3 & Out: Beavers fall to Cardinal
CORVALLIS -- Oregon State may have played one of its best defensive games of the year Saturday night in Reser Stadium.
But the Beaver offense, reliable in its effectiveness all season, couldn't get enough going to make it a victory, falling 20-12. It was a night when points -- and yards and first downs -- came hard for Oregon State.
In the final three minutes, the Beavers made it interesting. They recovered a fumble, converted a field goal and then, after forcing a Stanford punt, marched all the way to the Cardinal 7 before failing on four straight passes.
It was a frustrating end to a game in which the Beavers failed to take advantage of field-goal possibilities and couldn't convert on fourth down.
The first half of the game was about as ugly as a college game can be. Neither team moved the ball with any consistency and the Beavers, in particular, were unable to protect quarterback Sean Mannion well enough for him to find open receivers. When the Beavers finally shortened the passes up and threw the ball quicker, he had a better chance.
But all night, the physical Stanford defense was pounding away -- getting big hits on nearly every play. Beaver receivers did a great job of holding onto the ball on many catches while taking huge hits after the catch. The Cardinal hit extremely hard -- and don't miss many tackles.
The Beavers got on the board first, getting a career-best 50-yard field goal from Trevor Romaine with 12:48 to play in the second quarter. Twice Oregon State had opportunities to kick other field goals but opted to go for it on fourth down -- failing both times. In the second half, the Beavers' first possession ended when they failed to pick up a first down on fourth-and-five at the Stanford 35. Yes, it would have been a 52-yard field goal, but that may have been a better bet than picking up a first down needing five yards against the hungry Stanford defense.
A crucial fourth-down failure came with under a minute to play in the first half. Mannion tried a quarterback sneak at the Stanford 34 and actually lost yardage. The Cardinal took the ball with 46 seconds to go in the half and raced the length of the field to score with 7 seconds left in the half. Tyler Gaffney scored on a four-yard run to give Stanford a 7-3 halftime lead after playing ineffectively for most of the first half.
That seemed to take a lot of steam out the Beavers, who opened the second half by fumbling the kickoff, setting up the Cardinal at the OSU 12. Just 52 seconds into the third quarter the Cardinal got into the end zone on a nine-yard Gaffney run and led 13-3.
Whatever yards the Beavers got all night were testimony to Mannion's ability to throw under pressure, thread the needle to mostly covered receivers and unload the ball knowing he was going to take a hit. Oregon State could not run consistently -- which has been the norm most of the season -- and couldn't get enough time or protection to throw anything but short passes.
He engineered a masterful 12-play, 90-yard drive ending with 46 seconds left in the third quarter to bring OSU to within 13-9, hitting Brandin Cooks with an eight-yard TD pass. The PAT was blocked, which wasn't exactly timely, given the situation.
Gaffney, though, bought Stanford breathing room with a 32-yard touchdown run on the next Cardinal possession. That made it 20-9 and seemed to finish the Beavers off. But the late fumble gave them new life and they almost worked a miracle that would have given them a shot at a tie to send it into overtime.