Coming into the season, there were no expectations that this year's Stanford football team was going to equal the versions from the past two seasons.
It's one thing not to make a third straight BCS bowl, it's another to come painstakingly close to a loss against the worst team in the conference.
That's what happened Saturday as the Cardinal held off a late Washington State charge to become bowl eligible with a 24-17 win.
"I think we played, I would say, if I had to put a percentage on it, I would say probably about 70 to 75 percent of our capabilities," coach David Shaw said. " I thought we did not play as well as we practiced."
Seventy to 75 percent may be enough against the Cougars (2-6, 0-5 Pac-12), but it won't come close in two weeks when Stanford (6-2, 4-1) plays the first of back-to-back games against No. 7 Oregon State and No. 4 Oregon.
"We knew from the start there was no game on our schedule we could overlook," defensive end Ben Gardner said. "People might talk about Oregon and Oregon State, but those games don't matter unless we get W's along the way."
Yes, Saturday counts a win, but the offense's lack of production (256 yards) is reason for concern.
Shaw said he would consider paring down the game plan in an effort to help execution, but that he would need to review the game film before commenting on exactly what slowed up his offense.
Running back Stepfan Taylor was held to just 58 yards on 21 carries and aside from a 70-yard touchdown pass from Josh Nunes to Jamal-Rashad Patterson, the passing game lacked much production, too.
Nunes finished 7 of 15 for 136 yards and took blame following the game for not getting the team in the right play on several occasions.
"It's frustrating, but we know we can go out there and make plays and we have all the guys in the right spots," Nunes said. "It starts with me getting us in the right play."
On the Cardinal's running game…
"Stepfan got the ball at least five times off the top of my head and as soon as he touched the ball there was a guy in the backfield. A guy that should've been accounted for. I'm not going to take anything away from those guys. Travis Long is probably one of my favorite guys in our conference that's not on our team. That guy plays hard. We talked about it. If you don't keep your knees bent and strain blocking him, he's going to beat you. He beat us a few times tonight."
On Josh Nunes' performance…
"Once again, we'll see after we watch the film. I thought there were a couple times he made good plays. We still got our hands on a couple balls we should've caught, but he missed a couple throws we need to make. I need to see the film. A couple weeks ago there was a lot of things we blame on the quarterbacks and we go back and watch the film and three guys were at the wrong depth. So before I say anything about his play or anybody else's play, I gotta see the film."
On Stanford's 10 sacks…
"The biggest misleading stat there is is passing yards. We had a two score lead, and at the time, I think they had -30 yards rushing. So they're going to throw the ball - that's what they do anyway. Their rushing yards got better because their quarterback scrambled. We lost contain three times - that's inexcusable. We lost contain three times, he scrambled twice up the middle. We got guys rushing outstanding rush lanes - you gotta double back when the guy pushes up in the pocket.
Once again, Jeff Tuel's been playing for years. He's a good football player, make no mistake about it. He's a good football player. We didn't play up to our capabilities. Thankfully at the end we made enough plays to win the game."
On having difficulties in the running game…
"I feel like we were really close today. The other team made some good plays, and they played tough all night. We were close to popping them, but their guys played well up front."
On Stanford's overall play…
It definitely wasn't the kind of game we wanted to play. Coach Shaw said it earlier. We can definitely play better. The defense did a lot of great things all night.
Offensively, we have to get going, we have to be more efficient, get the chains moving on third down and get [the defense] a break."
On the defense getting a school record ten sacks in the game…
"It means we did what we needed to do to get this win. We pride ourselves on getting penetration and getting to the quarterback. For the most part, we've been able to do that, so it was just another step in the right direction for us. Overall, we're happy with the way the guys rushed and pursued the quarterback … we played as a team and took them completely out of the running game. We've got the guys that if you let us pin our ears back and get up the field, we're going to make it tough on their offensive line to protect. We got after them pretty good, and we're happy about that, but there were a few times we let them squeak out there and get some yards running, so we have to clean that up."
-WSU coach Mike Leach
On the running game…
"Well, nobody has run the ball real effectively against these guys, maybe Notre Dame. I don't know what Notre Dame ended up with but nobody ran it really effectively against them and there was a mismatch there, their front and ours."
- The defense sacked Jeff Tuel 10 times, which is a new single-game school record.
- WSU finished with minus-16 yards rushing, which was the third lowest amount Stanford had ever held an opponent.
- Stanford finished with 15 tackles for loss.
- Stanford has won 18 of its last 19 games at Stanford Stadium.
- Fullback Ryan Hewitt scored his first career rushing touchdown.
- Free safety Ed Reynolds was the NCAA leader in interception return yards going into the game and added 25 more on a pick-six early in the fourth quarter.
- True freshman WR Kodi Whitfield made his first two career catches
- True freshman RG Joshua Garnett made his first career start
- True freshman CB Alex Carter started in place of Barry Browning.