Balancing the offense

If you have been following the Oregon State football program the last few years, or any college football program for that matter, then you will know that coaches from the left coast to the east coast preach offensive balance. An effective passing attack opens up the running game while a successful rushing attack allows the passing game to flourish.

"That is why we have been talking about our main emphasis being balance for a long time but particularly after the Cincinnati game," coach Mike Riley said.  "One without the other is not going to be the way to play.  It's pretty simple but it is not that easy to obtain."

Before the start of the season Beavers fans knew that teams would stack the box to stop running back Yvenson Bernard forcing quarterback Sean Canfield to prove himself in the passing game - and that is exactly was has happened in the first three games of the season.

In the season opener against Utah the offensive line and Bernard eventually wore down the Utah defense in route to 241 yards and two touchdowns.  The passing game was held in check with just 129 yards and one touchdown, although several dropped passes contributed to the low total.

On the road in Cincinnati it was the exact opposite as the ground game never got going as the rushing offense was held to just 36 yards in 21 attempts.  The passing game did a decent job with 274 yards, but 54 attempts and 32 completions where needed to get that total.

Against Idaho State last week the focus was on the passing game as the team racked up 432 yards and three touchdowns on 29 completions.  The rushing game didn't excel at only 175 yards, but they did score four touchdowns and Bernard was yanked in the second half.

"We didn't really need to run the ball against Idaho State," Bernard said.  "The passing was working from the first play and after that it just kept growing and growing."

Through three games OSU is averaging 278.3 yards through the air and 150.7 on the ground.  The Beavers have ran 105 running plays and 126 passing plays while averaging 6.6 yards per completion and 4.3 yards per rush attempt.  The statistics show a balanced offense, although the data was skewed a little last week as the Beavers did whatever they wanted to against the Bengals; the rubber meets the road this week.

"To think that we can play a one dimensional game in the first quarter like we did against Idaho State is not realistic," coach Mike Riley said.  "We are going to have to get that balance. Going back to Utah, that was one factor that appeared to be pretty stable. But since then it has been sporadic and we need to be much more consistent."

There are several factors that are working in the offense's favor as they look to become more consistent.  The offensive line is refocusing itself and Sammie Stroughter looks to be back to his loveable, playmaking self.

"I said after the game, he was running good routes against Cincinnati and was open a few times for touchdown opportunities and I missed high," Canfield said.  "This week I hit him and we all saw what happened. Sammie is back and he is just going to keep going."

Another receiver that is hopefully "going to keep going" is senior flanker Anthony Brown who hauled in eight passes for 156 yards and one touchdown.  Many think that Brown could have a career year with Stroughter receiving much of the defensive attention.

The success of the passing game can largely be placed on Stroughter and Brown's shoulders as they came up big when they needed to, but Canfield's play shouldn't be overlooked as he stayed calm in the pocket, went through his progressions and found the open man time and time again with pinpoint throws and no turnovers.

"Patience is the biggest thing for me or for any new quarterback in the system," said Canfield who will be making his first Pac-10 start Saturday.  "Like I said earlier I have been in the system a while to know it, and I do know it."

"It is just a matter of experience in games and getting it done on Saturdays is the bottom line. You can expect some bumps and bruises along the way and you just have to take your mistakes and learn from them."

Another factor that will help the Beavers in the desert is a rested Bernard.  He has carried the ball just 59 times this year - divide that by three and multiple it by the rest of the games on the schedule and Bernard will end up with just 240 carries, which would by far be his lowest season total.

"I'm healthy, I feel fresh - going into Pac-10 play feeling like this is actually a good thing," Bernard said.  " The Pac-10 is about to start and I'm pretty sure we are going to run the ball."

Riley agrees. "His contribution is immensely important to what we are going to do. It was pretty obvious for all of you to see that as we got going we were going to take advantage of some things we could do in the passing game. So, he did not get as many carries early that he would normally get, but those things will change."

The team did an excellent job of setting themselves up for success last week by turning in an ideal game against a lesser opponent.  They dominated offensively while working on the passing game.  Now it is time to put it all together.

"We had a good running game, and we have had a bad game and we have had one good passing game," Riley said.  "Can we put the passing and the running together and leave out the middle? That remains to be seen."


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