One of the bright spots offensively for the Ducks against Stanford, redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota will have to be on point once again to earn a victory in Corvallis.
Throughout the college football season, DuckTerritory will examine the "3 keys" to Oregon victory leading up to each of their games this year. In this season’s twelfth installment, we'll take a look at what it will take for the Ducks to knock off the No. 15 Oregon State Beavers this Saturday at Reser Stadium in Corvallis.
1. Flush The Past
If the Ducks have any hopes of sneaking back in to the national title hunt, it starts with putting the loss to Stanford last Saturday completely behind them and focusing on what needs to be done to get a win against a very good and very motivated Oregon State team. This is easier said than done, as the Cardinal perhaps derailed what was supposed to be arguably the greatest season in the history of Oregon football, and it wouldn't necessarily be a shock to see the Ducks still reeling emotionally from the aftermath of last week's loss. Credit to Oregon head coach Chip Kelly and his coaching staff, the Ducks have typically responded with strong performance following losses, however the unique setting of a rivalry game on the road against a top 15 team that has failed to earn a win against the Ducks since 2007 figures to make this a trying accomplishment. Mental preparedness will be just as vital as physical preparedness this Saturday.
2. Impose Will Offensively
In Oregon's 10 wins previous to their loss versus Stanford last Saturday, the Oregon offense excelled at dictating tempo and imposing their will on opponents, usually resulting in blowout victories for the Ducks. The opposite was true for Oregon against the Cardinal, as the Stanford defense rose to the occasion and countered Oregon's pace with effort and individual victories in one-on-one matchups with the Ducks' offensive personnel. Though Oregon State doesn't possess the wealth of individual defensive talent that Stanford has, the Beavers do have their fair share of playmakers on defense and play with as much effort and tenacity as anyone in the Pac-12 Conference. To get the win in Corvallis, the Ducks will need to win the majority of their battles at the point of attack and then hope their athletes on offense do what they do best: Make plays in space. The lack of explosion plays was an obvious sign that things weren't going the offense's way against Stanford. That can't happen again against Oregon State.
3. Manage Wheaton and Cooks
They aren't Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, but Oregon State's Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks aren't far off from the Trojan tandem. This season, Wheaton and Cooks have combined for 127 receptions for 2,025 yards and 15 touchdowns. By comparison, 14 other Beaver receivers have combined for 106 receptions for 1,009 yards and six touchdowns. Indeed, the combined efforts of Wheaton and Cooks are essential to Oregon State's success on offense and if there's been one area where the Ducks have shown susceptibility on defense, it's been the secondary. Though the Ducks are tied for third in the Pac-12 in pass defense, against the comparable receiving duo of Woods and Lee, Oregon was exposed on the road in a big way, surrendering 18 catches for 228 yards and three touchdowns. In order to minimize the threat of an upset and keep the Beavers off balance, the Duck secondary will need to play one of its best games yet.