Column: Sean Mannion has arrived
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 17:10
Following Oregon State’s opening win over Wisconsin, I wrote a column expressing my skepticism over the significance of the victory.
Though I envisioned a solid, much-improved OSU team that could win six to eight games, I thought Wisconsin was overrated and that the Beavers would drop at least one of the two tough road games they just played at UCLA and at Arizona.
I knew quarterback Sean Mannion would put up stats, but I didn’t think he was capable of winning close games on the road yet.
But after Saturday’s game I’ve come to a conclusion. I was wrong — dead wrong.
On the surface, the incredible come-from-behind victory is just that — a good road win early in the season.
In reality, what transpired in the fourth quarter was much, much more.
When Mannion took over at the 25-yard line with 5:34 remaining in the fourth quarter — and proceeded to drive the length of the field, culminating in the clinching touchdown pass to tight end Connor Hamlett — he made a statement.
Sean Mannion and the Beavers have arrived.
The Sean Mannion of last year might have faltered late in that game. Maybe he would be flustered by the pass rush and throw an errant pass, take a drive-crippling sack, or try to force a throw into double coverage and get picked off.
But he didn’t do any of those things. Instead, he calmly marched down the field and won the game.
The definitive turning point came on the nine-yard touchdown. Mannion, who is known for his Joe Flacco like demeanor — never getting too high or too low throughout games and never reacting to touchdowns with more than the occasional fist pump — did something I’ve never seen.
He celebrated with emotion. He sprinted to Hamlett in jubilation, slapped him on the back, then proceeded to begin slapping high-fives and celebrating with the rest of his teammates and coaches on the sideline.
His reaction says it all. Sean Mannion has figured out how to win football games, which is something the rest of the Pac-12 should be very afraid of.
I don’t know if the Pleasanton, Calif. native will put up 400-plus yards and three touchdowns like he did Saturday every week.
But what’s scary is that he could.
Everything this team has done so far, and what has happened in previous years with Oregon State quarterbacks, says the last two weeks were not flukes.
It’s no secret that Mike Riley’s offense takes about a year for first-year quarterbacks to fully grasp, and that growing pains are to be expected.
Last year, Mannion experienced his fair share of that, but constantly showed glimpses of what we saw against Arizona.
Now factor in the number of weapons the sophomore quarterback has around him.
Markus Wheaton is as dependable a wide receiver there is in college football. Brandin “The Cookie Monster” Cooks is always the fastest man on the field and is as exciting as anyone in the open field, and Storm Woods has been explosive catching passes out of the backfield.
Kevin Cummings, Obum Gwacham, Connor Hamlett, Colby Prince, Malcolm Agnew and Terron Ward are all guys capable of making plays in the passing game as well.
The sky is the limit for this offense, and what might be the best sign of all for this Beaver offense is the emergence of the running game.
Woods was electric all night, pounding the ball with constant success, which opened up the play action passing game, allowing Mannion to throw the ball deep down the field to his speedy receivers.
While the Oregon State defense has come back down to earth after the dominating Wisconsin performance, the offense has completely taken off.
The Beavers have now played three quality opponents, and won three close games.
What’s even scarier than the skyscraper ceiling of this Oregon State offense?
The fact that OSU hasn’t put together a complete game as a team.
Against Wisconsin, it was the defense that took care of business, and in the last two contests it was Mannion and the offense that carried the Beavers.
If the two units can play to their ability, it’s no longer unrealistic to start thinking about roses.
Screw making a bowl game, the aspirations for this team and this season are now as high as their tremendous potential.
If you ask anyone within the program, they will tell you that this team has always believed.
The coaches believe, the players believe and now everybody believes.
Behind the right arm of Sean Mannion this team can contend in the Pac-12. Every game now looks winnable, the team is brimming with confidence and the one team that has seemed unbeatable in the last five years has to come to Reser Stadium for the regular season finale: the Ducks.
Last year’s 3-9 season suddenly feels like it never happened.