SEATTLE — Kevin Hogan saw what Washington State was trying to do, pushing its defense closer to the line of scrimmage and daring Stanford to try and go over the top.
Hogan and the Cardinal were more than happy to pick apart the Cougars defense by going deep.
“Oh, it’s a lot of fun. Definitely,” Hogan said.
Hogan threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns, and No. 5 Stanford won its 12th straight with a 55-17 rout of the Cougars on Saturday night.
Hogan connected with Devon Cajuste on touchdowns of 57 and 33 yards in the first half then found Michael Rector on a 45-yard TD during a third-quarter blitz where the Cardinal scored 21 points as part of a stretch where they ran just two offensive plays.
Jordan Richards and Trent Murphy both returned interceptions 30 yards for touchdowns 2:04 apart in the third quarter as the Cardinal (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) quickly turned a 17-3 halftime advantage into a 38-3 lead. Richards stepped in front of a pass that floated toward the sideline, while Murphy jumped and stole a screen pass at the line of scrimmage.
It was the second time Murphy had an interception return for a touchdown at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, pulling it off last season against Washington. Stanford also finished with two sacks and forced Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday to leave in the second half.
“We played top down trying not to give up the big pass and we rushed the passer,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “We knew it was coming out quick and they did a good job early, but if we could make them hold the ball we knew we were going to have a chance to get after them. We got to the quarterback a bunch.”
Hogan finished 16 of 25 passing with his only mistake being a second-quarter pass into the end zone that floated and was intercepted. Hogan was replaced early in the fourth quarter, but Stanford kept scoring. Remound Wright added a 53-yard TD run and Barry Saunders scored on a 22-yard run, the first touchdown of his career.
Stanford finished with 560 total yards.
Stanford played without All-America left guard David Yankey, who was away from the team due to a family issue, and free safety Ed Reynolds was suspended for the first half after he was ejected last week against Arizona State for targeting. The Cardinal barely noticed they were gone and can now turn their attention to next week’s showdown against undefeated No. 16 Washington.
Shaw said that Yankey would rejoin the team on Sunday.
Hogan’s first half was nearly perfect. He missed on his first pass, then connected on six straight, including the touchdown tosses to Cajuste and was excellent on third down. Hogan was 3 of 4 passing on third down and added another conversion with his legs. Washington State moved its safeties up to the line of scrimmage in an attempt to slow the Cardinal run game and paid for it getting beat on the back end.
“We knew they wanted to be aggressive with the safeties. … But if those safeties come down we believe we can get past those corners,” Shaw said. “We had some opportunities tonight. We didn’t hit all of them, but we hit a good portion of them.”
Cajuste came into the game with only six receptions all season. He broke free on a crossing route on the first TD running away from linebacker Cyrus Coen. It was the first passing touchdown allowed by the Cougars this season.
“It was the first time for me a kid has dove at my legs and I was able to keep running and it was almost surreal that I was able to get into the end zone,” Cajuste said. “It was a really exhilarating moment for me.”
Cajuste’s second touchdown came when he blew past Nolan Washington on a double move and was wide open for the 33-yard score and a 17-3 Stanford lead. He should have caught a third touchdown, but Hogan’s pass floated and Deone Bucannon raced over from safety for the interception. It was the first time this season Stanford failed to score inside the red zone.
Cajuste finished with four catches for 115 yards.
Washington State (3-2, 1-1) was riding its first three-game winning streak since 2006 and was trying to start 4-1 for the first time since 2003, the last time the Cougars went to a bowl game. Instead of pulling off a stunning upset that would have signaled another step in their resurgence, the Cougars were left physically beaten and battered by the Cardinal.
“I think Stanford is a very mature team and they play like one,” Washington State coach Mike Leach said. “… Nothing rattles them and when they get an opportunity they capitalize on it.”