No one expected Oregon State to hang with No. 10 Oregon in its annual grudge match with the Ducks on Saturday.
In the end, those assumptions were justified.
Playing in one of the most intimidating road environments in the country, the Beavers — led by freshman quarterback Sean Mannion — didn’t look ready for the bright lights. Mannion threw two interceptions in the first quarter, and the Ducks jumped out to a 28-7 halftime lead behind a strong passing game and an unrelenting rushing attack.
“We didn’t execute the way we needed to or wanted to,” senior tight end Joe Halahuni said. “It kind of put a hamper on us the beginning of the game. We didn’t execute and we need to do better.”
In Oregon State’s previous game, a 38-21 win against Washington on Nov. 19, Mannion had one of the best performances of his short career, throwing for 339 yards and two touchdowns. Versus Oregon, however, two of Mannion’s first six attempts went for interceptions.
Mannion ended the game 27 of 44 for 299 yards with three touchdowns. Many of those yards were accumulated during meaningless drives late in the game. The effort gave him 11 consecutive games with 200 or more yards passing.
As expected, defensive coordinator Mark Banker was unable concoct a scheme to contain Oregon’s vaunted running game — the Ducks averaged 5.9 yards per carry on 62 attempts. However, Oregon also shredded Oregon State’s defense with a surprisingly efficient passing attack. Quarterback Darron Thomas finished 27-of-40 for 305 yards, including four touchdowns and no interceptions.
“They made more plays than we did,” said senior linebacker Cameron Collins. “They got a lot of their guys in space and we weren’t able to contain them.”
The majority of Thomas’ passes were aimed at the Ducks’ running backs and their pass-catching tight end, David Paulson. Paulson finished with eight catches for 105 yards, both career highs. Freshman sensation De’Anthony Thomas totaled 10 receptions for 86 yards and one score.
“Their ability to stretch you with their speed is very, very evident,” said head coach Mike Riley. “We knew (De’Anthony) Thomas, No. 6, is really a major factor in these games.”
One bright spot on defense for the Beavers was freshman defensive end Scott Crichton. The Tacoma, Wash., native finished with a career-high 12 tackles and a forced fumble and has performed well for the team all season.
“Scotty Crichton is a good football player,” Riley said. “He continued to grow all year. And I hope he’ll be a real stable factor in the formation of this defense as we go forward and as we improve.”
On offense, the Beavers divided their carries between several running backs, none of which were effective against the Ducks. Terron Ward had six carries for 31 yards, while Jovan Stevenson had five for eight yards. The dependable rushing attack that’s been a staple of Oregon State’s program for years was nowhere to be found. Riley said the lack of a running game is a major concern moving forward.
“We will be spending a lot of time between now and spring ball talking about that very thing,” Riley said. “Because it really was a major factor in what we did this season — or didn’t.”
Oregon State did a good job protecting Mannion early on but allowed Oregon’s aggressive pass rush to get to the quarterback multiple times in the second half. The Ducks finished with six sacks on the afternoon.
The Beavers were also without the services of their most explosive offensive weapon, redshirt senior receiver James Rodgers. Rodgers was held out of the game with an ankle injury suffered in the game against Washington. He ends his career as the program’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards.
“I told him (during pregame warm-ups) that I didn’t think he looked good and that I didn’t think he should play,” Riley said. “It’s obviously tough. It being his last game, it also wouldn’t have been any good to put him at risk.”
The Beavers finished their season at 3-9 and will miss out on a bowl berth for the second straight year. That being said, Riley still views this team as a persistent group that set a standard for younger players moving forward.
“I like this team for the fact that they kept working,” Riley said. “Again, it didn’t amount to much today, considering the result of the game.
“They’ve kept a good attitude. I think it’s a tribute to the group of seniors that we have and I think it bodes well to the group of guys we have that are off in the back of this team.”
The seniors on the team didn’t foresee such a gloomy ending to their careers, but are doing their best to accept the script.
“It’s not what we planned,” safety Lance Mitchell said. “We didn’t plan for the season to go like this, we didn’t plan to be hurt. But that’s how it happened. I think everything will work out for the good. We’ll move on from here.”