OSU must add new wrinkle to run game

CORVALLIS — The facts are obvious, and the stats speak for themselves: Oregon State hasn't been able to run the ball all season, and the last two teams to beat the Ducks did so with a power running game.

So what's a coach to do during Friday's Civil War?

Mike Riley's offense might have come to a screeching halt the last four games as it ran into some of the best defenses in the Pac-12, but for the first seven weeks of the season, the Beavers (6-5 overall, 4-4 Pac-12) were pretty good through the air. For a good chunk of the season, they led the country in passing offense. Even now, after four frustrating games with a stagnant offense, quarterback Sean Mannion still leads the country in passing yards (4,089), and receiver Brandin Cooks leads in receiving yards (1,560).

But there's no denying that the Beavers are flat-out bad on the ground.

Oregon State averages 72.8 rushing yards per game, second worst in the conference. Only Washington State — which is philosophically opposed to running the ball — averages fewer rushing yards per game at 60.

So now the Beavers have to decide if they're going to dance with the one who brought them, or get a new partner.

"I think to say we're going to line up with nine offensive linemen and run like Stanford, that's not realistic," said offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf, adding that it's "certainly true" the passing game won OSU six in a row. "We have to play to what they're giving us. If they're really going to take away Brandin and devote a lot of coverage to him, then you certainly need to hit some runs to take the pressure off that."

In Oregon's losses this year, the Ducks (9-2, 6-2) gave up a combined 578 rushing yards. Most of that damage was done by Stanford's Tyler Gaffney (157 yards on 45 carries) and Arizona's KaDeem Carey (206 yards on 48 carries). For comparison's sake, Oregon State starting running back Storm Woods has totaled 297 yards on 96 carries. Only one OSU back (Terron Ward) has run for more than 100 yards in a game, and that came against lowly Colorado.

"You know, I don't think there's one answer for (why we haven't run the ball well)," said backup Terron Ward, who has rushed for 322 yards on 87 carries. "I think there are a lot of things. Coming out early in fall camp, we had a lot of injuries to the offensive line, and then the passing game got hot so we stuck to it.

"Sticking to the run this week will be a good thing for us, but we've got to produce. We just gain one or two yards and put ourselves in long second and third downs."

There aren't many changes the Beavers can make in just six days of preparation. They're not going to get new players or a new scheme, and they can't magically increase their talent level. The key, Riley said, will be adding new wrinkles to their current offensive schemes. A couple strong runs could dramatically change the game.

"We want to get a good package and do some things there, we're working on that now," he said. "It's very obvious that we have to do better."

Then, in the understatement of the 2013 season, Riley said it's "become a real detriment" that the Beavers' offense is so one-dimensional.

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