SAM HEIKELL | Evergreen reporter
No. 25 WSU football (7-2, 4-2) will look to bounce back from its second road loss of the season when the team takes the field against No. 18 Stanford (6-2, 5-1) on Saturday.
The Cardinal are coming off a 15-14 win over Oregon State University on Oct. 26. The Cougars beat Stanford 42-16 in last year’s matchup. In the game, redshirt senior quarterback Luke Falk threw for 357 yards and four touchdowns, and the defense held former Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey to 35 rushing yards.
One of Stanford’s most notable strengths on offense this season has been junior running back Bryce Love. He’s rushed for 1,387 yards and 11 touchdowns so far. Love didn’t play in the team’s win against the Beavers, however, and will be a game-time decision Saturday, according to Stanford Head Coach David Shaw.
WSU senior linebacker Frankie Luvu said the team isn’t concerned about the status of Love for Saturday’s game and is focused on getting in the backfield and disrupting the Cardinal running game.
“I say downhill every play, penetration is key. Especially for a team like this that likes to run the ball,” Luvu said. “I think [Love] is a good running back, but like I said, penetration will kill that just being in the backfield.”
In the Cougars’ 58-37 loss to University of Arizona last week, the defense gave up 585 total yards, and the offense turned the ball over four times.
“We played hard, as far as running hard, as far as running into stuff,” Head Coach Mike Leach said after the game. “But we just played dumb, we just played outright dumb.”
Along with the loss came some controversy. Redshirt senior quarterback Luke Falk was benched in the second quarter after completing 13 of 23 passes for 93 yards. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyler Hilinski came in and racked up four total touchdowns and connecting on 45 of his 61 passing attempts for 509 yards. Hilinski also threw four interceptions on the night, including one that was returned for a touchdown.
But Leach confirmed at his weekly news conference Monday that Falk will start this week against Stanford.
“I think when [Falk] plays his best, he just goes out and plays, and I think sometimes he plays slow,” Leach said about his starting quarterback.
He didn’t put all the blame on Falk, though.
“It wasn’t just him, it was our offense as well,” Leach said.
The Cardinal have won five straight games after starting the season 1-2, and sit in a tie atop the Pac-12 North standings with University of Washington. WSU is in the third spot in the North standings and will most likely need to beat Stanford and UW to have a chance at making it to the Pac-12 title game in California.
WSU will finish the season with two road games against the University of Utah on Nov. 11 and the Huskies on Nov. 25.
Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Martin Stadium. The game will also be broadcasted live on FOX.