Beavers close with a flourish, roll Cougars 52-24
PULLMAN, Wash. -- Oregon State's aerial circus kept its act flying high -- and then some -- on a wild Saturday night in the Palouse.
Sean Mannion, the nation's leading passer, threw for a school-record 493 yards and four touchdowns and Brandin Cooks, the nation's top receiver, scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns as OSU (5-1 overall, 3-0 in Pac-12 play) blasted Washington State 52-24.
The Beavers buried the Cougars (4-3, 2-2) under a 28-0 fourth-quarter barrage, scoring the game's final 35 points after the hosts had seized a 24-17 late in the third quarter.
Five of Washington State's six turnovers -- four interceptions, two fumbles -- came in the final period.
"It was a matter of us continuing to chip away at them, coupled with our defense getting a lot of turnovers and giving us a short field," said Mannion, who completed 26 of 43 passes with one interception and broke Derek Anderson's single-game passing yardage record of 485 set against Southern Cal in 2003.
Cooks was all over the place, too, catching 11 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns and carrying the ball four times for 34 yards and another score.
"Sean and I had another big game because all the guys around us stepped up," Cooks said. "Richard Mullaney was great. The tight ends, the running backs, and Kevin Cummings had some big-time plays. Once you get everybody making plays, everything is going to click."
The final score was in no way indicative of the competitiveness of the game. Through three quarters, it was a fiercely contested battle. Coach Mike Riley told his players afterward that they won by continuing to plug away and by finally breaking the Cougars' will.
"They are very physical," Riley said. "Defensively, they gave us a lot of different looks. It was just hard. In a game like that, eventually somebody breaks. It looked like it was going to be us after they took the lead (in the third quarter). I was proud of our response."
A big part of that was OSU cornerback Rashaad Reynolds, who was twice beaten by Vince Mayle on WSU's go-ahead drive -- once on a 40-yard pass play to the Beavers' 12, then on a fade route for a 4-yard touchdown and a 24-17 lead with 4:50 to go in the third quarter.
Reynolds wound up with a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions in helping Oregon State's defense shut out the Cougars the rest of the way.
"Rashaad was mad about that third quarter," Riley said. "After that, he was pretty fired up, and then he made some plays. He's a real good leader for this team."
"Taking nothing away from (Mayle); he made some good plays," Reynolds said. "But that's the maddest I've been in a game, giving up plays like that and knowing I'm better than that."
With two of the three worst running teams in FBS, the air figured to be filled with passes. There were 108 of then, with Washington State's Connor Halliday (26 for 49 for 248 yards, one TD, three interceptions) keeping things interesting in the OSU secondary.
A major difference, as it usually is, was the turnover discrepancy. The Beavers had two, one late when backup quarterback Cody Vaz threw a turnover near the WSU end zone, well after the issue had been decided.
"Turnovers eventually make it really hard for the offensive team to have any continuity," Riley said. "Tonight, the (WSU) turnovers were huge, and we capitalized pretty well."
Neither team got a lot done on the ground. Washington State gained 123 yards rushing while Oregon State had 102 -- 61 off fly sweeps by Cooks and true freshman Victor Bolden.
"The fly sweep is part of our base run plan," Mannion said. "It adds another dimension to our offense."
Oregon State scored a pair of touchdowns in the final seven minutes of the second quarter to go into halftime ahead 17-10.
Washington State got a break early in the third quarter after driving deep into OSU territory. On third-and-goal from the 1, Jeremiah Laufasa fumbled as he was leaping over the goal line. Referees ruled the Beavers had recovered. After review, officials said Laufasa had crossed the plane with the ball, and the Cougars were awarded a touchdown, tying the score at 17-17 with 11:08 remaining in the third quarter.
After an OSU punt, Washington State was in business again, moving 80 yards in 10 plays. Mayle made a great catch on a 40-yard pass play to the OSU 12. On fourth-and-2 from the OSU 4, Mayle caught a fade pass over Reynolds and the Cougars led 24-17 with 4:50 to go in the quarter.
