Oregon State aims to make most of down year
Oregon State had such hope for the season with the return of quarterback Sean Mannion. It's just not going as planned for the Beavers, who are struggling down the stretch to become bowl eligible.
The Beavers (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) have lost three straight heading into Saturday's game against Washington State (2-7, 1-5 Pac-12) at Reser Stadium.
The latest was a 45-31 loss to California last weekend for Oregon State's homecoming. The Beavers were 3-for-11 on third downs and struggled to run the ball with just 148 yards on the ground.
After the loss, players pointed toward consistency and focus as the reasons for their woes.
''We tried to make a few good adjustments at halftime but we were really the only ones stopping ourselves,'' Mannion said.
Mannion, who decided to stay at Oregon State for his senior season rather than leaving early for the NFL, became the Pac-12's all-time passing leader with 12,454 career yards, surpassing former USC quarterback Matt Barkley's record of 12,327 yards.
A classic drop-back, pro-style quarterback, Mannion broke the record early in the fourth quarter against Cal, completing 30 of 45 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns.
But he wasn't celebrating.
''Oh, I'm not even thinking about it,'' he said. ''It's meaningless to me. We lost.''
Oregon State trailed Cal 20-10 at the half but took a 31-27 lead early in the fourth quarter and it appeared that the momentum had shifted to the Beavers.
After Cal answered with Jared Goff's 10-yard touchdown pass to Chris Harper to pull back in front, Mannion was intercepted on the Beavers' next drive. The Golden Bears added a field goal before Oregon State turned the ball over downs.
By then it was too late.
''We just didn't execute. We dropped balls, ran the wrong routes, we messed it up early like that, in particular in the first half and that is why we were so sporadic,'' coach Mike Riley said.
After Saturday's game at home against the Cougars, the Beavers host No. 11 Arizona State before visiting Washington. The season ends with the Civil War against the Ducks at Reser.
Washington State is reeling this week from the loss of quarterback Connor Halliday, who broke his ankle last Saturday in the first quarter of the Cougars' 44-17 loss in Pullman to USC.
The injury will end the prolific senior's college career. When he got hurt, Halliday was the nation's passing leader with 3,873 yards and 32 touchdowns.
''Connor's contributions to this program - most of them are ones that the public doesn't fully have an appreciation of. But Connor's contributions to this program are gigantic,'' coach Mike Leach said Monday.
The Spokane native finishes his career with 11,304 passing yards, the most in Washington State history and fourth-best ever in the Pac-12. His 90 touchdown passes were third in Pac-12 history.
Freshman Luke Falk will take Halliday's place against the Beavers. A walk-on this season before earning a scholarship, Falk threw for 370 yards and two touchdowns against the Trojans in Leach's Air Raid offense.
Leach said the Cougars will need to keep their disappointment about Halliday in check as they finish out the season. After Saturday's game against the Beavers, Washington State has a bye before visiting Arizona State. The Apple Cup at home against Washington caps the regular season on Nov. 29.
''There's always going to be adversity in football. You have to remain competitive,'' Leach said. ''At some point each individual play has to be its own masterpiece. We're just too up and down emotionally. We're just all over the map. We need to take pride in each individual play and make the most out of that.''