Upsetting No. 5 Stanford would be boon for WSU

SEATTLE — A victory for Washington State’s football team over No. 5 Stanford today would signal more than just an upset over one of the nation’s best teams.

It would also give the Cougars their fourth consecutive win and their first 4-1 start in a decade.

Not since 2003 has WSU started a season with such a record, and that was also the last time the Cougars won four consecutive games — they actually won six straight between Sept. 3 and Oct. 25 that year en route to a 10-3 final record and a victory over Texas in the Holiday Bowl.

And, yes, that was also WSU’s last bowl appearance.

“We expect to win the game, obviously,” sophomore receiver Gabe Marks said. “No other expectation than that. Just go out there and make routine plays and win the game so we can get to 4-1.”

Their last win at CenturyLink Field, today’s venue, was more recent: a 45-17 victory over San Diego State in 2007. Four consecutive losses followed, two of them to conference opponents.

But with a defense ranked in the nation’s top 10 statistically and an upset over USC already under its belt, this feels like a different Washington State team than the one that laid down for a beating from Oregon State in 2011 and wilted last season after halftime against star-studded Oregon.

Cougar players minded their media manners earlier this week when asked about the game’s significance, but there’s at least more indication than usual that they are aware of the stakes. Especially if they win.

“They’re a top-five team and being able to upset them, that’s a big accomplishment,” senior cornerback Nolan Washington said.

Despite the importance the game might hold in the larger context of coach Mike Leach’s rebuilding efforts — and its 7 p.m. primetime kickoff slot on ESPN — fan interest doesn’t appear to be piquing. A WSU spokesman said Friday afternoon that as of Thursday, only 38,000 tickets had been sold. Last year’s Seattle Game against Oregon drew 60,929, the second-highest total for this annual tradition since the Cougars drew 63,588 for the inaugural game against Nevada in 2002.

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