- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) - The grueling road ahead for No. 23 Stanford just got a little more difficult.

Cardinal coach David Shaw said Tuesday that wide receiver Devon Cajuste is expected to sit out against No. 17 Arizona State on Saturday night as he recovers from an apparent head injury. Tight end Austin Hooper also is questionable with an undisclosed injury.

Linebacker James Vaughters and backup wide receiver Michael Rector will likely play against the Sun Devils after leaving Stanford’s 34-17 win over Washington State last Friday with undisclosed injuries, and quarterback Kevin Hogan is fine after sitting out some practices last week with a minor leg injury.

Cajuste is Stanford’s second-leading receiver with 18 catches and is tied for the team lead with three touchdown receptions. The 6-foot-4 junior staggered off the field after taking a hard hit near his head and neck in the fourth quarter against Washington State, needing assistance to avoid falling on the sideline.

Hooper has 16 catches for 202 yards. Both are more than all the other tight ends combined.

Healthy or not, the Cardinal will need to navigate a tough road stretch if they want to three-peat as Pac-12 champions.

Four of the final six games for Stanford (4-2, 2-1) are away from home, starting with the rematch of last season’s conference championship at Arizona State (4-1, 2-1). The Cardinal also visit No. 9 Oregon, California and UCLA.

“For us, it’s about us playing at our best,” Shaw said, “and not about where we’re playing.”

The Cardinal routed Arizona State 38-14 in the title game in Tempe and won 42-28 at Stanford last season, and neither contest ever felt that close. But there have been so many changes for each team, Shaw said, that playing a high-stakes game in Sun Devil Stadium will be a new experience for many starters.

The Cardinal went 4-2 on the road last season, including the Pac-12 title game. Stanford won 20-13 at Washington and lost 17-14 at Notre Dame in its only two games away from home this year.

While the offense has struggled, the defense has traveled well in recent seasons, staying consistent no matter where they play. Stanford has the country’s No. 1 scoring defense (10 points) and is second in total defense (238 yards) per game.

Players say they thrive in hostile atmospheres outside Stanford Stadium.

“Once we make a play or make a huge stop, everybody starts quieting down,” linebacker Blake Martinez said. “You see guys kind of on the sideline just kind of putting their hands over their ears like, ‘Where you guys at? Where you guys at?’”

The Cardinal can also take solace in the way things have played out in the Pac-12 this season. Home-field advantage has been anything but so far, with road teams going 14-4 in games between Pac-12 teams.

“It’s amazing. You start the year saying all these road places to play are hard to win there. It’s been crazy,” Shaw said. “But it talks about our conference. This conference is tough, it’s hard. It’s even. It’s pretty even. You can’t really say that anybody is that much ahead of anybody else on any given week. Just because you’re playing at home, you’ve got to be on guard because there are good teams coming at the end.”

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Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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