DL dominant in scoreless first

DL Ben Gardner

Quick takes: 1. Both offensive lines are struggling early. 2. Stanford's defensive line took leap to elite. Its best quarter of the year. 3. Stanford has to have one of the biggest home-road performance splits of any team in the country these last five seasons. 4. The inverse of the UW game. Stanford is handing away field position with the fumble and punt returns, while OSU stalls on offense.

Pregame thoughts: Stanford didn't get a lot of breaks from games around the country today. No. 5 Missouri looks headed to overtime with South Carolina, but the Tigers are going to lose at some point anyway in the SEC, so no big shakes. Meanwhile, Ohio State, Florida State and Oregon are on pace to win by over 100 combined points, and undefeated Miami came from behind to escape against Wake Forest, a 24-point underdog. (So even if the Canes do upset Florida State, there's still going to be an ACC team ahead of Stanford, at least for now.) At least Texas Tech lost.

Stanford starts from its own 14 and Gaffney goes for two. Read on our boards that Gaffney has lost only five yards on carriers the entire season. He's the team MVP to me this year, no offense to Ty Montgomery. I won't say he's better than Toby Gerhart, but I think he's every bit the equal of Stepfan Taylor.

Oregon State, appropriately enough, is in their Halloween uniforms. The Card go three and out after a Hogan scramble and Ben Rhyne booms a 52-yard punt, 46 net. David Shaw nearly hugs the official to demonstrate what he thought was pass interference on third down, but to no avail.

Now, it's time to see the defense. That's fitting, as the D has been the difference this season, for better or worse. Against Washington and, of course, Utah, as much as we maligned the offensive play calls (appropriately), it was the defense that sunk us. UW had nearly 500 yards and Utah, a team that managed only three points to USC today, scored 28. Could we have won both of those games? Sure. Will you win 12, 13 or 14 straight with that type of a defense, however? No way, no how.

Now, though, the defensive braintrust claims it cleaned things up in time for a strong showing against UCLA, and the front four was dominant this first series. Ben Gardner draws a first-down hold, Alex Carter nearly gets a sack but forces a Sean Mannion fumble and panicked throwaway on second, and then Josh Mauro does get home to drop Mannion on third down.

That's a Ryan Hewitt sighting on a spider 3 Y banana type look. Stanford takes over at its 37, a 23 yard gain of field position thanks to the Rhyne punt and defense's sacks, and after Hewitt's catch and Gaffney runs for another five, the Card are nearly to midfield. Then it's an airmail to Ty Montgomery, but Kelsey Young picks up 15 on a fly sweep to move the chains. A packaged play works! Who knew?

Montgomery for nine on a beautiful call – a fake power but reverse to speedy No. 7. What great ideas to try to snap the offense out of its multiweek funk.

Last year, while the Oregon upset garnered the headlines, the come-from-behind victory over Oregon State game was the quiet key to the Rose Bowl. The potential parallels for this season are obvious, with Stanford a four-point favorite at a dangerous opponent known for getting stronger as the year goes on.

Instead, though, Stanford brings in another package play, and it doesn't go nearly as well. Dallas Lloyd fumbles the second time this season (in a very limited number of snaps), Oregon State recovers and rumbles to the Stanford 42 before Lloyd recovers for the tackle. The Beavers advance into the red zone through the air, but then the defensive front shows up again. Ben Gardner sacks on first down, and then Murphy tips and has to be thinking pick-six after Washington last year and Wazzu this year. Instead, a Beaver back catches off the tip – only for Murphy to drop him in the backfield. It's third and 20 and OSU needs to burn a timeout. OSU's slower pace is definitely a huge boon to a Stanford defensive line which is as talented as any, but in part because of injuries, very thin. Sure enough, Murphy has his eighth sack of the season on third down, and Stanford is on pace for 18 sacks, after three in the first 10 minutes.

Our play of the quarter was the Oregon State series that went Gardner sack, Murphy six-yard loss, Murphy sack. The Beavers moved from Stanford's 16 to the 37 on the series, knocking them out of field goal position after Dallas Lloyd's fumble.

Our player of the quarter is Stanford's defensive line. Mauro, Gardner and Murphy each have a sack. Gardner has drawn a hold. Murphy nearly had a pick, but merely recovered for a six-yard loss. All that in the first two drives. Got to like the Card's odds if that defensive pressure keeps up. Oregon State is going to have to try to run to keep that pass rush honest.

Missouri clanks a field goal to lose in double overtime. Card could be back in the top five with a W. Don't like a run call on second and 17, but like the first-down sack even worse. Cameron Fleming got beat on an inside move, and then Kevin Danser got pancaked, so that's one lineman beating two blockers. Not good. Then, after a Hogan throwaway on third down, OSU returns a punt 41 yards down the right sideline. Understandably, Rhyne and, less understandably, Lee Ward, whiff on tackles.

Quick takes:

* Both offensive lines are struggling early.
* Stanford's defensive line took leap to elite. Its best quarter of the year.
* Stanford has to have one of the biggest home-road performance splits of any team in the country these last five seasons.
* Kind of the inverse of the Washington game. Stanford is handing away field position with the fumble and punt returns, while Oregon State is doing nothing on offense.





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