CORVALLIS — Brandin Cooks watched film Monday night of last year's 27-23 loss at Stanford.
The Oregon State star noticed specific mistakes he made against a dynamic Cardinal defense, errors that contributed to a late-game collapse. Stanford rattled off 13 straight points to close the Nov. 10 contest, effectively squelching the Beavers' shot at their first Rose Bowl since 1965.
"We definitely look back on something like that," said Cooks, who hopes to snap a three-game losing streak against Stanford when OSU hosts the Cardinal on Saturday. "But we've still got that taste in our mouth from the beginning of the season. So we've got a lot on our shoulders right now."
Cornerback Rashaad Reynolds called last year's Stanford defeat "definitely one of the toughest losses." The Beavers, after all, held a nine-point lead late in the third quarter. They were riding 23 unanswered points. They seemed poised to enter the final stretch of their regular-season slate with an 8-1 record and a top 10 national ranking.
But then the critical blow arrived. While taking a tackle, Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan flipped the ball to running back Stepfan Taylor. The senior dodged two OSU defenders and stiff-armed another to secure a touchdown as the third quarter expired. The play shifted the momentum in the home team's favor, triggering Stanford's eventual come-from-behind heroics.
As Reynolds re-watched that pivotal sequence earlier this week, he struggled to shake one thought: Man, how did we lose that game?
Revisiting the heartbreak proved motivational. The Beavers could've notched the milestone victory last season, Reynolds reasons, with a few less miscues. This year, Reynolds believes OSU can beat the No. 8 Cardinal with a complete performance.
"I remember like it was yesterday," Reynolds said of last year's loss. "It does give you fire."
Not that the Beavers necessarily needed it. Cooks started pondering Saturday's Stanford matchup the moment he sat on the team plane after the Cal win. He thought about the significance of facing a top-10 team after feasting on many of the conference's lower-tier programs this season. He thought about the host of doubters who figure to give OSU little chance against a physical Cardinal squad.
"You just want to keep proving yourself," Cooks said. "So that's what we're doing in our practices. We're just working hard to prove everybody wrong."
Said defensive end Dylan Wynn: "We know how to play against Stanford and they know how to play against us. It's going to be a great game."