Beavers doomed by lack of run game

EUGENE — The Oregon State football team lived and died by its pass game in 2011.

On Saturday, the Beavers were buried.

OSU quarterback Sean Mannion struggled most of the game during No. 10 Oregon's 49-21 victory at Autzen Stadium.

The redshirt freshman, who completed two of his three touchdown passes in the game's final seven minutes, was sacked six times behind an offensive line that granted him few favors. He finished 27-for-44 with two interceptions.

The sputtering aerial attack spelled trouble, especially without a glimmer of a run game.

OSU managed just 16 net rushing yards, while the Ducks erupted for 365. Mannion compiled 299 yards in the air, but had just 87 at halftime, when Oregon led 28-7. The Beavers tallied 38 rushing yards at intermission compared to Oregon's 217.

Against a Duck attack that burnt strong once it warmed up, the Beavers needed but could not find their own offensive answers.

"I thought we made a lot of good plays defensively and hung in there for a long time, but with no response from us offensively and as a matter of fact going backwards offensively, it really hurt us to have a chance to set that game to a competitive mode," OSU head coach Mike Riley said.

Mannion's troubles started early when Michael Clay intercepted one of his pass attempts during the Beavers' first drive of the game. That pick set up Oregon's opening score, a 1-yard run by LaMichael James.

With 8:09 left in the first period, Kiko Alonso intercepted a Mannion attempt. Mannion was sacked by Terrell Turner later in the quarter and then by Dion Jordan in the second quarter, resulting in a loss of nine yards.

One of Mannion's only highlights in the first half was a 58-yard touchdown pass to Jovan Stevenson with 11:08 to go in the second quarter, which tied the game at 7 before the Ducks went on a big run.

"It was just a tough game," Mannion said. "We've just got to execute better and the thing is there's a lot of days until next year's first game so we'll take advantage of every one."

Turner sacked Mannion again — this time for a 10-yard loss — late in the third quarter as OSU tried desperately to string together a positive drive. Boseko Lokombo put the nail in the coffin a play later, dropping Mannion for a loss of five yards and forcing fourth-and-20.

Jordan crushed Mannion for a loss of nine with about 12:15 to go in the fourth quarter, forcing another Beaver punt.

"We came out and we wanted to make more plays," Lokombo said. "Last week (in a loss to USC) we weren't really getting to the quarterback. So that is one thing that led us to pressure (Mannion). The defense did good, the fans also helped — he got a little rattled — but it was a whole team effort."

Still, Mannion finished the year with 3,328 passing yards, good for the third most in program history for a single season. Derek Anderson has the school record with 4,058 in 2003; he also had 3,615 in 2004 and 3,313 in 2002.

Mannion found Kevin Cummings for 19-yard strike with 6:55 left in the game and connected with Brandin Cooks for a 23-yard TD pass with 2:46 to go.

"It was a little bit of a slow start but I think we did a good job of just keep chipping away and toward the end of the game moving the ball pretty well," Mannion said.


SUFFICE IT TO SAY, success on the ground has been a rare treat for the Beavers, who were inexperienced at the running back position and elsewhere. OSU played 23 first-year starters leading up to the loss, including running backs Malcolm Agnew (a true freshman who did not play Saturday), Jordan Jenkins, Stevenson and Terron Ward.

For Beaver fans with memories of Ken Simonton, Steven Jackson, Yvenson Bernard and Jacquizz Rodgers (who combined for 16,408 rushing yards in their careers), this year's squad was very different.

OSU did not have a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since 2006. The team averaged 93.4 rushing yards per game entering Saturday's contest, and had six games with fewer than 50 rushing yards.

"We will be spending a lot of time between now and spring ball talking about that very thing because it was a major factor in what we did this season, or what we didn't do," Riley said of his team's ground attack.


MISSING STARTERS hurt OSU this year. The team's projected starters at the beginning of the season were absent in 54 total games. Senior receiver James Rodgers was sidelined for a third time this fall on Saturday.

"I told (Rodgers) I did not think he looked good," Riley said, "and that I didn't think he should play. Then we talked to some trainers and then basically that was the reason."

Was the standout missed?

"That is hard to tell in a game especially like that," Riley said. "We would have needed a lot more than James. We would have needed a lot of stuff."

Riley said he appreciated how his players competed through the adversity this season though.

"I liked this team for the fact that they kept working," Riley said. "I think the fact that they certainly have improved and kept a good attitude, it's a tribute to the group of seniors that we have and it bodes well for the guys who are all coming back for this team, and we get started in January with the offseason program and then heading into spring practice. That is what we have to look forward to now."

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email

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