Beavers face a similar foe in Stanford
Published: Friday, November 9, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 9, 2012 02:11
The similarities between No. 11 Oregon State and No. 14 Stanford are apparent.
For starters, both programs are coming off a switch at quarterback, have nearly identical statistics and are ranked only three slots apart in the Bowl Championship Series.
But the similarities between the two programs goes even further than that.
Both Oregon State (7-1, 5-1 Pac-12) and Stanford (7-2, 5-1 Pac-12) run pro-style offenses, and lean heavily on defenses that focus first on stopping the run.
“They remind me a lot of [ourselves],” said redshirt freshman running back Storm Woods. “They’re tough, stingy, they flow well and they’re smart. You can tell they have a great coach. They don’t make a lot of mistakes and they make you pay for your little mistakes.”
“They’re very similar to us, a very good team and very disciplined,” added senior cornerback Jordan Poyer.
One advantage that comes from playing a team so closely related in scheme is the familiarity and experience from facing the same type of offense in practice all season long.
The Oregon State defense will try to draw off that extra practice and implement it in Saturday’s game.
“I’m excited for this game just because [their offense is similar to ours],” Poyer said. “Stanford runs basically our offense, the offense I’ve seen since I came to school here. I’m really excited about that because I understand it. Whenever you feel confident going into a game, it’s always good.”
With that confidence comes the knowledge that Oregon State will need to stop the run if they want to hold the Cardinal offense in check.
Stanford senior running back Stepfan Taylor has been the primary threat on offense all year, and is already closing in on the 1,000-yard threshold — 947 yards on 206 attempts with eight touchdowns — with three regular season games remaining.
OSU has been great at stopping the run all season — ranking No. 5 in the country and allowing only 92 yards per game — but has shown some regression as of late, allowing a season-high 150 rushing yards to Arizona State last week and 135 to Utah two weeks prior.
Stopping the run will be an even larger priority for the Beavers Saturday considering Stanford redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan is getting the first start of his career.
“The number one thing is we need to stop the run,” Poyer said. “Their running attack is really good, and once we stop the run we know they’re going to come with the play-action pass and we’re going to be able to hold it down in pass coverage.”
For the offense, having success in the run game will be key if Oregon State wants to put points on the scoreboard.
The Beavers had one of their best rushing performances of the season last week, when sophomore running back Terron Ward compiled 146 yards on 19 carries. Stanford’s run defense will present a greater challenge than Arizona State.
Even though Stanford is ranked No. 1 in the nation at stopping the run, Oregon State still expects to have success on the ground.
“No disrespect to defenses, but we don’t care about the statistics,” Woods said. “We don’t care who’s in front of us, we’re going to do our jobs. We just have to run, we just have to block, just have to pass, because that’s just us. As running backs we’re just going to do whatever we have to do to win.”
Even if the offense struggles with the run game early, OSU knows persistency and balance will be a necessity.
“We have to work hard to be balanced,” said head coach Mike Riley. “I think it’s dangerous to try to think of a one-dimensional game against Stanford. They’re hard [to score on] anyway, so to only do one thing would be extra difficult.”
That being said, the OSU passing game — No. 21 in the nation, averaging 306 yards through the air — is ready to pick up the slack if need be.
“They’re going to have a lot of people in the box trying to stop our run game,” said junior wide receiver Kevin Cummings. “Especially since we had good success last week with it. So, I think from a receiver group, we need to make sure that when we get chances to make plays, we make those plays so that we can open up the defense.”
It’s no secret this game is big for both programs. The Cardinal would jump Oregon State in the Pac-12 North standings with a win, and the Beavers would maintain their chance at a conference championship if they can come out of Stanford unscathed.
“This is a big game for us,” Woods said. “We need this one.”
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” Poyer added.
Andrew Kilstrom, sports reporter