Stanford faces another tough test against No. 6 Washington State

Updated: October 17, 2003, 2:48 AM ET

STANFORD, Calif. -- Aside from a few hate letters after a loss to Notre Dame, Bill Doba believes his job as head coach at Washington State has been relatively easy so far.

The Cougars are cruising.

"The experience for a first-year guy has been awesome," Doba said. "Of course, we haven't gotten shut out and we haven't gotten humiliated. I haven't had to stand before the press and try to justify a whole bunch of mistakes. We're still kind of on the honeymoon."

Doba is doing plenty of things right. He worked as defensive coordinator under former coach Mike Price and has already upgraded the defense and special teams. And it's a good bet his boys won't embarrass themselves this weekend.

The No. 6 Cougars (5-1, 2-0 Pac-10) enter Saturday's game at Stanford having won four in a row since their frustrating 29-26 overtime loss to the Fighting Irish last month. They beat the Cardinal 36-11 last season and have won two in a row at Stanford.

Washington State should be fresh for this one, too. The Cougars are coming off a bye week in which Doba emphasized efficiency by the offensive line and gave players some extra days off to rest.

"It wasn't like I'm some kind of a genius," Doba said. "There was a darn good football team left here by Mike Price. When I got the job, it wasn't like the cupboard was bare."

This will be another tough test for a struggling and inexperienced Stanford team.

The Cardinal (2-2, 0-2) will play a nationally ranked opponent for the third consecutive week, including back-to-back games against Top 10 teams. They lost 44-14 at Southern California last Saturday, allowing the Trojans 41 points and 413 yards in the first half.

"It was an eye opener right off the bat," second-year Stanford coach Buddy Teevens said. "From the opening kickoff, they moved the ball right down the field. It was a little bit of a shock effect."

Teevens had some adjustments to make this week after losing starting center Brian Head for the remainder of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Head, a sophomore, will need surgery. He was injured during the game at USC. Senior backup Drew Caylor will move into the starting job. While Teevens planned to make some changes schematically this week, he said he wouldn't do anything "radical" to throw off his young team.

That means sticking with freshman quarterback Trent Edwards although the Cardinal managed only 242 total yards against the Trojans, but senior backup Chris Lewis could enter the game at any time.

"Trent is really maturing through the process of throwing the ball away, which he's done a lot," Teevens said. "His confidence level is still strong."

Edwards might be able to pick up a few things from his Cougars counterpart, Matt Kegel.

Kegel, the understudy to record-setting quarterback Jason Gesser for three years, has completed 111 of 200 passes for 1,595 yards and 10 touchdowns, with only four interceptions -- a 134.99 efficiency rating.

"We're winning a lot of games and having fun, but we still have a lot of games ahead of us," Kegel said. "We've got to come ready to play and come prepared for every game."

Kicker Drew Dunning leads the nation in field goals, hitting 18 of 20 attempts this season. And Washington State has demonstrated it can win on the road, getting victories in nine of its last 10 games away from Martin Stadium.

The Cougars have a tough run defense that has allowed only two rushing touchdowns this fall. After this week, Washington State hits the toughest portion of its schedule: Oregon State at home, then at Southern California, then UCLA at home.

The Cardinal hope some of the humiliation they felt last week will lead to good things against the Cougars. It won't be easy.

"USC and Washington State are kind of special," Teevens said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index