You better hope Stanford turns into Paul Finch from American Pie because we need to go Cougar hunting on Saturday. David Shaw is arguably the most recognized and respected Pac-12 coach; only Washington’s Chris Peterson is in the conversation. But it’s the other Apple Cup coach who gives David Shaw fits.
If it weren’t for a missed field goal by WSU in 2015, Mike Leach would be the only coach ever to beat David Shaw three times in a row. And the loss two years ago was flat-out embarrassing. That game holds the distinction of being the first and only game I’ve ever left early—and I haven’t missed a game since 2005. Coach, when you play Mike Leach this year, I need you to look across the field like Jason Biggs when he was looking at the pie.
Beyond coaching, our defense needs to show up if we want to win the game. It shouldn’t be that hard to realize that WSU is going to pass. The Cougars are literally first in the country in passing. And when they played Utah, the box score read:
Passing yards: 445
Rushing yards: 0
Let that sink in.
So, what can the Stanford defense do to minimize that prolific WSU pass attack? Get on their receivers and challenge them. Force WSU to beat you with the run (which they rank second-to-last in the country in). Or, if they insist on passing (as they likely will), make quarterback Gardner Minshew throw on the run. Get those Cougars feisty; get them to commit penalties. WSU averages almost eight penalties a game; take advantage of this and force them into third-and-longs. Gabe Reid should play all game; WSU has only given up five sacks all season long, but Reid can make that number grow. Blitz and trust your safety valves will do their jobs. Plus, it’s not illegal to put your hands up when rushing the QB. The magic number defensively is 28. Yes, four touchdowns. Since 1971, WSU has only won against Stanford five times when it got fewer than 28 points. Play defense and trust your offense.
Offensively, it’s time Stanford finally learns and plays to its strengths: PASS THE ROCK. If you can’t run, why not take a cue from WSU and—well—don’t run? Throw for three or four yards. Throwing for 3.5 yards every time will always get you a first down. Even so, Stanford will face third down 13-17 times this game. You have to convert if you want a chance to win this game. The best any team has done against WSU on third-down conversions is 46%. WSU’s pass defense is tremendous. WSU will want to take away the run from Stanford. Mr. Costello, you should be happy to oblige. Make WSU’s tremendous pass defense irrelevant. Show the conference that you are still the QB to be reckoned with.
Special teams, here’s a crazy idea: pull off the fake. There are better odds of me getting with Shannon Elizabeth. But if the situation arises, do it. Other than that, continue to literally destroy the football with your legs.
Finally, I’m looking at the students and fans. There is no more room for studying on game days. Saturdays are for trees. Whether you are 18 or 81, it’s time to show up and cheer. I can’t force the fans to show, but those who are on campus, show up and get loud. I will be there, ready for this party to keep going
Overall, Stanford improved markedly since I last wrote: I mentioned Shaw changing things up… CHECK. KJ Costello running with the football…CHECK. Offensive line playing better… CHECK. Defense bending but not breaking…CHECK. Stanford is considerably better, but we need to be great against WSU. The biggest thing to remember is not to give up after hiccups. You don’t have to be perfect to beat this team. USC had one fewer first down, only converted on 33% of third downs, only had 113 rushing yards, forced 0 turnovers and lost in TOP by over 11 minutes. They won 39-36. IT’S COUGAR HUNTING TIME!!