What Soggy Separation Saturday Meant, And What It Didn't

Sean Mannion's completion percentage suffered in the storm Saturday, but his ability to deliver touchdowns was unprecedented. - Photo by Andy Wooldridge

Saturday, there were 5 Pac-12 games, and all of them produced sizable, separation-grade final scores, and some surprises as well. In a very rare occurrence, 4 of them were in the Northwest. In a not so rare occurrence (though it was unusual this early in the season), the weather was extreme, to the point of being game altering, and certainly stat swinging.

Heavy rain driven by sustained high winds hit western Oregon and Washington, and it made for a lot of dropped balls, even more that no one was ever going to get a hand on, a few the "other guys" did get to, and some interesting excursions in the kicking game.

Ordinarily, at the FBS level, near a near 70% completion mark is the line of delineation that is the minimum standard for being a top tier quarterback. Less than that leads to lots of losses of games, and if it persists, loss of employment for coaches.

And while stats such as this are a good indicator, especially ones over long and large bodies of data, there are other more useful stats than completion percentage. Like touchdowns, and especially wins.

Yesterday was no ordinary day, and Oregon St.'s Sean Mannion, who over the first 4 games of the season, was at or near the top of nearly every passing statistic in FBS football, completed only 25 of 52 passes, just 52%. It dropped Mannion's season completion percentage to 67%, and 25th in the country.

It also prompted Oregon St. radio play-by-play voice Mike Parker to repeatedly comment that Mannion was "off", and just not having a very good day.

Analyst Jim Wilson finally pointed out that the conditions just might have something to do with it, noting that Colorado's Connor Wood, who entered the game as one of the country's statistical top rated quarterbacks as well, was having trouble as well. Wood would complete only 14 of 34 passes, 41%.

As the day went on, we would see Washington's Keith Price, who is still 7th in the country in completion percentage, at better than 72%, connected on only 56% of his throws. I've not yet had the pleasure of visiting newly remodeled Husky Stadium, so I can't report on what the wind is like in that stadium, but I have seen Seattle weather before, in both old Husky and the Clink, and can't imagine yesterday's weather wasn't as disruptive as ever.

Come evening, in the relatively wind-sheltered Clink, Stanford's Kevin Hogan had what most considered a dominant performance, and completed just 64% of his throws. And Heisman Trophy hopeful Marcus Mariota completed only 44% of his throws, in near gale force winds.

(Side note, we might need to get Mike "Slight Drizzle" Parker out of the press box and onto a field some time. But the real point is if you can't get the job done in bad weather, you won't last long in any outdoor activity in the northwest.)

Despite not being sharp, Mannion still directed a dominating 44-17 win over Colorado to keep Oregon St. in a tie for first place in the Pac-12 North. Stanford demolished Washington St. 55-17 in the game that determined whether the Cardinal or the Cougs would be the team to share the division lead with the Beavers.

Washington pulled away from Arizona for a 31-13 win (Does it seem like the desert  'Cats seem to be the victim of a disproportionate number of miserable losses in miserable weather when they come to the northwest?) to stay undefeated, and Oregon obliterated Cal 55-16, in a game that was no where near that close (the Ducks took their web-foot off the throttle 5 minutes into the second half, after opening a 55-3 lead).

So what stats can we use to find the keys to these impressive wins? And what they really mean?

In Mannion's case, the best one is 6 touchdown throws in the game. No Oregon St. quarterback has ever thrown that many in a game, including Mannion, who shared the previous record of 5 with Lyle Moevao. A better one might be the the 414 yards Mannion threw for, which was the 5th game in a row that Mannion has thrown for over 350 yards.

Prior to when he did it last week, no Oregon St. quarterback had ever done that even 3 times in a row. (And while the history of Beaver quarterbacks doesn't rival some of the other teams in the conference, it does include Derek Anderson, yesterday's alumni co-captain, Erik Wilhelm, another Sean (Canfield, who finished his career as the Pac-12 leading passer), and even some guy named Baker who won a Heisman Trophy before any other west coast quarterback ever did.

Another good one is the 21-2 touchdown to interception ratio Mannion has posted (and its really hard to hold the one yesterday that hit Richard Mullaney in the hands between the numbers, only to bounce up in the air and come down in front of a Colorado defender [see wet ball syndrome], against Mannion). The 21 tds leads the nation by 4 a now meaningful month into the season.

