OSU 2013 Season in Review: Running Back

CORVALLIS – The lack of a running game was one of the most consistent issues that faced OSU in the 2013 season. There were tilts where the Beaver ground game put up less than 30 yards – and that's what also made the final two games such a surprise. Were the running backs that bad? Was something else to blame for the lack of ground yards?

OSU tried to find a balance and…
It didn't really work.

Actually that's sugar coating it. Oregon State rushed for just 1,227 yards and if you focus on the two primary Beaver running backs, between sophomore Storm Woods and junior Terron Ward, the Oregon State backfield amassed a dreary 998 yards and 11 touchdowns through 13 games in 2013.

That's 58 yards and two scores less than what Woods mustered - by himself - in 2012. And it wasn't like the Beavs were exactly tearing it up on the ground in '12.

But the most incredible number might be this: Oregon State amassed a huge portion of those rushing yards, 426 hashes to be exact, over the final two games.

What the heck happened?

OSU HEAD MAN Mike Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf had a decision to make at the start of the regular season – do we want to run the ball, or do we want to look like we want to run the ball?

They chose the latter.

Woods was the No. 1 option in the backfield and was a complement to QB Sean Mannion in a system that favored run-action play fakes and screens rather than pass-action built off of a smash-mouth ground game.

There were times the Oregon State running game got stuffed. Riley in turn went away from it. But from this chair, he went away from it too soon. And the play-action that Oregon State's offense is built upon became less and less effective.

Woods (6-0, 205) showed throughout OSU's 2013 campaign that he wasn't only the best RB bet on the ground but also in the passing game. Riley has always been fond of a good screen game, and Woods offered the largest upside in that department -- good receiving hands, great vision in the open field. Ball security and pass blocking were both solid.

On the other hand, Ward is a powerful ball of muscle with a low center of gravity at 5-7, 202 pounds, and you have to think he could have done some damage had he been afforded more carries during the regular season.

He schooled Oregon defenders in the Civil War to the tune of 17 carries for 145 yards and an 8.5 yard-per-carry average, and closed out the season earning 4.6 YPC on just 113 attempts.

Riley rediscovered his fondness for the running game at the very end of the season – not exactly an opportune time for a coach to have an "Ah-Hah!" moment.

IT IS NO easy task to attach a grade to the running back corps because their lack of statistical production was due in large part to coaching decisions.

Riley and Langsdorf could have tried to run more, but they didn't. Perhaps the hesitancy to run could be chalked up to signs that the offensive line was unable to pull its weight in the clutch. Maybe Chris Brown would have rocked the Pac-12, (19 carries, 149 yards.)

Maybe.

But all the maybes, what-ifs and coulda-shoulda's don't make the final report card any prettier. C-

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