CORVALLIS – It all came down to one final play. There were seven seconds on the clock and one Beav had chance to get things in place for a tie… Alas for Beaver fans, a slightly missed connection in concert with a sharp hit on Kevin Cummings knocked the Beavers' hopes right out of the sky as OSU fell 20-12 to Stanford. But there's a whole lot more to it than just that...
Ferocious defensive play and a bruising Beaver offensive strategy kept hope alive until that final drive. But in the end, and as good as OSU's defense played, it was Stanford's defense that prevailed.
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Players of the Game Offense
Sophomore tailback Storm Woods, junior Terron Ward and junior fullback Tyler Anderson deserve massive props for even managing to keep this game alive. The Beaver passing attack was rattled by the constant pressure Stanford delivered to Sean Mannion's doorstep. A wealth of screens and the threat of the run kept Stanford defenders mostly honest in the open field at times, but the short and sweet plays OSU lived by Saturday night inevitably dug an eight-point grave. Put another way, OSU was unable to spread the field and play their brand of football against the Cardinal and credit goes to the Stanford D.
Stanford's defense forced OSU to play football the Cardinal way. The Beaver backfield gritted their teeth and chewed up turf whenever they could- and they did it to the tune of 121 combined rushing and receiving yards against one heck of a defensive set up a la Stanford.
Brandin Cooks was not nearly as explosive as many thought he would be, but he fought tooth and nail for every inch of his 98 receiving yards – a lesser receiver probably would have gained half that against Stanford, such was their defensive play. Cooks deserves a gold star not for his individual statistics through the game, but rather his teamwork and willingness to take the harassment from Stanford defenders in an attempt to open things up for guys like sophomore wideout Richard Mullaney and sophomore tight end Kellen Clute, who was forced into a starring TE role when Caleb Smith was injured in the first half. (And Smith was taking on a far larger role because starter Connor Hamlett was out with injury.)
Junior defensive end Scott Crichton was like his old self. Oh sure, Crichton was credited for just two tackles on the evening, but both those tackles went for a loss, one was a sack, Crichton also picked up a fumble and ran it back for 36 yards and his play allowed a number of other Beaver defenders to make some hay.
D.J. Alexander owned one big sack for a loss of seven on the evening, and he did a good job of holding to a minimum the yards Stanford QB Kevin Hogan gained when he took off.
Turning Point/Game Changer... Oh so many to Choose From
Stanford's last-second touchdown to close out the half made a world of difference. It gave the Cardinal momentum heading into the third quarter, where the Beavs tried to gain the favor of Ol' Mo, and would have succeeded had it not been for…
Victor Bolden's fumbled kickoff to start the second half hurt with a capital H. Ultimately, it was a sharp nail in a coffin that the Beavs couldn't crawl out of no matter how hard they fought. Stanford scored on just two easy plays after that turnover, effectively hushing the home crowd, and giving Stanford 14 points in less than two total minutes of clock runoff between the second and third quarters.
But the ultimate game-changer was what happened before the Stanford TD just before half. I don't think you can criticize too much Riley's decision to go for it in that field position with less than a minute left. Sure, you can make a case that Riley needed to put points on the board no matter what when given the opportunity. But surely you had to think the Beavs could get that half-yard and how could you believe Stanford could turn 37 seconds into a touchdown given what had come before –91 yards of total offense. Defensive Play of the Game
Junior defensive end Dylan Wynn reignited a dwindling flame under the Beaver offensive when he recovered a Tyler Gaffney fumble, forced by Mana Rosa, with time to spare in the fourth quarter. Wynn's determination in that moment was born of pure adrenaline and a thirst to see a tally in the win column – and that's never a bad thing.
Offensive Play of the Game
It's a tie between Ward's 34-yard run in the third quarter and Cooks' subsequent grab for six on that very same drive. Ward's scuttle was the fiercest I've seen from the junior since last year's tilt against Arizona State, and it kept alive hopes of an incredible Beaver comeback. Cooks' reception for six however was the only touchdown of the night for Oregon State. And the look he gave the Stanford defenders after his score was just dirty, filthy and mean. It was a statement. And his eyes said, "We are going to win this game." And oh, how close they came.
