Cardinal Drops Cougars in Palo Alto, 38-28
November 14, 1998
STANFORD, Calif. - Washington State let two 14-point leads slip away, giving up 24 unanswered fourth-quarter points, to fall to Stanford 38-28 in a battle of Pac-10 cellar dwellers in front of 30,418 fans at Stanford Stadium.
The win was precious for the Cardinal, who moved to 2-8 overall and 1-6 in Pac-10 play. Meanwhile, the Cougars ran their winless streak to seven games, 3-7 overall, 0-7 in conference action. In a game full of big plays, WSU showed its quick-strike potential early, but not often.
Steve Birnbaum commanded the offense to midfield on the Cougars' first possession, but a holding penalty knocked WSU back to its own 38 yard line and Paul Mencke took over at quarterback. The strategy worked, resulting in a 62-yard touchdown connection with Nian Taylor and an early 7-0 lead.
Remaining behind center for WSU's second possession, Mencke needed little time to pull off an encore performance, this time hitting Jason White for a 75-yard touchdown. With over eight minutes remaining in the first quarter, Stanford looked to climb back from the 14-point deficit. On nine plays the Cardinal drove 65 yards, completing the march with a one-yard endzone plunge by Randy Fasani to close the gap to 14-7 with 3:53 remaining in the opening stanza.
In the second quarter, the mint-condition Cougars began to fray at the edges. First, a 46-yard drive proved all for not when Rian Lindell missed a 52-yard field goal attempt that would have put WSU up 10. Then, an apparent hold of the Cardinal offense proved wasted when WSU was penalized 15 yards for having 12 men on the field. As a result, fourth-and-seven became first-and-10 at the WSU 15 yard line.
Three plays later, Todd Husak hit DeRonnie Pitts for an 11-yard touchdown and the game was knotted at 14 apiece. Just as it had raced out to an early advantage, WSU regained its lead with a big play. With just under four minutes remaining in the half, Kevin Brown broke free for a 55-yard touchdown run and WSU had a 21-14 lead to carry into halftime.
As it turned out, the Cougs had a 21-14 lead to carry into the fourth quarter as well, with both teams proving unable to alter the scoreboard in the third quarter. WSU missed opportunity after opportunity, ranging from Lindell's missed 32-yard field goal attempt to Birnbaum's red zone interception.
But just one minute into the fourth quarter, the Cougars looked ready to roll. After Lamont Thompson returned a Cardinal punt to the Stanford 31, WSU manufactured a two-play drive, culminating in a 21-yard Mencke-to-White connection that gave the Cougars' their second 14-point lead of the afternoon.
Suddenly, the Stanford offense came to life. On their next four possessions, the Cardinal scored three touchdowns and one field goal, while racking up 169 yards of total offense and six first downs. Interceptions by both Birnbaum and Mencke thwarted any hopes of a late rally.
Single handedly, Brown created respect for WSU's ground game with a career-high 202 yards rushing. Meanwhile, it was feast or famine for the passing game. The two-headed quarterback of Birnbaum and Mencke completed 17-of-40 attempts for 372 yards and three touchdowns, but netted five interceptions along the way.
WASHINGTON STATE 14 7 0 7 28 STANFORD 7 7 0 24 38
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