Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh has a message for anyone who doesn’t believe Andrew Luck is a top-tier quarterback - watch the standout sophomore close out the Cardinal’s last opponent.
Washington State coach Paul Wulff is still waiting for his team to finish strong.
Back from a bye week Saturday, Luck and No. 12 Stanford look to build on a dramatic last-second victory as they host a Cougars team that’s lost 13 straight in Pac-10 play.
After throwing four interceptions in his previous two games, Luck went 20 of 24 for 285 yards and three TDs in a 37-35 home win over USC on Oct. 9. With the Cardinal (5-1, 2-1) trailing by one with 1:02 remaining, Luck led Stanford on a 51-yard drive that set up Nate Whitaker’s 30-yard field goal as time expired.
“If you don’t go out on the field with confidence you’re going to score or get the ball in scoring position, it’s not going to happen,” said Luck, who completed his final 13 passes en route to his first career winning drive that started with Stanford trailing.
Harbaugh has plenty of faith in Luck, who is second in the conference in completion percentage (65.7) and touchdowns (16) and has guided the program to its best record through six games since 2001.
“People that have doubted Andrew Luck do not know football,” Harbaugh told Stanford’s official web site. “What more can a quarterback do in a game?”
Luck, the first Cardinal to win the starting quarterback job as a freshman since 1996, faces Washington State for the first time since his collegiate debut - a 39-13 victory Sept. 5, 2009. He went 11 for 23 for 193 yards and a TD as Stanford posted its most lopsided road win against a Pac-10 foe in 18 years.
Luck will take on a Cougars defense that’s yielding an FBS-worst 493.9 yards per game.
Washington State (1-6, 0-4) did have one of its best defensive performances of the season in a 24-7 home loss to then-No. 17 Arizona on Saturday. The Cougars held the Wildcats to 352 yards of offense, their lowest total allowed in two seasons.
“No doubt, the defense played their butts off. They played good ball,” sophomore quarterback Jeff Tuel said after Washington State managed a season-low 297 yards. “We left too many plays out there offensively that could have at least put us in the game and if not, put us ahead to win the game.”
The Cougars, losers of five in a row since a 23-22 win over FCS opponent Montana State, have been outscored 116-44 in their six losses.
“We still have to finish a four-quarter ballgame,” Wulff said last week.
Washington State’s ground game ranks among the worst in the nation with 80.1 yards per game, so Tuel could get plenty of chances to throw to Marquess Wilson, who leads FBS freshman with 92.3 yards and 5.0 receptions per game.
WIth senior Ryan Whalen hampered by an elbow injury, Luck’s main target has been senior Doug Baldwin, who caught a career-high eight passes for two TDs against USC.
Junior Chris Owusu, who had 73 receiving yards in that victory after suffering a mild concussion Oct. 2, had three catches for 86 yards and a TD at Washington State last season.
Despite the loss of All-American Toby Gerhart to graduation, Stanford’s rushing attack ranks 23rd in the FBS with 210.5 yards per game.
Sophomore Stepfan Taylor looks to extend his career-best streak of 100-yard rushing efforts to four as the Cardinal try to hand Washington State its 11th straight conference road loss.
In the teams’ last meeting at Stanford Stadium, the Cardinal won 58-0 on Nov. 1, 2008. It was their most lopsided victory since 1949 and first conference shutout in 34 seasons.
Stanford leads the series 34-25-1.