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October 1, 2013Sean Mannion is the nation's top rated quarterback in four different statistical categories.
Brandon Cooks is the nation's number one receiver in two categories.
Four straight victories by the Beavers, including Saturday afternoon's 44-17 shellacking of Colorado, the highly productive Mannion-Cooks passing combination and the anticipative revival of the running game add up to bye week bliss for coach Mike Riley.
"I can tell you it's a long two weeks if you've lost the (last) game. It's much nicer to come in (to the bye week) after a win," Riley said Sunday night during his weekly teleconference with reporters. "This team is growing. I love that about them. They're good workers. They've learned some lessons already this year and have gone through some adversity whether it's injuries or that first game setback."
The Beavers next take the field in anger on Oct. 12 at Washington State, which is coming off a 55-17 trouncing at the hands of No. 5 Stanford in Seattle on Saturday night. The improving Cougars, though, are 3-2 in Mike Leach's second season as head coach and already claim Southern Cal as a victim, undoubtedly an outcome that accelerated Lane Kiffin's demise in Los Angeles.
With Mannion completing 27-of-52 passes for 414 yards (he's surpassed 350 passing yards in all five games this season) and a school record six touchdown passes, the Beavers dialed up a season high 542 yards in total offense against the overmatched Colorado defense.
"I think that's really good," Riley said of Mannion, who leads all quarterbacks nationally in total passing yards (2,018), passing yards per game (403.6), total offense (390.2 ypg) and points responsible for (130).
"The number one stat you have to keep in mind so you don't get mixed up in what you're trying to do is winning. You have to first look at what you need to continue to do to win and improve your team. The fact we are throwing the ball and those guys are being productive, that's an indicator that's all going pretty well. That's an important part of our game, for sure."
Even though Storm Woods remained sidelined with a concussion for the second straight game, Oregon State ran the ball 34 times for 120 yards, both season highs, against Colorado. Terron Ward led the way with 19 carries for 55 yards.
Sure, the per rush average doesn't stand out (3.5 yards), but Riley views the performance as an important first step since better defenses dominate OSU's second half schedule and the ability to run the football consistently and stay balanced offensively will be imperative.
"We made a little progress in the running game, that was actually good to see," Riley said. "It wasn't great, but it was better. Maybe we can build on that. We just have to be a little more consistent for me to think what we're doing is great. We take too many negative running plays that aren't getting four yards or so. That's not productive enough."
Oregon State's second leading rusher on Saturday was Cooks, who had five rushing attempts for 47 yards, mostly on fly sweeps, highlighted by a 23-yard run.
"The first time we used it as a decoy and one of our coaches noted that they weren't making much of an adjustment to the motion," Riley said. "When we called it later in the game and handed it off for the fly sweep, it was a really good looking play. It was wide open. It became a factor in the game, either faking or giving it off."
Woods could return for the Washington State game, along with Grant Enger, Tyler Anderson, Josh Mitchell and Gavin Andrews, Riley said.
"We are excited we've gotten to this point and won some games," Riley said. "We have a chance to have some additional linemen. We've had guys step in and we've still been able to win, which is very good. We should get stronger. (The bye week) is perfect timing for this team right now. We can slowly work some guys back into playing football and hopefully be stronger going into the next part of the season."
The outcome of Saturday's game at Reser Stadium - Oregon State's lone home appearance during a six-week stretch - was still in doubt at halftime when OSU led, 17-3, in rainy conditions.
"I thought we handled the weather pretty well," Riley said. "You know you're going to run into some at some point. You never know in Pullman. It might be snowing."
But the Beavers dominated the third quarter by scoring three touchdowns within span of 6:42 to take an insurmountable 38-3 lead into the final period in Colorado's first ever visit to Corvallis.
After Mannion was sacked and fumbled in the red zone with 4:14 left in the second quarter, the Beavers scored touchdowns on four of their next five possessions, so overcoming adversity was a key component of the game.
"I thought that was really big," Riley said.
Mannion was 9-of-14 passing for 146 yards and three touchdowns in the decisive third quarter as the OSU offense ran 25 plays, catalogued 10 first downs and controlled the ball for almost 11 minutes.
Mannion's six TD throws - two to Cooks - pushed his season total to 21 in 2013, tying for fourth-most in a single season at Oregon State. He has 52 career touchdown passes, tying him with Erik Wilhelm for third most in Beavers history.
Mannion and Cooks - first nationally in receiving yards (807) and receptions per game (10.4) - have now connected for 16 touchdown passes in their careers, second most in school history behind only Erik Wilhelm and Robb Thomas, who had 17.
Cooks is the only receiver in the country with greater than 700 receiving yards and the only one averaging more than 10 receptions per game.
"Isn't that neat. It's absolutely real and it's not an accident," said Riley, marveling over the chemistry between his quarterback and receiver. "They worked together all offseason. They throw every time they have a chance. They've both driven people."
-- Riley reported two significant injuries heading into the bye week - tight end Connor Hamlett will have a MRI on his bothersome knee on Monday and linebacker Joel Skotte has "significant turf toe" and could miss practice on Monday.
-- The Beavers will practice Monday through Thursday before taking a three-day bye week break over the weekend. OSU will begin preparations in earnest for Washington State on October 7, although they will take an early look at the Cougars this week.
-- Riley was pleased with true freshman offensive lineman Sean Harlow's performance against Colorado. "He's a battler and he played a pretty solid game, Riley said.
-- Caleb Smith's three-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter was the first score of his career.
-- Oregon State improved to 61-22 at Reser Stadium since 2000.
-- The Beavers had 17 passing first downs in the win, giving them a Pac-12 best 76 on the year, an average of 15.2 per game.
-- Riley on Washington State: "Beating SC down there was a great win for them. They're a much better team. I know they have a veteran defense and a veteran quarterback. . .Coach Leach has been a real good shot in the arm for Washington State and he appears to be a great fit for the conference and for Pullman. He's a fun guy to be around, for sure."
-- Riley on the firing of Kiffin early Sunday morning when the Trojans arrived back in Los Angeles following the embarrassing 62-41 loss at Arizona State in Tempe: "I was disappointed to hear that. I like Lane. It's been a tough situation with the probation. Even though it's USC, I wouldn't want to be playing with 15 scholarships. I know what that means to the depth of your team and your special teams."
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