SALT LAKE CITY – I started off thinking I was going to write about a Beaver win. Then I thought it would be about a loss, then a win, then a loss. Then overtime. This game had more ups and downs than a dumb waiter. It almost doesn't feel right to call this piece the 2-minute drill – it's more like the 2-hour drill. Just ask the 45,221 fans at Rice Eccles Stadium who were put through the ringer.
However you want to define this game, it sure as heck was fun to watch in person. Oregon State prevailed, coming out on top by a score of 51-48 over Utah, and moved to 2-1 on the season.
Saturday's matchup marked the first overtime game since 2011 for OSU, and the first overtime win for the program since the 2007 Civil War. The Beavs clawed, scratched and rumbled past the Utah defense to eventually win a game that had many on tenterhooks for the entirety of the second half..
Players of the Game
Mannion had a tremendous game – a career day in fact. The junior QB closed out the evening with 443 yards and five touchdowns and championed a tired and battered OSU offense through a grueling second half of football.
Yet Mannion's success would not have been possible had it not been for a makeshift O-line that really held their ground in pass protection. One sack on Mannion, that's it. With Isaac Seumalo shifting from center to right tackle for the bout and youngster Grant Bays seeing his first collegiate start as a right guard, I freely admit I was surprised by the fortitude displayed that group that was down two starters and an appropriately experienced center. Give it up for Mannion, yes, but give it up just as much for his blockers, too.
Brandin Cooks had the final score of a long night on a six yard toss from Sean Mannion. Apart from that, Cooks put up 210 yards on nine receptions with three touchdowns despite getting off to a slow start in the first quarter.
Richard Mullaney started off hot for Oregon State, posting 71 yards on 3 receptions with a highlight reel 17 yard touchdown catch in the first quarter alone. And No.8's early fire opened up room in the pattern for Cooks in the latter stages of the first half and he laid out some great blocks. Mullaney was a live wire for the rest of the game, ending the night with an impressive 142 yards on seven catches, one of which was an immensely clutch fourth-and-nine grab that kept OSU alive. Saturday's victory marked Mullaney's first 100-plus yard game for the Beavs.
It is hard to name players of the game here, especially when OSU's defense let Utah put up 45 points during regulation. I thought I was going to name Scott Crichton after his monster first quarter. But he was invisible for long stretches of the final three quarters and OSU's pressure, so fantastic in the first quarter, waned significantly from then on out.
And so there's really only one choice here -- Steven Nelson's pair-o-picks and Sean Martin's pick six earn them the collective designation. They earn the title despite being out of position on a number of plays I saw from on high. But without those interceptions, OSU would not have come out of this contest victorious.
Turning Point/Game Changer
There are two - Nelson's final pick was a diving beauty and it paid off, briefly. After that snag, the tone in the press box indicated that many had considered the game over in favor of OSU. The home crowd went dead silent, fans hung their heads and reporters started writing ‘OSU Victory' columns -- a bit too preemptively as it turned out.
And the game was over until Utah found its legs again, literally. Travis Wilson powered into the end zone twice over the final seven minutes-plau. Had it not been for that final touchdown reception by Cooks in OT, the Beavers and their fans would be damning a close loss as opposed to celebrating a determined win.
Defensive Play of the Game
A wave of quiet depression swept across Rice Eccles Stadium when Sean Martin got the bead on Wilson -- the sophomore QB tried to thread a pass into one of the Utah tight ends and Martin was ready for it. It was the first interception of the year for Martin, and just the second turnover forced by the OSU defense this season. Nelson's two picks may take the cake, but that pick-six at the start of the second half seemed to crush red-clad hopes in slow motion, if only for a little while.
Offensive Plays of the Game
That catch on fourth-and-nine to Mullaney from Mannion was so clutch. That final touchdown throw from Mannion to Cooks was also very clutch. It would have been a big, fat L in the win/loss column for the Beavs had those two plays not worked out the way they did -- and whether or not luck had a hand in that final TD in overtime, when the ball deflected off a would-be intercepting Ute, is really in the eyes of the beholder.
It was fourth and short on the OSU 45 the Beavers were up 34-31. Gotta be a sneak, right? Mannion handed it off to Ward - Ward with an overhand lateral back to… Mannion? Who throws it deep to Cooks?!? Holy crap, did that really work? That 48-yard reception was huge, if only for a moment. Alas, OSU was only able to muster a field goal after gaining first-and-goal on the play. But Danny Langsdorf and Mike Riley have some serious guts for calling that play.
