Trench Report: Stanford

How did the offensive line perform this past week against the Cardinal? Time to dig in and learn about offensive line play in this week's Trench Report.

Stanford Cardinal

Week 9 - Saturday, November 5, 2016

Final: 26 - 15 (L)

Total Line Grade: 2.65 (D+)

Golden Sled Award Winner:

Blake Brandel: 2.58

To me, the most impressive thing about the way Blake played was his finish.  For those that know me, I tend to grade players down if the person they engage with and block get in on the play.  I don’t need pancakes and domination, what I want to see are sustained blocks that keep a player out of the play.  A good example of this for Blake was on the second play of the 8th drive of the game.  It was 2nd and 10 and Blake is blocking his guy. He gets knocked down a bit and from his hands and knees lunges and keeps his body between the defender and the ball carrier. That was a great example of finish and tenacity through the play.  The play got 5 yards because one linemen whiffed on the linebacker and another one lost his man after a good initial block and he ended up being in on the play.  

But Blake did a great job of this  most of the night. He obviously still had his warts finishing above 2.5, but I saw far more finish from him than in the past. As he gets stronger and understands the offense more, he is going to be a good one. I would say he has improved the most in the last two weeks against some good defenders.

Best Play Award Winner:

Blake Brandel and Dustin Stanton

OSU had struggled to run the ball consistently all game.  Then in the second half, during their 10th drive, OSU ran a read option that followed a read option that McMaryion kept and got a first down. Because of that play, when they showed the play again, the quarterback side linebacker stepped up on the mesh.  This allowed Blake and Dustin to drive their man into the linebacker and seal off both.  Ryan Nall could have walked behind that hole, and 52 yards later we have the best run all game by the Beavers.

Everything about this play worked, partly because of the play before pulling in the linebackers, but partly because the line really sealed off their doubles and got movement laterally on the line, giving Ryan an easy read and huge, gaping hole to run through.  The line averaged a 1.6 grade on that play, but Blake and Dustin each got 1’s.


As I went through the film (and full disclosure, I am missing the first quarter because of the Texas game and me being on vacation) I was impressed with how well the Beavers actually did. Many people didn’t really give Stanford and their defense the credit they deserve.  They were horribly injured during their rough patch this year, and were finally healthy the last two weeks.  The talent they have in the front seven is so far above our talent level that they were getting a lot of pressure with 3 and 4 men rushing.  It was incredibly difficult for the Beavers to sustain blocks and the defensive ends and outside linebackers were getting to the edge of the tackles.

I would love to say that the Beavers are getting closer to Stanford, but with all the struggles the Cardinal have been having at quarterback as well as all the new and young players on their offensive line, their defense has had to be even MORE stout than in years past.  Oregon State is just not there yet to compete with the players Stanford has. Part of finishing blocks is being physically able to maintain them against great players.  It is not tag football, where you get a good block and they just quit. It is a snap to whistle dog fight and it doesn’t matter how great the first two seconds of your block are if the last two lead to a loss on the play because your defender gets away.  

Right now the Beavers have a shot to win more games than last year and maybe more than double. They are better than last year and the line is playing very well right now.  That being said, it is not a slight on the team that they are still behind Stanford. Most teams are.  That is why the play by guys like Brandel is so important.  While we say goodbye to Stanton (our second highest scoring lineman on Saturday), Andrews and Harlow this year, players like Blake are just starting on their path and have 3 years of development left.  What they can control, their effort, they are controlling and not giving up. The finish that players like Brandel showed was inspiring and gave me hope for the future.  If he gets bigger and stronger, the attitude of finishing blocks will take him to a level that is comparable to the effort and talent that he faces when he plays Stanford.

The score was better than I thought it would be because the effort was better than the result shows.  In a few years, if we recruit better players and this identity remains, then games like this will be more than winnable.


The trench report gives an overview of the offensive line play during the most recent game. The top performer gets the Golden Sled, a fictitious award that I give with impunity. This award goes to the lineman that scores the best on my grading system. Because I have no idea what they are taught or what the goals of each play are, I base my grades on what they did and the result.  Each player can get between a 1 - 4 grade:

1 - Huge play block.  
This block led directly to a score or a game-changing play. With that in mind, 1s are rare, but if they weren’t rare, then you would be winning championships, year in and out.

2 - Mission accomplished.
This block was solid; the block-ee was not part of the play and the technique looked good. This is a winning-level score. If a lineman averages close to, or better, than 2, they dominated.

3. Mission Barely Accomplished.  
This play was OK, but this block didn’t help, or in some cases, may have hurt the play — or not even been a block.  The closer to 3 a line averages, the less likely they had good game.

4. Fail.
This play led to a terrible turn of events: killed a drive, led to opponent points, or resulted in a penalty. Averages around 4 will most likely lead to losses.

Players should be aiming for below a 2.25 grade.  That is a consistently high grade that tends to avoid terrible plays (4s). Because I don’t give individual grades for technique or start and finish, this is just a general feeling about each play. If I knew what play was called and what the goal of each position was, I would do a more accurate three-part grade.

Team Goals:

2 > : A

2.01 - 2.25: B

2.26 - 2.5: C

2.51 - 3.0: D

3.01 < : F

Season Totals

Minnesota: 2.72 (D -)

Idaho State: 2.73 (D -)

Boise State: Coming Soon

Colorado: 2.69 (D +)

California: 2.46 (C )

Utah: 2.67 (D+ )

Washington: 2.77 (D-)

Washington State: 2.62 (D+)

Stanford: 2.65 (D)

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