Washington State vs. Stanford score: No. 14 Cougars take control of Pac-12 North in win over No. 24 Cardinal

Blake Mazza hit a 42-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining to give No. 14 Washington State a 41-38 win over No. 24 Stanford in a critical Pac-12 North battle Saturday. Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew II continued his dream season, going 40-of-50 for 438 yards and three touchdowns, and Dezmon Patmon caught 10 passes for 127 yards for Mike Leach’s crew. 

The win pushed Washington State to 7-1 (4-1 Pac-12) and into first place by itself in the division after Washington dropped its second conference game of the season Saturday night to Cal.

What do you need to know about the thriller on the farm?

1. Minshew should get Heisman love: The senior’s path to the Palouse is one of the most incredible stories of 2018. 

The former East Carolina quarterback committed to become a graduate transfer backup at Alabama behind Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts, with the possibility — at least in the offseason — of one of those Crimson Tide quarterbacks transferring. His goal, at the time, was to get work against a good defense in practice in T-Town, potentially play a role when needed and essentially become a player/coach to prepare him for his future line of work. Then Leach called, and Minshew made the move across the country to lead the Cougars.

All he has done this season is toss 26 touchdowns, 3,138 yards and lead the nation in passing yards per game at 397.88. Oh, and lead his team into conference and national championship contention.

Isn’t that enough? If it isn’t, it should be. Wake up, Heisman voters.

2. Stanford is very un-Stanford: The Cardinal entered the season with high hopes, but those have fizzled as fast as their offensive identity. This is supposed to be a hard-nosed, ground-and-pound team that not only beats you, but beats you up. This year, though, the offense looks like it would rather get into a pillow fight than hop in the octagon.

Coach David Shaw’s crew rushed 23 times for 120 yards against the Cougars, which was actually its best rushing game of the season in terms of yards per carry at 5.2. The previous high for the Cardinal was Oct. 6 vs. Oregon State when they averaged 4.55.

Where have Christian McCaffrey, Tyler Gaffney and Stepfan Taylor gone? Heck, where has Bryce Love gone? The Heisman Trophy finalist from last year has been banged up, but no running back on the depth chart has received any help from an offensive line that has no interest in blocking.

It’s amazing how far the Cardinal rushing attack has fallen. Love came in as one of the favorites to win the Heisman, but has been let down by his own team in 2018.

3. Washington State is still alive in the College Football Playoff race: The Pac-12 has become the nation’s punching bag after posting only one bowl win last year and not supplying a CFP team. This year looks like it could be more of the same, but don’t count the Cougars out just yet. The out-of-conference schedule — Wyoming, San Jose State and Eastern Washington — doesn’t make it a probability, but it’s still a possibility.

What do we know about college football? The inexplicable happens often. For proof, look no further than Purdue’s domination of Ohio State this year, Iowa doing the same last year and Syracuse topping Clemson last year before losing its final five games. 

If Washington State wins out, it will likely include a win over a pretty good Utah team in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Rival Washington losing to Cal doesn’t help the strength of schedule for the Cougs, but a one-loss Power Five conference champion won’t need too many dominoes to fall to at least be considered.

It’s a long shot, but it’s not a “no shot.”

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