BEAVERS NOTES: Luck dominates talk as OSU preps for Stanford
CORVALLIS - From Tuesday's media day at Wayne Valley Center, looking ahead to Saturday's 12:30 p.m. Reser Stadium matchup between Oregon State (2-6 overall, 2-3 in Pac-12 action) and fourth-ranked Stanford (8-0, 6-0):
• The hottest of topics centered on the all-but-a-lock Heisman Trophy recipient for 2011, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
The 6-4, 235-pound redshirt junior has the numbers this season (174 for 242 passing, 71.9 percent, for 2,218 yards and 23 touchdowns with four interceptions) and the pedigree as the son of former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck, now athletic director at West Virginia.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley coached with San Antonio in the World Football League when Oliver Luck was coaching with the WFL's team in Frankfurt, Germany.
'Oliver is a quality guy, and you can guess that a lot of that rubbed off on Andrew,' Riley said. 'You hear him talk, you see he is a level-headed guy who enjoys football.'
Riley was impressed with Luck's comments after Stanford's triple-overtime 56-48 victory over Southern Cal last Saturday.
'He talked about the joy of winning the game. He was just happy with that and not worried about his stats,' Riley said. 'That was really refreshing.'
Another thing that impressed Riley: Luck passing on entering the 2011 NFL draft - as a no-brainer No. 1 pick - to return to Stanford for his junior season. Riley said he asked Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian if he had ever seen anybody in that position do that before.
'Our guy did,' Polian said, referring to Colts QB Peyton Manning.
'You're looking at that kind of a person here, who decided this was what was important in his life, and he wanted to do it again,' Riley said. 'And here he is, continuing to perform. He has changed the landscape of Stanford football since he arrived.'
• One can get lost in Luck's gaudy stat line.
He ranks third on Stanford's career passing list with 8,131 yards, and that's at Quarterback U., where he ranks ahead of the likes of Jim Plunkett and Trent Edwards. He needs 1,219 yards to pass John Elway and move into second place behind Steve Stenstrom (10,531 yards from 1991-94).
With 68 TD passes, Luck needs 10 more to move into first place ahead of Elway. Luck is already the leader in completion percentage (68.4) and pass efficiency, and with 926 rushing yards, he has 9,057 yards total offense, 778 behind Stenstrom atop the school list.
Luck is particularly hot the last four games, completing 117 of 157 (74.5 percent) for 1,432 yards and 15 TDs.
Moreover, he is 28-5 in 33 career stats and has Stanford working on a 16-game win streak heading into Saturday's date with the Beavers.
'He has proved it all with the record,' Riley said. 'The wins and losses are the bottom line. Then you put the production into it and see how it fits together.'
The best QB ever at the college level?
'It's apples and oranges when you start comparing the best,' Riley said, passing on comparisons. 'It's really an argument for fans. But he is really good.'
• So how do you attack Luck defensively?
'You can't give him a steady diet of any one thing,' Riley said. 'One of his biggest attributes is he is very smart. He sees what a defense is doing and knows when he sees that where he's going with the football.'
Oregon State got a heavy dose of Luck last season. He passed for 305 yards and four TDs as Stanford, then ranked No. 7, beat the Beavers 38-0 at Palo Alto.
'He always seems to make the right play, the right read,' OSU linebacker Cameron Collins said. 'He doesn't make mistakes. He is accurate. He is also a big, physical guy.
'He has a lot of things that make him a great quarterback. You accompany that with Stanford and (its) run game, they complement each other really well.'
• Luck has been sacked four times all season.
'A lot of protection problems are eliminated by a quarterback making quick decisions,' Riley said, 'and when it comes to (Luck) with his athletic ability in eluding the rush.'
• Is Luck the best quarterback in the country?
'I'll let you know after Saturday,' Collins said.
• OSU quarterback Sean Mannion was asked when he is on the sidelines and Stanford's offense is on the field, if he will watch to pick up tips from Luck's performance.
'He is one of the best players in the nation,' the 6-5, 225-pound redshirt freshman said. 'There's a lot to be learned from him. I'll focus on our team, though, and try to execute the offense.'
• Defensive end Scott Crichton was asked if it would be a dream to sack Luck a few times.
'Yeah, that would be a dream,' the OSU freshman said. 'But more than that, to beat Stanford. They're a great team.'
• Another quarterback, 6-foot, 190-pound Kellen Moore of Boise State, is in the Heisman Trophy hunt despite getting little interest from colleges as a high school senior out of Prosser, Wash.
Sports Illustrated chronicled the Moore story in this week's edition with a mention of being recruited by Oregon State, quoting Kellen's father, Tom.
Wrote SI: 'Moore had offers from Eastern Washington and Idaho, and things were looking up with Oregon State. Beaver coaches had invited him to work out for them to (sic) Corvallis. But when he got there, coach Mike Riley and quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf 'took the 10 quarterbacks who were 6-3,' " according to Tom.
'Kellen and the other quarterbacks were instructed to go to another field, where 'a couple of graduate assistants basically told them, you guys just sort of play catch,' " Tom said. 'That was a long drive home.' "
Langsdorf disputes Tom Moore's version.
'That isn't true at all,' the OSU O-coordinator said. 'We missed on the kid, like everybody did, but that's not what happened.
