Rathbone: Special teams aren’t being special

Brian Rathbone, Spots/News Chief

You can look at the 365 rushing yards that Stanford racked up, 199 of which came from Christian McCaffrey.

Or you could point to the Oregon State offense that only ran 46 plays to Stanford’s 75. As well an offense that only mustered 191 yards outside of Victor Bolden’s 75-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.

You could even look to the 102 penalty yards that the Beavers racked up, 60 of which came in the first quarter.

But through all the growth this team has displayed through the course of this season, there’s an area that has isn’t improving. In fact, they’ve gotten worse. The special teams.

In the first 80 seconds of the game, Oregon State had an opportunity to jump out to an early lead following a Stanford fumble at its own 33-yard line with a chip-shot field goal from Garrett Owens. The junior kicker’s attempt sailed wide left.

A career 78-percent field goal kicker has now missed five of his last seven attempts after starting the year 8 of 10. I learned AP style as 8-for-10 but maybe this is fine too

Following the game, head coach Gary Andersen had no answer for what’s happened with his place kicker.

“I have no idea,” Andersen said. “I don’t know. Couldn’t tell you that. Snap looked okay to me. Every snap is not perfect. Every hold is not perfect. But we’ve got to find a way to be able to make some field goals.”

Outside of the games, Owens has shown no signs of his recent slump.

“Seems to be kicking well in practice,” Andersen continued. “Struggled mightily the last little bit here. Got to get better there. Somehow, some way we got to get better.”

OSU is carrying six place kickers on their roster, so there are options to explore if Andersen wants to explore other options.

On the opposite sideline, Stanford had Conrad Ukropina, who went 4-of-5 including a 52-yard field goal. He was a weapon that Stanford had, and Oregon State didn’t.

“I guess they missed one,” Andersen said. “But they had five, made four or five, so percentages were against us in that spot.”

But this doesn’t just fall on Owen’s shoulders (or leg) he only had one field goal opportunity because the OSU offense struggled to move the ball. The special teams struggled as a whole.

Following the game, the first questions that was asked was about how the special team’s played. Andersen found few high notes from that unit.

“I thought we kept the ball away from McCaffrey, which was a positive,” Andersen said.

That’s true, they kept the  ball away from last year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up. McCaffrey only had two return opportunities.

Once Oregon State cut the lead to eight points early in the fourth quarter, they elected to pooch kick to McCaffrey who returned the ball 24 yards to the 40 yard line. That set up an 11-play drive that ended with Ukropina field goal.

This isn’t the same Oregon State team as last year. They are 7-2 against the spread. They are in every game despite a revolving door at quarterback, and a defense that has overcome a slew of injuries.

It’s the minor details that are coming back to haunt this year’s team.

Since the special teams unit is hardly on the field, it’s often viewed as a small part of the overall game.

It’s the little things. 

 On Twitte @brathbone3