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Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Midseason review: Oregon State

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

OREGON STATE BEAVERS

Record: 1-4, 1-2

Entering the season, Oregon State had big questions, and coach Mike Riley said as much. Both lines. Injuries. But one position that wasn't a question, it was assumed, was quarterback.

That will teach us to make assumptions. In a move few saw coming, Riley benched returning starter Ryan Katz in favor of redshirt freshman Sean Mannion during the humiliating opening loss to Sacramento State, an FCS team. Katz started but barely played at Wisconsin, a humiliating 35-0 loss. And Mannion became The Man the following week.

A quarterback switch didn't help in a 27-19 loss to UCLA. Nor did it help at Arizona State, where 66 passes from Mannion provided 341 yards but also four interceptions.

The 0-4 start, the program's worst since 1996, had fans grumbling, many even questioning Riley. The Beavers weren't playing well on either side of the ball.

But then they broke through, though at the expense of the equally woebegone Arizona Wildcats. In that 37-27 win, the Beavers jumped ahead 30-6 only to watch Arizona storm back, cutting the margin to three points. But instead of wilting the Beavers fought back in all three areas: the special teams pinned the Wildcats on their 5-yard line after a 63-yard punt, the defense got a stop and the offense scored an insurance touchdown on a fourth-down play from the Wildcats 2-yard line. Mannion completed 32 of 41 passes for 267 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

If Oregon State is going to bounce back in the second half, Mannion will have to continue to improve and make Riley look good. And the defense and running game are going to have to gain some traction.

Offensive MVP: WR Markus Wheaton. Wheaton leads the Beavers with 38 receptions for 444 yards and 88.8 yards receiving per game. He's also rushed eight times for 43 yards.

Defensive MVP: DE Scott Crichton. The redshirt freshman leads the Pac-12 with eight tackles for a loss. He's also got three sacks, two pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He ranks third on the team with 30 tackles.