The Oregon State Beavers have been one of the surprise teams in the Pac 12 and in the country this season. Nobody expected this team to be 4-0 and ranked 10th in the AP Top 25, but they’ve defied expectations and look to have some staying power with a balanced offense and a stingy defense.
However, the Beavers will need to find a way to keep this roll going without one of its main components as sophomore quarterback Sean Mannion has undergone knee surgery, according to head coach Mike Riley, and will be sidelined indefinitely after suffering an injury against the Washington State Cougars on Saturday.
A year ago, Mannion was among the worst offenders in the country for throwing interceptions with 18 picks. This season, he’s turned things around and led a balanced Beaver attack which ranks fourth in the Pac 12, averaging nearly 460 yards per game, and is the second rated passing attack. Mannion, along with Arizona Wildcats quarterback Matt Scott, are the only quarterbacks in the conference to average more than 300 yards per game.
Through four games, Mannion is completing 63 percent of his passes for 1,358 yards with seven touchdowns. He built excellent chemistry with the receiving duo of Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton and was showing off excellent decision-making while making big plays down the field.
With Mannion sidelined, junior Cody Vaz will get the call, getting his first action of the season this Saturday against the BYU Cougars. Vaz last saw playing time in 2010 when he was used sparingly throughout the year, finishing the season 6-of-17 for 48 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
How well Vaz steps into the role of starting quarterback will be instrumental in determining the staying power of the Beavers, who haven’t been ranked in the top 10 this late in the season since 2000 when they finished the season at No. 4.
The Beavers will hope that the drop-off at quarterback is not severe enough to deter their storybook start to 2012. The running game will be asked to contribute more and the defense will be tasked with shutting opponents down while Vaz becomes acclimated under center.