Ward and Woods vow to boost Beavers' running game
CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP)
''We both want to go for a `G' this season,'' Woods said. ''We're more than capable of it. We know the offense back and forth. And we're hungry and both hard workers. If we get the ball enough, I know we can do it.''
If they indeed both get 1,000 yards each, they would be the first duo in Oregon State history to each reach the mark in a single season.
A ''G'' apiece is a tall order even at Oregon State, which has been known for more than a decade for its prolific backs, including Ken Simonton, Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers.
Last season the spotlight for the Beavers fell on receivers Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks, who contributed more than 2,600 yards in total offense and 18 touchdowns to a team that surprised the league and finished 9-4. Rather uncharacteristically, Oregon State averaged just more than 124 yards on the ground last season, 10th in the Pac-12.
Woods was Oregon State's workhouse, with 192 carries for 940 yards and 13 touchdowns. His biggest game came against Arizona when he ran 161 yards. But he said he was dogged by nagging aches and pains and even missed a game.
Ward, whose older brother is Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward, finished with 415 yards rushing and six TDs. He started against Arizona State while Woods nursed a knee injury, running for 146 yards and a 53-yard touchdown.
Woods, a 6-foot sophomore, bulked up to 206 pounds in hopes of improving his durability. A Texas native, he stayed in Corvallis and worked out for much of the summer.
It is also clear that Ward did some fine-tuning in the offseason. The 5-foot-7, 200-pound junior hasn't gained any weight, but he appears to be stronger and more stout.
The two have been roommates in fall camp, and often talk about their goals - including all those yards. Ward said they also want 10 touchdowns apiece.
''Yeah, it's a big goal,'' Ward said. ''But we sit in our dorm room at night and we talk about how this is our year to do it. If anyone can do it, we can do it.''
The contributions of Ward and Woods are essential to the Beavers becoming a more complete team, said Oregon State coach Mike Riley. He adds that Woods has often come into his office asking what he can do to get better.
''I know this: The more that we run the ball, the better we are as a team,'' Riley said.
Oregon State's six-game improvement in 2012 from a 3-9 finish in 2011 was the best ever in school history. But the Beavers ended last season on a disappointing note when they lost to Texas 31-27 in the Alamo Bowl.
Oregon State is ranked No. 25 going into this season, which the Beavers open Aug. 31 at home against Eastern Washington.
''We've had a taste of success now,'' Woods said. ''We know with the hard work that we put in last year where we finished. We've worked even harder this year.''
But the reality for the Beavers is that they play in the tough Pac-12 North, which is expected to be dominated by No. 3 Oregon and No. 4 Stanford. In the preseason poll of media who cover the league, Oregon was picked to win the conference championship. Oregon State was expected to finish third in the North.
The naysayers should have learned not to ignore Oregon State last season, Ward said.
''After the season we had, you know, the 9-4 and losing three games by less than 10 points, the confidence we have is through the roof,'' he said. ''We know that this is our year. We can't wait. In 2013, we have to put everything we have into it.''