Washington State dictated the game when its defense was on the field, tailback Nakia Watson averaged a first down every time he touched the football, and the Cougars snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Stanford 52-14 at Stanford Stadium on Saturday.

The Cougars (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) ran for over 300 yards and forced four turnovers. They had more points at halftime than they did in any other full game this season. It was a timely win for coach Jake Dickert and the program in its quest for another bowl appearance. On the flip side, it was a crushing loss for Stanford, which dropped to 3-6 on the season and 1-6 in Pac-12 play. Stanford will have to win out to avoid a third losing season in four years.

Here are three takeaways from the game.

Washington State was unstoppable running the football

That statement alone should probably force questions about David Shaw’s job security over the next 48 hours.

The Cougars entered Saturday’s contest dead last in the Pac-12 in rushing yards per carry, rushing touchdowns produced, and rushing attempts per game. Wazzu hasn’t been able to effectively run the football, so it just hasn’t tried. Only Mike Leach’s new team runs it less on a per-game basis than Leach’s old team.

Against Stanford, Washington State ran for 306 yards and three scores. As a team, the Cougs averaged 8.1 yards per carry.

Watson, back after missing the previous two games, ran for a career-high 166 yards on 16 carries. He added a 29-yard reception. Immediately after a fumble late in the second half, Watson ripped off a 41-yard score.

Washington State hadn’t even topped 150 rushing yards in a game prior to Saturday. Does it top 200 in any game the rest of the way? That seems unlikely, though perhaps Dickert saw something he liked. We’ll see.

What we do know, though, is that Stanford’s defense is an abject disaster. So much was made about the uncharacteristic play of Stanford’s offensive line coming into the season. Just as big of a concern was Stanford’s inability to stop anyone. The Cardinal have given up 300 yards rushing three times now. They’ve given up 500 yards of offense four times.

Washington State forces first-half miscues

The Cougs dictated terms of engagement. Stanford couldn’t run the ball. Sure, the Cardinal running back room has been decimated by injuries, but the group that was out there mustered 86 yards on 26 attempts (adjusted for sacks). At this point, injuries aren’t a crutch anymore. Offenses have been derailed in each of the last two seasons by injuries to skill players.

So Stanford had to throw the ball. Quarterback Tanner McKee threw it 40 times, completing 23 for 236 yards.

He was sacked twice. He was harassed more. Stanford had nine first-half possessions; two of them crossed the Washington State 40-yard-line.

The Cougar defense was stout once again, though Stanford makes it a little easy. Of those nine first-half possessions, four ended with fumbles and two others went three-and-out. Stanford scored on a seven-play, 68-yard drive after falling down 21-0 to provide a brief moment of hope, and then it fumbled on four of its next five possessions.

Wazzu defensive back Jaden Hicks returned one for a score.

The Cardinal got a touchdown on their first possession after halftime, then followed that score up with back-to-back three-and-outs and then back-to-back turnovers on downs.

Stanford has four offensive touchdowns in its last four games. It can’t protect McKee. It can’t run the ball. It can’t keep guys healthy. It’s painful to watch this group at the moment.

Stanford leadership is on the clock

In 2019, David Shaw went 4-8. In 2021, he went 3-9. Stanford has games left against Utah, Cal, and BYU this season. Does it win one more game? I wouldn’t bet on it, even knowing how poorly Cal is playing at the moment. More likely than not, Stanford is going to finish with a third losing season in four years.

With each passing Saturday, more and more jokes about Shaw’s $9-million-a-year salary are made at the expense of a proud university and athletic department. With each passing week, Stanford sinks further and further on the scoreboard.

This is a bad football team, inexplicably led by a quarterback who might still be a Day 1 or Day 2 pick in the NFL Draft.

The 2023 recruiting class doesn’t inspire confidence that things are changing anytime soon. Stanford has a Stanford man leading the charge, so the likelihood it makes any move in-season is slim. The program has too much respect for Shaw. And, frankly, it’s deserved. He piloted some remarkable teams.

But he’s also presided over a pretty stark fall from grace. This Stanford group doesn’t resemble the te ones that made Shaw one of the highest-paid coaches in the country, and it hasn’t for a while.

Regardless of whether Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir actually wants to make a move or not, pressure is mounting for the program to do something.