Ducks inflict hurt, again, that Beavers can measure by the yard after loss

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Oregon running backs Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas rolled up big yards against the OSU defense during last week's Civil War game.CORVALLIS — The games roll on, and there are two more for Oregon State — Saturday’s regular-season finale against Nicholls State at Reser Stadium and a bowl game, some time, somewhere.

Mark Banker focuses on the future. If he were to dwell on the immediate past — last Saturday’s 48-24 Civil War loss to Oregon — sanity might be an impossible proposition.

“It pisses me off,” says Banker, Oregon State’s defensive coordinator under coach Mike Riley for the past decade. The Ducks “are another team, but they’re closer (in proximity to OSU), and it hurts that much more because they’re just down the road in Eugene.”

Oregon has a five-game run going in the series, and the common denominator through the streak has been the Ducks’ ability to move the ball, primarily on the ground.

The ledger for the past five Civil Wars:

2012: Oregon 48, OSU 24. UO: 570 yards total offense, 430 yards rushing.

2011: Oregon 49, OSU 27. UO: 670 yards total offense, 365 yards rushing.

2010: Oregon 37, OSU 20. UO: 491 yards total offense, 346 yards rushing.

2009: Oregon 37, OSU 33. UO: 489 yards total offense, 288 yards rushing.

2008: Oregon 65, OSU 38. UO: 694 yards total offense, 385 yards rushing.

During that time, the Ducks have averaged 47.2 points, 582.8 yards total offense and 362.8 yards rushing. Such numbers are hard for an opponent to overcome in attempting to win a game.

For years, Banker has spent many hours in the offseason and sleepless nights during Civil War week studying the Ducks’ spread offense and how to contain it.

“Every time we put out a game plan to defend them,” he says, “we feel like we have a handle on it. But (the Ducks) always seem to put a good game plan against us, like they’re paying attention to us or something.

“Over the last few years, funny things seem to happen to us in that game. We’ve yet to truly execute the game plan for four quarters.”

Did Banker and his defensive staff feel as if they could draw things from Stanford’s 17-14 victory at Autzen Stadium on Nov. 17?

“Absolutely,” Banker says. “A lot of what we do with our dime package is similar to what (the Cardinal) do, though they have different personnel in those positions.

“Stanford did a great job in that game. But the Ducks made mistakes (against Stanford) I’ve never seen them make.”

Conversely, Oregon put together a near-flawless game in Corvallis, with the exception of nine penalties for 86 yards. There were no turnovers and six takeaways, plus those gaudy offensive numbers that almost always guarantee victory.

Banker knew the way to curtail the Ducks’ offensive success was to control the edges and limit opportunities on the perimeter. That meant solid play from different positions at different times — sometimes from the ends, sometimes from the outside linebackers, sometimes from members of the secondary.

The Beavers eschewed their normal 4-3 defense and went with the nickel or dime packages nearly the entire way, sacrificing strength in the middle for speed on the outside. It was sound strategy.

Too many times, though, OSU defenders weren’t in position to make plays. Other times, they were on the spot but missed tackles.

“We didn’t coach well enough,” Banker says, “and we didn’t play well enough. And despite all that, we were in position to really challenge them until it got away from us late in the third quarter.”

A couple of plays in which Oregon State had defensive breakdowns came to mind for Banker.

The first came in the second quarter. With Oregon State leading 7-6 and Oregon facing fourth-and-7 at the OSU 38, end Scott Crichton had UO quarterback Marcus Mariota in his grasp in the backfield for a potential sack. Mariota slipped away and found Will Murphy for an 8-yard completion and a first down. The Ducks went on to score and go ahead 13-7.

In the third quarter, with Oregon State trailing 20-17, Oregon faced third-and-19 at the UO 38. Mariota connected with Josh Huff for 28 yards and a first down. That kept alive a nine-play, 77-yard TD drive for a 27-17 lead, and soon the wheels began to fall off for the Beavers.

“We broke down in some places,” Banker says. “When (UO ballcarriers) repeatedly aren’t covered down correctly or we don’t leverage a play, it comes down to us. The coaches didn’t get our messages across well enough to the players. And that’s it, period.”

Banker mentions one other play — Oregon’s first touchdown, when on first-and-20 from the OSU 42, Mariota raced 42 yards on a quarterback draw untouched to paydirt.

“He guts us in an empty (backfield) situation,” Banker says. “We make the necessary check, but we don’t get the double stunt. Both our (outside) ‘backers are pushing outside to the receivers when we should have at least one stay on the edge of the box to spy the quarterback. The way the stunt is set up, the quarterback gets flowed back to him.

“I guess we didn’t run it enough in practice to make our players understand. But they share the responsibility, too. We’re all in this together.”

It has been a comeback season for both the Beavers and an OSU defense that was much-maligned for poor play the previous two seasons. Oregon State has ranked among the nation’s top five teams in run defense most of the season and has been effective in preventing opposing offenses from scoring touchdowns.

That all blew up Saturday at Reser in the most important game of the season.

Banker’s defense has evolved from a straight 4-3 until two years ago to more nickel and dime packages. This year’s defensive group has more speed than an OSU team has fielded since probably the 2001 Fiesta Bowl champions. Might the Beavers go to a three-man front with the nickel and dime as their base defense of the future?

“In some ways, it already is,” he says. “There are ways to take four defensive linemen and make it a 30-front, but you have to have the personnel to do that.”

The Beavers lose senior D-tackles Castro Masaniai and Andrew Seumalo, so it would seem as if now might be the right time to make a change. Banker is not so sure.

“We’re still recruiting to the 4-3,” he says, “but we have some young guys capable of that hybrid type of end.

“I don’t care how you line up, you still have to execute. We’ve improved this year. We’ve had some success. We still have two games to go. After that, we’ll see what amount of success we truly had this year and go from there.”

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