As last Saturday’s game at Arizona approached, Oregon State running back Storm Woods felt different than he had before the Beavers’ first two games.
Nerves set in for those games.
Not this time. Woods was brimming with confidence.
“I had a feeling before the game,” Woods said.
“I was more calm and collected and I just slowed the game down.”
Woods went at the Wildcats relentlessly, charging through gaps and gashing the defense time and again.
He never broke a big one. His long gain was 21 yards.
It was a persistent pounding forward, six yards one play, eight another.
By the time it was over, Woods had carried the ball 29 times for 161 yards and one touchdown and the Beavers left Tucson with a 38-35 win.
“It feels good,” Woods said. “It was largely in part to our offensive line. They were blocking great and all I had to do was hit the holes.”
While Sean Mannion threw for 433 yards and three touchdowns, it was Woods and the run game that kept the Beavers balanced.
OSU finished with 210 yards rushing.
That was enough to put the Beavers over the top in a close game.
“We haven’t had a run production like that in a while,” offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “It’s huge for us. It really opened up our throws downfield in the play-action game. It just gives you so many more options being able to run like that.”
It was the first 100-yard game by an OSU running back since Malcolm Agnew rushed for 103 against Washington State last season.
That was one of two such games by the Beavers last season. Agnew had 223 yards in the season-opener against Sacramento State.
Jovan Stevenson did have 99 yards against Arizona in Corvallis.
The Beavers won two of those three.
“When the run game’s there, I’m going to say we’re almost unstoppable,” Woods said. “The passing game’s going to be there regardless, but when we have more of a balance on offense then it puts the defense more on its toes and they can’t load the box because we can hit them with the pass and if they don’t load the box we can hit them with the run.
“When we’re firing on both cylinders we’re a pretty hard team to stop.”
Of course, it helps to have a back like Woods carrying the ball.
At 6-foot, 202-pounds, Woods has a good blend of speed and power.
“He does have some good strength and then he’s got some explosion, too,” Langsdorf said. “And you’re talking about just a freshman, so he’s got a lot of ball in front of him, but we’re really pleased with where he is at this point.”
Woods enjoys using that strength and explosiveness on the field.
“I like being physical, so I can send a message,” he said. “It depends. If it’s third and short, I can be physical. If I need a first-and-10, I can be more shifty. Definitely anything to get positive yards.”
Woods hasn’t been used much as a receiver but that could change as the season goes on.
Langsdorf said the Beavers will look for ways to get Woods in space in the passing game.
“So we’ll continue to move him around, especially on third down, and see if we can’t get him the ball out of the backfield,” Langsdorf said.
Getting those rushing yards is the top priority.
Big ground games will give Mannion and the passing game the balance needed to thrive.
“It really goes hand in hand,” Langsdorf said. “We always preach that balance and when we can run for 100 yards and just be consistent throughout the game running, it really helps our passing game. It helps our protection, helps the quarterback be able to have a good ball fake and really draw the defense to Storm and then open up some things downfield.
“So it really plays to each other, whether we pass to set up the run or run to set up the pass, having that balance is really key to our system.”