Stanford-Washington St. Preview
While Andrew Luck continues to draw effusive praise from his coach, he's apparently not doing enough to impress himself.
Luck will try to help the No. 7 Cardinal set a school record by extending the nation's longest win streak to 14 games Saturday night when they visit Washington State.
Stanford (5-0, 3-0 Pac-12) is seventh in the country with 46.2 points per game behind Luck, who has thrown for 1,383 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions with a 73.1 completion percentage. Through five games last season, he threw for 1,253 yards, 13 TDs and four interceptions with a 62.8 completion percentage en route to finishing as the Heisman Trophy runner-up.
Luck completed 26 of 33 passes for 370 yards - his second-highest career total - in last Saturday's 48-7 rout of Colorado. He sat out the final 10 minutes as backup Brett Nottingham finished up.
"He was outstanding. He was phenomenal," coach David Shaw said of Luck. "We had two catchable balls that were incompletions, one was an interception and besides that he was pretty close to flawless. Every game he does something that not many humans can do."
Luck was intercepted for the first time in three games, and was not sacked for the third straight contest. The 0.40 sacks per game he is averaging is the lowest figure in the nation, although he believes the Cardinal can fare even better.
"I think we need to improve," he said. "It wasn't good enough."
This is Stanford's first visit to Washington State (3-2, 1-1) since Luck made his collegiate debut on Sept. 5, 2009, by completing 11 of 23 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown in a 39-13 rout. He went 20 of 28 for 190 yards, three scores and one pick in last year's 38-28 win over the Cougars.
"We faced him a year ago," Washington State coach Paul Wulff said. "We've been down the road with that."
Wulff is more concerned with the status of his projected starting quarterback, Jeff Tuel, out since suffering a fractured collarbone in the season opener against Idaho State. Tuel has been cleared to practice, and will get an X-ray on Wednesday that will help determine whether he will be allowed to play.
"The X-ray's got to be good and he's got to feel good," Wulff said.
Backup quarterback Marshall Lobbestael has fared well with a 64.8 completion percentage for 1,570 yards, with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Washington State, though, has blown fourth-quarter leads in both losses this year. The Cougars led by eight points in the final period of last Saturday's 28-25 defeat to UCLA.
"It didn't feel good," Wulff said. "You think you control the ballgame, playing the type of game you want, but they made enough big plays at the end to win."
The Cougars have the third-best defense in the Pac-12, allowing 363.6 yards per game while the Cardinal rank first at 302.4. Still, Wulff's team has been prone to making costly mistakes late in games.
"One or all of us needed to step up at the end, but we couldn't do it," running back Rickey Galvin said.
The final score of last season's victory for Stanford may have been deceiving since Washington State scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns with the outcome already decided.
The Cardinal may not let up Saturday if they get a big lead. Shaw, who is in his first year after Jim Harbaugh left to coach the 49ers, drew notice for going for it on fourth down twice in the second half last weekend.
He's not worried about how those decisions are viewed.
"We can't let the scoreboard dictate our feeling about how we played," Shaw said. "If we can play better, then we should know it and we should play better."
Shaw is looking for improvement from his defense, which recorded an interception for the first time all year against the Buffaloes. Every other conference team has at least three.
Washington State is playing at home for the first time since Sept. 10. The 34-day span between home games is the Cougars' longest since 2005, a stretch that also concluded with a visit from the Cardinal.
Stanford, which previously won 13 straight in 1904-05 and 1939-41, hasn't started 6-0 since 1951.