Mannion synced up with Connor Hamlett on a bullet of a TD throw at the end of the first half. The pass itself was frightening, into double coverage, but Hamlett's 6-7 frame made targeting a little easier, and the junior TE made a great snag, making Mannion look good in the process.
The Oregon State o-line, put together with bailing wire and scotch tape in the face of injuries, was rock-solid in pass protection. And I'll get to the lack of a running game in the Monday Morning Quarterbacking and it's not going to be what you're expecting…
Oregon State only allowed a net total of six rushing yards in the first half. Six.
Sure, six yards in the first two quarters was certainly unexpected, but perhaps the bane of this matchup for the Beavers was the veritable collapse in their ability to stymie the run in the second half. Between QB Travis Wilson and RB James Poole, Utah shellacked OSU's starting defense to the tune of 254 additional rushing yards in the second half.
That trick play between Ward, Mannion and Cooks was rather unexpected, if not a tad unnecessary. But it worked, and that is what counts. Clearly, Utah defenders were not anticipating the call and it was very uncharacteristic of OSU.
Caleb Smith picking up four penalties in the game. The sophomore tight end had two false start penalties in the first half and a holding call on a kickoff return by Victor Bolden in the third quarter. Then he was called for a substitution infraction with less than ten minutes remaining in the contest. That can't happen.
What, no fly sweep overkill? OSU generally runs this play to the point of excess, but did no such thing on Saturday night. The one time they did run the patented sweep run, it went for a loss of three.
Monday Morning Quarterbacking
Why isn't the OSU run game working? Even with that beat up, understaffed corps of blockers, OSU's run game should not be this ineffective. True, OSU's run oriented play-calling is blander than the fruitcake from your Aunt Fay, but when executed properly it's productive. From my vantage point, the holes and lanes were there all night long – but OSU's tailbacks seemed to be running away from the wide open margins and on multiple plays. If you have a great run game, maybe your backs need to always stick to the specified hole but if not, they need to run more to daylight. But that sure wasn't happening at Utah.
What happened to OSU's pass rush? Had it not been for one of the few blitz packages that worked, Nelson may not have nabbed the interception and Cooks and Mannion don't hook up for a 55-yard score. OSU's pass rush was heavy in the first quarter, where Crichton, Wynn and John Braun managed to put on the burners and limit the capacity of Utah to operate out of the backfield. But Banker, it looked to me, didn't substitute as much as normal up front and it may have bogged his starters down – Oregon State looked absolutely gassed in the fourth quarter and it led to a ton of rushing yards by Utah.
By the numbers
This is the third straight game that Oregon State has scored 30 or more points, and the third in a row where Mannion has tossed for 350-plus yards.
Woods, Ward and senior wideout Kevin Cummings all had two receptions apiece, blending for 59 collective yards. Senior Micah Hatfield and the sophomore tight end Smith both caught one pass for eight and six yards respectively.
With Saturday's outstanding numbers, Cooks has elevated himself to seven TD receptions in 2013, after just three games. It seems that no matter how wise defenses become to the fact that Cooks is OSU's go-to receiver, the junior still soars past the competition when the right pay is called.
Trevor Romaine had nine kickoffs totaling 586 yards Saturday, five of which were touchbacks. Romaine also nailed all three of his field goal attempts on the evening – a 36-yarder in the first quarter, a 49-yarder in the second and a 20-yard make in the throes of the fourth quarter. The 49-yarder was the longest of Romaine's collegiate career.
Meaningless Stats of the Game
You've got to run to win, right? Well, Tyler Anderson, Storm Woods and Ward combined for 64 rushing yards, and the combined losses of Cooks and Mannion accounted for 14 yards. Grand total: 50 yards total rushing by the Beavs, who scored 51 points and won the game.
Saturday's Trojan Horse
Woods was down in the second half, lying flat on his stomach and barely moving while being surrounded by OSU training staff and eventually an ambulance. Woods dove at an oncoming rusher in desperation -- he didn't get kneed, Woods "headed" him and his neck snapped back. Woods did give a thumbs up while being boosted into the ambulance. A scary moment and everyone was hoping that he "only" got knocked out. According to Riley after the game, Woods was stable and the outlook seems to be more positive than what it initially looked like.
Special Teams Edge Goes to OSU
Between Romaine's field goals and his five touchbacks, as well as some decent vision by Bolden on kick returns, OSU had a terrific night on special teams.
Edwin Delva, Siale Hautau and Woods all incurred injuries. BF.C will keep you updated as more information is released.