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Oregon St. Air Attack Flies In First Scrimmage

Obum Gwacham beats Ryan Hanford for a touchdown in Oregon St.'s scrimmage Thursday.
Obum Gwacham beats Ryan Hanford for a touchdown in Oregon St.'s scrimmage Thursday.

Oregon St. moved into Reser Stadium for practice for the first time this season, conducting a 4 drive scrimmage, and the air attack was even hotter than the weather.

The Beavers actually caught a bit of a break, as temperatures that would eventually drive into triple digits were only up to 80 degrees when practice started, and conditions were much more tolerable than if the scrimmage had started about the time it ended, but the heat was still on a beat up secondary (see yesterday's report for more on the injury situation).

Starting quarterback Sean Mannion went 6 for 6 on the first drive, and capped the 11 play 78 yard series with a scoring strike to Obum Gwacham. Backup Cody Vaz took over, leading another scoring drive, with a 20 yard completion to Malcolm Agnew out of the backfield.

Mannion's second drive would have resulted in another score, but for a ball Brandin Cooks dropped right at the goal line, his only incompletion of the day. Mannion completed 11 of 12 passes for 83 yards.

Vaz went Mannion one better, driving the Beaver offense for another score, a 6 yard pass to a leaping Richard Mullaney. Vaz was 12 of 13 for 127 yards, and the 2 scores. Mullaney was Oregon St.'s leading receiver, with 4 catches for 41 yards and the one score.

"I will say it again, we have two guys at quarterback who can win in this league," Riley said. "They were both very impressive last night (Wednesday) in the two-minute drills as well."

Many Beaver fans are nervously recalling last season's late camp/early season switch from Ryan Katz, who is now the starting quarterback for San DIego St., and Mannion, but it seems unlikely Riley will repeat that exercise. However, should it become necessary to replace Mannion for a non-performance reason (injury, non-football event, etc.), Oregon St. should not be out of luck with Vaz at the controls.

The day's events did nothing to take the heat off either coordinator either. With Riley calling the plays, a similar mix of slightly more than 60% passing plays to just under 40% runs, with many of the same players, seemed to work much better than it did when offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf was dialing up the calls, though its worth noting its easier to throw with accuracy when you really aren't worried about being hit.

Still, Riley was much more effective with this offense a few years back, and there is both an art and a science to mixing up plays, and the looks they are run out of.

"It was pretty vanilla; basic football," Riley said, "but, it was pretty good football, and decent procedure of the game. I liked that a lot. It was pretty clean."

The rushing game wasn't nearly as effective, picking up 58 yards on 16 runs, according to the stat sheet. That's an average of 3 2/3 yards per carry, which will move the chains if sustained, but it didn't feature any big runs, and projected to an 82 play game, not far from what many teams manage in a college game not involving Oregon, that's still under 120 yards, and with no sacks, something that's not likely when the pass rush doesn't have to peel off.

Agnew was the Beavers' leading rusher, but with just 24 yards on 5 carries. Chris Brown continues to look promising, and had 18 yards on his 3 carries. Terron Ward was held out of action, after banging up his leg yesterday.

The retooled, and healthier, offensive line continues to do a better job with pass protection than line drive in the running game, but again, the defense is playing without many restrictions against the run, while the pass rush obviously isn't going to take either Mannion or Vaz out.

Defensive coordinator Mark Banker hasn't shown a lot of creative blitzes, at least yet, and its concerning that the back 7 was essentially unable to stop the passing game. A healthy Anthony Watkins would help, but there's a lot more read and react than aggressively attack on display by the defense, precisely the approach the new-breed of spread-read offenses has been developed to exploit.

Practice resumes Friday at 11 AM. Tomorrow will feature the 4th of 6 double days, with an evening session at 6:30. It should continue to prepare the Beavers for the trip to Tucson next month, as the forecast calls for another 100 degree day. Saturday will be a one-session day, also at 11 AM, before the Beavers take Sunday off.

The countdown to football is now down to 2 weeks, as action starts in 14 days, with Oregon St.'s opener against Nicholls St. only 16 days away.

(OSU athletics promo photo)