A low scoring game? Wait, what? Few if any anticipated this to be a game of defensive endeavor. But the biggest plays in this tilt were made by the Stanford and Oregon State defenses. Oregon State accumulated two sacks and three TFL's in the game on top of their two fumble recoveries. But the Cardinal defense was simply brutal. Eight sacks, 13 tackles-for-loss and a whole lot of pressure on Mannion ensured he's going to surely feel it on Sunday.
The Beavs were straight bruisers in this game with short passes, screens and some solid running. And OSU flipped the coin on Stanford and brought a slightly new look to the offense. For all the negatives that can and will be dredged up out of this game – the missed scoring opportunities on offense, the questionable fourth down conversion attempts – one of the positive takeaways is that the Beavers finally have found some semblance of a running game, and they did it against arguably the toughest defense in the Pac-12. There were only 11 carries by the running backs, but they gained 67 valuable yards. And Cooks added another 18 on the ground.
Meaningless Stats of the Game
Oregon State, incredibly, had 23 first downs to Stanford's 13, despite the fact that the Cardinal had 185 rushing yards.
Stanford's Kevin Hogan was held to a paltry 88 yards passing by the Beavs.
Oregon State ran 81 plays -- while Stanford ran 30 fewer with but 51 plays from scrimmage.
OSU held the ball for 38:33, while Stanford had the pigskin for just 21:27.
Monday Morning Quarterbacking
Oregon State was forced to settle for field goals after both of their fumble recoveries in advantageous field position. Stanford's defense was tough, no doubt there, but from this chair, the play calling from the Beavers sideline on both of those drives could have been more aggressive. Sentiments of players and staff after the game echoed that sentiment.
Does one blame the OSU O-line for the pressure Mannion felt, or is it fair to say that the Stanford defense just earns a pat on the back for a job well done? In any event, Mannion had no time to make his reads or to allow long patterns to develop. He struggled to find enough breathing room to even hit his check-down man. And it was apparent as early as OSU's first drive from scrimmage.
How solid is the OSU offensive line against teams that thrive on producing pressure? How much of a fall-off is there when Mannion has D-linemen in his grill and how much worse is it when they're huge like Stanford's? Mannion was crowded and rattled early, with the Beavs first drive showing OSU was in trouble. Stanford's Trent Murphy alone had 2.5 sacks on the night, and 3.5 TFL. There comes a time when even the most astute game planning cannot compensate for a pass rush the likes of what Stanford brought to Corvallis Saturday night.
Mike Riley's pension for going for it on fourth down instead of field goal attempts ended up hurting the Beavers -- big time. Yes sir, fourth down efficiency was a terrible foe in this one. Oregon State's inability to convert on these wily play-calls came back to bite them hardest as the second quarter was winding down and Mannion's QB sneak on fourth and a foot went nowhere, leading to a Stanford score despite just 39 seconds on the clock and the ball well within their own territory.
OSU attempted five fourth-down conversions, converting just one. Those missed opportunities darkened OSU's hopes greatly and put momentum on the side of the Cardinal. The sneak by Mannion into the heart of the Stanford D was particularly damaging just before the half. Stanford had shown they were crunching the pocket in the middle and everywhere else. Why not a Ward blast off-tackle there? And if not that, how about a disguised quick slant to Cooks or Mullaney?
Bolden fumbling the second-half kickoff was huge. OSU hasn't gotten much there this season -- do the Beavs start looking for another kickoff return man?
Special Teams Edge goes to… Oregon State
Senior place kicker Trevor Romaine's 50-yardwe in the first quarter was a decent start to the game, one that would give OS their only lead of the contest. Add in the 41-yard return by Cooks and a solid effort by the Beavs coverage units and it's a lock. And perhaps the most impressive and determining aspect of the special teams play tonight was the fact that Stanford's Ty Montgomery, the nation's leader headed in, was limited to just 50 return yards on three kickoffs by the Beavs.
Riley indicated that he is unsure of the statuses of John Braun and D.J. Alexander, both of whom were injured in this matchup. No immediate word was available on Caleb Smith either. But BF.C should have more on Sunday night.