Why Beavs' furious comeback fell short

THIS TIME, there would be no miracle comeback. This time, Cinderella took her shoes off before the clock struck zeros, strolled out of Reser and went in search of a Sizzler salad bar instead of In-N-Out Burger. OSU, incredibly, put themselves in position to tie it -- but four tries from inside the Stanford 10-yard line provided a perfect microcosm on the Beavs' 20-12 loss to No. 6 Stanford.

What had served Oregon State so well during their six-game win streak, and frankly in the season opening loss too, failed them mightily against Stanford.

Oregon State could not contain the Cardinal pass rush. And it wasn't a close battle.

The ESPN announcers calling the game crowed continually about how Stanford was getting there with just four rushers, and they did, but the truth was Stanford sent five and sometimes six at Sean Mannion a whole bunch of times as well.

And whether it was four or more, OSU had no answer. No answer at all.

Time and time again, Mannion was harassed, hurried and sacked -- that last measurable numbered eight for Stanford.

And it felt like 80.

Mannion wasn't blameless. The first half saw countless occasions where he threw high, and the Beavs were lucky he wasn't picked on a number of deflections off stretched-out, would-be OSU receivers.

But the broader point was that Mannion was feeling a whole lot of heat. Until Saturday, he had enjoyed a rock-solid buffer, and he had used that buffer to put up some astonishing numbers. But against Stanford, everything else in the Beaver offense suffered without that pocket, without that time. And OSU had no run game to fall back on.

speculate as to why all the high throws in that first half, but the theory I think holds the most water was that even before the end of the first quarter, Mannion's mechanics had become ever-so-slightly off -- he wasn't finishing that last bit of his motion.

That tends to happen when you're getting blasted all night.

Beaver left tackle Michael Philipp this season has been outstanding -- phenomenal at times. Were it not for super-sophomore center Isaac Seumalo, and the fact the Beavs before Saturday were the Rodney Dangerfield of all 6-1 BCS teams when it comes to the media, Philipp would have been getting tons of praise tossed his way. But Saturday night was a completely different animal.

Philipp struggled mightily against Stanford in one-on-one situations, and that's being kind. Heck, in the fourth quarter Philipp might have done better to just reach out and hold his guy and hope that it wouldn't be called. But Philipp was hardly alone when it came to the inability of the Beaver o-line to provide any semblance of security.

If the Oregon State offensive line were a home alarm company, the Better Business Bureau would have yanked their charter midway through the fourth quarter.

Indeed, OSU's front line couldn't stop four Stanford rushers most of the night and they sure as hell couldn't stop 'em when Stanford sent more.

Still, with all of that said and beaten to death, somehow the Beavs had done enough to be in it at the end, and they should be roundly commended for that.

True story. The outcome remained entirely up in the air with less than 10 seconds on the clock. And OSU had a great chance, a phenomenal chance really, to tie it, make good on a 2-point conversion and head to overtime.

So how in the hell did we get there? Well...

THE BEAVER D played a great first half. Until the final 39 seconds, they played a phenomenal half.

Until those final moments, the Beaver D had held the high-flying, bruising, Stanford offense to a paltry 91 yards of total offense.

Seriously. Ninety-one yards. Chew on that one for a while.

But Oregon State went for it twice on fourth down in the first half within Trevor Romaine field-goal range, but both times they came up short. To be fair, the first one was on the outer edge of that range. But considering the Beavs could have led 9-7 had Romaine drilled both, it felt like a horribly missed opportunity with the benefit of hindsight. No such ophthalmology was needed to determine the second failed fourth-down try would prove costly.

After Mannion's sneak couldn't pick up half a yard, Stanford suddenly caught fire. There were only 39 seconds left before halftime and SU was about 70 yards away from the end zone. Stanford hadn't done much all night thanks to a terrific effort from the Beaver D. But there was no holding them back this time.

They raced downfield and took a 7-3 lead into halftime. But hey, as tough as that was to stomach, no worries... the Beavs would get the ball first to start the third quarter.

That turned out not to be a good thing.

Beaver freshman Victor Bolden fumbled on the return, Stanford recovered at the 12-yard line and two plays later the Cardinal held a 13-3 lead (the extra point failed).

The Beavs finally put together a TD drive, and Mannion was now hitting his targets in the chest rather than testing their vertical leaps.

Romaine's extra point attempt came out low, and the Beavs also allowed too much penetration, and so the score stood at 13-9. Stanford answered on their very next drive and after Tyler Gaffney's 32-yard dash made it 20-9, it felt like the Beavs would have to climb Everest to get back into it.

Even with 12:01 left, OSU's chances felt minimal. That's how dominant the Stanford pass rush had become.

Oregon State had battled and they just couldn't move the ball past the Stanford 35-yard line all night. And so when OSU punted with around five minutes left and down by two scores, it felt like the Beavs were waving the white flag. Fans began to exit.

But that's only what the Beavs wanted us, and more importantly Stanford, to think. This 2013 vintage of the orange and back is comeback personified, after all.

Oregon State's Mana Rosa, if I'm not mistaken, made a testbook stab at Tyler Gaffney's football purchase and sure enough, miraculously, the ball popped loose. The Beavers were at the Stanford 20-yard line and back in business.

But Stanford stopped OSU and the Beavs had to kick a field goal -- they needed two scores after all and when fourth down comes up in that situation, you kick the field goal. Now it was 20-12.

And then OSU bowed up on defense one last time, forcing a Stanford punt. Brandin Cooks ripped off a 36-yard punt return. There was 1:17 left, the Beavs were on the Stanford 43-yard line. Given the way this season has gone, with the turnarounds and comebacks, it suddenly felt all so familiar.

The Beavs drove to the Stanford 7-yard line. But that's when Stanford's pass rush, so indomitable all game, returned.

The Beavs' last-gasp, fourth down try from the 7-yard line was the fourth of four incompletions by an under-duress Mannion. The final toss was a little behind Kevin Cummings, and he couldn't corral it before the Stanford defenders give him a farewell pop.

OREGON STATE FOUGHT to the very end and they nearly forced overtime. And there should be more good things to come over the final four regular season games before whatever bowl game OSU fins themselves in.br>
All the remaining regular season games look tough, (USC, ASU, UW, Oregon) but OSU showed they belonged with the No. 6 team in the land, and then some.

And oh the Beaver defense, sieve-like earlier this year, it looks to be back in the saddle. Stanford gained only 273 yards of total offense on the night, with only 13 first downs.... If there's a silver lining to be had in this loss, surely it is that.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Mannion moved the Beavers to Stanford's 7-yard line on the strength of two catches by Cooks and a pass interference call on the Cardinal on a pass to Richard Mullaney. Replays seemed to show that Mullaney is one smart football player, positioning himself so that the official had to throw a flag that looked to be questionable.

  • Terron Ward and Storm Woods had 60 yards on only 11 carries but Oregon State managed only 288 yards of total offense, 271 of which came from the arm of Mannion who failed to throw for more than 300 for the first time this season. Mannion was credited with minus-60 yards rushing on the eight sacks.

  • Romaine's 50-yard field goal in the first half was a career long.

  • Neither team intercepted a pass. Both teams fumbled twice, with the Beavers recording two recoveries and the Cardinal picked up one.

  • The Beavers nearly doubled up on Stanford in time of possession, totaling 38:26 to the Cardinal's 21:27.

  • Scott Crichton Scott Crichton and D.J. Alexander each had two sacks for the Beavers, while Ryan Murphy led Oregon State with eight tackles.


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