PULLMAN - Oregon State dumped icy water on the burgeoning flame that was Washington State's 2013 season by a score of 52-24 Saturday night. WSU put up a fight for three quarters, but in the end they couldn't muster a will or a way to knock the bruising Beavers down a peg. Sean Mannion broke yet another record, but a lot of the credit goes to the targets that made those numbers possible. But first…
Players of the Game Offense
Welcome back, Storm Woods. The sophomore tailback had a big rushing TD with 44 ticks remaining in the first half, culminating a drive that shifted the momentum into the orange corner prior to the end of the second half.
Woods was also a key, ancillary factor in the aerial attack with three receptions for 51 yards in the first half alone and ending the evening with five receptions for 64 yards. Woods only had 12 touches going for just 18 yards, but the two touchdowns he scored made a big difference in this game.
Sean Mannion shook off a so-so start – did he ever. Mannion threw for 493 yards and four touchdowns on 34-of-51 passing. Mannion continues to lead the nation in total offense (406.3) and passing yards (2,511). Yes, for anyone who was still doubting its validity, you can now legitimately put Mannion into the Heisman discussion. It might not be the case later, but right now, he is absolutely right there with everyone else.
Junior WR Brandin Cooks deserves an honorable mention, because the bulk of his tallies came in the fourth quarter at a point when the Beavers needed something, anything to help them pull away from the Cougars. The teams had entered the fourth quarter tied at 24-24, but Cooks' unrelenting footfalls led the Beavers into the end zone three times by the time WSU could blink.
Oregon State's tight end and H-back corps had a quietly powerful evening. Caleb Smith, Tyler Perry and Connor Hamlett combined for "only" 82 hashes and one touchdown (Hamlett), but those minimal numbers do not reflect how some of those catches – particularly the back-to-back 31- and 21-yard receptions for Smith in the third quarter – changed the tone. Smith, Perry, Hamlett and sophomore Kellen Clute were big factors in moving the chains with their blocking too, but it was with Smith's pair of grabs that allowed the Beaver offense to visibly wear down the Cougs.
Senior corner Rashaad Reynolds was on the receiving end of a lot of offensive badgering for the entirety of the third quarter – WSU quarterback Connor Halliday had started to work him like dough and Reynolds had a WSU receiver go up and over him for a TD. But a pair-o-picks in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter resulted in a stunning turnaround for the senior. A forced fumble with just over five minutes remaining in the tilt was just icing on the cake for Reynolds, who was credited officially with two INT's and two forced fumbles on Saturday. Wow, what a quarter for Reynolds.
Apart from Reynolds, this game goes to the OSU defensive line in my book. The pressure was there on Halliday all night long and guys like Dylan Wynn, John Braun and Mana Rosa made the plays that counted at crucial junctures. More importantly, the front line was consistent. For both teams, this game was less about stopping the opposing offense and more about slowing them down, something that the Beaver D-line managed to do much better than Cougars.
A heck of a bad day for Halliday when the Beavs cranked it up
Halliday spent three quarters frustrating the OSU defense and didn't throw a pick -- and then OSU suddenly picked him off three times in the fourth quarter. After OSU scored in bunches, it was clear with a few minutes remaining the Cougar offense and defense had lost their fight. And I think a lot of it had to do with the fatigue of a hard fought game, OSU's well-tuned secondary just ripped him apart, and there was no such reciprocity from Halliday's teammates on the defensive side of the ball.
Halliday was also affected by his defense's inability to keep the Beavers out of the red zone. Halliday's final numbers reflect a veritable defensive shellacking courtesy of the orange and black clad stop corps, but the vast majority of Halliday's negative stats came in the fourth quarter when he was still pushing to make something happen. But the rest of his team seemed to have just checked out. And then he seemed to as well. The Beavers didn't lean on just one man the way Washington State did with Halliday, they leaned on everybody and ultimately came away the victor by a huge margin.
