On a night when its offense was once again stagnant, No. 6 Stanford’s vaunted defense stepped up to the plate, slowing down Oregon State’s nation-leading passing attack just enough to secure a hard-fought 20-12 victory over the Beavers in Corvallis on Saturday night.
The game wasn’t in hand until the very end as OSU drove to the Stanford seven-yard-line in an attempt to send the game into overtime, but Sean Mannion’s pass to Kevin Cummings was batted away in the end zone with one second left and the Cardinal survived.
Stanford set the tone for the game early, punishing Mannion early and often with a ferocious pass rush. By the time the game was over, the Cardinal got to Mannion eight times — with Trent Murphy getting 2.5 of those sacks — and held the Beavers to 17 net rushing yards.
Mannion, who entered the game averaging 427 yards and four touchdown passes per game, was held to 271 yards on 41 of 57 passing. His favorite target, Brandin Cooks, led the nation with an average of 11 catches and 168 receiving yards per game, but he was limited to just nine catches for 80 yards and one score.
But the Cardinal offense almost wasted this fine defensive effort. Quarterback Kevin Hogan was 8 of 18 for 88 yards and Stanford finished with just 273 total yards and 13 first downs. Luckily, running back Tyler Gaffney stepped up with 145 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. It was Gaffney’s fifth 100-yard effort of the season and third in a row.
As good as he was on the night, it was Gaffney’s fumble that allowed Oregon State to chip away at a 20-9 deficit with a Trevor Romaine field goal with three minutes to play. Up eight points, the Cardinal just needed a first down to ice the game. But the Beavers defense held up and Stanford punted away.
Cooks returned the punt 28 yards to the Cardinal 43 yard line and that’s when Mannion and OSU went to work and almost pulled it out.
The Beavers now have one loss in conference, but they’ll need some help if they are going to win the league. You can also kiss Mannion’s Heisman hopes goodbye.
As for Stanford, the win keeps its slim national title hopes alive and sets up a huge matchup with Oregon on Nov. 7. That one could be for a lot of marbles.