Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Season grade: Oregon State
By ESPN.com staff
The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.
Up next: Oregon State
Offense: The Beavers, who welcomed back seven starters from 2010, ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in total offense (373.7 yards per game) and 11th in scoring (21.8 points per game). Notably a year after running back Jacquizz Rodgers bolted early for the NFL, the Beavers ranked last in the conference -- and 118th in the nation -- in rushing with 86.9 ypg. That, of course, put a lot of pressure on redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Mannion, who ranked 10th in the conference in passing efficiency with a conference-high 18 interceptions and 16 TDs. The Beavers' 31 total turnovers was the most in the conference by seven, and they were by far the worst team in the red zone. Of course, Mannion was the story of the season. He was expected to be signalling in plays from the sidelines to Ryan Katz, but he -- in a surprise to many -- unseated Katz before the season was two games old. Why? He had consistently outplayed Katz in practice, which seems like a good enough reason, only not when a program accustomed to going to bowl games every year goes 3-9. Mannion flashed ability, but the outcome on offense was poor. Further, no Beaver earned All-Pac-12 first- or second-team honors on offense.
Defense: The Beavers ranked seventh in the Pac-12 in total defense (411.3 ypg) and scoring defense (30.8). Those numbers actually are surprising in a positive way considering the Beavers ranked last in the Pac-12 and 1o1st in the nation in run defense (196.8 ypg) and were ninth in the conference and 104th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. The defense forced 23 turnovers, which was tied for fourth in the conference, and that helped a bunch. Other bright spots: Freshman defensive end Scott Crichton ranked second in the conference with 14.5 tackles for a loss, and junior cornerback Jordan Poyer earned second-team All-Conference honors. This unit welcomed back just four starters from 2010's mediocre unit, and the only one of them to start (almost) every game in 2011 was safety Lance Mitchell. An argument could be made that, based on what coordinator Mark Banker had to work with, the unit performed at least adequately.
Overall: In the preseason, Oregon State had a lot of questions, and coach Mike Riley was the first to point that out. There were, particularly, concerns on both lines, but the defense seemed far more worrisome, considering it lost defensive tackle Stephen Paea, defensive end Gabe Miller and cornerback James Dockery from a unit that was below average in 2010. In August, few thought quarterback would generate the most controversy, and that the offense would end being perhaps the worst during Riley's tenure. Still, though the Beavers looked potentially down in 2010 -- 6-6 down or perhaps 5-7 down -- few foresaw a 3-9 record that included a loss to Sacramento State, an FCS team. In other words, it was a bad year in Corvallis, one that has Riley facing a critical year in 2012.