Turning Points/Game Changers
OSU notched five turnovers in the fourth quarter – three interceptions off Halliday and the forced fumble by Reynolds recovered by sophomore linebacker Caleb Saulo. Washington State's backup QB Austin Apodaca's interception was of minimal consequence, as the Beavers had already settled the outcome. The whole thing was rather remarkable, as the Beavs had gone three quarter with just one turnover, only to notch five times that in the span of 15 minutes to close out WSU.
A poorly executed WSU punt fake in the third quarter on fourth-and-four put OSU in prime position to break the 24-24 tie. And the rout was on.
Defensive Play of the Game
Junior defensive end Dylan Wynn forced a fumble off of a Teondray Caldwell run immediately following a Mannion interception at the tail end of the second quarter. The ball was picked up by senior defensive end Devon Kell and ultimately set up the Beavs for a clutch, half ending touchdown with Woods that gave the Beavers a 17-10 lead going into the locker room. The play itself was such a statement though. Mannion had practically served the ball to the Cougar secondary with a side of fries on the previous outing and the Cougs had all the momentum. But the OSU D-line stepped in to save the day. It was a microcosm of WSU's inability to capitalize and conversely, OSU's resiliency.
Offensive Play of the Game
Connor Hamlett's seven-yard TD reception on a rollout from Mannion quieted Cougar fans down from a thunderous roar to a whisper. Momentum aside, Hamlett's catch was a terrific snag – the junior H-back was being held the whole time but still fetched the ball for six.
A short dump off to Woods in the second quarter picked up a huge lick of yardage and set the Beavs up in the red zone. It was one of Woods' two receptions that went for 20 plus yards on the night (24 and 25 yards respectively), and a sign that OSU's starting tailback is indeed fresh and ready for football.
Oregon State's secondary held Halliday to 248 yards on 26-49 passing, and just one touchdown and picked him off three times.
Washington State found a running game in the red zone. Two of the Cougars three TD's came on the legs of running backs Marcus Mason and Jeremiah Laufasa. Mike Leach's aerial adjustments on offense were stale half-measures much of the game, but when his team ran the ball and peppered OSU defenders with tiny screens, they were deadly.
Mullaney was the hot deep threat for Mannion in most of the first half – Cooks only had 46 yards on five receptions by the end of the third, compared to Mullaney's 122 yards on just as many catches at the end of the first half.
There was hardly a defensive series where OSU wasn't in the nickel or dime. OSU ran without a MIK, tending to stick with juniors OLBs Jabral Johnson and D.J. Alexander as the Beavs limited the Air-Raid. The risk was ultimately worth the reward for the Beavs.
Meaningless Stat of the Game
Senior place kicker Trevor Romaine had three tackles. OSU's kick return coverage was awful on Saturday, and it frequently led to Romaine being the last line of defense on special team formations.
Monday Morning Quarterbacking
OSU had more success running the ball with receivers than they did with their tailbacks – and I know they're winning but it's still scary in thinking about the teams left on the schedule. Cooks and freshman wideout Victor Bolden accrued 61 total rushing yards. Woods and Ward, they only had 35 combined yards. Yikes.
WSU's Anthony Carpenter got an interception with just over two minutes remaining in the first half when Mannion expressed mailed it to him in double coverage. It was one of the worst decisions I've seen Mannion make all year, and it came at a key moment in the game. Luckily, Mannion's defense was there to bail him out by forcing the WSU fumble one play later.
Special Teams Edge - WSU
Kick returns were key in setting up good field position for the Cougars. Ricky Galvin posted a 22-yard return average after running five kickoffs back for a total of 110 yards. OSU was characteristically stagnant in that department, with Bolden only returning three kicks for all of 51 yards. Fortunately for OSU fans, the Cougars were unable to take full advantage of the good field position.
Connor Hamlett did not return for the second half of play and donned sweats on the sideline. As a result, we got a few looks at back up H-back Tyler Perry who added a reception to his resume.