One week ago, the Oregon State football team had just suffered a tough 31-27 loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Fans in Beaver Nation were stunned that OSU had given up 14 fourth-quarter points and walked out of the Alamodome with an excruciating loss to the Longhorns.

Many blamed coach Mike Riley (what’s new, I know).

They wanted to know why Riley left quarterback Cody Vaz, who hurt the same previously injured ankle that caused him to miss two games late in the season, in the game when Sean Mannion was healthy and ready to go on the bench.

Vaz struggled early with an interception and a fumble that helped Texas keep the game close when the Beavers’ defense was stifling the Longhorns and had them on the ropes.

It wasn’t the first time this season Riley was criticized for sticking with his starter too long.

It happened first at Washington, when Mannion was making his first start following a two-game absence to have minor knee surgery.

Vaz had played well with Mannion sidelined, winning at BYU and at home against Utah.

But Riley went back to Mannion, who never appeared comfortable on that cold, rainy night at CenturyLink Field.

Finally, after Mannion’s fourth interception that helped set the Huskies up to take a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter, Riley turned to Vaz.

All Vaz did was lead the Beavers to a tying touchdown before the Huskies drove for a game-winning field goal.

Fans were in an uproar as to why Riley didn’t make the move to Vaz sooner.

Had he, they say, the Beavers would have won.

Many of those fans were in the same uproar last week when Riley stuck with Vaz the entire game, save for the relief appearance and five handoffs Mannion had when Vaz left to have his ankle retaped.

It’s been interesting the way Riley has handled the quarterback position the past two seasons.

And, for some, a bit alarming.

It began when Riley pulled Ryan Katz, the starter the previous season, at halftime of the 2011 season opener.

We all remember that game: The Beavers were down 14-3 at the half to Football Championship Subdivision opponent Sacramento State.

Instead of allowing Katz an opportunity to make some adjustments, Riley sent Mannion in for the second half.

Riley claimed after the game the plan all along was to give Mannion some playing time. It makes sense, as one would have thought the game would have been out of hand at some point.

The next week at Wisconsin, Katz started, played the first two snaps, was replaced by Mannion, then saw a couple more snaps and that was it: His OSU career was essentially over.

It was Mannion’s team from that moment.

And despite a 3-9 campaign, Mannion gained valuable experience — and leadership — and was part of a group that kept the players motivated throughout the offseason and a major reason the Beavers finished 9-4 this season.

So what now?

Who will be chosen to start in 2013?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Maybe, neither quarterback has done enough to sell the staff that he is the man to lead the Beavers.

Had Mannion not gotten hurt, who knows how the season would have turned out. Maybe the Beavers are in the same position, win-loss wise that is.

They would certainly have stability at the most crucial position on a football team.

Instead, the Beavers enter the offseason with a major question mark.

And, quite possibly, confusion amongst the players as to who their leader should be over the next three-plus months until spring practice begins in April.

The Beavers must find their starting quarterback by the time spring practice ends.

Then they need to stick with him.

Steve Gress is the sports editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times. He can be reached at

Sports editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

(4) comments


Offensive Coordinator Danny Langsdorf was relieved of calling the plays on offense this year. He is also the QBs coach. It would be interesting to hear more of his duties in that regard. I think both Cody and Sean are very good quarterbacks whom are not being given the best instruction, or allowed to utilize their individual talents. Why do our QBs take so long to develop when other schools (Stanford) are playing young men who are having success?. MB.

This one is simple.....OSU has quarterback issues because of the wishy-washy coaching from Danny and Mike. Sure, the "turn a round" year was just fine....but it's only a turn a round year because last year was so difficult. OSU has the talent and has had the talent to compete....I do not buy into the talk that the folks down the road in Eugene have better talent. The difference at the college level between players is minimal....this is a coaching issue....and it's been a coaching issue for some time now. Sure, Mike is a "nice guy".....we all know his character is outstanding....and many of his players go on to become great citizens in large part due to the great academic support all OSU students get... and we also know this is the most important part...the graduation rate....but face it Dennis won the big games. The Beavs under Mike have flopped on the national stage quite a few times and it's time for a change in football, not academic strategy.


I watched the Alamo Bowl again (replayed on ESPNU). Here is what I saw: (1) Vaz was not good from the very start. He locked onto receivers and threw the ball to them just because they were the primary receivers. Example A: remember he threw the ball right to a defender for his first interception? Example B: Remember when he threw the ball over the middle in to a Beav that was double teamed and it bounced off a defender's shoulder?. (2) Vaz was not able to adjust later in the game. He saw the pass rush coming but could not check it down in time to Ward, or even throw it away. (3) When Riley wanted to pass against the Horns good pass rush, he should have called shorter, quicker passes. Vaz was not in the shotgun position for several passes in the fourth quarter. (4) the Beavs played pretty well for the first three quarters. (5) I blame the coaches play calling, and Vaz's nervousness more than the offensive linemen.
Steve, we would appreciate it if you could dig deeper and give us answers as to what will happen to the QB position. Do an insider blog post on which players like Mannion better and why - and the same goes for Vaz. All you did on this blog post was a repeat of Cliff's QB story right after the bowl game. We need you to visit with players and coaches to give us more.
FUN FACT FOR NICKY: Dennis Erickson went 5-6 in 2001, the year after he took them to the Fiesta Bowl. They did not go to a bowl game and were ranked 7th in the Pac-10.


The defense improved when Banker was relieved of some of his coaching load. He also got looks from other schools as head coach and assistant. Maybe time to, (if not replace Langsdorf entirely, who does not seem so pursued as a coach), let him focus on OC or QB coach, and bring in some fresh blood to help out. Offense improved when Riley took over playcalling, for example.
Speaking of, what happened to the wildcat, or even halfback passes, razzle dazzle, not even a shovel pass as I recall. Maybe the O needs to open up more, add deception. Especially with immobile QBs, we need everything else. Or maybe it's just execution of what's already there. Just sayin', I ain't no coach.
Beavs could be primed for breakout season next year, but maybe not if they don't evolve a little.

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