing yards per game and is second in total passing yards. So far Minshew has thrown for 23 touchdowns this season.

Minshew and the Cougs are coming off a big win at Martin Stadium against then-No. 12 University of Oregon, who the Cougs dominated in the first half before the Ducks came back and made it close. However, with the game on the line, Minshew effectively closed the game with a 22-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Dezmon Patmon.

Stanford on the other hand is coming off its bye week. In its last game it was handed a tough loss at the hands of the University of Utah 40-21. Currently ranked No. 24 in the country, Stanford was ranked as high as No. 7 earlier this season with notable wins coming against University of Southern California and Oregon, but they also have losses to No. 3 Notre Dame University and Utah.

Despite the two losses, the Cardinal will be a very tough opponent for the Cougs. The team is led on offensive by junior quarterback KJ Costello, who has completed 64.5 percent of his passes and has thrown 13 touchdowns to six interceptions.

His favorite target is senior wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who has 37 catches and has scored nine times this season. Arcega-Whiteside is currently third in the nation in receiving touchdowns through seven games and has also picked up 632 receiving yards on the way.

“He is super big, physical and fast, and he makes big plays so we need to be ready for that,” WSU redshirt sophomore linebacker Jahad Woods said.

The other big name on the Stanford offense is senior running back Bryce Love II, who is arguably one of the top running backs in all of college football. However, he has faced some injury trouble this season, only playing in a handful of games.

The tricky part is that Stanford has decided to wait until the start of games to announce whether he will play or not all season, so the Cougars will have to prepare for multiple Cardinal running backs. Defensively, Stanford has a very good unit and Leach is expecting them to give his offense a tough challenge.

“Their defensive front is always the toughest part of their team,” Leach said. “They have some new faces, so we will have to see how they are this year. Overall, their defensive front is the most impressive part of their team. Their defense is like spark plugs, you take out old ones and just put in new ones.”

Stanford currently leads the all-time series against WSU with a 40-27-2 record, but the Cougars have won the last two matchups including last year’s 24-21 victory at Martin Stadium on Dad’s Weekend.

The winner will gain a decisive advantage in the Pac-12 North since both teams come into this game with a 3-1 record in conference play.

The Cougars face off with the Cardinal 4 p.m. Saturday at Stanford Stadium and the game will be televised live on Pac-12 Networks.