Second half dooms WSU vs. No. 7 Stanford
Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel had barely played a down this season after fracturing his collarbone on his first series against Idaho State.
But Tuel started against No. 7 Stanford on Saturday, and Washington State had it worst offensive outing of the season in a 44-14 loss to the Cardinal (6-0, 4-0 Pac-12).
''The only way you get better is by playing at this point,'' Cougars coach Paul Wulff said. ''We knew there were going to be some issues.''
That was an accurate assessment, though Wulff said the decision to start Tuel was right even though backup Marshall Lobbestael has played well this season.
Tuel completed 17 of 30 passes, but for just 145 yards with no touchdowns. Stanford's defense held Washington State (3-3, 1-2) to just 257 total yards.
Wulff said his receivers dropped too many passes and his defense had to spend too much time on the field. That gave Heisman Trophy candidate Andrew Luck too much time to shake off a rusty first half and blow the game open with four second-half touchdown passes for Stanford.
''In the first half, Andrew Luck looked like a good football player,'' Wulff said. ''In the second half, he looked like a great football player.''
Stanford's victory extended the nation's longest winning streak to a school-record 14 consecutive games.
''We played great tonight in the second half,'' Luck said.
Indeed, the Cardinal outscored the Cougars, 34-7, in the second half. But the first half was a different story. Stanford led just, 10-7, at the break, its lowest first-half output of the season.
''It was just little mistakes,'' Luck said. ''It was my fault for not putting the ball where it was supposed to be.''
Luck completed 23 of 36 passes for 336 yards with one interception.
Meanwhile, Stanford's defense, which allows just 10 points per game, kept the Washington State from getting untracked.
''I love what our defense was doing,'' Stanford coach David Shaw said. ''We make adjustments and they get it.''
Washington State defensive tackle Anthony Laurenzi pointed to Stanford's quick touchdown on its first series of the second half as a turning point.
''We came out and they scored on us right away and we lost momentum,'' Laurenzi said. ''I felt like we got flat after that touchdown. When our offense couldn't counter after that, we fell apart.''
Stanford drove 85 yards on its first possession of the half, with a 62-yard pass play from Luck to Coby Fleener covering most of the distance. Luck fired a 10-yard touchdown pass to Toilolo for a 17-7 lead.
After punting on its next series, Stanford scored on a 62-yard drive late in the third when Luck hit Toilolo for a 26-yard touchdown pass and a 24-7 lead. Luck also fired an 8-yard scoring pass to Stepfan Taylor and a 28-yard touchdown pass to Fleener in the fourth.
Lobbestael scored on a short run for Washington State.
In the first half, Jordan Williamson kicked a 23-yard field goal with 1:34 left in the first quarter to give Stanford a 3-0 lead. The Cardinal have not been scored on in the first quarter all season.
Washington State's Jared Karstetter caught a pass from Tuel but fumbled after he was hit at midfield. The ball was scooped up by Stanford's Michael Thomas, who ran down to the Cougars' 20. On 4th-and-goal from the 1, Jeremy Stewart bulled over to give Stanford a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Stepfan Taylor fumbled on a run and Chester Su'a recovered for Washington State on Stanford's 40. Aided by two pass interference calls on plays to Karstetter, the Cougars drove to Stanford's 2. Carl Winston ran up the middle to cut Stanford's lead to 10-7. It was the fewest points either team has scored at the break this season.
Luck had just 89 passing yards in the first half, on 10-of-16 passing, and the Cardinal had just 165 yards of offense. Washington State was held to 94 yards of offense in the half.
The Cardinal lead the Pac-12 in rushing defense, total defense, scoring defense and sacks per game. They have allowed just six points in the third quarter all season.