Stanford Game Preview

What: Oregon State (4-2 overall, 1-2 Pac-12) at Stanford (4-3, 2-2)

When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto, California

On the Air: ESPN2/Beaver Sports Network

Series: 52-25-3 Stanford.

Last season: The Beavers’ 4th-quarter rally effort came up short, as Stanford escaped Corvallis with a 20-12 win. The Cardinal defense held strong the entire game, especially during the final drive, as it stopped the Beavers from scoring on four downs from the 7-yard line. Sean Mannion completed a career-high 41 passes, and his 8-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks late in the third quarter was OSU’s only TD. Running back Tyler Gaffney scored all three of Stanford’s touchdowns while finishing with 145 yards on 22 carries. The Cardinal sacked Mannion eight times.

Notes: Stanford is coming off a 26-10 loss to Arizona State last Saturday in Tempe. The loss dropped the Cardinal out of the Top-25 for the first time since 2010. OSU head coach Mike Riley’s first conference win was against Stanford (30-23) on Oct. 10, 1998. The longest passing play in OSU history occurred against Stanford, a 97-yard bomb from Jonathan Smith to Chad Johnson in 2000. Another record that could fall against the Cardinal:  Mannion needs 316 passing yards to become the Pac-12’s all-time leading passer.

5 Keys to Victory

1. Protect Mannion. Don’t let Stanford’s record deceive you, its defense is still one of the best in the nation and will bring constant pressure. Last year, the Cardinal defense sacked Mannion eight times, and even though he completed 41 passes, many of them were short, dump-off type passes. The Beavers need to do a better job protecting Mannion on Saturday, but it will be a tall order for an offensive line dealing with injuries.

2. Avoid silly turnovers. Saturday’s game figures to be a defensive battle and low scoring. So the Beavers need to take care of the ball. They can’t afford to be sloppy and give Stanford the ball with good field position. Holding onto the ball on handoffs and catches will be crucial, too, as Stanford defenders always tackle hard.

3. Pass the ball. OSU struggled rushing the ball last year against Stanford, netting just 17 yards. Stat-wise, a lot of that was due to all the sacks, but the fact of the matter was that yards on the ground were hard to come by. Expect that to be the case Saturday as well, so the Beavers need to be able to throw the ball. The good news is Jordan Villamin had a breakout game last weekend, and hopefully, he and the other WRs build off that momentum.

4. Don’t leave points on board. The Beavers need to convert in the red zone, on big plays, and their field goals. They likely won’t have a ton of opportunities against Stanford, so they need to take advantage of what they can get. If things get really sluggish, they shouldn’t be afraid to get aggressive and take some chances. After all, Stanford isn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut this season.

5. Keep ball away from Montgomery. Ty Montgomery is Stanford’s big-play threat, not just in the passing game, but on special teams as well. The Beavers need to limit his touches because he is capable of taking it to the house anytime he touches the ball. Being physical with him and getting him out of rhythm early will be key. If the Beavers can do that, it could result in Stanford’s offense struggling like it did against ASU.

Game Prediction: 24-17 Stanford. On the road against one of the better defensive teams in the county doesn’t bode well for an offense that’s banged up and has struggled with consistency. Of course, I’d like to be wrong — Go Beavs! (RW)

What are your predictions/thoughts? Can OSU get back on track after two tough losses?

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