Stanford doesn’t have much time to fix its run defense.
After allowing almost 300 yards on the ground in a 62-17 loss at Oregon State on Saturday, the Cardinal will face Jaydn Ott, the leading rusher in the Pac-12, when Cal comes to Stanford Stadium for the 126th Big Game.
The second-leading rusher in the Pac-12, Damien Martinez of Oregon State, ran for 146 yards and four touchdowns on 15 carries Saturday. The Beavers amassed 281 yards on 38 carries before kneeling the ball twice to end the game.
“We have to fit the run better,” Stanford coach Troy Taylor said. “There were times where we didn’t fit it correctly and then there’s times you’re getting beat physically, and then there’s times you’re missing tackles, so it’s all three of those things. And we have to get better on the offensive side of the ball and be able to maintain drives as well. We faced a really good football team but our expectations are much higher than what we showed tonight.”
It resulted in Oregon State’s biggest margin of victory in the history of the 88-game series, and the most points allowed by Stanford since Arizona State won 65-24 in 2002.
The Cardinal (3-7, 2-6) ranked among the 10-worst defenses in both points and yards allowed entering the game, but appeared to take a step forward in last week’s 10-7 win over Washington State. Instead, Oregon State scored touchdowns on eight of its first nine drives in a dominant performance that kept the possibility of a Pac-12 championship intact.
“The preparation was definitely there during the week,” Taylor said. “We just didn’t play well enough and that goes to the whole group, coaches included. Obviously, they’re an outstanding team, really good in all three phases, well coached, good players, but our guys know that we didn’t play at the level that we would hope. We should be more competitive than we were, but we will bounce back next week.”
The run defense wasn’t the only issue for Stanford. Quarterbacks Ashton Daniels and Justin Lamson had combined to throw just five interceptions this season but had four against the Beavers, including two by Daniels on Stanford’s first three possessions before the game got out of hand. Daniels threw a third pick in the second half and Lamson was also picked off.
“Couple poor decisions and trying to make things happen,” Taylor said. “Interceptions usually occur for a number of reasons. Usually it’s pressure, vision, or a couple of those things and that’s been really one of Ash’s strengths is he has not forced the ball and done anything silly with it, and he did that a couple of times.”
Daniels also appeared to hurt his left hand on two separate plays when he tried running for extra yards instead of sliding. He didn’t return after the second incident in the fourth quarter, putting his status for the Cal game in doubt.
“He’s such a competitive, tough kid. Hopefully he’s going to be okay,” Taylor said. “He’s such an important part of our team and he’s a tough kid so we’re hoping he’s going to be fine.”
Stanford has experience bouncing back after being blown out by ranked teams. It beat Colorado after losing 42-6 to Oregon and was competitive against Washington after losing 42-7 to UCLA.
Stanford didn’t make any players available after the game, but Taylor said the team would be ready for the rivalry game on Saturday.
“I have no doubt that our guys will respond and be ready to go,” Taylor said.