Stanford trying not to look past OSU
CORVALLIS — There's no blaming Stanford for reveling in that triple-overtime victory over USC last weekend. It's a win that will likely go down as one of the more memorable games of this season.
So it seemed only natural that much of the talk surrounding the fourth-ranked Cardinal (8-0, 6-0 Pac-12) this week was about that game. Oregon State, which hosts Stanford today, got little attention.
The Beavers, after all, have won just two games this season. Of course the focus would be on the Cardinal, star quarterback Andrew Luck and that big win.
On top of that, many were already looking toward next week, when Stanford plays No. 6 Oregon in a game that will likely decide who represents the Pac-12 North in the inaugural conference championship.
Add it all up and Stanford coach David Shaw was leery.
"It was a big game, it was an exciting game, it was one of the best games a lot of people have said they have seen in a while, but then the season is not over," Shaw said. "We've talked all year about building. You're in a big game, you win a big game, it gets even bigger. So you can't win a big game and stop playing."
Stanford is definitely building. Behind Heisman-hopeful Luck, the Cardinal have the nation's longest winning streak at 16 games. Their AP ranking is the highest it has been in the regular season since 1970 and a win today would give Stanford its first 9-0 start since 1952.
Over the last two games, Stanford's offense has scored 121 points, with a 65-21 win over Washington and the 56-48 OT thriller over the Trojans.
Against the Huskies, Stanford rushed for a school-record 446 yards. The Cardinal are averaging 215.25 yards rushing, second only to Oregon in the Pac-12.
Luck, who has been known to call his own plays, has thrown for 1,432 yards and 15 touchdowns over his last five games. He has 23 touchdown passes this season, with nine more to go to tie his own school record set last season.
Luck passed for 305 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-0 blanking of the Beavers last year in Palo Alto. But the last time he was in Corvallis, the Cardinal lost 38-28.
Stanford's offensive prowess spells trouble for the young Beavers, who couldn't contain Utah in a 27-8 loss last weekend. The Utes ran for 225 yards in their first Pac-12 victory.
Oregon State's defense overall is ranked fifth in the Pac-12, allowing an average of 377.4 yards.
The Beavers (2-6, 2-3) are hoping to catch the Cardinal off guard. There was wishful speculation that Stanford could either suffer the classic letdown loss after that USC victory, or simply overlook Oregon State in anticipation of the Ducks.
"You see their record and you know they're a good team. And I've got a lot of respect for them, but they are just another team. It's us against them, man on man," Cornerback Jordan Poyer said. "It's going to come down to who wants it more. I think if we have a good week of practice and we really focus on the details of our assignments, it's possible."
Oregon State's season was troubled from the start of fall camp, when the team was plagued with injuries. Then the Beavers opened with a resounding thump: a 29-28 overtime loss at home to lower division Sacramento State.
After two games, coach Mike Riley switched starting quarterbacks, replacing Ryan Katz with redshirt freshman Sean Mannion, a move that was widely questioned.
While he has thrown for 200 or more yards in seven straight games, Mannion has 13 interceptions to his 10 touchdowns, ranking him last in the league in passing efficiency.
Oregon State's most promising offensive playmaker is true freshman Malcolm Agnew, who ran for 223 yards in the opener but was then sidelined for the next four games with a hamstring injury.
Then there's the injuries. Today, the Beavers will likely be without slotback Jordan Bishop, tailback Jovan Stevenson and two offensive line starters, Grant Johnson and Burke Ellis.
On the bright side, Oregon State has a reputation for pulling off major upsets. In 2008, the Beavers were 26-point underdogs when they knocked off then-No. 1 USC 27-21 on a Thursday night in Corvallis. The year before, Oregon State downed second-ranked California 31-28 in Strawberry Canyon.
But Riley was trying to keep his expectations realistic.
"We're facing a major challenge. This team is very good in all areas, their offense and their quarterback," Riley said. "That's all well documented and outstanding in every way — statistically and by performance."