Oregon State got off to a pretty good start against Utah early at Rice-Eccles Stadium as QB Sean Mannion hit receivers Brandin Cooks and Richard Mullaney on handsy catches. The defense too was OK early holding Utah to 10 first half points. In the 2nd half however, Utah’s Kyle Willinghama and Dennis Erickson made some nice adjustments and Utah’s offense was rolling and the Beaver D was once again struggling to contain a mobile QB. An early 2nd half interception by Sean Martin run back for a touchdown that had stretched the OSU lead to 17 was now starting to fade. The Beavers offense was stopped on 3 consecutive drives and just as Utah had climbed back to 27-24 and once again had the ball, a timely 2nd interception by Steven Nelson helped to keep the momentum from swinging too much against Oregon State. The Beavers finally struck again on offense and were back to a 34-24 10 point lead. Utah would respond from here on out but fortunately for Oregon State so did they. In that respect the finish was much like the Arizona game of last year except this one would require one more series of heroics in OT to finally seal the victory.
To even get to OT though after OSU went down 38-37, Oregon State was forced to go for a 4th and 9 on their own 25. Mullaney snagged a high velocity ball from Mannion out of the air for a 18 yard catch and the Beaver drive eventually finished with Cooks making a beautiful adjustment catch in the endzone on another reception of around 18 yards. Before the 4th and 9 with OSU ahead 34-31 with 12:07 to play the wildest moment of the game occurred. With 4th and half a yard from their own 45 1/2 yard line OSU went for it on a play that definitely seemed OSU would have to convert to win the game. Mannion flicked it to Ward who threw it back to Sean as the defense swarmed in for the tackle and then Sean just in time got off a deep throw to Brandin Cooks who had just enough separation for a watched in and crucial catch to the Utah 7 yard line for a 47 yard completion. They would only be able to secure a field goal from the gutsy call, but OSU atleast kept it a 50-50 game at this point even with Utah driving well now on the Beaver defense. Utah would respond to take the before mentioned 38-37 lead but when Cooks and Mannion led their final charge of regulation and scored they also went for 2 and got it on a Connor Hamlett catch in the back of the endzone to importantly be up by 7 points.
The Beaver defense then struggled again as Utah QB Travis Wilson was able to come up with a few nice scrambles on their hurry-up drive to get just inside the Beaver 10. They would face a 3rd and 9 but Banker’s defense did not contain the edge after a poor angle by the outside defender and over pursuit and Wilson kept and raced for the corner where he just got in and was able to tie the game with 21 seconds remaining. The game went to OT and OSU won the toss and wanted to get the ball 2nd. It was fitting that Mannion and Cooks were the two who went out to meet the officials for the toss as they were the biggest heroes on this wild night. In OT OSU’s defense started by containing two run plays relatively well. On 3rd down OSU finally used a spy that was watching Wilson as his primary duty. Wilson attempted to throw and the DB had good coverage and the ball went incomplete. Utah and OSU fans alike were surprised the series did not have a QB run and on 1st or 2nd down that could have probably hurt OSU. The Utes made the 41 yard field goal, but when OSU took the field Mannion quickly started making completions. He started with a 15 yard rope to Cummings to get OSU to the Utah 10. Then he found Ward on a quick strike to get to the 6. On the very next play he slipped a pass just through the hands of the Utah defender who got only a very slight tip of it and Brandin Cooks adjusted to make the game winning catch in the back of the endzone for the thrilling 51-48 OT victory.
Cooks was voted MVP of the game even before this 3rd TD catch. Earlier in the 2nd half he had caught a slant and ran hard up the sideline where he tightroped after a bump and pulled off a 55 yard whopper of a TD for OSU. Mannion would be voted as a helmet sticker winner by ESPN. There was a scary moment during the game when Storm Woods protected Mannion for him to throw a precision over the shoulder pass to Mullaney who was interfered with. It was another big and needed play with players stepping up but Woods took a hard knee and sustained a concussion and unknown head/neck injury at the time. There was no movement shown until a thumbs up but later, to the relief of Beaver Nation, reports were that he had movement in all extremities and was able to fly home with the team.
Oregon State fans were taken on a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in this game and many acknowledged how Banker is still a liability for OSU. Against EWU the offense was more than good enough and in this game that also was clearly the case. The problem is that the defense is making them play almost perfect to pull out wins so far in the season. OSU’s defense even had 3 turnovers and 2 that led to touchdowns, and we still had to have multiple heroic efforts by the offense to prevail. It is great that players like Steven Nelson and Sean Martin looked better at times and came up with big plays, but the overall inability to stop a mobile quarterback and not overpursue or get beat up by screen plays in such occasions was disheartening. OSU sometimes even would have Utah in what should be manageable down and yardage but would give up the big QB scramble or screen pass for 12 to 15 yard Utah bursts to keep their drives moving.
OSU’s Bob DeCarolis really needs to have a talk with Mike Riley that his offense is having to be too good to make up for the defensive schemes not holding their ground. Riley’s offenses generally have been able to score 30+ points against Pac-12 competition but OSU defenses regularly give up the same number and don’t put up enough resistance when games should be won with the offensive effort. It is time to start scouring the ranks of defensive minds in college football and realize that OSU is increasingly facing this mobile threat in the majority of their games and needs to get a better answer for it. Good win but concerns remain and this defense will face pressure from upcoming teams like Washington State and Cal who know how to move the ball around and must perform better for OSU’s offense to continue to outscore opponents. It was good to debut the white uniforms with a Pac-12 road win and lets keep them undefeated against San Diego St.
Beaver Byte Sports Illustrated Fansided Network Top 25 Ballot:
6. Ohio State
8. Florida State
11. Texas A&M
12. South Carolina
13. Oklahoma State
15. Arizona State
21. Ole Miss
24. Notre Dame
*photos by Rasmussen/Oregonian