By T.J. Mathewson
Contributor, 750 The Game
It was always going to come down to the next two weeks.
If you asked your standard Beaver fan before the season which two weeks would swing the season in one direction or another, it was going to be these next two weeks. Not throttling Utah and UCLA at home, not even the two road losses to Arizona and Washington State. As it stands, the Beavers are two wins and an Arizona loss away from a trip to Vegas and the Pac-12 Title game.
After watching Saturday’s performance, I’d say nobody is more ready to embrace that stretch than this football team.
“I’ll echo the maturity of this team,” Jonathan Smith said postgame. “Yeah there’s a lot in front of us, there’s big games coming up, but this group locked in at the task at hand and come out humming from the first play.”
Stanford’s had some bad losses this year. A 46-point loss to USC, a 35-point loss to UCLA, and a 36-point loss to Oregon. Saturday at Reser Stadium was perhaps the worst of them all.
The struggles of a first-year Cardinal program allowed Oregon State to play their best football game of the year when they needed to show it most. 40 rushes for 7.0 yards per carry on the ground, 11.5 yards per attempt through the air, allowing just 82 rushing yards on 32 attempts, and picking off the Cardinal four times. The Beavers averaged nearly a first down for every play they ran on offense (8.8 yards-per-play). It cannot get much better than that.
The Beavers didn’t need the motivation of Gameday passing on a trip to Corvallis next week or the other power four conferences deciding they would be better off without a now-top-ten program next football season. They were just flat-out better.
This had the makings of a get-right game in many senses. This is the first time in a month I’ve been comfortable writing about how well the Oregon State offense performed.
There have been too many inconsistencies in the passing game the last two weeks for many to feel optimistic about the Beavers passing the ball efficiently through the air. Jonathan Smithed pointed out after last week’s win in Boulder how the start of the game affected DJ Uiagalelei’s rhythm and passing attack, not allowing the junior quarterback to get his feet under him until the end of the first half. The offensive gameplay was clear vs Stanford: Give DJ easy completions on his first couple of drives.
On the first drive of the game, Uiagalelei found Jack Velling twice, once short over the middle for eight yards, the next to the opposite sideline for 39 yards before setting up the first of four Damien Martinez rushing touchdowns.
Those were the only passes Uiagalelei completed in the first quarter, the SoCal native ran the ball a couple of times on the second drive before Damien Martinez housed a 59-yard touchdown run. The emphasis was clear, get both facets of offense rolling early against a struggling defense, and let it rip. Six drives and six touchdowns later for the starting offense, the game was out of reach, and it was on to Washington.
It was a performance worthy of honoring the newest members of the Oregon State Athletics Hall of Fame, RB Steven Jackson, WR Mike Hass, and HC Mike Riley to name a few. It’s only fitting there’s a hall-of-fame stretch of games to follow it over the next two weeks that will separate a good season from a great one.