'We took a look at a lot of guys at our three half-day camps that summer. We had a lot to choose from. (Moore) was very productive, but he didn't stand out at the camp.
'We looked at him hard. We put them all together, lined them all up and threw (pass) routes, like we do at every camp. We didn't separate them by size.'
That summer, Oregon State offered Ryan Katz, now a 6-1, 215-pound redshirt junior for the Beavers.
'We wouldn't have taken Ryan if we were taking kids who were 6-3 or taller,' Langsdorf said. 'Ryan had a much stronger arm (than Moore) - to this day, he does - and was a better runner.
'Give Kellen credit. He has been unbelievable for Boise State. But it's not an accurate story.'
• Stanford ranks first in the Pac-12 and third in the nation in scoring offense (49.5) and is in the top 20 nationally in every statistical offensive category. And it's not just because of Luck.
Running backs Stepfan Taylor (796 yards, 5.9 average, 8 TDs) and Tyler Gaffney (288, 6.9, 5) have been outstanding. Starting tight end Zach Ertz is out Saturday with a knee injury, but 6-6, 255-pound senior Coby Fleener (18 catches, 405 yards, 7 TDs) and 6-8, 260-pound sophomore Levine Toilolo (12 catches, 210 yards, 4 TDs) should fill in just fine.
Stanford ranks second in the Pac-12 in rush offense (215.3).
'The first thing for us is to stop the run and try to make (the Cardinal) one-dimensional; then you have a chance,' Collins said. 'They want to be physical. They're going to run the ball every chance they get and use Andrew Luck when they have to.'
The offensive line is big and young, with three juniors and two freshmen starting.
'The key to any good offense is the front, and they are physical,' Riley said. 'Part of Stanford's success has to be attributed to that physical part of the O-line. They run-block real well. They have a desire to and will to run the ball. They've bought totally into that, and they protect the quarterback well.'
• Stanford ranks first in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (17.0) and rush defense (84.6) and is second in total defense (328.9).
'Nobody talks about how good their defense is, but it's arguably the best in the league,' Riley said. 'They create havoc. They run the 3-4 and will blitz with every opportunity they get.
'They're disruptive to the point where (opponents) look overwhelmed. It's not that easy to go out there and control the football against them.'
• Is Stanford the best team in the Pac-12?
'Hopefully they won't be better than us on Saturday,' Collins said. 'We'll prepare ourselves the best we can to go out there and get a win.'
Mannion was asked what gives him reason to think the Beavers can pull off the upset.
'When we execute, we can play really well,' he said. 'It showed in games like Washington State. We've done good things in almost every game. We just have to put a complete game together.
'We're going to work hard, accept the challenge and try to play our best game.'
• Many times, fans want struggling teams such as Oregon State to make major changes at midseason. With the Beavers, that could mean switches from a pro-style offense to the spread, or from a 4-3 defensive set to a 3-4.
'We always try to tweak stuff,' Riley said. 'We've added some stuff this year that has been pretty good, but systematically, things are there. We've had times when we've run well, and our passer is doing a good job - there's a lot of productivity (in the passing game) that is outstanding. It's as good as it's almost ever been at that stuff. And though we dropped 10 balls against Utah, our receivers have been making plays.
'You're not going to reinvent the wheel during the middle of the season. You can enhance some things with what your system does. On defense, we've added a coverage or two. We change our blitzes to fit the team that's coming.
'But you're not going to all of a sudden become a spread team and be as efficient as somebody that has been running it three or four years. We have to enhance what we do and utilize the ability of our players within the system.'
• Oregon State ranks 12th in the Pac-12 in turnover margin at minus-five. In the Beavers' victories over Arizona and Washington State, they are plus-four.
'It's absolutely huge,' Riley said. 'The games we have won, the ball security was great and we won the turnover battle. That's always a major part of the story. Ball security and sustaining drives are a big deal.'
• Riley held a special team meeting Tuesday morning.
'I told (the players) it was all about attitude. about growth, about opportunity right now,' the OSU coach said. 'Some of it related to life in general, some of it directly to the Stanford game.'
In 2008, Oregon State beat No. 1 USC. In 2007, there was victory over No. 2 Cal. In 2006, it was a triumph over No. 3 USC.
'This is why we play these games,' Riley said. 'We've been in these situations before.
'The key to those games was, we just came out to play. There wasn't any magic to it. We went out and played better than the other guys. If we win, that will be the key to this game.'
• The good news is, Oregon State has yielded only 24 points in the first quarter this season. The bad news: The Beavers have scored only 16, including one touchdown.
'We've had some good drives, but we have failed in the red zone,' Riley said. 'We've had some good moments, but we haven't finished.'
• Mannion grew up in the Bay Area in Pleasanton, Calif., but wasn't necessarily a Stanford fan.
'I followed all the teams in the Bay Area,' he said. 'My parents watched a little bit of Cal, but I was following just about everyone.'
NOTES - About 850 tickets remain for Saturday's game, though Stanford could return some of its allotment of about 2,200 seats. ... James Rodgers (208 receptions) needs eight catches to move past James Newson into second on the OSU career list behind Mike Hass (220). ... OSU middle linebacker Feti Unga, who has missed the past three games with a calf injury, is not expected to be ready Saturday. Center Grant Johnson (ankle) is questionable, and receiver Jordan Bishop (ankle) could be held out of action, too.