CORVALLIS — Oregon State's recent passing struggles have forced some fans to beg a familiar question: What about the ground game?
After all, there are only so many ways to gain yardage. With the air attack sputtering during stretches, Beavers supporters reason, now seems a logical time to focus on running the ball.
Overall, OSU's rushing numbers in Saturday's 30-17 loss at then-No. 21 Arizona State hovered around their season averages. The Beavers ran on about 36 percent of their offensive plays, netted 70 yards and averaged 2.7 yards per carry.
OSU managed a couple solid runs on draw plays, but it struggled mightily in short-yardage situations. Running backs Storm Woods and Terron Ward combined to convert just one first down in the eight times they needed no morethan four yards Saturday. In fact, Ward lost yardage on all three of his attempts in those situations.
"It's OK, you know, it's not great," Riley said of the run game Saturday. "We're going to try. I guess my biggest disappointment was our short-yardage run failures."
Earlier in the season, such less-than-stellar displays brought minimal consequences. OSU leaned on the nation's top-ranked passing attack to outscore opponents and cobble together a six-game winning streak.
But the Beavers have averaged 152.8 fewer passing yards over their recent three-game skid than they did during their 6-1 start. And OSU figures to have a tough time improving through the air against two remaining regular-season opponents — Washington and No. 5 Oregon — that boast aggressive front sevens and capable secondaries. The Beavers (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12) may need a more successful run game to avoid a sub-.500 conference record.
"We're getting so much coverage and so (many) double teams that we have to be able to hit some runs," said offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf, whose group ranks 120th out of 123 FBS teams in rushing offense. "Now, we're still not statistically where we want to be. ... We are still looking to run the ball the best we can."
Said quarterback Sean Mannion: "It's something we work on everyday in practice and continue to work on."