Forget stat line, Beaver D was the difference

CORVALLIS -- On Saturday, the Beavers played Louisville and won, 35-28. In 2005, the Beavers played Louisville and lost 65-27. What was different in those two games five years apart? The leadership and big play ability of the Beaver defense. Yes, that's right, the defense. Here's why..

Going into Saturday's matchup, everybody wanted to know if OSU could cover the 19 ½ point spread, which only put more pressure on the defense to hold down a very good spread option team.

Football is won, partly, by motivation. A motivational news clip, comment or nowadays, a tweet could be just what a team needs to get them hyped. So with so much talk about the Beavers beating up on Louisville, it's no wonder that Louisville came into Reser, pumped and ready to go.

Even though the Vegas line was high, Beavers head man Mike Riley repeatedly downplayed the possibility of a blowout, and referred to Louisville as a hard matchup.

Well, Riley was spot-on.

Louisville opened the game with a 64-yard drive that led all the way to the OSU two-yard line. However, when the Cardinals went for it on fourth down, the OSU defense stepped up the intensity and stopped them short of the goal line.

With OSU's offense starting off slowly, the defense was forced to stop Louisville on a short field.

The Cardinals didn't seem to have any trouble, dinking and dunking their way to the OSU 13 yard line. Then Cardinal quarterback Adam Froman got the corner and seemed to have a touchdown, but upon further review, safety Suaesi Tuimaunei knocked the ball out of the his hands and caused a touchback, which gave the Beavers the ball back.

"That's just the kind of player Tui is, he doesn't stop until the play is done," said CB James Dockery.

In the end, the defense stepped up – twice -- when they needed to most, making the big play to keep was turning out to be a sloppy game scoreless.

Somehow, when the entire stadium was thinking upset, as Louisville kept threatening, the OSU defense came up big and stopped the Cardinals from capitalizing.

After some back-and-forth, Oregon State's offense finally picked it up, giving the Beavers a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

"As a team we came out real sluggish, but we picked it up in the second quarter," said linebacker Dwight Roberson.

Roberson would go on to have a career day and record 16 total tackles, including nine solo stops.

The stat sheet and score would say otherwise, but OSU's defense started playing more physical and faster in the second quarter. Yes, the Cardinals scored on 2 out of 3 possessions, but it should be noted that they had good field position on both.

Going into the half, OSU led 21-14, but had it not been for the defensive effort it could have been far worse. The Beaver D helped keep their entire team in it.

The second half was a tone-setter. OSU scored on their first drive and on Louisville's first possession, the stingy Beaver pushed the Cardinals six yards back from where they started. The offense took advantage of the field position and scored again.

But the following Louisville possession was the worst one of the night for OSU's D. The Cardinals drove 74 yards to the Beavers 10 yard line. The Beavs stopped Louisville on third and goal but an OSU offside penalty gave them new life, and they scored on the following play.

"I don't think we had an off day," said Dockery. "When you have an offense that runs the spread option and they put a lot of those athletes in space, you know it's short passes, and then they get yards after the catch."

Dockery said maybe the Beavs' defensive line pressure might have even been too good.

"A lot of times we have coverage, and cover it all up, and we get pressure on (the QB). And he gets out of the pocket and starts scrambling, we think that he's running – boom, he hits somebody over the middle."

The third quarter was an improvement for the Beavers, they only gave up seven points and made the Cardinals punt twice, allowing OSU to hold the lead headed into the final quarter.

And they needed it because the offense cooled. And it was the defense that needed to step up, make the stops and secure the win.

Louisville had a good day passing against OSU. Froman was 22-for-38 for 288 yards and one touchdown. But the Beavers' defense had more stops left in them.

On UL's second to last possession, Froman was sacked twice by MLB Tony Wilson. Three and out.

With two minutes remaining and Louisville needing 90 yards to tie it, Dockery grabbed the interception that ended it, sending 45,379 , a record OSU attendance for a non-conference game, into a frenzy.

"Offensively we had a chance to go down and win the game and we didn't," said Louisville head coach Charlie Strong.

With so many believing this one was going to be a blowout, only the Beaver team itself knew it wasn't going to be easy.

After the first game against TCU many questioned whether or not this defense was ready to push the Beavers to the next level. There's a flip side to that coin. The defense proved it has what it takes to win a game on Saturday, isn't that a good enough level?


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