It was a first quarter of mixed emotions, and mixed offensive production on behalf of both OSU and U of O. Oregon gained the upper hand and set the tone very early. How early? How about on their first drive of the quarter, when Marcus Mariota scrambled for a 42 yards and a touchdown. That run turned a crowd of 47, 249 onlookers silent with the exception of the small section of Duck supporters nervously huddled in the far right hand corner of Reser Stadium.
It also eased Ol' Mo' over to the Oregon sideline for the better part of the first quarter. Even a missed two point conversion attempt by Chip Kelly and Co. couldn't quite swing the momentum in Oregon State's favor. The Beaver's initial two drives were duds – the first equated to a three and out, and the second took 5:11 off the clock but saw the orange and black move the ball a mere 26 yards on 10 plays.
However, after Mariota's original sprint for six and some sloppy rush defense on behalf of the Beaver D, the tide shifted in OSU's favor. At least briefly. With 1:28 remaining on the clock, Storm Woods piled into the end zone for six. A successful extra point from Trevor Romaine put OSU up by one point as the quarter finished out.
Then there was the second quarter – and it belonged to the Ducks, who scored twice and controlled the tempo on both sides of the ball. Oregon's defense managed to keep OSU's offensive production to a relative minimum, allowing just three points on a field goal by Romaine that closed out the half.
How much of OSU's minimal production was directly related to the three "overlooked" pass interference penalties on behalf of the referees? Well that is anyone's guess.
Look at the third quarter though. Oregon played decent football and nothing more. Their offensive production was good, but not great. Yet they still scored twice, going up 34-17 with apparent ease. After the first half closed out, you could feel the energy leaving Reser, and the same could be said of the Beaver D. The Beaver defenders saw a tremendous amount of work in the former half of this contest, and it took its toll on their ability to keep Oregon at bay as the game transpired.
It didn't help that OSU seemed to be quite fond of giving the Ducks as much time on offense as possible during the pivotal third quarter. Devon Kell muffed a squib kick that landed right in the hands of the Duck's special teams unit. Wheaton followed suit, overrunning a wobbly punt by Jackson Rice, letting it slip through his grasp and into the hands of scrambling Oregon players.
The result? The Beaver offense spent what felt like mere seconds on the field, while the Ducks ran a train right through the heart of the Beaver defense time and time again. The fans were continually built up just to be shut down by their own teams inability to make a stop -- especially on third and long and fourth downs.
But the problems weren't consolidated to the defensive side of ball – the offense struggled in spurts today, gaining less yardage in total (393) than the Oregon Ducks managed to post with their ground attack alone (430).
A perfect segue to - Sean Mannion, who didn't do much to solidify himself as the OSU quarterback of the future in this one.
The sophomore team captain had was not sharp early or often -- rarely did a pass hit its target in stride. Mannion ended the game 31-49 for 311 yards, one TD and four (count em', four) ugly interceptions, two of which lead to Duck touchdowns. It's just not the type of production or decision making you've come to expect from a guy going against a defense that came in suspect.
For those wanting to put the blame on the O-line, that's a tough argument to make. The most consistent aspect of Oregon State on Saturday was the run game, and by extension the offensive line. And Mannion had time for the most part. Yes, the o-line had two false starts on integral third down plays, plays that could have swung a bit of momentum in the Beavs favor, but it would have been too little too late. Mannion made some poor decisions, and it ending up looking like a rout by Oregon soon after it had looked like an upset in the making.
Oregon State defenders allowed 20 first downs on the ground and a total of 430 yards rushing – their offense fumbled the ball four times, losing it twice. That plus the Mannion interceptions and averaging only 5.3 yards per play isn't going to get it done against a middle of the road team, let alone No. 5 in the polls.
But look on the bright side, because there is one. This Beaver team will end the season 9-3. That's a complete 180 from last season, where they went 3-9. The fact of the matter is that coming into this game, Oregon had reason for concern. OSU had a legitimate shot and when it was 20-17 in the third quarter, it was there for the taking.
This game may have been botched by OSU on a variety of levels spanning from poor offense and defense to coaching. Blame it on whatever you want, blame it on the rain. But I say leave the blame at home and continue looking forward to Nicholls State, because this season is not over yet