The Cougars hope to take a page out of their rival's book and win big against the Cardinal on Saturday. But, coach Mike Leach says, the key to a victory is really no secret.

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The fact that Washington beat Stanford last Friday wasn’t as much a surprise as to the Cougars as was the manner in which the Huskies dismantled the Cardinal in a 44-6 demolition.

Now, with a Pac-12 win under their belts, Washington State (2-2) gets to face the 15th-ranked Cardinal (3-1) in the aftermath of their great defeat at Husky Stadium.

Let’s just say the Cougars aren’t anticipating an easy fight at Stanford Stadium this Saturday.

“They’re probably going to come out working real hard this week,” said WSU left tackle Andre Dillard.

Added WSU coach Mike Leach, “Stanford is one of those teams that has a lot of ability and has had a lot of success. I think that game is kind of an aberration. They got on their heels and couldn’t dig themselves back out.”

That’s something of an understatement. The Huskies scored 30 unanswered points and forced four punts before Stanford’s sputtering offense was able to muster a touchdown.

“I think UW just went in there and imposed their will,” said junior linebacker Isaac Dotson. “That’s something we’ve got to do week in and week out.”

The Cougars will assuredly watch the game film of Stanford’s defeat to UW and mine it for clues as to how to upset the Cardinal, but, Leach says, the key to a win in Palo Alto this weekend is really no secret.

“One thing that’s key with Stanford is to be physically strong enough to address the problems their offensive line gives you,” Leach said. “They’re very strong and physical, and you’ve got to keep an eye on their offensive line and defensive line.”

On offense, junior running back Christian McCaffrey is the obvious threat. McCaffrey is averaging 121 rushing yards per game, and he leads Stanford with four touchdowns – three rushing, one receiving – on the year.

The Cougars were moderately successful in their attempts to bottle him up last season, giving up 107 rushing yards on McCaffrey’s 22 carries in their 30-28 defeat to the Cardinal at Martin Stadium.

But, “We’ve got to do a better job this year,” Leach said. “We should have won last year and it’s our own fault. We have to do everything we can to control our own destiny.”

“Bring your own energy”

Asked what it’s like to play at 50,424-seat Stanford Stadium, Leach sounded somewhat underwhelmed.

“It’s kind of a quieter place to play, kind of a ‘bring your own energy’ place,” Leach said. “Crowd-wise, it’s one of the quieter stadiums.”

The Cougars last visited Stanford Stadium in October 2014, where they lost 34-17. WSU is hoping to snap an eight-game losing streak against Stanford that dates back to 2008, when the Cougars were shut out 58-0 in Palo Alto.

And about that (non-existent) kicking game

Junior kicker Erik Powell is 0-for-4 on the year, having missed field goals from 38 and 43 yards, and has also had a 39-yard and 22-yard attempt blocked.

The blocked 22-yarder came in WSU’s win against Oregon, and while it did not make a difference in the final score, Leach is definitely concerned about the situation.

“I don’t think we struck the ball well, I don’t think we held it well,” Leach said. “Our operation time was too long, and we had a bit of leakage.”

The Cougars are at the point where Powell’s field goal slump now factors into offensive strategy, Leach said.

“I’m more inclined to go for it more on fourth down, which I kinda was anyway,” Leach said.

WSU is 6-of-10 on fourth down conversions this season.

More amped up for conference play?

The Cougars started the year with a disappointing performance in their non-conference slate, but with their 51-33 win over Oregon last weekend, things might be looking up.

As maddening as it is, this might be because they’ve finally begun Pac-12 play.

“I think just the thought of Pac-12 play, it excites us,” senior receiver River Cracraft said after the win over Oregon. “I really wish we’d brought it to Games 1 and 2, but we brought it to this one. You’ve gotta start at some point.”

“I wouldn’t say we get more ‘up’ for conference games, but there’s definitely a different atmosphere about it,” Dotson said. “The game kinda picks up and there’s more at stake. It’s a more exciting time of the year as far as postseason implications.

“It’s just exciting to be part of Pac-12 football. There’s nothing like it.”