On a day when numerous Top 25 teams tumbled, albeit that some were against other top 25 teams, is a noteworthy development that 14th ranked Oregon St. did not on a day when their offense struggled most of the time.
The reason the Beavers didn't lose for the second time this season, along with the Wisconsin win, was their defense, which forced 5 Washington St. turnovers, and allowed the "Air Raid" only 227 yards of total offense.
"I thought the defense in general was very disruptive," Oregon St. coach Mike Riley felt. "When Washington State thought they had something, they really didn't. Guys made plays and (Jordan) Poyer's interceptions were big time."
Three of those turnovers were interceptions by Jordan Poyer, above, including the game altering stop that set up the win sealing drive.
"I was just seeing the field really well," Poyer explained. "There were plays to be made and I made them. It was nothing out of the ordinary; I was just making plays. And to be honest with you, I wouldn't lie, I thought I was going to have a big game. It's something you feel. I had my high school team and my parents come to the game today, and Reser Stadium was sold out. You just want to go out there and make plays."
The only reason Poyer might not be the clear player of the game is the performance of sophomore defense end Scott Crichton, who had 4 tackles for a loss, and 3 sacks, including the one below on Jeff Tuel, who came on in relief if Connor Halliday.
A defensive battle was the last thing most of the 46,579 fans that made up the largest crowd ever at Reser Stadium expected, but that's exactly what happened. Both the Oregon St. and Washington St. defenses get some of the credit, as both were torn up pretty well last week, and doubtless didn't want a repeat.
But for Oregon St.'s part, it was also a case of quarterback Sean Mannion managing to have a regression game. Mannion threw 3 interceptions, and though he did throw for 270 yards, it wasn't until the second half before he demonstrated any rhythm.
Fortunately for Beaver fans, Mannion did come out for the second half and lead a 10 play, 75 yard drive for the game's first touchdown, and a multi-score, 13-3 lead, capped by the only touchdown pass of the day below to Markus Wheaton.
Wheaton would finish as the game's leading receiver, with 9 catches for 95 yards. Mannion also directed the 4th quarter drive that put the game out of reach, after Washington St. had pulled with 7 points.
A pleasant surprise continues to be walk-on fullback Tyler Anderson, above. Last week is was TE Connor Hamlett that came up with the game winning touchdown, and today it was a 4th quarter touchdown by Anderson that gave Oregon St. in a relatively commanding two touchdown lead, which also set the table for Poyer's 3rd. interception that effectively put the game away.
On the plus side, Mannion did deliver enough when he needed to, and to be fair, one of the interceptions was a wild carom that glanced off his receiver directly to a Washington St. defender. But one was a direct hit to a defensive lineman too.
More importantly, Oregon St. again suffered from an inability to finish drives, a problem they have suffered with all season. If the Beavers are to remain unbeaten, they'll need to better capitalize on opportunities, as there won't be many next week in Provo. BYU hasn't allowed an offensive touchdown in their last 3 games.
The struggling start might be a product of a team and program that's still learning how to win again. It's been several years since the atmosphere in Corvallis, and around the game has resembled what happened Saturday. But when the game started, it almost seemed like the enthusiasm exceeded the focus, and it took a while to realize those fiightin' scrappin' Cougs weren't going to just go away. The first half was spent getting over the party and it was the second half before the Beavers really got down to business.
Part of the problem was pressure, like above, as the Oregon St. offensive line had their worst day of the season, but Mannion also made some of the same immobile, panicky mistakes that derailed a number of games last year.
Another mixed bag was the inconsistent use of Brandin Cooks, above, who was effective early, but seemed to fall out of the plan in the second half until things got desperate. But again, fortunately for the Beavers, Cooks did reappear during the deciding action at the end.
A big concern persists with kicker Trevor Romaine, who missed an extra point, and then promptly proceeded to kick the ball of bounds for a penalty as well.
Oregon St. did fair well on the injury front again this game, though DJ Welch, who led Oregon St. in tackles, suffered a sprained ankle, and his status for practice this week is uncertain.
It was an example of depth being effective, and contrasted with the Cougars.
Washington St. switched from Halliday to Jeff Tuel at quarterback, as Halliday struggled with his accuracy. Halliday served up 3 of the 4 interceptions, and completed only 9 of 20 throws. It seemed to produce better play by the Cougars, but it didn't produce different results, though.
But while dwelling on the shortcomings of the team, on reflecting on the uneven (at best) officiating that has become the norm in the Pac, its worth recognizing that once again, Oregon St. struggled at times, and in certain areas, but also made the plays they needed too.
Given that 4 teams ahead of Oregon St. in the rankings could not, and 9 teams in this week's top 25 lost this week, it was still a good day to be a Beaver, and celebrate Benny's 60th birthday.
Cue the fight song!