Stanford Thrashes Washington State
Nov. 1, 2008
STANFORD, Calif. - By David Kiefer
Stanford Athletics Media Relations
Stanford had to beat Washington State - to keep a bowl hopes alive, for self respect, and to maintain the momentum of an upwardly-mobile program.
That Washington State was in a decimated condition made no difference. This was as much of a must-win game as the Stanford football team has had in years.
And the Cardinal came through.
Fueled in the first half by Toby Gerhart's four touchdowns and four Washington State turnovers, Stanford bolted to a huge early lead on the way to a 58-0 victory before an announced crowd of 26,662 at Stanford Stadium on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
Among the superlatives, Gerhart tied a school single-game record for rushing touchdowns (held by four others and accomplished five other times) and Stanford earned its largest margin of victory in 59 years, since a 63-0 thrashing of Idaho in 1949.
'This was a big win,' said senior center Alex Fletcher, considering the possibilities for this team. 'We have a chance to do something very special.'
The game got ugly quickly, what with the large margin and poor weather. But it was perfect for Stanford, which placed itself within one victory of a probable bowl berth and kept the Cardinal (5-4 overall, 4-2 conference) within one game of first in the Pacific-10.
'We're still in it,' Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. 'All of our goals are still out there in front of us.'
Stanford most likely must win one more game to earn its first bowl berth since 2001, but that victory must come against Oregon, USC or Cal, during the regular-season's homestretch. With the strength of those programs, the Washington State game took on added importance as the one Stanford had to have to put itself in position for the postseason.
'The next three games are going to be tough for us,' safety Bo McNally said. 'We'll probably be underdogs in all of those, but we like that. It's always nice to come out and be underestimated, because we know what we can do.'
Stanford used turnovers and Gerhart to break the game open. With Stanford holding a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter, McNally intercepted a pass that slipped through the hands of Washington State receiver Brandon Gibson, and returned it 28 yards.
Gerhart picked up all 33 yards on the ensuing drive, punching in the first of his four touchdowns (on runs of six, four, eight and two yards), all scored within a 20-minute span. Gerhart's consecutive scores put Stanford up 31-0 by halftime.
By the time he was done, Gerhart had 132 yards on 22 carries in barely over a half of work, and Stanford had piled up 344 rushing yards, the third-highest in school history, and gained 456 total.
On the other side, Washington State (1-8, 0-6) suffered its fifth loss by 49 points or more, and has been outscored by an average of 58-5 in conference play.
Stanford played mistake-free football. Not so for the Cougars. Of their seven first-half possessions, two ended on interceptions, two on fumbles and another on a field-goal try blocked by Pannel Egboh.
'Stanford does a good job taking care of the football,' Washington State coach Paul Wulff said. 'Our turnovers once again enabled the onslaught.'
Though Stanford benefited with two touchdowns directly off turnovers, they probably didn't matter much in the long run. The Cardinal controlled the game thoroughly.
Anthony Kimble got into the act with a 62-yard touchdown run, and had 92 yards on five carries. And the Cardinal used four quarterbacks in the game, with Tavita Pritchard and Alex Loukas alternating with equal success, and Jason Forcier and Nicolas Ruhl getting some fourth-quarter action.
'The offense made a promise to the defense earlier in the week that we weren't going to turn the ball over,' Gerhart said. 'We've beaten ourselves at times and wanted to give the defense confidence that they could trust us to hold on to the ball and not put them in bad spots with turnovers.'
One would assume confidence is at a peak after Saturday's performance, and just in time, with the Cardinal traveling to Eugene, Ore., to face the Ducks (6-3) next week.
'We play the same way no matter what - hustle, all out,' Harbaugh said. 'We have to play smart to be successful and have an understanding of who we are as a football team.'
And, right now, that team is one step away from understanding what its like to be bowl bound.