STANFORD, California – A sloppy, porous Stanford team was exactly what Washington State needed to snap its skid.
The Cougars took advantage early and often, gaining yards at will and gobbling up four fumbles in the first half en route to a 52-14 thrashing of the Cardinal at Stanford Stadium.
Running back Nakia Watson returned after missing three weeks with an injury and set the tone on the second play. Watson ran for a 65-yard gain to set up the Cougars first touchdown, which quickly grew to a 21-0 lead in the first nine minutes.
Watson took 16 carries for 166 yards and a touchdown, leading a banner day for the Cougars rushing attack that gained 306 yards at an 8.1 a carry clip.
He scored a 41-yard run to give the Cougars a 42-7 lead at halftime.
The win pushed WSU to 5-4, 2-4 (Pac-12) on the season, one win from securing bowl eligibility.
The Cougars snapped a three-game losing streak, where they averaged 13.7 points a game, by posting their highest scoring total of the season. Cameron Ward hardly broke a sweat, completing 16 of 32 attempts for 176 yards and two touchdowns, and went the entire game without being sacked.
It was the largest of margin of victory for the Cougars over the Cardinal, which dropped to 3-6, 1-6. WSU has won six straight meetings against Stanford.
The Cougars will host Arizona State next Saturday at 12:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Network.
15:00 – Stan 0, WSU 0: Stanford wins the toss and defers to the second half. The Cougars will return as the Cardinal defend the north goal.
14:25 – Stan 0, WSU 0: Nakia Watson is the spark the Cougars offense needed.
The running back broke off a 65-yard run on his second play since returning from an injury that held him out for most of October. The run totaled more rushing yards than the Cougars had all game against Utah last week.
12:48 – WSU 7, Stan 0: Cameron Ward tosses a flare pass to Leyton Smithson for a 3-yard touchdown, which will apparently go down as a rushing play in the scorebook, to capitalize on the long run by Nakia Watson.
The Cougars were stopped on third down and faced a 4th-and-3, but a personal foul against Stanford extended the WSU drive. A different approach from the Cougars offense to this game with Watson back, running four times and passing twice on the opening drive.
11:53 – WSU 7, Stan 0: The Cardinal total three yards in three plays and the Cougars get the ball back on their own 45.
9:29 – WSU 14, Stan 0: Cameron Ward completes a 6-yard pass to Andreson Grover to dives for the pylon for a touchdown.
The Cougars go 54 yards in eight plays. Ward is 4 of 6 for 34 yards. Nakia Watson has six carries for 82 yards.
7:55 – WSU 14, Stan 0: Another 3-and-out for the Cardinal. Stanford has 11 total yards on six plays.
6:27 – WSU 21, Stan 0: Cameron Ward scrambles up the middle for a 15-yard touchdown.
WSU is outgaining Stanford 207-11 through the first nine minutes of the game.
3:42 – WSU 21, Stan 7: The Cardinal show some life after the sluggish start. Ashton Daniels enters the game at quarterback and punches in a 1-yard touchdown run to cap a 7-play 68-yard drive.
3:06 – WSU 21, Stan 7: Stanford’s defense snaps into action and forces a quick 3-and-out, aided by a Robert Ferrel drop and a batted pass.
The Cardinal start on their own 26. Tanner McKee is back at quarterback.
2:31 – WSU 21, Stan 7: The Cougars got the ball back on a fumble recovery and were about to face a short 4th down attempt, but a bone-headed unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against De’Zhaun Stribbling backs them up and forces a punt.
Stanford starts again on its own 10.
12:06 – WSU 21, Stan 7: The Cougars defense holds strong and forces a punt, which is return 21 yards by Robert Ferrel to the WSU 42.
8:37 – WSU 21, Stan 7: The Cougars punt to the Stanford 5, where it is called for a fair catch.
8:06 – WSU 28, Stan 7: Jaden Hicks scoops and scores a 17-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. Francisco Mauigoa forced the fumble.
