Trips to “The Farm”, which is what the Stanford campus is called, the University having been built on founder Leland Stanford’s farm, have been painful to the point of brutal for Beaver fans for nearly a decade, since the beginning of the Jim Harbaugh/David Shaw era.
It really shouldn’t be, as the rebuilt Stanford Stadium is one of the nicer stadiums in the conference (or would be if they would replace their bog of a field with a modern turf), on one of the most picturesque campuses in the country.
The weather today is going to be beautiful, in the 70’s and sunny, as is often the case. And it’s a day game, so the fact that they only put up about half the lights they should have during the rebuild is not an issue today.
Access and egress is a breeze, in total contrast to the berserk mess across the bay in Berkeley (which will probably discourage a fair number of OSU fans from doing the double, and catching the evening game between Washington and California.
But recent trips to Palo Alto have either been painful losses, including what turned out to be blowing a Rose Bowl trip in August, and giving away the game on an unforced fumble in 2012.
Those were the highlights though, with a couple of uncompetitive blowout losses along the way as well.
The games against Stanford at Reser recently have been similar too.
And all time, Stanford, surprisingly, has a better winning percentage against Oregon State than anyone else in the conference.
Some of that is a product of the Cardinal’s ascent, and having some pretty good teams, and some of that is a product of Oregon State’s program’s general decline over the same time span. But that doesn’t completely account for it; there were some good Beaver teams and some not as good as others Stanford squads in that run. It’s becoming one of those deals, similar to how Oregon State has frequently clobbered California in recent years, despite ups and downs of both programs, except the Cardinal have the Beavers’ number. Today, that number is expected to be 14 1/2, the margin by which Oregon State is a road dog. (Pro tip: The Beavers have been a covering machine this season; getting more than 2 touchdowns might make it a profitable day, even if not a winning one.)
This year is one of those relatively down Stanford seasons, where the Cardinal struggled while Christian McCaffrey struggled with injury, though he’s back to being his normal dominant self just in time for Oregon State’s visit, and have had a problem solving their quarterback issue.
Which reminds us of course of another episode, when it was the Beavers whom Kevin Hogan had his breakout performance that ended the last quarterback quandary on the Farm.
This year’s Oregon State team continues to show good effort, and at least at times, has had a good running game, decent special teams, and decent pass defense, 3 of the fundamentals of survival in the Pac-12, especially when without an effective passing game, or a decent defensive front.
Even that passing game, while still not “good”, has been better since Marcus McMaryion took over.
All that has encouraged Beaver fans, and some local media, especially those in full diversion mode from the obvious persisting problems of unsound coverage packages, endless so-called “administrative” penalties (the new p.c. term for poorly prepared teams that have fundamental problems), and the game management mistakes that have hurt the Beavers in a couple of contests that they could have won despite their talent and depth deficiencies. Problems that will also lose games when a team is not at a roster disadvantage.
I hope this is the week the Beavers clean up at least some of these unforced errors that have nothing to do with talent, and finally get the Cardinal monkey (not the one in the Leland F. Stanford Jr. Marching Band!) off their backs, taking advantage of what is probably a brief downturn in Stanford fortunes.
And especially for the sake of players from seniors like Victor Bolden, Sean Harlow, Devin Chappell, and Treston Decoud, all the way down to encouraging new comers like Artavius Pierce and Jalen Moore, as well as those in the middle of their careers, like Ryan Nall, Seth Collins, and after halftime, Bright Ugwoegbu (who has to sit the first half after another of the ridiculous mis-applications of the targeting rule).
Oregon State should be able to run the ball, at least a bit, against the Stanford defense, since the Beavers were able to against both the Utah and Washington defenses. Even given that the Cardinal have allowed exactly 10 points in each of their last 3 outings.
And the OSU pass defense should be able to not only curb the Cardinal’s passing game that’s nowhere near as formidable as those of, oh, say Colorado, California, Washington, or Washington State, but even be able to help try to keep McCaffrey fenced in.
So the opportunity for what would be almost a generational win exists.
But while Oregon State has been measurably better at home, the last 2 road trips have not only been blowout losses, they were in short order. The Beavers were unprepared in Boulder and on Montlake, just as they have been their last 2 trips to the Bay Area, and almost everywhere else they have traveled to of late.
That’s the next big challenge this team has to show some improvement in. They’ll have some help; Oregon State fans continue to travel well (for a team that hasn’t), and the entire OSU Marching Band is here (so there will actually be 1 actual band on hand!), so they won’t feel like the disenfranchised orphans they too often are on the road (the University didn’t even bother to send Benny, never mind a cheerleader or two, along to Boulder or Seattle, apparently figuring there was no point in even trying to win those games).
This feels like what passes for (or is looked upon as a substitute for) a bowl trip for the team and the band. They deserve that, and they deserve more. Let’s see if we can make it more than we have in a decade down on the Farm.
(Photo by Andy Wooldridge)