Beavers Taste Defeat
It finally happened to the Beavers.
It took nearly 2 months, but the Oregon State football team endured its first loss of the season this past weekend, falling to the University of Washington Huskies 20-17.
After posting an impressive win at Brigham Young University, and taking care of business (no matter how ugly) at home against Utah, Oregon State backup quarterback Cody Vaz was relegated back to clipboard duties with Sean Mannion set to return from a knee injury.
A return met with open arms by fans and players alike, Sean Mannion was supposed to pick up where he left off and lead Oregon State to its first 7-0 start in school history.
Key words: supposed to.
It didn’t quite turn out like everyone had hoped, and Mannion’s Saturday performance was reminiscent of his freshman struggles, rather than his sophomore triumphs.
So what exactly went wrong in Seattle on Saturday?
Mannion’s Return was Premature
It’s easy to blame the outcome of the game on Sean Mannion, and the rust that had built up on his arm over the last few weeks. It is never acceptable to turn the ball over on consecutive drives, in the 4th quarter of a tie ball game, after spending the 3rd quarter building up momentum that should’ve carried you to victory.
That can not happen, not while still expecting your team to win. Somehow, however, Oregon State found themselves in a position to win this game. (Thanks to Cody Vaz. More on this in a second.)
Was Mannion rushed back to early? Was he overwhelmed by playing under the lights at Century Link?
It’s probably a combination of both, with the latter playing more of a factor as the struggles were mounting.
Those struggles, 4 INTs and 16 incompletions, prompted coach Mike Riley to make a switch to backup Cody Vaz midway through the 4th quarter. Vaz kept the game close, and even had the Beavers in position to win the game, but ultimately ran out of time and the upset had been sealed.
Sure, Riley could’ve made the switch to Vaz at halftime, but was was confident in his young quarterback despite the two 1st half INTs.
It’s already been established that this is Mannion’s team, so he had earned the right to work himself out of a 10-0 hole; it was the unforeseen 4th quarter collapse (2 INT’s in consecutive drives to open the quarter) that ultimately dashed OSU’s momentum and sent Mannion to the bench.
So maybe Mannion was rushed back too early, not specifically because of the health of his knee, but because he just wasn’t up to game speed yet.
With Riley naming Cody Vaz the starter heading in to the Dad’s Weekend contest against Arizona State, Mannion will have at least a couple more weeks to get his rhythm back.
That is unless there’s an actual quarterback controversy brewing in Corvallis.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more on this.
Losing Wheaton Hurt the Offense
From a statistical stand point, the Oregon State offense was rolling on Saturday, racking up nearly 430 yards of offense. From a momentum stand point, the Beaver offense took a shot to the throat in the 2nd quarter when Markus Wheaton left with what appeared to be concussion like symptoms.
Even though much of the scoring output from Oregon State came in the 3rd quarter, losing one of your captains, in the 1st half no less, will have lasting effects.
It’s been Wheaton’s big playmaking ability, along with Brandin Cooks, that has been the most lethal part of the OSU offense. When one part of that machine is missing, Oregon State is at a disadvantage.
Finding Positives in the Heartbreaking Loss
Since Mannion got enough flack for his sub-par performance, I feel that there were some positives which can be taken away from Saturday’s game in Seattle.
The defense, once again, played lights out and did as good a job as they could with the field position the offense put them in. Only allowing 293 yards of total offense, Oregon State’s stout defense hounded the UW offense all day, recording 7 tackles for loss, 2 of which came via a sack, and one interception.
However, with the struggles the offense was going through, the defense was working with a short field most of the day and UW was able to take advantage of the turnovers.
Don’t Jump off the Bandwagon Just Yet
There’s no denying Oregon State is disappointed after the loss against Washington, but all hope is certainly not lost this season.
First of all, OSU is 6-1 through their first seven games, sit at #11 in the BCS and are having one of the best seasons Corvallis has seen in quite some time. There’s nothing to be upset about.
With 4 to 5 more games left on the schedule, Oregon State has plenty of time to make up any lost ground, and continue this magical season.
How they respond to their first loss will be very telling of what the last third of the year has in store.
Oregon State returns home to Reser Stadium this Saturday to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils in this year’s Dad’s Weekend contest. Kickoff is slated for 7:35 pm and will air on ESPN 2.