Stanford will be at a disadvantage this weekend when it prepares to face WSU's Air Raid without its two starting cornerbacks
For the second game in a row, Stanford might be without its two starting cornerbacks in a pivotal Pac-12 North battle.
Junior Alijah Holder and sophomore Quentin Meeks both missed the Cardinal’s last game against UW due to injury, and Stanford coach David Shaw said Tuesday morning that while the health status of his two starting cornerbacks is “still to be determined,” he conceded that both players are “still most likely out” when the Cardinal plays Washington State this Saturday at Stanford Stadium.
That’s a huge blow for Stanford, and a tremendous advantage for the Cougars and their Air Raid offense. Holder led the team in pass breakups before he was injured during the UCLA game. He was also responsible for four tackles in Stanford’s 30-28 win over WSU last season.
Meeks was instrumental in the Cardinal’s win over WSU last year. As a freshman cornerback in 2015, he intercepted Luke Falk twice in the second half, and Stanford’s offense ultimately scored 10 points off Meeks’ picks.
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With Meeks and Holder unavailable last week, junior Alameen Murphy and Terrence Alexander started at cornerback for Stanford. Murphy had three tackles, while Alexander notched one. The cornerbacks did not have a pass breakup between them.
Huskies quarterback Jake Browning threw for 210 passing yards and three passing touchdowns against Stanford, and even though WSU’s offense was surprisingly run-heavy in its win over Oregon last weekend, it’s quite likely that Falk and the Cougars’ capable receivers will try to exploit Stanford’s patchwork defensive secondary this Saturday.
WSU has now set Leach era single game rushing yardage records in back-to-back games, and the emergence of WSU’s ground attack, which scored six touchdowns against Oregon, has given the Cougars the most balanced offense they’ve had under Leach.
“In particular, taking their last game into account, they’re running the ball with very good efficiency, and combined with their pass attack, they’re very tough to stop,” Shaw said.
But the two cornerbacks aren’t the only players Stanford will be missing when it faces WSU. The Cardinal have struggled to score on offense, ranking 114th nationally in scoring offense with an average of 20.3 points per game. Despite their 3-1 record and No. 15 national ranking, they’ve scored only two touchdowns in their last two games, with their highest scoring performance of the season coming in a 27-point effort against USC.
In comparison, WSU’s offense is averaging 44.3 points per game, and the Cougars’ lowest scoring effort was a 28-point performance against Boise State.
So, it doesn’t help the Cardinal that starting receiver Francis Owusu, a senior, will also probably miss his second-straight game this weekend. Owusu was knocked out of Stanford’s Sept. 24 win over UCLA when he took a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit, and he sustained a concussion.
Shaw said Tuesday that Owusu is “most likely out” for the game against the Cougars.
Between Stanford’s woeful offense — though it’s worth noting that said offense still has star running back Christian McCaffrey lining up in the backfield — and its beat up secondary, the Cougars (2-2) know they have a chance to pull off an upset at Stanford Stadium this week.
“We just have to stay focused,” Leach said. “We keep competing with ourselves and getting better every day. We have a lot of stuff to improve on. We have to get better.”