The Pac-12 North title chase had become a three horse race going into the regular season’s final weeks, as Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State were hoping to be the representative in the Pac-12 championship game on November 30.
With the three schools playing each other in early November, the title holder and a potential Rose Bowl berth could come down to one of these three schools. With so much riding on the result, it’s no wonder that the Oregon State – Stanford game on November 10 was such a close battle that had both teams dealing with their emotions.
After racing out to a 14 to 0 lead in the first quarter behind a rather dominant effort, Stanford threatened to run away with this game until the Beavers started to find their offense. A touchdown and field goal allowed Oregon State to pull to within 14 to 10 at the half, and they continued their strong play in the third quarter where they put up 13 points to take a nine point lead.
However, Stanford scored the last two touchdowns and took advantage of some shaky play by the Beavers to take a 27 to 23 lead. Oregon State had a couple of chances to try and regain the lead, but the Cardinal defense came up with some big defensive stops late to hold off the Beavers.
With the win, Stanford pushes their record in the Pac-12 to 6 wins and 1 loss, and they play Oregon on November 17 in Eugene. The winner there will likely end up playing in the Pac-12 Championship Game on November 30, and because of their records versus the South clubs, they’ll probably host the match-up.
Looking back on the Oregon State – Stanford game where I offered up some bold predictions earlier in the week, we now look at the Good, Bad and Ugly from the 27 to 23 win for the Cardinal.
There was plenty to be encouraged about for both teams in this game. Oregon State got great contributions from running back Storm Woods, wide receiver Markus Wheaton, and place kicker Trevor Romaine. Woods had over 100 total yards on the day and made several key runs to keep drives going, Wheaton caught 7 passes for 91 yards and 1 touchdown, and Romaine hit three field goals and two extra points.
Stanford’s young quarterback Kevin Hogan was everything that was advertised, as he threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns, but it was his ability to extract himself from danger with his legs that gave the Cardinal a different dimension. Hogan finished with 49 yards rushing, but it was running back Stepfan Taylor that led the rushing attack with 161 total yards and two touchdowns, one by rush and one on a reception.
Defensively, Oregon State forced four turnovers from the Stanford offense, and while they struggled in the first two drives by Stanford, they found their resolve later and were able to put significant pressure on Hogan for most of the game.
Stanford must also be encouraged by the play of both lines, as their offensive line play was outstanding all game in creating holes and passing lanes for Hogan. Their defensive line was able to contain the Oregon State offense except for the second quarter, and they made some outstanding stops in the third quarter to force the Beavers to kick field goals instead of going for touchdowns.
While Oregon State played reasonably well and held the lead for a good portion of the second half, they struggled early with Stanford’s size on the offensive line as the Beavers weren’t able to contain their offense in the first quarter. After making some adjustments to get outside and force Stanford to cover the entire field, the Beavers finally started finding space to work and made up for the struggles.
Their problems continued in the third quarter; while the Beavers did score 13 points, they were unable to convert two key third downs which forced them to bring Romaine on for field goals instead of putting up seven points.
I also had to call some of the play calling late in this game as bad, as it appeared that both offensive coordinators were trying to play it too safe to hold onto their advantage. Stanford could have iced the game in the fourth quarter with a short 3rd down and 2 play with roughly four minutes left in the game, but instead of giving the ball to Taylor to get the two yards, they called a quarterback option to see if Hogan could get the necessary distance.
He fell short, giving the ball back to the Beavers, but they were unable to convert. Oregon State, meanwhile, struggled with third down conversions in the second half, but I felt they put themselves in tough long yardage situations by abandoning what was working – solid rushing yards on first down.
The game was reasonably well played on both sides, although I’m sure that Stanford won’t be pleased with four turnovers on the day despite getting the win. The ugly on this day is pretty easy to identify, though, and it’s a rather unfortunate mistake at an inopportune time. After watching Stanford pull to within two points at 23 to 21, Oregon State’s defense created a turnover on a Rashaad Reynolds interception to put the Beavers in tough field position at their own 30 yard line.
After a five yard loss on first down, Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz went back to pass on second down and the pocket broke down, so Vaz moved forward to try and create something. As he ran for positive yards, the ball slipped out of his hands for a fumble and a Stanford recovery. The Cardinal drove 29 yards for the go-ahead score and held off the Beavers last two drives to seal the win. I appreciate Vaz's desire to try and gain more yards, but as a young quarterback, it's vital he protect the ball in such a key juncture, and his mistake really cost the Beavers.