Oct. 12, 2001
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
STANFORD, Calif. - With a bye week and a postponement this season, Stanford hasn't been able to gather much momentum.
If the 23rd-ranked Cardinal are to get through their upcoming stretch of games, however, they need to turn it on quickly.
In a matchup of unlikely unbeaten teams, Washington State (5-0, 3-0 Pac-10) visits Stanford Stadium on Saturday to face the Cardinal (3-0, 2-0). Both schools' experienced rosters have produced excellent starts.
"This will be a game for both teams to see how we do, as far as when it comes to the national rankings," Washington State coach Mike Price said. "One of the teams will be ranked, and one of them won't by the end of this game."
The Cougars and the Cardinal have been unexpected additions to the conference title race, which already was top heavy with outstanding schools. It will thin out in the next few weeks as the Pac-10's five unbeaten teams begin to play each other.
No one will feel the shakedown more than the Cardinal, however: Stanford's next four opponents are a combined 18-0. After Washington State, trips to Oregon and Washington are sandwiched around a visit from UCLA.
"I don't know if anyone has had a stretch like that," Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham said. "It'll be interesting to see how our players respond to this challenge. The knowledge that we have to play all four of them at the same time is incredible."
The season has been pleasant so far for Willingham, who has the Cardinal off to their first 3-0 start in his seven seasons. With an experienced roster and a senior quarterback - Randy Fasani - throwing to a group of talented receivers, the Cardinal have awakened memories of their 1999 Rose Bowl team.
Stanford has won its first three games with an impressive offense. The Cardinal scored 110 points in their first three games, culminating in a 21-16 victory at Southern California two weeks ago.
Fasani, who struggled with injuries throughout last season, has thrown for 721 yards, 10 TDs and just one interception this fall. In the past two years, Stanford is 8-3 when Fasani starts, scoring nearly 32 points per game.
But Washington State has proven to be just as offensively talented. Led by senior quarterback Jason Gesser and an impressive group of receivers, the Cougars have scored 210 points in five games.
Price hasn't won at Stanford Stadium, and the Cardinal's rapidly maturing defensive secondary - as well as the wacky Stanford Marching Band - concern him.
"I'm 0-5. We haven't played well (at Stanford) ever, and I don't know why," Price said. "It has something to do with who we play, I guess. Maybe it's the band. I love that band. I don't like the team too much."
Price said his planning for the entire season was affected by the amicable departure of offensive coordinator John McDonell, who's now coaching the Cardinal's offensive line after spending a dozen seasons in Pullman. Price rattled off a list of big and small aspects of his preparation that have been altered.
"I love John McDonell to death, but he's got 12 of my playbooks," Price said. "They know what we're doing, so we've had to change."