Beating Stanford, bowl game priority number one
With a four game winning streak and four games left on the schedule a bowl game seemed like a done deal for the Men in Black last week although the players and coaches did not talk about it publicly. With the margin for error significantly diminished this week qualifying for post season play is on everyone’s mind.
“That’s one of the first major goals that you want to accomplish. You can’t hide from it,” head coach Mike Riley said. “It is right there, within our reach and we’ve got to win a game to do that.”
“We are going to do everything we can to win this game; for the sake of playing better, being who I think we can be and then the results of that will be a bowl game.”
Last year the Beavers had Stanford at home and needed one more victory to qualify for postseason play but failed to defeat the Cardinal. Failure to make the postseason hurts the program’s image, the development of players and a chance for the coaches and players to have some fun on the road in a festive atmosphere.
“It is a reward for your season, to have a winning year and that is how it should be,” said Roy Schuening who has started 33 consecutive games. “It is tough in Division I, especially in the Pac-10, to have a winning season. To be able to go to a bowl game, to go somewhere maybe you haven’t been, and have some fun, then play another game is really rewarding.”
TE Joe Newton, who played in the 2003 Las Vegas Bowl and in
the 2004 Insight Bowl, agrees with Schuening and says, qualifying for postseason
play was one of the top goals for the team this year.
“It is huge both for me personally and for the program (to go to a bowl game),” said Newton who was MVP of the Insight Bowl. “That is the huge goal for the team before the season – let’s get to a bowl game, at a minimum, and then go from there. Winning another game and having that in our back pockets is really important for us.”
The Beavers are currently tied with Oregon in the Pac-10 standings. The third place team goes to the Sun Bowl while the Las Vegas and Emerald Bowls have their pick of the fourth and fifth place teams.
That’s ancient history
Pretty much every aspect of the Beavers game broke down last year during Oregon State’s 20-17 loss to Stanford in Reser Stadium.
Normally reliable place kicker Alexis Serna missed three of four field goals while punter Sam Paulescu, who was leading the Pac-10 in punt average, shanked three punts. The offensive line gave up six sacks while the team racked up 123 yards in penalties. RB Yvenson Bernard, QB Matt Moore and OL Josh Linehan all left at various points of the game with injuries.
“That was a very, very frustrating night,” coach Mike Riley said. “A lot of times it was lost opportunities, scoring opportunities, turnovers, missed field goals. It was just one of those nights that you don’t necessarily want to forget, you have to learn from it.”
And what the team will have to learn is to take every team seriously, take care of the ball and don’t commit stupid penalties. QB Matt Moore says there’s no need to dwell on last year’s game. It is in the books and the team can do nothing about it now.
“We need to get that out of the way, just like every game from last year, and just focus on this year,” said Moore who has thrown 93 passes without an interception. “This week we need to take it to them and hope nothing happens like last year.”
Once again the stakes are high as the Beavers try and become bowl eligible. Recently OSU has had success against the Cardinal winning four of the last five meetings and seven of the last 10, including the last two in Palo Alto.
“Obviously everybody knows what’s at stake,” Moore said. “That pushes you a little bit. It definitely fuels your fire.”
As you already know the long season has taken its toll on many players, especially RB Yvenson Bernard, who has struggled with an ankle injury since early October. With the season coming to a close Bernard’s injury may just be something the team must deal with.
“We hope not, but he redid it a little bit it the UCLA game, but not nearly as badly as he did the first tim,.” coach Mike Riley said. “I think it scared him as much as anything. I expect him to play and I hope that he feels real good Saturday.”
Bernard will take it easy in practice this week and for the rest of the season. C Kyle DeVan, who tweaked his already injured knee last week, is fine and practicing at full speed. RG Jeremy Perry, who has a hurt foot and knee, is practicing and at full speed while WR Ruben Jackson returned to practice this week and is expected to play against Stanford.
DE Joe Lemma started last week after missing the Arizona State
game with a foot injury. Also, LB Alan Darlin, who injured
his hand against UCLA, is fine and practicing with the team while RB
Clinton Polk has recovered nicely from his ankle sprain.