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TV take: Mother nature or lousy offense, WSU’s loss to Stanford wasn’t easy on the eyes

By Vince Grippi The Spokesman-Review

Early on Saturday night, Michael Bumpus expressed the thought Mother Nature was playing defense for both teams.

But we know the truth. She had her money on the under. And won easily. Those of us at home watching on the Pac-12 Networks? If you love offense, something you expected to see a lot of Saturday night, you lost. Just like the Cougars, who fell for the fifth consecutive time.

The Pac-12 contest ended 10-7, with the Cardinal getting the winning points on a Joshua Carty 31-yard field goal with just under 6 minutes left. It was played, at least for much of the first half, in a pelting rain driven by a stiff wind. The antithesis of what’s needed for a high-scoring game. And the over/under? Fifty-seven and a half points.

Roxy Bernstein did the Cougar play-by-play for the second consecutive week, this time teaming with former WSU receiver Michael Bumpus.

What they saw

• The answer to that bold-faced question is simple. Nothing they expected. After all, the Cougars (4-5, 1-5) led the nation in passing yardage coming in. And Stanford gave up more of it than anyone.

A movable object, an irresistible force, both undermined by the weather.

With less than 5 minutes left in the first quarter, as the rain fell and so did the punts, Bernstein acknowledged the surprising nature of the 0-0 score.

“It’s been a defensive battle,” he said. “I don’t think we anticipated this with these two offenses, the way they’ve been playing lately.”

At the end of the first quarter, with Stanford (3-6, 2-5) having 36 yards of total offense and the Cougars 31, Bernstein noticed something odd. The Cardinal’s longest play covered 7 yards. The Cougars? Nine.

• That didn’t last, though it took a “how-did-he-do-that” Cameron Ward play – with an assist from a second-quarter pause in the rain.

With the ball on the Stanford 46, Ward looked downfield. But the pressure was too intense, especially from Anthony Franklin, who looked as if he had Ward sacked. But the 6-foot-2, 223-pound quarterback shed the 281-pound defensive tackle (losing a piece of clothing in the process) to escape to the right.

Eyes up, he found Josh Kelly 39 yards downfield, though Ward’s knuckleball took forever to arrive and was blown a little behind Kelly, who caught it while stumbling.

“A phenomenal play by Cam Ward,” Bernstein said.

Kelly then finished off the drive by slanting inside from the 9, catching Ward’s on-target throw and running it in.

What we saw

• Whether it was the weather or something else, Ward wasn’t his usual accurate self. He came into the game completing nearly 70% of his passes. He was 10 points worse, with a big part of his 24 completions (on 40 attempts) has to be attributed to some impressive catches by receivers Lincoln Victor (12 catches for just 66 yards) and Kelly (4 for 82 yards, all in the first half) among others.

His one interception came as a result of a pass behind Cooper Mathers, who had settled in a hole in the Cardinal zone. But Mathers couldn’t do anything more than pop it into the air, where Scotty Edwards grabbed it.

That led to Stanford’s tying score late in the third quarter.

• The only sure winning wager each Pac-12 game is that the officiating crew will mess up at least one call. At least that bet cashed.

And it didn’t take all that long. Just 3 minutes into the second quarter.

The Cougs went for a fourth-and-2 at the Stanford 30. Djouvensky Schlenbaker took it off right tackle. And gained, according to the on-field officials, a half-yard more than he needed.

But then the replay official became involved. So did we at home. We ran the replay over and over in slow motion. Schlenbacker didn’t gain a half-yard too much. But stopping our replay when his left elbow hit the Gesa Field turf, the ball was right at the 28, the yard line needed.

But not to referee Jeff Dahle and his helper in the booth. Somehow they decided they were convinced beyond all doubt – the standard – the ball was a half-yard short. And overturned the call.

Don’t worry, though. It wasn’t the last controversial decision. After WSU scored its first touchdown, the next Stanford possession including a flag on nearly every play. If you had the over on penalties, you won. Or lost, however you want to look at it.

“They are being graded also,” Bernstein said after another replay that overturned a first down. “They want to be considered among the best of the conference.”

Only if there is a quite a curve.

• Usually the names of all officials, including the replay booth, are available to the media during the game. The name was not listed for this one.