While watching the WSU game, I found that it was like watching a completely different team than I had in weeks past. That includes the Arizona game where while OSU did win, they were not dominant and required a special teams touchdown to help spark the Beavs. The victory against WSU finally saw OSU beginning to play up to their talent level, a prolific passing offense and an acceptable defense, which led the Beavs to a dominating 44-21 final score. In my eyes there were three factors that really lifted the Beavers, the first of these being QB Sean Mannion.
Sean Mannion: He has really continued to improve from his first start, as his numbers would show. When he throws for 376 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 pick (that could have been a TD catch), the Beavers are likely to win. The offensive line did better against a weaker Washington State line, but Mannion continued to impress with his ability to shift in the pocket. He is not especially fast, but makes up for it with his pocket presence and his ability to see downfield even with pressure. His evening wasn't perfect; some throws were poor decisions, but as he continues to age you have to believe that his decision making skills will improve. Mannion's ability to read through his progressions are also an important part of his skill set. Against WSU, Mannion completed passes to 11 different receivers, which is decent evidence that Mannion is seeing all of the field. He is certainly playing beyond the level of a redshirt freshman and that is what OSU needs to be able to compete.
Photo by Andy Wooldridge
- Malcolm Agnew: Let's be fair, the offensive line did play marginally better, but Agnew is also Oregon State's best tailback and made a large impact against the Cougars. Agnew is an interesting back; he provides solid speed and quickness, but what seems to really set him apart is his vision. His ability to make one quick cut and be through the hole makes him OSU's best back. Terron Ward came in later in the game when Agnew had been a little dinged up and he did not look as effective. The running game made the entire OSU offense look better. When the offense was not so one-dimensional, the play calling was more effective and it even opened up the edge for the fly sweep. Without a more dynamic back, the Beaver offense had gotten pretty stale and opposing teams knew what was coming. This led to games like the Arizona State game where Mannion was forced to throw 66 passes.
- The Defensive Ends: The first half started off slowly for the Beavers, where WSU seemed to march down the field and another long game seemed forthcoming. Then the defense got a stop on 4th and 1 and after that play the defense tightened up and the pass rush was let loose. Scott Crichton seemed like he was in the backfield every other play, and after the Beavs had been in Jeff Tuel's face for an entire half, Tony Wilson knocked Tuel right out of the game. The pressure helped the secondary, although they did still give up some big plays, but it prevented them from giving up even more. This is what Mark Banker's defensive scheme is predicated on and had worked in years previous, but this was the first time in a long time that pressure actually reached an opposing quarterback on a consistent basis. Pressure on the quarterback is the most important part of an OSU defense and to see them finally succeed is a good sign for the future of this program.
Oregon State really seemed to grow up last week and we can only hope for continued growth against a beat up Utah team. The potential has been there all year and the Beavs are finally beginning to tap into it. Things are looking up, but now the Beavers are looking straight at a Utah team still looking for their first Pac-12 win. Hopefully these young players will continue to play well and help lead to another OSU victory.