Considering that 2 years ago Mannion was in contention for most interceptions thrown, and the main reason there weren't more is there were even move sacks, it's nothing short of amazing.

More importantly, its a telling set of stats that point out what the eye-test already tells Beaver fans that made it to midnight in Utah, and stayed to the end of yesterday's storm; that Mannion has become a good thrower, but a better quarterback. The schedule will get a lot tougher, especially about a month from now; see those other teams that also posted conference season defining wins.

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Oregon St. still has a lot of work to do (and don't read too much into the defensive stats the Beavers posted yesterday), but its clear that if he stays healthy (keep in mind, Mannion had the Beavers in even better shape 1 year ago today, and had yet to injury his knee against Washington St., who happens to again be Oregon St.'s next opponent), Mannion (and Brandin Cooks, above, whose' 5 carries for 47 yards complimented nicely his 9 catches for 168 yards and 2 TDs, producing another above 200 yards day), give Oregon St. a chance every game out.

Cooks clearly won the "duel" with Colorado's Paul Richardson, who was held to 77 yards and a touchdown that wasn't (look closely at the location of Richardson's left foot).

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Big Numbers From Other Wins

Though Oregon St. had their best rushing day of the season, which helps when the weather is bad, the Beavers still have work to do in that department as well. Washington, on the other hand, is set.

Price got 161 yards and a touchdown from Bishop Sankey, who carried a Washington record 40 times. Given the history of Husky running backs, when someone writes their name in the purple record book, as Sankey did, its serious news.

Hogan threw 3 long touchdown passes, the first 2 to Devon Cajuste, and both of them in the first half, when the game was far from decided, though they went a long ways to deciding it. The other notable stat is unconfirmed, but it appears that this may be the 285th season that the Cougs have had their starting quarterback knocked out.

Washington St. had been looking like a contender due to their defense until Stanford rolled up 560 yards on them, but the quarterback Connor Halliday being injured and giving way to Austin Apodaca may be more meaningful to the rest of the season for the Cougs, depending on how Halliday is.

Mariota and Oregon did what they did despite not only the weather, but losing De'Anthony Thomas on the opening kickoff off the game, when Thomas slipped on the wet turf, and turned his right ankle. Again depending on Thomas' long term health (Thomas said he will get treatment today and see how long his ankle feels; good luck getting an accurate updated diagnosis from Oregon coach Mark Helftich), that's bound to be an issue, but last night, a 130 yard, 2 touchdown rushing night by Byron Marshall picked up the slack pretty well, as Oregon topped the 50 point mark for the 4th game in a row, something the Ducks have never done before, even given all the fireworks they have set off since Chip Kelly arrived.

A pair of punt returns for touchdowns by Braion Addison helped too, as did 5 California turnovers.

It will also be interesting to see what the long term affects will be of the benching of the Bears' freshman quarterback Jared Goff, who HAD BEEN challenging Mannion for the lead nationally in passing stats, until he committed 3 of those turnovers with first quarter fumbles in his first introduction to bad weather football.

The Heat Was On, But Is Now Off

The one statement game where wet weather wasn't a factor was in Tempe, where heat is always a factor. Arizona St. blew up the USC defense for a 62-41 win, as Taylor Kelly threw for 3 touchdowns, including 2 to Marion Grice, who also had 2 rushing scores as well.

Those were stunning stats, given that while a previously ineffective offense (which came alive, as Tre Madden and Justin Davis both topped 100 yards rushing, combining for 250 yards and 4 touchdowns, and Cody Kessler threw for 295 yards and 2 more scores) had Trojan coach Lane Kiffen on the hot seat, the USC defense HAD been sound, and was one of the top 10 statistically in the country. So the 62 points that equaled the most EVER scored on the Trojans was a surprise, even if the Sun Devils winning wasn't necessarily.

Enough of a surprise that USC Athletic Director Pat Haden stopped the USC team bus in the airport parking lot on their way home and fired Kiffen on the spot, officially taking the heat off the embattled Trojan coach.

A potentially seriously sprained (but hopefully not worse) knee injury to USC WR Marqise Lee won't help going forward either.

There certainly won't be any shortage of things to analyze as Oregon St. heads into their bye week!

But though it was a wet and wild one, and there's PLENTY to work on in that bye week (everything from the band to the football team to the scoreboard that the wind partially blew apart has a project list), it was still a good day to be a Beaver, and not so much so a Buff, Bear, Coug, 'Cat, or Trojan.

Cue the fight song!

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(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

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