Oregon State responded, going 82 yards in 11 plays. Mannion hit tight end Caleb Smith on back-to-back passes of 31 and 21 yards on the drive. On third-and-goal at the 9, Mannion found Cummings for the TD and a 24-24 tie with 1:03 left in the period.
Then the Beavers got a huge break. On fourth-and-4 from the WSU 34, the Cougars botched an apparent fake punt. The snap went off the hands of the up back and the Beavers got the ball at the WSU 27-yard line. On first down, Mannion connected with Cummings for 19 yards to the OSU 8 as the third quarter ended. On the next play, Cooks took the ball on a fly sweep and found the end zone, giving the Beavers a 31-24 advantage with 14:55 remaining.
On first down on the next series, Reynolds intercepted a Halliday pass and returned it 18 yards to the WSU 30. A personal-foul penalty, though, moved it back to the 45. Bolden went 14 yards with a fly sweep, then Cooks motored 30 yards on an inside screen play to the 1. Storm Woods bulled over for the score and Oregon State's lead was 38-24 with 13:47 to go.
Cooks put the verdict on ice, scoring the game's final two touchdowns on receptions of 8 and 30 yards.
"We stuck with our game plan," Cooks said. "It's not always going to look just right from the start. Sometimes you have to keep pushing within your system. Tonight, it started off kind of slow, and at halftime we kept with what we had and stuff started to open up in that fourth quarter."
The victory, Cooks said, "means a lot. Winning on the road in Pullman. Crazy atmosphere. I give it to their fans. Like coach Riley said, a win on a road is momentum, and we have that going."
After their 49-46 loss to FCS foe Eastern Washington in the opener, the Beavers have rattled off five straight victories and now share first place in the Pac-12 North with Oregon. Nobody considers the Beavers a serious threat to the Ducks, of course.
"If I'm not mistaken nah, I'm going to stop myself," Cooks said, smiling. "We don't worry about that. We're just going to keep working on our game and keep proving people wrong.
"That's what the Oregon State Beavers are about. We're always underdogs. We always find a way to shock people at the end of the season. We'll take it week by week and keep doing what we have to do."
Smith said the Beavers -- who entered Saturday night's game a one-point underdog -- thrive on being overlooked.
"It's great to surprise everyone," he said. "If people disrespect us, that drives us more. We play as hard as we can every week and hopefully everything will take care of itself."
NOTES: Mannion leads the nation with 25 touchdown passes, already tied for third on Oregon State's single-season list. Mannion has five straight 350-yard passing games, a school record. The single-game passing yardage mark, he said, "is a huge honor. Any school record is something to be proud of, with all the great players who have come through." Oregon State held a big advantage in first downs (29-22), passing yardage (496-270) and total offense (598-383). Riley, on OSU's defense: "Except for one or two plays, we contained (the Cougars') very potent offense pretty well. We tackled pretty well. We kept making them make more plays. We made it hard for them to get into the end zone. I was proud of our defense." Mullaney had five catches for 122 yards -- all in the first half. Oregon State's Steven Nelson intercepted a pass, his fifth this season. The only Washington State player from the Portland area is Parker Henry, a redshirt freshman running back from Vancouver's Skyview High who has played but hasn't carried the ball this season.
SCORE BY PERIODS
Oregon State 3 14 7 28 -- 52
Washington State 3 7 14 0 -- 24
WSU -- Andrew Furney 27 FG 10:49
OSU -- Trevor Romaine 20 FG :31
WSU -- Marcus Mason 3 run (Furney kick) 10:32
OSU -- Connor Hamlett 7 pass from Sean Mannion (Romaine kick) 6:55
OSU -- Storm Woods 3 run (Romaine kick) :44
WSU -- Jeremiah Laufasa 1 run (Furney kick) 11:08
WSU -- Vince Mayle 4 pass from Connor Halliday (Furney kick) 4:50
OSU -- Kevin Cummings 9 pass from Mannion (Romaine kick) 1:03
OSU -- Brandin Cooks 8 run (Romaine kick) 14:55
OSU -- Woods 1 run (Romaine kick) 13:47.
OSU -- Cooks 8 pass from Mannion (Romaine kick) 10:40
OSU -- Cooks 30 pass from Mannion (Romaine kick) 6:43
ATT. -- 31,955