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Tale of the tape: Stanford 24, WSU 17

COUGARS

FROM SAN JOSE -- Back at the hotel now and have some time to pass along our game-in-review post. Read on.

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OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME -- It's Jeff Tuel, who completed 43 of 60 passes for 401 yards and two touchdowns in the best  performance by a WSU quarterback this season. His interception obviously was a big one as it was returned for a touchdown and wound up as one of the game's deciding plays, and he admitted his end-of-game sack was a bad play on his part. But Tuel also overcame 10 sacks and threw the ball pretty well, all things considered.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME -- We'll just give it to Stanford's defensive front, which was as tough as advertised, and then some. The Cardinal had 10 sacks, and had four different players total 2.5 tackles for loss. That's a lot of hits in the backfield. WSU deserves credit, too, for executing its defense gameplan almost flawlessly. Deone Bucannon had 10 tackles.

PLAY OF THE GAME -- Tuel's interception -- which was returned 25 yards for a touchdown by Stanford safety Ed Reynolds -- gave the Cardinal the breathing room they needed to hang onto this one.

STAT OF THE GAME -- Minus-16. For the third time this season, the Cougars finished with a negative rushing total, this one because of all those Stanford sacks. But WSU's running backs were bottled up, too, with WSU's only real positive plays coming when Tuel scrambled. Hard to win with numbers like that.

QUOTABLE -- "Nobody’s run the ball real effectively against these guys. Maybe Notre Dame. ... Nobody ran very effectively against them. There was a mismatch there, their front and ours. Just to pacify the masses it’s a little foolish for us to keep bashing our head against the wall just because somebody thinks it’s a good idea. I think it’s a good idea if they bash their head against the wall but that doesn’t mean it’s very productive for them." -- Mike Leach, addressing his team's run game

WHAT WE LEARNED -- The Cougars still have plenty of fight left in them, even if their deficiencies won't allow them to get back in the win column yet. But they're starting to see some return on their investment, especially defensively where they've posted two strong outings the last two times they've gone on the road. PAss protection remains an issue, but not every team they face is going to be as tough as Stanford in that department. And Tuel appears to be settling in nicely with Leach's system, something he alluded to afterward. It might be too little, too late at this point, but WSU does appear headed in the right direction. Not sure that's something you could say the past couple weeks.

UP NEXT -- At Utah on Saturday, a noon kickoff on the Pac-12 Networks. WSU needs a win to keep its bowl hopes alive. Utah beat Cal, 49-27, today.

Christian Caple can be reached at christianc@spokesman.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple




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