The Oregon State Beavers are surviving with Cody Vaz and utilizing their excellent defense behind playmakers like Jordan Poyer and Scott Crichton to win football games. Andy Wooldridge of Building The Dam and Jon Irwin of Northwest Sports Beat explain.
How well has Cody Vaz performed in relief of Sean Mannion?
Andy Wooldridge, Building The Dam: Very well, and certainly beyond any reasonable expectation. To me, there are 2 things that jump out. In both games, Cody directed long touchdown drives in the 4th quarter that put away games that were still in doubt. That's a big measure of any quarterback at any level. The other is 2 games with NO turnovers. Another big measure for any quarterback at any level.
Jon Irwin, Northwest Sports Beat: It's hard to peg, because both games have been on different ends of the spectrum. I'd say he's been serviceable, and better than expected. He played really well against BYU, and deserves big props for that win. But he was quiet during the second and third quarters of that game. Utah was a struggle, with some really sloppy passes and reads.
Nonetheless, he kept the ship afloat until Mannion could return, and he deserves respect for that.
If you would name the biggest factor outside of Mannion as to why the Beavers are undefeated, what would it be?
Andy Wooldridge, Building The Dam: The evolved defense, which is using creative secondary schemes, courtesy of new defensive backs coach Rod Perry, that have gotten more speed on the field, and the use of more depth on the defensive line. Both have a lot to do with a defense set up to better control the passing attack (nickel and even lots of dime packages) still being good against the run as well.
Jon Irwin, Northwest Sports Beat: That hard-nosed defense. Outside of Arizona, it's been the difference maker in all of Oregon State's games.
The guys are healthy, with an extra year of experience under their belt. They're also much more athletic than years past. That dime package they're running has given up some yards, but it's still doing what it's meant to do: confuse opposing quarterbacks. Jordan Poyer leads the Pac-12 in picks for a reason.
Having Scott Crichton—who leads the Pac-12 in sacks and tackles for loss—doesn't hurt either. Without him up front, that unit would fall apart.
Oh, and never forget the power of In-N-Out!