Oregon State football notes: Beavers prep for new look at Stanford in the pass-happy Cardinal

CORVALLIS – This isn’t your Jim Harbaugh’s Stanford, or even most of the David Shaw Cardinal.

For most of the past decade since its resurgence, Stanford has been known as an offense that leads with a power running game. The Cardinal have left bruises on opposing defenses to prove it, sometimes placing three tight ends/fullback into an offensive set just to add power.

The Cardinal didn’t figure to stray far from their roots this season, with the return of Heisman Trophy candidate Bryce Love at running back. But as the season developed, Love has battled injuries and quarterback K.J. Costello became one of the Pac-12’s premier passers.

This week, Oregon State preps for a Stanford offense that ranks 11th in the Pac-12 in rushing offense, and second in passing yards. The Cardinal gain almost five of every six yards through the air this season.

“They still have that power run game that they use once in a while, but I think they’ve found a quarterback they like and a good core of receivers,” OSU defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar said Wednesday.

Costello ranks second in the Pac-12 in passing at 279.1 yards per game, trailing only Washington State’s Gardner Minshew. The Cardinal have two receivers among the league’s top 10 in receiving yards and receptions per game.

As for Love, he has struggled with an ankle injury most of the season, causing him to miss two games. After running for 2,118 yards last season, Love has only 490 yards through nine games, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

Tibesar said the combination of injuries and Stanford’s ability to throw the ball has led to less Love this season, as well as the possibility that defenses are stacking the box to keep him in check.

“He hasn’t been quite as dynamic and explosive a player,” Tibesar said.

But the Beavers won’t ignore Love.

“Our guys will have wide eyes when he’s in the game,” Tibesar said.

Rashed Jr. on a tear: Oregon State, in search of playmakers on defense all season, appear to be getting one in Hamilcar Rashed Jr. The sophomore outside linebacker has been surging of late, with 22 tackles, including four for a loss, and a sack during his past three games.

Rashed Jr. leads Oregon State in tackles for loss (nine) and sacks (21/2) this season.

Tibesar said Rashed Jr.’s rise in production is the result of small areas of improvement. The OSU defensive coordinator says Rashed’s technique in taking on tackles and tight ends is better, that he’s better able to rush the quarterback than earlier in the season, and “he’s been able to make some of the tackles that earlier in the season he missed.”

Rising freshmen: Oregon State’s defense has included extensive help from four true freshmen this season. Defensive tackle Isaac Hodgins has started eight of nine games, while Inside linebacker Isaiah Tufaga has four starts. Outside linebackers Matthew Tago and John McCartan have played in every game.

Tufaga is fifth on the team in tackles with 31. Tago leads the team with three quarterback hits, and is the only Beaver to cause a fumble, and a fumble recovery.

“They were trying to figure it out early on,” Tibesar said. “Now some of those guys are playing some of our better football on defense.”
Quotable: Tibesar, on Stanford’s offensive diversity:

“We’re going to see more personnel groups from Stanford than probably any team we face this season.”

–Nick Daschel | ndaschel@oregonian.com | @nickdaschel

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