CORVALLIS, Ore. — After the shock wore off, Oregon State fans were left with a lot to ponder after the Beavers’ 29-28 overtime loss to Sacramento State.
With freshman Sean Mannion replacing ineffective starter Ryan Katz and nearly leading the Beavers back to victory, is there now a quarterback competition brewing?
Is true freshman Malcolm Agnew, whose 223 yards rushing has him ranked No. 1 in the nation at the moment, as good as his first-game performance suggests?
And, most of all, how did Oregon State stumble so badly against the lower-division Hornets, a 27 1/2 point underdog?
“It’s a real shocker,” Beavers split end Markus Wheaton said. “They came to play.”
The Beavers struggled from the beginning, falling behind 21-6 before Mannion and Agnew finally got the offense on track.
Katz, a junior who started every game last season, threw an interception on Oregon State’s opening drive and completed 11 of 22 passes for 87 yards in the first half.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley has never had a quick hook, so eyebrows were raised when the Beavers started the second half with Mannion under center, especially since the 6-foot-5, 218-pound Pleasanton, Calif., native had been third on the depth chart behind Katz and sophomore Cody Vaz, who has suffered from back spasms.
Mannion was an efficient 8 of 12 for 143 yards, and he connected with Wheaton on a 69-yard strike that set up an Agnew touchdown to tie the score at 21.
Riley was mostly tight-lipped about the decision to replace Katz, saying only that the plan had been to play Mannion in any event.
As for the starter next week when the Beavers play at No. 11 Wisconsin, Riley gave no hints.
“There’s no need to evaluate that situation right now,” he said. “I don’t have anything to tell you.”
The Beavers second-half offense was mostly a steady diet of handoffs to Agnew, who carried the ball 33 times and ran for three touchdowns.
At 5-foot-8 and 188 pounds, the heir apparent at tailback has a similar build to predecessors Ken Simonton, Yvenson Bernard and Jacquizz Rodgers, and judging from one game, the same durability.
Agnew’s one mistake was a fourth-quarter fumble that almost had big implications, but was rendered moot when Sac State kicker Jason Diniz’s 28-yard go-ahead field goal attempt was blocked.
Several miscues hurt the Beavers.
Katz’s interception and Agnew’s fumble both ended promising Oregon State drives, and a missed 27-yard field goal by
Trevor Romaine would have won the game in regulation.
General poor play was an even greater factor.
On offense, the Beavers’ line was dysfunctional in the first half. Katz was sacked twice, had two passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage, and had to put his feet to work two more times when the pocket collapsed on him. Even Agnew had just 32 yards on seven carries before halftime.
Then there was the general lethargy and lack of urgency that seemed to take the Beavers three quarters to shake. Did they get caught looking ahead to No. 11 Wisconsin on Thursday?
“We vowed we would never say that in this program,” Riley said. “That’s a big-time cop out. We just got beat.”