Resurgent Stanford Cardinal Face Oregon State Beavers at Home

Oct 29, 2016; Tucson, AZ, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Arizona Wildcats during the second quarter at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 29, 2016; Tucson, AZ, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Arizona Wildcats during the second quarter at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports /

An offensive breakthrough occurred in the Stanford Cardinal’s 34-10 victory over the Arizona Wildcats on the road. Stanford will look to continue the offense against the Oregon State Beavers who cannot be taken lightly.

The Stanford Cardinal offense has not been the same since consecutive losses to the Washington schools. Stanford’s defense has rebounded and allowed the team to win games. Efforts were wasted through the lackluster performance of Stanford’s offense. For an offense with plenty of weapons, the execution has been lacking to the dismay of head coach David Shaw.

Against Arizona, Shaw decided to name Keller Chryst the starting quarterback with hopes of sparking the offense. While Ryan Burns does not deserve the blame for the struggles, the change was a wake-up call. All players on offense knew the job was not getting done and needed to step up.

Shaky at the start but remaining calm, Chryst provided the spark Stanford desperately desired offensively in the desert. Chryst threw for 104 yards with two touchdowns. The start may have been new, but Chryst was comfortable leading the offense. He had been coming in for multiple series this season when Stanford was struggling to move the ball.

Chryst did not have to be effective with his arm as the Christian McCaffrey show returned for the Stanford offense. Healthy after an injury against Washington State, McCaffrey rushed for 169 yards with two touchdowns. With his return, Stanford will look to re-establish their offensive prowess over the rest of the season.

The run game has been vital to Stanford’s success in recent seasons. Success on the ground opens the playbook for Stanford’s receivers to make a big play down the field. Shaw will hope success from Tucson carries over to The Farm against a struggling Oregon State defense. The Beavers are allowing about 33 points per game, ranked 103rd among 128 FBS teams.

For Oregon State, the team is in an unexpected rebuild. Despite having to see rival Oregon reap the rewards from recent years, Mike Riley was building up the program. Riley had the Beavers trending upward and looking to finally break through in the Pac-12.

In a move which seemed to come from nowhere, Riley accepted the head coaching position at Nebraska. Many believed Scott Frost, then offensive coordinator at Oregon and former Nebraska quarterback was the prime candidate. Riley may not have been the ideal choice, but had a proven track record of success in building up a program.

Now in his second year with Oregon State, Gary Andersen is trying to establish an identity with the Beavers while providing building blocks for success. Last season, the Beavers were unable to win a conference game. However, a surge in the second half almost pulled off a shocking win against Oregon, but late heroics fell short in the Civil War loss.

Despite the struggles the Beavers are facing this season, do not underestimate the capabilities of surprising teams. The Beavers can strike offensively as seen from their overtime win against Cal earlier this season. Against then-number 21 Utah, the Beavers came close to pulling out a win but the Utes held tough winning 19-14.

Last week at home against Washington State, finishing was the problem. The Beavers went into halftime leading 24-6, but the Cougars rallied in the second half to escape with a 35-31 win in Corvallis. It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Beavers, who still believe a bowl game can be reached. For that to happen, the Beavers must win out. Andersen said the players have moved on from the loss and are preparing to leave Stanford with a win.

Third-string quarterback Marcus McMaryion has handled responsibilities well given the pressures of having little experience under center. Against the Cougars, he threw for 327 yards and two touchdowns. This was his third game this season and has built some confidence with the offense.

McMaryion’s confidence has come from senior wide receiver Victor Bolden Jr., who made seven catches for 113 yards last weekend. Bolden has been a consistent performer for the Beavers with plenty of upsides at the next level.

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Along with Bolden, sophomore Seth Collins has emerged as a threat down the field. He leads all Oregon State receivers with 369 yards on 32 catches. Hunter Jarmon and Timmy Hernandez will also look to contribute offensively to keep Oregon State’s drives moving.

Stanford’s defensive line will look to stop McMaryion from finding an offensive groove by disrupting the pocket. Last week, the team had five sacks against Arizona in perhaps their best performance of the season. Solomon Thomas continued his strong performance on defense and does not look to slow down anytime soon. His leadership has been critical in keeping the Stanford defense strong.

A big reason for Stanford’s success on the ground last week was winning battles at the line. The play of freshman Nate Herbig allowed McCaffrey and Bryce Love to carve up the Arizona defense. Although he made mistakes at times in his first start, he helped to create holes for Stanford’s running backs to make plays.

With McCaffrey at full strength, Stanford’s receivers will have some relief of making critical plays. However, Chryst will depend on them to extend drives to keep Oregon State’s offense on the sidelines. Trent Irwin and Michael Rector must find ways to get open for the Cardinal offense to fire on all cylinders.

Bright Ugwoegbu has stood out defensively this season for Oregon State. Unfortunately, the Beavers will be without him for the first half. Ugwoegbu was ejected in the fourth quarter for targeting against Washington State. Jalen Moore and Brandon Arnold will look to carry the defensive load.

Next: Stanford Turn to Chryst Against Arizona

Stanford has found their swagger once again with the offense and the defense supporting each other. With a showdown against Oregon next week, Stanford wants to head in with confidence on both sides of the ball. A win against Oregon State will send Stanford in the right direction. However, the Cardinal cannot be overconfident as the Beavers will provide a competitive game.