When Washington State head football coach Bill Doba looks at the Stanford defense, he see something familiar.
The Cardinal are blitzing, attacking, stunting trying to disrupt protection schemes and rattle the quarterback. Now who does that sound like?
“They are a lot like what we are right now,” Doba said Monday on his weekly conference telephone call. “They are a pressure defense, bringing a lot of people.”
But there is one way the Cardinal are different than WSU recently. They are having trouble stopping anybody. Last Saturday, against a Washington team that came in eighth in the Pac-10 in total offense, Stanford gave up 539 yards – at home.
But despite its 3-6 overall mark and 2-5 conference record, Doba thinks Stanford can play with anybody, and proved that earlier this season.
“They’re a little nicked up I know … but they can move the football,” Doba said. “They are a Pac-10 team; they beat SC, what else can you say?”
The Cougars, though 1-5 in conference and 3-6 overall, still are favored by 10.5 points, with most of that resting on two factors: A defense that has seemed to turn the corner since yielding 53 points to Oregon and the location of the game.
“We’re really happy to be back, to be playing in front of our student body. There’s a real connection,” said Doba of playing in Martin Stadium. “Any time you get in front of your peers … there’s a little extra incentive and we feed off the crowd.
“It helps (our defense). It helps them to get excited and keep at it. Although I can’t complain about their effort last Saturday.”
The Cougars defense held Cal 12 yards under its season average in total offense and almost 12 points under its scoring average. Still, it wasn’t enough.
Part of that can be attributed to a passing offense that, while still gaining 306 yards, missed chances to put points on the scoreboard.
“There were four or five opportunities that were just missed,” Doba said. “A couple of those were (quarterback) Alex (Brink’s) fault, and two or three of them were just drops where … normally we would come down with the ball and we didn’t.
“Part of that, too, is that these guys are nicked up and don’t practice or can’t practice as much. All that timing (between quarterback and receiver) needs to be done in practice. If they are going half speed in practice or missing a day of it, I think that throws the timing off, too.”
Linebacker Andy Mattingly earned more praise from Doba this week. He had a term for the sophomore from Mead: “He’s just a playmaker,” Doba said, citing a fumble recovery Saturday in which Ropati Pitoitua actually fell on the ball but Mattingly came up with it. “He just makes plays,” Doba continued. “He might be an All-Pac-10 defensive end before he’s done.” … Doba added he asks his players to not stifle their growth by trying to stay at a position like linebacker. If they get bigger and stronger, they “can be an average-speed linebacker or a real fast defensive end. In this league and the pros, speed is the No. 1 thing everyone is looking for.”
•There’s a chance reserve running back Chris Ivory will be cleared this week to practice again. Ivory has been out since suffering a concussion against Arizona State. Safety Alfonso Jackson is another story. Doba is still not sure when he’ll be cleared. Defensive ends Michael Graise and Kevin Kooyman are both trying to recover from high ankle sprains and their status is doubtful for this week.
•When asked if he was second-guessing himself after deciding to kick a field goal on fourth-and-7 with six minutes left trailing Cal by seven, Doba answered with an emphatic “no.” He explained if it had been later, or the yardage less, then the decision would have been different. But with the time left, the way the defense had been stifling Cal since the second quarter, and the score, Doba felt getting points at the time was paramount.
•Stanford has won the last three times it has traveled to Pullman dating back to 2000. In their last visit two years ago, the Cardinal pulled out a 24-21 win. … WSU’s game in Pullman against Oregon State on Nov. 17 will be televised by FSN, the Cougars and the network announced Monday. Kickoff will be 3:30 p.m.