STANFORD, California — Connor Halliday had little time to throw, so he threw short early and often. It was enough to rack up a lot of yards, though nowhere near his record-setting mark of a week ago.
And the Cougars couldn't keep pace without it.
No. 25 Stanford harassed Halliday from start to finish, holding him to 292 yards passing and two touchdowns in a 34-17 victory over Washington State on Friday night.
"We didn't have time for downfield passes," said Halliday, who completed 42 of 69 passes with one interception. "We got people open all night, I just couldn't hit them. I didn't make enough plays."
A week after Halliday threw for an NCAA-record 734 yards in a 60-59 loss to California, the nation's stingiest scoring defense hurried him all over the backfield. Stanford finished with four sacks, and its offense did just enough.
The Cougars (2-5, 1-3) have lost two in a row, and their chances of making consecutive bowl games under Mike Leach are looking dim.
"We're on the brink of doing a lot of good things. We have to mature more quickly, and that's partly a state of mind," Leach said. "These guys can play better now."
Kevin Hogan threw for 284 yards and three touchdowns to help the Cardinal (4-2, 2-1) rebound from a nonconference loss at Notre Dame and renew their chase for a third straight conference championship. Greg Taboado grabbed his first two career TDs and fellow tight end Eric Cotton had his first scoring catch.
Stanford improved to 9-0 after losses under David Shaw and hasn't dropped consecutive games since October 2009. But penalties and mistakes in the red zone cost the Cardinal from taking control — which has been a theme this season — against a Washington State defense that struggled again.
The usually stoic Shaw even broke out of character a couple of times, though it was often directed at officials, including tossing his headset while arguing on the sideline for pass interference. He also dropped his hands to his side and shrugged after fullback Patrick Skov fumbled while trying to stretch the ball over the goal line late in the first half.
Stanford still outgained Washington State 477 to 266 yards — enough to bring a smile out of Tiger Woods on the sideline — and leaned on its defense to do the rest.
The Cardinal entered the game with the country's best scoring defense (8.6 points) and ranked second in total defense (232 yards) and passing defense (107 yards) per game. They lived up to the billing again, hurrying Halliday constantly to break up the Cougars' pass-happy schemes.
"Pressure changes everything," said safety Zach Hoffpauir, who led Stanford with 15 tackles.
Halliday moved Washington State well, at times, but never found his quick-strike prowess. He tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Vince Mayle in the first quarter and threw across his body for a 3-yard TD strike to River Cracraft on fourth down to slice Stanford's lead to 24-17 early in the fourth quarter.
Cracraft finished with 14 receptions for 100 yards.
Ty Montgomery hauled in seven passes for 72 yards, Cotton caught a 39-yard TD pass and Taboado tallied two short scores from Hogan to give the Cardinal a 24-10 lead. Hogan completed 23 of 35 passes.
Jordan Williamson made two of three field goals, including a 34-yarder to extend the Cardinal's lead to 27-17 with 8:13 left. Quentin Breshears kicked a 46-yard field goal for Washington State earlier.
Cougars cornerback Charleston White was helped off the field several minutes after colliding with teammate Darius Lemora in the third quarter. Stanford wide receiver Devon Cajuste also stumbled off the field after taking a hard hit, and linebacker James Vaughters left with an undisclosed injury.