BREAKDOWN: Stanford's physical run game

CORVALLIS -- October is here and guess what, OSU already has a win under their belt in the first week of the month and overall, looked much improved in getting their first conference win. Sound familiar?

Sure, it's just one game, but Oregon State's decisive 28-17 win in Tempe last Saturday felt like the Beavs were following the same, familiar script as the past three years -- a slow start followed by a surging October tempest.

It should also provide confidence and a bit of momentum headed back to Corvallis. The Beavs have gone 1-2 at home this season and will look to hand Pac-10 leading Stanford (4-1, 3-0) their first conference loss on Saturday.

Interestingly, Stanford has gone 2-9 in their last 11 road games, the two road wins coming against Washington and Washington State in 2008, the eventual tenth and ninth place teams in the conference, respectively.


Stanford's Jim Harbaugh brings an in-your-face, three yards and a cloud of dust style offense, a style of offense OSU has yet to face this season. Harbaugh has taken a page out of the Mike Riley Coaching Notebook and has run tailback Toby Gerhart 120 times to date, and average of 24 carries per game.

Gerhart is big, physical, and fast. OSU found out as much last season when they fell to Stanford 36-28 and yielded 147 yards and two scores in just 19 carries to the Stanford standout.

Gerhart in '09 leads the Pac-10 in rush attempts (120), yards (650) and yards per game (130) and is truly the heart and soul of the Stanford offense. Teams have geared to stop him this season, and none have been successful.

THE BEAVER DEFENSE was lights out against the Arizona State run game, allowing just 68 yards rushing on 2.2 per carry, albeit against a patchwork offensive line that has been riddled with injury and their featured back was lost early in the first quarter.

Stanford will truly test the Black Shirts up front and will at times showcase seven, yes seven, lineman in what they call their "Jumbo Package."

If Gerhart can't find the 5.4 yards per carry he has been averaging, pressure falls on the shoulders of Stanford's freshman quarterback Andrew Luck. And Luck is the conference's second best in passing efficiency and third in total offense.

With such success on the ground, Luck has taken on a managerial role in the Cardinal offense. OSU would benefit from putting the game in his hands and forcing Stanford to throw to win.

Luck is also Stanford's second leading rusher and has the ability to make plays with his legs if plays break down-something that Mark Banker will alert his players to if it already doesn't jump out on film.

OSU has lost three of their last four home games stretching back to last season, their lone win coming in the '09 opener versus Portland State. If they're going to reverse the trend, they'll have to first and foremost limit the damage Stanford can do on the ground.

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