BF.C SPOTLIGHT: Markus Wheaton

CORVALLIS – To fully appreciate what Markus Wheaton did on Saturday against Cal, you have to go back about three weeks. The Oregon State offense lost a huge piece of their passing, rushing and special teams when senior James Rodgers' knee buckled. And multiple wideouts were called upon to help ease the loss and assume the roles left behind by Quon.

Wheaton, a sophomore, answered that call in a big way Saturday afternoon, taking the fly sweep and ancillary run game into his hands, and solidifying the his role(s). And when one thing works, the other pieces fall into place so much easier.

"I think this is the only full game we have put together as a team," Wheaton said.

Wheaton was looked at early and often throughout the matchup with Cal, a team whose road woes continued. A former prep track standout in Arizona, Wheaton took the pigskin on a reverse four times in the first half and once more on a double reverse, the first such play the Beavers offense has produced this year.

ON POSSESSION No. 4 for the OSU offense, Wheaton had become so instrumental that three of the six plays in the drive resulted in looks of some sort to the sophomore speedster.

The aforementioned double reverse occurred on this drive, a 25 yarder that set the Beavers up just outside the red zone. Two plays later, Ryan Katz connected with Joe Halahuni for a 17 yard touchdown.

By halftime, he had a pretty snazzy stat-line -- just two receptions for 18 yards, but the rush attempts, and the yards that resulted, were eye popping. Five rushes for 67 yards, good for 13.4 yards per attempt.

IF THERE WAS going to be a Cal comeback, trailing OSU 28-0, it had to happen at the start of the third quarter. Cal's defense had to turn the Beavers back. Instead, OSU scored on a nine play, 70 yard drive. Wheaton's number was called twice more, totaling 19 yards and including a chain mover.

With a 35-point lead the OSU offense let down their guard a bit, and an atypically conservative second half followed for OSU. But the final numbers for Wheaton spoke volumes -- 125 yards from scrimmage, six carries and six receptions.

And 10.8 yards per touch.

WHEATON ACCOUNTED FOR six first downs, and he drew a defensive pass interference call against Cal that resulted in another first down.

This is the point in the column where one would expect a Wheaton vs Rodgers comparison, combined with a statement about how Wheaton is the next Rodgers, etc. Not here. No single player can replace what James Rodgers brings to the OSU offense, the dynamic he provides.

"I love having the ball. You can't replace James, but I just want to help out the team," Wheaton said.

No one can replace Rodgers but Wheaton is no slouch, as his emphatic statement against Cal illustrates. It was his coming out party for the 2010 season, and it couldn't have come on a better day, Homecoming, in front of thousands of rowdy Beaver fans.

"It's huge," said Ryan Katz when asked what Wheaton's contribution meant. "They (Cal) weren't really expecting that."

The day before Halloween brought out all manner of characters to Reser Stadium, all hoping to see the Beavers trick their way to a treat. And Wheaton was going door to door.

Oregon State used the most trickery in recent memory -- fly sweeps, reverses, double reverses, the halfback TD pass from Jacquizz Rodgers to Brady Camp early in the first quarter.

And if the trickery is here to stay, Beaver Nation will see more of No. 2 for the rest of the season. Much more.

It's hard to imagine anyone would mind. Speed is hard to say no to in football. Wheaton proved today he has it, and more.


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