Hats off to OSU, who somehow converts on a fourth and short in no-man's land to start the second quarter. A.J. Tarpley couldn't have been closer to the wideout in the flat unless he could defy physics and simultaneously occupy the same space, but somehow it's diving catch on a perfect catch and throw. No complaints. A few plays later, Stanford escapes. Wayne Lyons bites inside, Storm Woods cuts outside and is open streaking down the left sideline, but Sean Mannion overshoots him at the Stanford five. OSU does rebound with a 50-yard field goal, Trevor Romaine's career long, but Stanford is lucky that it's not 7-0 right now. Woods doesn't have a catch yet, but you have to figure that OSU is going to try to pick on Lyons again after their initial success.
Oregon State 3, Stanford 0, 12:48 remaining, second quarter
Ohio State's now at 63 – after Florida State hit 49 and Oregon hit 42. They realize that margin of victory is explicitly not in the BCS formula, right? Sheesh. Meanwhile, Stanford's offense trolls us all with a pass to Charlie Hopkins on second and three. Hopkins drops it, and what's that quote about the definition of insanity being trying the same thing and hoping for a different result. Third down is OSU again getting away with some aggressive DB coverage – this one even more clearly pass interference than an analogous first-quarter play – and on comes the punt squad for the third time of the day.
The Utah loss hurts today, not only in the national picture, but also in the conference race. Oregon's not losing any time soon, at least to anyone else in the conference, so it eliminated Stanford's margin for error. A loss here and it doesn't matter what happens against Oregon because we'd be two back in the L column.
Kevin Hogan is 2-of-7 for 17 yards. Mannion's stat line is even weirder – 9-of-11, for all of 39 yards. Stanford continues to give up the underneath routes as Mannion connects for five, then nine, then seven yards. Would like to see the DL rise up again though, as they've been quiet of late. Mannion is 14-of-16 for 74 yards. Wow.
OSU continues to nickel-and-dime their way down the field, though Murphy nearly ends that with his second tip of the day. But it falls harmlessly to the ground, and after Skov jars out the ball on a would-be third down conversion, OSU goes for a fourth and three at the Stanford 19. Mannion has nothing, eventually pressure forces him to roll left, and he throws to no one in particular. The D holds and OSU has just three points for 14:29 of possession. Just under eight to go in the first half, still 3-0 Beavers.
Hard to see the Stanford defensive line being as effective in the fourth quarter if they have to play nearly 40 minutes today. The offense, which has run 17 plays to OSU's 26, despite receiving the opening kick, could really use a drive here. Gaffney rises to the occasion with a 14-yard run on a draw, and then has an even better run for eight. The defender on the left sideline had him bottled up after three, but Gaffney faked inside, bounced outside and used a stiff arm to get to the sideline after gaining every last possible inch.
Gaffney's wiles pay off on the next play, as the Card feel sufficiently confident in a second and short situation to take a shot deep. Hogan horribly underthrows Ty Montgomery, but it works out, because Montgomery stops to locate the ball and the defender runs through him for pass interference. I think teams should purposefully hang balls more in this situation – when a defender is trailing a receiver with his back to the ball, if the receiver stops, the defender is going to run him over for a penalty every time.
Barry J. Sanders runs for six but could have had eight or nine with a cut inside, instead of outside. Why not stay with Gaffney 30 times a game? At some point, regardless, the offense has to do something. Hogan runs for only one on first down, is sacked on third, and Rhyne comes on for punt No. 4 of the day. Color commentator: "When your wrinkle plays are not effective, maybe you get back to what made you successful in the first place." Who knew he was a Bootie?
OSU assumes possession at its 17 with four minutes left. Stanford will have time for a two-minute drill with a stop, but OSU runs for nine after Josh Mauro jumps offside. Shayne Skov can't come up with a bang-bang tipped ball, and that's Stanford's third near-pick of the day (after two tips from Murphy). Hate to put it on the D, but someone needs to make a big play, and it doesn't look to be the offense at this point. The Card have only one play over 14 yards on the day, I believe – a 23-yard run from Gaffney.
Alex Carter is whistled for a PI that Shaw is not happy with after OSU has gotten away with a lot today. Maybe the Pac-12 refs are part of Stanford's home/road split. OSU is to Stanford's 42 with 1:39 in the half, but the bend-but-don't-break strategy pays off. The Beavers find themselves in a fourth and one at Stanford's 34 with under a minute left, and a quarterback sneak up the middle is stonewalled.
A Gaffney draw for a first down comes back on a Charlie Hopkins false start, and it's been a tough half for him. On third and long though, it's time for Hogan to cash in on his once-per-game allotment of an uncannily amazing throw 35 yards downfield. This one is back-shoulder to Ty Montgomery, and it's shades of UW, as it's an amazing throw and catch after 29-plus minutes of inaccuracy.
After a checkdown to Davis Dudchock, Hogan scrambles for 23 down to the OSU four. We take our second timeout with 13 seconds left, and then it's a give to Gaffney up the middle in a goal-to-go situation. Gaffney is bottled up, but the wind isn't going to knock him out and the OSU DL is unable to penetrate to get a hand on him. So Gaffney takes a few seconds, bounces outside, and it's an incredible four-yard touchdown on a play that OSU had presumably bottled up for good. With seven seconds left in the quarter, it's an extra point, a kickoff and a kneel down, and we're at the break.
Stanford has only 12:10 of possession and has led for all of seven seconds, but the scoreboard doesn't lie. A no-huddle
Halftime: Stanford 7, Oregon State 3
Our player of the quarter is Gaffney, and our play of the quarter is the 37-yard back shoulder throw and catch to Montgomery. Maybe Stanford should run no-huddle more often. Hogan seems more comfortable in it, and it's been three times this season now we've moved the ball with it after prolonged periods of offensive futility: There were the end of the first halves against Washington and Oregon State, and, of course, there were 50-plus minutes of offensive struggles against Utah, and then very nearly two touchdowns in two hurry-up drives.
Couldn't hurt the defense to get in more reps against a no-huddle look either, given that Oregon is our primary obstacle to conference championships for the foreseeable future. And if all else fails, at least we wouldn't have any more of those pesky delay of game penalties getting in a play call.
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