What a game.
Look, I doubt you'd find a single person outside those wearing purple and gold who wants the Washington St. Cougars to lose. The conference's Bad News Bears in recent seasons coupled with their ardent fans convinced everyone that the Cougs deserve better than what they were getting. Of course, no one wanted them to win against their team, but wins against everyone else would be happily applauded.
So why did Stanford decide to let Wazzu have its best performance in a loss (against a ranked opponent, no less) in almost four years?
Quite literally, it was everything that could go wrong (in a game that most Stanford fans thought would be competitive, but not close) did. Stanford hasn't been known as a first half team this year. Save for the Colorado game, Stanford has scored almost at will in the second half of games while keeping opponents down, while first halves have been sluggish and slow.
Last night, the first half was a walking nightmare. There existed the real possibility, in both Wazzu and Stanford fans' minds, that Washington State was actually going to upset the Cardinal. It was a possibility that seemed unthinkable coming into this week, much less in any of the past two years.
What went wrong? Was Stanford unprepared? Did it underestimate the Cougars? Is Washington State that much better than everyone has given them credit for? Did the cold effect Stanford? Were the Cougars feeding off of their Homecoming crowd of a nearly sold out Martin Stadium?
In reality, I think it was a combination of all those things that led to Stanford's sloppiest half of football so far this season. It certainly didn't help that Jay Stricherz and his crew made some highly questionable calls against both Stanford (and to be fair, Wazzu) during the game, leading people to further question why Larry Scott didn't just fire the entire referee staff during the summer as opposed to only half. But far be it for anyone to blame Stanford's first half woes to the officiating. Stanford simply did not come out prepared to play against Washington State and the Cougars worked for every ball on every play during that half. During the second half, Stanford clearly came out and dominated, save for an allowed touchdown in the final minute of the game (seriously, what happened there guys?), but the first half is what will stick in Stanford's mind going into the game against Washington Saturday.
Next week, Stanford will face its toughest challenge yet in the Washington Huskies. While our friend Gekko Mojo over at the UW Dawg Pound will do whatever he can to try and discredit Stanford this next week, Stanford will have to do a whole lot better in its first half performance than it has done in its previous six games in order to extend its school record win streak that starts against Washington. The mental errors, lack of physicality, and general lackadaisical play for the first two quarters that has plagued this team since September needs to be fixed. While everyone keeps looking towards the game against the Oregon Ducks in three weeks, the Cardinal need to focus first on improving their game for the Huskies first and foremost, because what we saw in the game against Washington State, it'll be mighty difficult to win these remaining games with the kind of effort that Stanford put out in its first six games in the opening minutes.
Stanford 44, Washington State 14
USC 30, Cal 9 -- Oh Cal. Things looked promising for the Bears as this was USC's worst team that it's had in almost a decade (not that that means USC is bad), but Cal found a way to defeat itself in its first conference game at AT&T Park. QB Zach Maynard showed Cal and USC fans alike that he isn't the answer for the Bears' woes and that Jeff Tedford has found himself firmly on the hot seat after yet another blowout loss.
Colorado 24, Washington 52 -- This was a game where nothing seemed to go right for the Buffs. But while it was expected to be a hard battle for CU, Washington went out and showed everyone that it wasn't looking ahead to its game against the Cardinal down in Palo Alto.
BYU 38, Oregon State 28 -- It was one step forward, two steps back for the Beavers. In another game with fishy officiating, BYU came out and manhandled Oregon State, giving OSU it's fifth loss.
Arizona State 27, Oregon 41 -- It was another pyrrhic victory for the Ducks as they cruised to their 15th straight conference win at the cost of their starting quarterback, Darron Thomas. I was fully prepared to label this game the "Knuckleheads and Dirty Players Bowl," but Pac-12 officials were arguably even worse in this game than they were in the Stanford-WSU game. ASU had plenty of chances to pull away from the Ducks through three quarters (much like their game in Tempe last year), but officiating and dumb penalties cost the Sun Devils dearly.