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Stanford football back and forth: Washington State

In advance of Saturday’s football game between Stanford and Washington State, The Daily’s David Cohn chatted with Nate Hanson, the radio sports director of the Cougars’ student radio station, KUGR, to get perspective from both camps.

David Cohn (DC): First of all, what are your initial thoughts on this Saturday’s matchup?

Nate Hanson (NH): It’s going to be a tell-all for the Cougs. Since the hiring of Mike Leach there has been the expectation of returning WSU football back toward the top of the Pac-12. This is the game that all Coug fans could look back on as the signature win that Leach has turned this program around.

Defensive end Josh Mauro and the Cardinal defense corralled the Cougars for the most part last season, but Stanford barely snuck by due to offensive struggles. This season, quaterback Kevin Hogan and company are hoping to change that. (DAVID ELKINSON/isiphotos.com)

Defensive end Josh Mauro and the Cardinal defense corralled the Cougars for the most part last season, but Stanford barely snuck by due to offensive struggles. This season, quaterback Kevin Hogan and company are hoping to change that. (DAVID ELKINSON/isiphotos.com)

DC: I can definitely see that. From my perspective, it certainly seems like WSU is taking this game very seriously. I don’t believe it is too much of a stretch to call this matchup WSU’s biggest game of the year, since this contest was designated as WSU’s “Seattle Showcase.” This is a showcase for the Cougs on the national stage of ESPN, at an NFL stadium now known for being the loudest in the record books, to make a statement against a top-five team. Could you describe what you expect the atmosphere to be like on Saturday, and maybe correct this report, since I heard only 35,000 tickets have been sold by WSU for a stadium that seats almost double that number?

NH: The atmosphere for the Cougs in the annual Seattle game has never matched that of Martin Stadium in Pullman. Even last year when the Cougs took on No. 2 Oregon, the atmosphere was not nearly as riotous as it is in Pullman. The students are put into the back end of one end zone instead of spread from one goal line to the 50, like in Martin Stadium. That report that only 35,000 tickets have been sold is true. I know the university expects the crowd to be closer to 40,000. In all honesty it’s hard to call it a “home” game because Seattle is a six-hour drive from Pullman. I know it all sounds pretty negative, but the crowd won’t be silent. They will be loud and ready to go as the No. 5 team in the country takes the field. It’s just not the same as true home game though.

DC: It is interesting that you say that, since Oregon certainly had its troubles in the first half with WSU, with the noise and the environment. From Stanford’s perspective, I know that the Cardinal will not be taking this road trip for granted at all, given what happened last year to the Card when it traveled to Seattle after winning a nationally televised game at home. I would not expect any hangover from the victory over ASU, especially given the sour taste that was left in everyone’s mouth after the fourth quarter from that game. From WSU’s standpoint, what impact, if any, has the road victory over USC had on the team’s confidence heading into this matchup?

NH: It was a huge confidence-builder for the team, especially after losing to Auburn in a game the Cougs should have won. Anytime you can go into the Coliseum and beat USC, regardless of how good the Trojans are, it’s an accomplishment. It showed that this team can win a Pac-12 game, and they can do it on the road. Also, the offense had no success moving the ball against the Trojans. The only offensive points of the game came on the game-winning field goal. Yet, the defense was stout and held the Trojans to seven points. It showed that this team isn’t just about the offense. They’re more physical and complete this year. USC has top-notch athletes, and I think it gave WSU the little nudge it needed to believe they can beat anybody.

DC: Defensively, who do you think is WSU’s most important player in trying to slow down a Stanford offense that scored seemingly at will for three quarters against ASU?

NH: Darryl Monroe, the MIKE linebacker. He is the captain of the defense. Stanford likes to run the ball, and it is going to be up to Monroe to crash from the linebacker spot to stop Tyler Gaffney. He also makes all the calls defensively when it comes to audibles, so he needs to make sure everyone is in the right position. The Cougs are smaller than Stanford so it will be important that everyone is in the right spots in order to slow the run game down.

DC: Finally, give me a score. Who wins, by how much and why?

NH: The Cougs defense will be better than outsiders will expect. In the end it will be on Connor Halliday. He has to make better decisions than he has the last two seasons. I say Stanford 31-17. I think Stanford will be too physical, and I don’t think Halliday can suddenly get over his mental mistakes.

DC: It is funny, that is the exact scoreline I was going to go with too. However, in order to not repeat predictions, I am going to go with Stanford 34-20. Stanford’s offense was great last weekend, and I think Kevin Hogan picks up where he left off last week. Defensively, I think the Cardinal will bend but not break, much like in their performance against WSU last year. I don’t think they will have 10 sacks this year, but they will create enough pressure to help the Card win.

Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About David Cohn

David Cohn is a senior staff writer for Stanford football and softball, as well as an assistant editor of staff development. David is a junior biology major from Poway, Calif. who also covers football and softball for KZSU Stanford 90.1 FM as the lead play-by-play announcer for both sports.