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November 19, 2012

Beavers Prepare for Ducks



What does a Beaver do when he's trapped a Golden Bear?

Go Duck hunting.

In the wake of establishing season highs in seven offensive statistical categories, including touchdowns (9), rushing yards (200), yards per play (7.6), first downs (35) and points in a 62-14 mauling of California Saturday night at Reser Stadium, Oregon State now prepares for the biggest Civil War since the "War of the Roses" in 2009.

"Obviously, we played pretty well, but our mentality carried us through a lot of stuff that wasn't really pretty," coach Mike Riley said Sunday night during his weekly press conference less than 24 hours after one of the most lopsided wins in school history.

"Our guys were ready to play physically and they were just going to win that game."

Making Saturday's collision even more significant is the fact both teams are battling for vital position in the BCS standings, and for the best possible bowl. The winner could get a shot at a BCS bowl game.

Kickoff is set for noon PT in Corvallis with the annual late season showdown between the bitter rivals being televised on the Pac-12 networks.

Oregon State (No. 15 in BCS standings) must snap a four-game losing streak to the Ducks and attain a top 14 finish in the BCS standings (assuming a win over Nicholls State on December 1) in order to secure consideration for at-large berth to the Rose Bowl (if the Pac-12 champion plays in the national title game) or another BCS game.

The Beavers could finish in a three-way tie with Stanford and Oregon atop the Pac-12 standings, something considered unthinkable three months ago. Even if that happened, Oregon State won't go to the Pac-12 championship game because of tiebreakers.

Oregon (No. 5 in BCS standings behind Notre Dame and three SEC teams) must win to cling to their Pac 12 and national championship hopes. The Ducks would host the conference title game on November 30 if they beat the Beavers and Stanford falls to UCLA (clinched Pac-12 South title) on Saturday.

"It's a great game for a lot of reasons," Riley said. "It's pretty rare in our industry for two teams from this state to be ranked as high as we are to be playing for a lot at the end of the year."

Coming off one of the most impressive performances of the season, Oregon State enters the Civil War with plenty of momentum looking to protect an unblemished home record (5-0). The Beavers have won five of the last seven meetings against Oregon at Reser Stadium.

Right now, the biggest task facing Riley is naming a starting quarterback for the Civil War. Sean Mannion completed 24-of-34 passes for 325 yards and a season high four touchdowns in the rout over Cal. Cody Vaz, who had started four of the five previous games, was sidelined with an injury suffered late in the loss at Stanford on November 10.

Riley said Sunday night he wasn't prepared to announce a starting quarterback until he had spoken with the two signal callers Monday morning prior to the first practice of the week.

The Beavers know they will be without Tyler Anderson, however. He is scheduled to undergo surgery to repair a left knee injury and is lost for the season.

"He had a really good year and was a big factor for us," Riley said. "He will be missed."

Oregon State last beat the Ducks in 2007, and are still smarting from a 49-21 setback at Autzen Stadium a year ago when the Ducks rushed for 389 yards (150 by LaMichael James) and passed for 305 more.

"We're going to have to have a terrific day tackling in space against a lot of speed," Riley said. "It's a big chore. We have to get in better position and have great feet and eyes. They are talented and well coached. When you add their tempo to it, it all makes for an identity that has been extremely consistent for a while."

In the loss, Mannion threw for 299 yards on 27-of-44 passing, but Oregon State managed just 57 yards on the ground. Essentially, the Beavers were one-dimensional on offense, weakening their chances of winning the game.

"We have to do a much better job of blocking them then we did a year ago," Riley said. "They beat us up front badly. We couldn't do much of anything. It was frustrating. We started out playing good defense and doing a good job, but we couldn't anything offensively. Eventually, they overwhelmed us.

"They have speed all over their team. Good defense has been a big component of their high ranking all year long. Their offense gets a lot of notoriety, but they play a lot of good defense too."

If Oregon State is looking for a blueprint on how to keep the high-scoring Oregon offense contained, all they need to do is meticulously break down the video of Saturday night's stunning 17-14 overtime victory by Stanford in Eugene.

What was Stanford's secret?

The Cardinal upset Oregon - and the proverbial BCS apple cart - by rushing for 200 yards and limiting the Ducks' vaunted ground attack to 198 yards. Oregon entered the contest averaging 325.1 rushing yards per game, but was held 127 yards below their average.

Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, once thought to be a Heisman Trophy frontrunner, mustered just 66 yards on 21 carries, a paltry average of 3.1 yards per carry. Because the Ducks couldn't sustain a consistent rushing attack, they were forced to throw the ball (37 passes) more than they wanted.

In short, Stanford pushed Oregon out of its comfort zone by stopping the run, thus forcing Ducks freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota to beat them through the air.

Stanford also stopped Oregon twice on downs inside the 40-yard line, including the 7-yard line in the first quarter and limited Oregon to a 23.5 success rate (4-of-17) on third downs.

"They tackled well," Riley said. "That's a very good front Stanford has and they supported well from the secondary."

Four of Oregon's six drives into Stanford territory produced zero points.

Oregon State is second in the Pac-12 (14th nationally) in rushing defense (108.7 yards per game) behind Stanford, which lived up to its reputation against Oregon as one of the elite run defenses in the country.

"What's out there now is Stanford has a really good defense," Riley said. "Part of it is what they did, but a lot of it is the talent they have and how well they played. Can we duplicate that? I don't know. We'll try to with a style all our own. It showed once again that this is really a competitive league and there are no givens. It provides you with a warning and an opportunity. You just have to be ready to play."

Storm Woods (698 rushing yards in 2012), who suffered a slight concussion in the win over California but should be able to play in the Civil War, according to Riley, will seek to duplicate the strong performance of Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor, who rushed for 161 yards on 33 carries (4.9 yards per attempt) against Oregon.

"Storm will be limited (Monday), but I don't know if he will have to go through the whole (concussion) protocol for the week," Riley said.

If the Beavers are able to establish the run with Woods and Terron Ward (128 yards against Cal; 2 rushing TDs), they should be able to control the clock and keep the ball out of Oregon's hands. Stanford held the ball for over 37 minutes compared to just under 23 minutes for the Ducks.


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