6:20 – WSU 28, Stan 7: Another fumble by the Cardinal, this time by Elijah Higgins after a 22-yard catch, is recovered by WSU at the Cougars 38.
2:09 – WSU 35, Stan 7: Donovan Ollie hauls in a 9-yard pass on a fade route from Cameron Ward to extend the Cougars lead.
WSU went 62 yards in 11 plays.
1:07 – WSU 42, Stan 7: Can we call this one off at halftime?
Stanford doesn’t seem concerned with holding onto the ball, or playing defense for that matter, as they cough up their 5th fumble off the half – 4th recovered by the Cougars – and promptly allow a 41-yard rushing touchdown by Nakia Watson.
Stanford seemed committed to shaking Washington State out of its funk, pairing a porous defense with a turnover happy offense en route to a 42-7 halftime deficit at Stanford Stadium.
Thankfully for the Cardinal their stands were mostly empty, saving them some embarrassment.
The Cougars recovered four fumbles and piled up 192 rushing yards at 9.6 a carry to take its commanding lead into halftime. After averaging just over 13 points a game over its last three, WSU was led by running back Nakia Watson, who broke off a 65-yard run on the second play from scrimmage after returning to the team from an injury.
Watson has 13 carries for 158 yards and a touchdown – a 41-yard score right before the half.
It would take a miraculous comeback to stop the Cougars from improving to 5-4 on the season, one win from bowl eligibility.
11:53 – WSU 42, Stan 14: The Cardinal show some life out of halftime and Ashton Daniels scores on a 2-yard run to cap a 7-play 74-yard drive.
9:26 – WSU 42, Stan 14: The Cougars are forced to punt and Stanford calls for a fair catch at its own 4.
7:58 – WSU 42, Stan 14: The Cardinal can’t move the ball and punt out of their own endzone, which is caught by Robert Ferrel and returned 16 yards to the Stanford 36.
5:43 – WSU 45, Stan 14: Jean Janikowski’s 22-yard field goal attempt is good.
3:33 – WSU 45, Stan 14: The Cardinal go 3-and-out and the Cougars take over on their own 30.
1:51 – WSU 45, Stan 14: WSU goes 3-and-out and gives the ball right back to Stanford at its 24.
13:30 – WSU 45, Stan 14: Tanner McKee’s pass is broken up on fourth down and the Cougars take over at their own 45.
11:17 – WSU 52, Stan 14: Freshman quarterback John Mateer enters the game and steers the Cougars to a touchdown drive capped by a 27-yard pass to Orion Peters.
Mateer completed two attempts for 32 yards and took a couple of rushes for first downs.
6:18 – WSU 52, Stan 14: The Cardinal can’t punch in a touchdown inside the five and turn it over on downs.
Washington State was swirled in controversy the last time it played Stanford, a thrilling 34-31 finish that saw its vaccination-denying coach washed out of the national spotlight at the end of a Gatorade bucket.
There’ll be hardly as many eyes on the program this time around. But, the rose-colored glow around his replacement is starting to face.
Washington State takes a three-game losing streak to face Stanford at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be televised on Pac-12 Network.
The Cougars (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) started their first season under Jake Dickert with three consecutive victories, but struggled to get offensive production through most of October, with losses to USC, Oregon State and Utah with an average of 13.7 points a game.
The Cardinal (3-5, 1-5) have fared about the same in David Shaw’s 11th season, but have won 2 of their last 3 with victories over Notre Dame and Arizona State. Last week Stanford lost to UCLA 38-13. Its offense is averaging 13.3 points a game over its last three.
Expect a defensive struggle as both teams postseason hopes enter a “do-or-die” portion of the season.
WSU running back Nakia Watson and wide receiver Renard Bell, who both were injured in an Oct. 8 game against USC, were seen on the field getting loose in nonpadded warm-ups.
Watson was working with the first team during walk-throughs. Bell was not suited up.
Running back Jaylen Jenkins, who was injured against Utah on Oct. 27, was not on the field.
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