Oregon State will seek a 5-1 start to the season with tonight’s 7:30 game against Washington St. on the Palouse. The Vegas line is Wazzu by 2. With Stanford in a tough game vs. Utah it could be Oregon and Oregon State at the top of the Pac-12 North and with UCLA as the only undefeated teams in conference after tonight. OSU QB Sean Mannion will try to lead his team to another road victory, and if possible garner more Heisman attention. He leads the nation in passing yards per game at 403.6 and for touchdown passes with 21. Mannion has passed for 7,792 career yards, the most by a current Pac-12 QB and No. 28 in league history before halfway through his junior campaign.
This game should live up to its billing as an entertaining air-it-out contest with a current over/under on number of passes thrown of 108. Mannion appears to be the more accurate thrower and has a better long ball but both teams have plenty of weapons on offense. OSU will look towards WR Brandin Cooks and Richard Mullaney to outshine Halliday and his receivers. RB Storm Woods returns after 3 weeks off after suffering a concussion against Utah. OSU was able to run for over 100 yards with Terron Ward and Chris Brown last week but the belief is that Woods will get more carries. I am hoping they share the load as both are capable. To best keep the Cougs on their toes mixing in some running game makes sense and having it get better against WSU would be a good start to the rest of the season. Riley though states that they will do whatever it takes to win and Langsdorf if uncertain at all has shown a heavy tendency to lean to the passing game.
Oregon State is averaging 42 points a game this year and may need that many tonight. The areas where Wazzu has the advantage is the game being in Pullman and their defense being opportunistic. WSU has 9 interceptions on the year to lead the conference followed by OSU’s 8. Sure hands will be required and Cooks and Mullaney have them. The first half should be back and forth and I see it knotted up around 17 a piece at halftime. In the 3rd quarter WSU will respond to an OSU field goal with a TD and take a 24-20 lead. OSU however, will rally just before the end of the 3rd quarter with a Mannion TD to Cooks to grab the 27-24 lead heading into the 4th quarter. In the early 4th, Halliday leads WSU on a 75 yard drive and hits his man in the the endzone for the 31-27 Cougar lead. WSU causes enough disruption to limit OSU to a field goal on their next possession and it is 31-30 WSU. OSU has the ball back with 6 minutes remaining and Mannion and OSU attempt the long scoring drive.
In a key moment on 3rd and 4 from the WSU 34 yard line OSU gets the first down on a quick out and some elusive running by Cooks. This prevents the long field goal attempt and OSU on their next set of downs finds Mullaney on a crossing route down to the WSU 13 yard line. Woods then runs it to the 8 and on the very next play Mannion finds Connor Hamlett at the back of the endzone and OSU takes a 37-31 lead. Still there is 2:08 left on the clock and the Beaver defense needs to keep WSU out of the endzone. WSU is able to return a kickoff to the 2 yard line out to the 27 yard line. Halliday and WSU then start their 2 minute Air Raid offense.
They pick up consecutive first downs as the OSU secondary gives some cushion to prevent the big play. WSU is now at midfield and there is still 1:12 left in the game. Halliday throws another quick 6 yard out and the Cougs have 2nd at 4 and the Beaver 44. Mike Leach then gets a little greedy and goes for the homerun attempt. Despite his height Steven Nelson keeps right with the receiver and high points it just before the WSU receiver can gets his hands on it. There is nearly joint possession but Nelson wrangles it free and OSU takes over at their own 4 yard line with 51 seconds remaining.
The game remains a tad scary as WSU still has a timeout left and OSU runs on the first play for only a half yard gain and WSU calls timeout. Then OSU takes a knee on their own 3 yard line on 2nd down and lets the clock tick. They snap third down with 12 seconds left and actually run it because the room is so tight. OSU picks up just a yard but it is enough as time expires and OSU secures the win and the 5-1 start to the season. The Road Warriors pick up another crucial win to stay in the Pac-12 title race.
Oregon State 37, Wazzu 31
Top 25 Ballot:
4. Ohio State
6. Florida State
12. South Carolina
13. Texas A&M
14. Oregon State
16. Texas Tech
19. Fresno State
21. Oklahoma State