Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE
Mike Riley and the Oregon State Beavers had been hanging on that razor's edge for weeks. They finally slipped off against Washington thanks in part to a poor performance by Sean Mannion.
The Oregon State Beavers had everything going. They had everything in line for a magical run to an undefeated season. They were winning games close and big, they won with offense and with defense, by grinding it out or airing it out, by putting up points or keeping them off the board. Everything was set for a miracle season.
But it all came apart in Seattle.
Oregon State has been hanging on the ledge of winning week-by-week. They've been handling their business, but not by much. They won games in every which way possible, but they weren't really distancing themselves from their competition. And after plenty of games where they out-executed their opponents to win the game, the Beavers finally played a game where they were the ones tripping over themselves.
There wasn't much to this loss. Sean Mannion threw four interceptions. One killed a Beaver drive in the red zone. Another was an arm-punt. The third killed a drive at midfield and would've been a Washington touchdown if not for a bad Washington penalty. The fourth set up the go-ahead Washington touchdown that forced Oregon State to play catch up the rest of the way.
That's about a 10-14 point swing. That's the difference between winning and losing.
After hitting all the right notes all season, Mike Riley probably waited too long in pulling Mannion for Cody Vaz. Vaz did lead Oregon State to a game-tying touchdown, and although he made some questionable decisions on the final Beaver drive (hung onto the football too long, didn't scramble out of the pocket), he probably would've avoided all the turnovers that swung the game Washington's way.
There were other issues. The Washington defense held down the Oregon State run game. Storm Woods could not get going. The Beaver run defense let Bishop Sankey get going, allowing Washington to lead early. And Riley probably should've used one of Oregon State's three timeouts to get the Beavers running the right way.
Really, nothing much has changed for Oregon State. The Beavers still have a favorable schedule to end the season. If Oregon wins out and goes to the title game, Oregon State is a potential Rose Bowl replacement. The Beavers still have a great shot to complete this dream season on the right foot.
But as their game on Saturday emphasized, they're living on that edge. They have to hang on with both hands this final month if they don't want a great season to cave in.
SB Nation Snippet
The good news is this loss had no impact on the Beavers' (6-1, 4-1) Rose Bowl chances. Win out and they will still have won the Pac-12 North, and earned home field advantage for the Pac-12 Championship Game, thanks to Arizona's assist by beating USC 39-36 this afternoon.
The bad news is that if Oregon St. repeats the self inflicted errors from tonight's performance against Arizona St. next week, or against Stanford or Oregon, the Beavers won't stand a chance in any of those games.