Oregon's Dan Lanning praises Oregon State's sound running game ahead of matchup
The Oregon State Beavers have been one of the country’s best rushing teams in short-yardage situations. When it’s third or fourth down with 2 yards or less to go, the Beavers gain a first down or a touchdown on 82% of their runs (11th nationally). They’re the second-best team in the Pac-12 on fourth down (behind Oregon).
When it’s on schedule, Oregon State is churning. The Beavers want to run the ball. Freshman back Damien Martinez has five straight 100-yard performances as a result.
Since the quarterback change to Ben Gulbranson, Oregon State has been safe. The move from Chance Nolan to Gulbranson was about trading off the explosive, downfield threat that Nolan hunted for the safety that Gulbranson offered. Nolan was loose with the football in losses to USC and Utah. Gulbranson, 5-1 as a starter, has only thrown one interception in his six starts.
Stopping Oregon State means getting the Beavers off schedule.
“Extremely well-coached. They’re a team that runs the wide zone stretch scheme really well,” coach Dan Lanning said this week. “Their quarterback gets them into advantageous looks. He’s able to make sure they take the ball in the right direction. These guys get good movement. They find seams, and their backs run hard. Really similar to the backs that we just saw this past week at Utah. They’re north and south guys. You can tell the o-line’s really well-coached. That really shows up.”
Martinez was an under-recruited prospect out of Texas, and he’s shined since getting the full-time gig in Corvallis. He’s up to 867 yards and seven scores on the season, averaging 6.1 a carry.
“Tackling is going to be really important in this game. We thought tackling was important last game. I think that’s really important this game,” Lanning said. “They’ve done a good job. They have more rushing attempts than anybody else in the conference game in and game out, and they do a good job of running the ball. They’re committed to it. They’re able to find extra hats at the point of attack, so we’re going to have to have some guys win some one-on-ones and then do a great job tackling when we get the opportunity.”
As Oregon State wears on teams, it sets up the “Jackhammer” to take over and move the chains. Jack Colletto — a do-everything man who plays both ways for the Beavers — has 24 carries and six touchdowns and has yet to top 100 yards on the season. He’s the battering ram.
Martinez gets them to third- or fourth-and-short and Colletto comes in to run you over.
“Really for Coach (Jonathan) Smith, third down, especially third-and-short, is second down,” Lanning said. “They plan on going for it on fourth. They’re really aggressive on fourth. Most of the time a lot of those runs are QB runs, whether it’s using Colletto or somebody like that. When they use 11, you have to use 11 to stop them. If you want to be really aggressive on defense and get an extra hat in the box, he’s also proven that he’ll throw a bomb, so it’s tough to commit every hat down to the run. The key is really staying on schedule on first and second down defensively and not giving them those third-and-short opportunities. They’re going to run it on third, you have to be prepared for it, and when they do you want to have the extra hat, but again it’s going to come down to somebody winning one-on-one when they’re using eleven guys.”
This will be a test of Oregon’s run defense. The Ducks are under 4 yards allowed per carry on the season, and they did enough to contain Utah’s attack last week.
Kickoff on Saturday is set for 12:30 p.m. PT on ABC.