Ed Reynolds returned an interception for a touchdown and No. 19 Stanford sacked Jeff Tuel 10 times to overcome a sloppy offensive effort in a 24-17 victory over Washington State on Saturday.
STANFORD, Calif. — The last drive was mostly a blur to Jeff Tuel. Little wonder, since he would finish the day having thrown 60 passes for 401 yards, interspersed by a Stanford school-record 10 sacks.
But his memory was sharp on the game’s final play, a climactic sack by defensive end Henry Anderson at the Stanford 27, ending Washington State’s spirited upset bid with a 24-17 defeat to the 19th-ranked Cardinal.
“It was a little miscommunication on Marquess (Wilson) and my part,” said Tuel, the WSU senior quarterback. “I signaled something, he got a great release on that corner and kept the vertical (route).
“The bottom line is, I can’t take a sack in that situation, leave it at that.”
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It was an encouraging yet ultimately bittersweet day for the Cougars, winless in five Pac-12 games and 2-6 overall.
“We played well, we played hard,” said WSU coach Mike Leach. “Stanford played more mature than we did. They had that sense — that go-for-the-kill — that we as a team need to get.”
As expected, the Cougars, 24-point underdogs, couldn’t run a lick against Stanford. What was surprising was how stout WSU was against the Cardinal, limiting Stepfan Taylor to 58 yards on 21 carries and the Stanford offense to 256 yards overall.
Said WSU linebacker Justin Sagote, “If we took away the running game, the quarterback (Josh Nunes) would have to go to the passing game. We knew he has trouble going to the outside receivers, so all we had to do was take away 33 (Taylor) and the tight end.”
The Cougars did that pretty famously, except for a second-quarter secondary bust by safety Tyree Toomer that allowed the Cardinal to take its first lead on a 70-yard pass from Nunes to Jamal-Rashad Patterson.
Stanford had a second huge play, a 25-yard interception return for a score by safety Ed Reynolds in the fourth quarter, after which the Cougars made it interesting.
Tuel marshaled them 75 yards in 12 plays midway through the final period, capped by a 10-yard score to Kristoff Williams to pull WSU within seven. The Cougars, using their timeouts on three straight Cardinal plays, held at their 47 and took over at their 20 with 3:37 left.
Tuel hit Marquess Wilson for 42 yards on a deep post route, and after WSU was called for a chop block, he fired a fourth-and-21 strike to Bobby Ratliff for 25 yards to the Cardinal 9.
But with the running game no threat, Tuel was forced to throw, and was sacked on the final two plays.
Asked if he had hoped for more with the running game, Leach said, “Nobody’s run the ball real effectively against these guys. There was a mismatch there, their front and ours. Just to pacify the masses, it’s a little foolish for us to keep bashing their heads against the wall just because (people believe) it’s a good idea (to run).”
Tuel credited the defense with “a hell of a game. That’s something our team has been missing this year, the offense and defense feeding off each other. That’s one of the first times all season I felt we played as a unit.”
• Leach replaced punter Mike Bowlin with Kentridge walk-on Wes Concepcion after Bowlin had three short punts averaging 29.7 yards. Concepcion averaged 41 on two punts, one helped by a considerable roll.
• WR Gabe Marks, seemingly headed for a big day with seven catches, left in the first half with an arm injury.
• Stanford coach David Shaw on WSU senior Travis Long: “He’s probably one of my favorite guys in the conference that’s not on our team. That guy plays hard.”
• Stanford DE Ben Gardner on Tuel: “That guy battles. He took some hits and got back up and kept fighting. He doesn’t get the credit he’s due. He’s a warrior.”
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org