Christopher Wuensch

Four-Down Territory: Time To Put Oregon State Back In Rankings

Created on Oct. 13, 2013 5:09 PM EST

First Down

We are a nation that prides itself on giving second chances. It’s time for Oregon State’s redemption. It’s time to allow the Beavers back into the AP Top 25 rankings.

On Saturday night, Washington State fought tooth and nail and took a 24-18 lead with 4:50 remaining in the third quarter against the Beavers before Sean Mannion had seen enough. The junior quarterback then reeled off 35 straight points for a resounding 52-24 win.

Oregon State is now 5-1 with a five-game winning streak. More importantly, the Beavers are one of just three schools still undefeated in conference play and tied atop the Pac-12 North standings with the Oregon Ducks.

Mannion and company are averaging 42.2 points and 508.6 yards per game this season — good enough for 15th in the nation (fourth in the Pac-12).

It can be argued that the Beavers haven’t been tested, holding wins over perennial Pac-12 doormats Colorado, Utah and Washington State and non-conference lightweights Hawaii and San Diego State. Oregon State opponents are 17-19 on the season. However, the revival of teams such as Utah (4-2) and Washington State (4-3) shouldn’t be discounted.

The loss to Eastern Washington in Week 1 still stings. The Eagles, however, are 4-2 (2-0 Big Sky) this season and are ranked No. 6 in the FCS Coaches Poll.

Oregon State will face Pac-12 cellar-dwellers California next week. After that, the schedule gets brutal with games against Stanford, Southern California, Arizona State, Washington and Oregon.

To crack the bottom fifth of AP Top 25, they would have to supplant Oklahoma State (4-1), Florida (4-2), Northern Illinois (6-0), Auburn (5-1) or Wisconsin (4-2).

Second Down

Mannion for Heisman.

Every week the buzz around Marcus Mariota’s Heisman candidacy grows louder. But, if the Oregon quarterback deserves the hype, so too should his cross-state counterpart Mannion.

The Oregon State quarterback leads the nation in passing yards (2,511), passing yards per game (418.5) and points (154). His 25 passing touchdowns also are tops in the country. No other quarterback even has 20 scoring tosses.

Both Mariota and Mannion have their teams tied atop the Pac-12 North.

The two square off against one another Nov. 29 in the Civil War.

Mannion vs. Mariota:

Player Comp-Att-Int YDs TDs YPG
Sean Mannion 194-289-3 2,511 25 418.5
Marcus Mariota 100-165-0 1,724 17 287.3

Third Down

The Beavers defense deserves its share of the accolades. Oregon State broke open the game in the fourth quarter, racking up four touchdowns in just 12 plays. The scoring burst came in large part due to Rashaad Reynolds. The senior cornerback picked off Washington State’s Connor Halliday on successive drives to hand the ball back to the relentless Beavers offense. Reynolds also forced two fumbles, broke up a pass and had six tackles (five solo).

Oregon State will need more efforts such as these if they’re going to challenge for the Pac-12 North. They currently rank 70th in the nation in total defense, yielding 401.8 yards per game.

It is not a good sign that the Beavers leading tackler against Washington State was a cornerback — even if said cornerback is Steven Nelson. The junior had a game-high 9 tackles. He also picked off Halliday (one of four Beavers interceptions). That gives him five picks on the year and ties him with Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward for the national lead.

Fourth Down

Saturday’s Oregon State-Washington State contest was going to be won in the air. The Beavers and Cougars rank No. 11 and 12 respectively in the Pac-12 in rushing. They are not only last in the conference, but No. 122 and 123 in the nation for rushing — in other words, no one is worse.

Neither school has had a 100-yard rushing performance this season.

Washington State’s Jeremiah Laufasa had the Cougars best rushing game of the season against Oregon State. Laufasa rushed for 54 yards against the Beavers. In seven games, the Cougars' leading rushers have tallied a grand total of 53, 24, 26, 41, 23, 32 and 54 yards. They’ve had three different rushers lead the team at various points this season.

It wasn’t much better on the ground for Oregon State, as wide receiver Brandin Cooks led the team in rushing. Cooks, the nation’s leader in receiving yards (944 yards) and touchdowns (11), rushed the ball four times for 34 yards and a touchdown. Luckily for the Beavers, Cooks also hauled in 137 of Mannion’s 493 yards in the air and two more scores.

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