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What We Learned: Stanford vs Oregon State

Has the running game resurfaced?

Oregon State v Stanford Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

McLovin’ is the name, and running is the game. Stanford crushed their opponents on the ground last Saturday led by Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love. McCaffrey ran for 199 yards while Love accounted for 89. Meanwhile, new starter Keller Chryst even used his legs for 83 yards. Against Oregon State, Stanford’s run game dominated, but is it here to stay?

Bryce Love got the running game started for the Cardinal when he broke out for a 56 yard touchdown.

Then, Christian McCaffrey joined the action with a long run as well.

Even Keller Chryst felt excluded.

In all three runs, Stanford had fantastic blocking. Nate Herbig set up Bryce Love for a huge run, Christian McCaffrey was practically untouched until he was tackled, and anytime a quarterback breaks lose, it usually isn’t because he’s a gifted runner. They offensive line showed during the game that they could open up holes for the backfield, but they struggled to consistently open up room.

Take a look at this clip:

Now where is the blocking here? McCaffrey sees that there is nowhere to run, so he takes the ball outside and somehow manages to gain positive yardage. There were multiple other instances as well where McCaffrey had to improvise because of weak blocking. It’s been a reoccurring pattern throughout the year and has made the run game look bad. In this game, McCaffrey and the run game only put up great numbers because of a weak Oregon State defense, not because of a strong blocking effort. ESPN ranks Oregon State 115th in the nation in rush defense. Out of 128 teams, Oregon State is definitely weak defensively against the run, and Stanford’s 365 rushing yards should be no surprise.

Yes, Stanford had good blocking at times. Yes, the line has improved, but it’s still not a dependable source for the run game. They created very few holes for the running backs, but still, McCaffrey and Love gained positive yardage by fighting extremely hard for it. However against stronger rush defenses, the McLovin’ backfield will not be able to make defenders look silly, and they’ll need the openings in order to get to the open field. Luckily, Stanford plays teams with similar defensive woes as Oregon State to close the year. Oregon and Cal both rank below the Beavers in rush defense, and Rice isn’t far ahead. Stanford will finish the season running the ball with confidence but only because of their strong dynamic duo.