Once upon a time, people said the Oregon State Beavers football team had a shot of winning their first seven games. When Eastern Washington blew that scenario after Game 1, a .500 overall record seemed questionable. A few scratchy wins later, along with a pasting of the Washington State Cougars on the road, the schedule looks different now. Or shall we say, what many thought it would be.
One game at a time and no one wants to jump too far ahead, but even a ten win season seems plausible. Did one game make that much of a difference? Actually, it did.
This was Oregon State’s best game of the season. Conference road game, hostile environment, lackluster run game. Yet, again the defense stepped up when it had to (see overtime in the Utah game). Quarterback Sean Mannion, receiver Brandin Cooks did their thing, as well as the rest of the Beaver offensive talent, also dialed it up. Is it warm and fuzzy time in Corvallis? For now, why not? It was a solid football performance when necessary, while other conference teams fell down. Soak it up for few days and look toward next week.
Mannion made one mistake on Saturday: the pick in the second quarter. The old Mannion probably would have been rattled. Oh, how things have changed. He looked better after the interception than before. He has made the Oregon State passing game a machine. It is as close to automatic pilot it can get. Sure, the Cougars are not a defensive juggernaut. No matter. Mannion has enormous confidence in the pocket and has matured as a quarterback. His leadership skills have grown by leaps and bounds. Without a doubt, he has this version of the OSU offense going in the right direction.
For those of you who have not read or looked in to the OSU Media Guide, you can wait. Because Mannion is re-writing it every week. Should he stay on his current pace, or even slightly less, Beaver records he most surely will set include career touchdowns, touchdowns in one season, 350+ yard games and yardage in one season. More than anything, this is his team. Everyone knows it, and he is not disappointing anyone or disappearing.
And let’s not forget about Mr. Cooks, who has set a standard so high, often his stat line can appear average. Au contraire. Who wouldn’t want to have 137 receiving yards, 34 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns? Furthermore, defenses are overloading on him opening up the field for others (24 receptions and 359 receiving yards spread across eight other options last Saturday). Sometimes not touching the ball is just as valuable as being the main attraction.
Following events of last weekend, Stanford and Washington both losing, the Beavers have put themselves in excellent position in the Pac-12 Conference. OSU will be favored this week against California. If they take care of business, the Cardinal and Huskies visits to Corvallis in upcoming weeks become ever more pivotal. Each of those two are nationally ranked. What once looked like a game where OSU was going to be the underdog, now they look like a possible favorite when Stanford rolls in. After putting a waxing on WSU, and Washington getting scrubbed by Oregon, the Huskies now look vulnerable as well.
Sleep peaceful tonight Beaver nation. Beware, California won’t be a pushover. No conference road opponent ever is. OSU’s ship has been righted for now. For continued smooth sailing, the Beavers need to keep playing the football they are currently playing.