SEATTLE -- The ground-and-pound approach that powered Stanford to the Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl victory last year has been tweaked.

The offense now includes a bit of slice-and-dice.

The sleeker model was on display Saturday night in a 55-17 victory over Washington State at CenturyLink Field as quarterback Kevin Hogan completed three long touchdown passes against a Cougars defense stacked to stop the Cardinal running game.

Hogan hit receiver Devon Cajuste for scoring strikes of 57 and 33 yards in the first half and receiver Michael Rector for a 45-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Although aesthetically pleasing, the change isn't for show. It's for survival in the race for the conference and national titles.

"It's what we have to be able to do," coach David Shaw said. "We have to show people we'll go downtown if they leave us one-on-one. We'll make the defense choose."

The fifth-ranked Cardinal (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) no longer has elite tight ends like Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo, whose ability to make short- and middle-distance catches -- in combination with the power running game -- allowed Stanford to move methodically down the field.

The void has been filled by speedy receivers, including Rector, the 6-foot-4 Cajuste, Kelsey Young and Ty Montgomery. The quartet caught 13 passes Saturday and averaged 22.9 yards per reception.

"This was a big game for us," Rector said of the up-and-coming generation of wideouts. "We take it personally."

Now they must replicate the success against the top teams in the conference. Stanford's next five opponents (Washington, Utah, UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon) have a combined record of 18-2.

"They're a very mature team," WSU coach Mike Leach said. "They have the discipline to stay in and do their thing. They outlast you. At times our technique would break down and they'd capitalize on it. You have to play extremely sharp for an extended period with them."

  • Stanford All-American guard David Yankey, who missed Saturday's game due to an undisclosed family matter, was expected to rejoin the team Sunday.

  • The Cardinal remained No. 5 in the Associated Press poll released Sunday, marking the 53rd consecutive week that Stanford has been ranked. That's the fifth-longest streak in the nation behind Alabama, LSU, Oregon and Oklahoma.

    For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at jwilner@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5716.