Todd Husak's Keys to the Washington State Game
Oct. 31, 2008
Each week during the season, KTRB 860 AM radio analyst and former Stanford quarterback Todd Husak will deliver his keys to the game. Here are his thoughts on Saturday's contest between Stanford and Washington State:
Stanford looks to get back on track this weekend when they play host to a reeling Washington State team that has given up over 60 points four times this season. Washington State is getting beat in nearly every facet of the game this season as they have been outscored by 265 points, outgained almost 3-1 on the ground, and have fumbled the ball 26 times. The Cardinal will be looking to get the taste of a brutal loss at UCLA out of their mouths and take it out on the Cougars. Stanford still has a number of obvious weaknesses, but if they can shore those up, the Cardinal has proven to be a tough team to stop.
Eliminate the Turnovers
Stanford has to do a better job of protecting the ball both on the ground and in the air. It was the number one focus point going into the UCLA game, and the Cardinal responded by fumbling on the first series and throwing an interception later in the half. If Stanford doesn't give the ball away, they should win easily because the offense has been almost unstoppable.
The trademarks of Stanford football over the ages have been passing offenses that can light up the scoreboard, a defense that will give up some points and create turnovers, and a team that plays smart and doesn't beat itself. The 2008 team is a polar opposite of those 80's and 90's squads because they are a power running team that turns it over and commits over seven penalties per game. The penalties have also come at the worst times because they give first downs and kill drives. Cut down on the penalties and play a smarter brand of football.
Get to the Quarterback
Washington State has issues on both sides of the ball, but the biggest position of need right now for the Cougars is under center. Early season injuries to the top two quarterbacks have hurt the Cougars' chances of scoring consistently. Kevin Lopina, who played against USC two weeks ago, will most likely get the nod against Stanford, but he has to do a better job of protecting the football as WSU has thrown 14 interceptions this season. If Stanford can get to the QB early and often, Lopina will throw it into coverage and put it on the ground, and Erik Lorig, Pannel Egboh, and Tom Keiser should have plenty of chances to make that happen.
Get a Big Play Through the Air
Stanford has been ineffective in the passing game, and they are going to need a big play or two down the stretch of the season to keep defenses honest. The Washington State game could allow Stanford to throw the ball down the field and get the passing game clicking, but it will also give the Cardinal the opportunity to show future opponents that there is the threat of a deep ball. Chris Owusu has the speed to get by the defensive backs and the size to win on a jump ball, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the Stanford coaches throw a couple of deep ones his way.