It started out a bit unexpected with either the offenses being a bit nervous and/or the defenses playing with a bit more fire because the first quarter boiled down to a 3 to 3 draw. At different times during the quarter it looked like both the WSU and OSU offenses were poised to do more damage with each offense easily driving the field to get strong looks at possible touchdowns, but both defenses stepped up to force a quarter more about bend-but-don't-break than the expected offensive fireworks.
The second quarter started to pick up the pace for both offenses. WSU QB Connor Halliday drove the field to open the second quarter and converted a key 4th and 8 to Dom Williams, all of which resulted in a three yard Marcus Mason rushing touchdown to put the Cougs up 10 to 3 at just above the ten and a half-minute mark. It looked to be an important momentum swing drive for Washington State, but Sean Mannion was able to answer on OSU's next drive, with the Beavs driving the field to score on a 7 yard Mannion to Connor Hamlett TD play, below.
Things then really started to look to go the Beavs way with OSU's defense stopping the Cougs to get Mannion and Co. the ball back with just over four minutes left in the half. As he has done throughout the first part of this season, Mannion took the ball down the field. He did have help with a spectacular adjustment catch by Richard Mullaney for 46 yards. But something rare happened and Mannion threw a poorly chosen pass into tight coverage for a 2nd and goal interception. Luckily the football gods delivered the ball right back on a fumble, and this time with the help of a nifty 25 yard screen play by Storm Woods and a three yard touchdown run by Woods the Beavs took a nice 17 to 10 lead into the halftime break.
Overall it was not a completely sharp offensive showing by either team. Halliday went 17 for 30 for 156 yards, and even though Mannion put up some strong numbers, going 18 for 29 for 253 yards, his passes looked a bit off in terms of mechanics and choices. The Beavs did add only 32 yards rushing, but it actually seemed like a decent number to keep things honest for the WSU defense; and also Woods contributed in the passing game well and added some needed on-the-field fire. WSU overall shut down Brandin Cooks, limiting him to only 46 yards on 5 receptions, but Mullaney, below, had a huge half with five receptions for 122 yards (his final numbers actually).
The Beavs got the ball to start the second half and one felt it would go a long ways if they could drive the field again and go up by 14 points, but the drive went three and out and after a poor punt with a good WSU return Halliday was able to take the Cougs down the field to tie the game. Again the OSU offense could not get things going and gave the ball back to a confident WSU offense, which converted on a key 3rd down and then was able to score on a 4th and goal.
With Washington State up 24 to 17 one could hear the rumblings on the dark eastern Washington horizon to again call for some heads to roll from some of the fanbase, but Mannion came to the short-term rescue in another classic Mannion drive down the field to tie the game with just a minute or so left in the 3rd quarter.
Then the OSU defense stepped up their game in the 4th quarter and started to read the WSU routes and exploded over the Cougs (after the Cougs started their turnover ball rolling and coughed up a strange fumble in the last minute of the 3rd quarter, which led to a short field to finally get Cooks more involved in the offense on an 8 yard TD reception). We may still see need for improvement, but it cannot be denied that the OSU defense completed controlled the 4th quarter, forcing three straight Halliday interceptions that led to 21 Oregon State points.
Up 52 to 24 the Beavs were able to continue their defensive dominance by forcing a fumble, which led to seeing the backups come in and what many probably did not expect an appearance by Cody Vaz. With the game result all wrapped up, the play for both teams became more about getting the bench in for some plays and to run the clock out without getting too sloppy.
In the end the Beavs outgained WSU 598 to 383 total yards (why didn't coach Mike Riley run Chris Brown on that last drive once is was 1st and goal?), and forced six Cougar turnovers. Sean Mannion, above, easily won the battle of the QBs going 34 for 51 and an OSU record 493 yards, surpassing Derek Anderson's record by 8, and four TDs. WSU's Halliday went 26 for 49 and 248 yards and one TD and three INTs.
Additionally the Beavs were able to get a nice 102 yards rushing, which maybe is not eye-popping amount, and included a good amount of yards raked up with fly-sweeps by Cooks (who lead all rushers with 34 yards on 4 carries) and Victor Bolden, but it was enough to keep the WSU defense enough off-balance in the later stages of the game to make Mannion's job just a little easier.
Cooks, above, finished with a game high 11 catches for a game high 137 yards receiving.
The Beavs go to 3 and 0 in conference play and 5 and 1 overall. Personally I saw a pretty impressive win out there tonight. It was a game that some thought was in the cards for a breakout runaway fifth win for WSU, or at the least was going to be an offensive shoot-out. But the defense stepped up big time I thought, and especially of note was holding firm when that 3rd quarter looked to be getting away from the Beavs on the road. Sure the Cougs gave up the ball on their end, but again after being on their heels the OSU defense adjusted well and was able to build on every turnover to help put this game out of reach. Mannion put up impressive numbers again and to me what is all the more impressive is that he did not look fully Sean Mannion sharp, additionally for a lot of the game Cooks was held in check and Mannion had to rely on his other receivers and tight ends (Kevin Cummings had a wonderful second half for the Beavs, catching six receptions for 73 yards and one TD).
I am not ready to totally declare OSU football in the running for a top two placement finish within the Pac-12 North quite yet, but at the same time I very much think this team needs some props for what ended up being a very impressive win, and a great night to be a Beaver!
Cue the fight song!
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)