This Eastern Washington team was no secret to Oregon State.
The Beavers were all too aware of the threat the Eagles posed on the football field. OSU players knew all about how EWU took Washington and Washington State to the wire in previous seasons and won the 2010 FCS national title.
The Beavers weren’t prepared for Vernon Adams.
Adams, a 6-foot, 190-pound quarterback for the Eagles, slashed through the OSU defense for 518 total yards. The Beavers simply could not keep up in a wild 49-46 loss on a warm Saturday afternoon at Reser Stadium.
Adams not only kept the Beavers off-balance with his running ability, but he was able to find his open receiver play after play. He threw for four scores and ran for two more, including the game-winner with 18 seconds left. Trevor Romaine pushed a 52-yard field goal try to the right and the Eagles celebrated their win.
“I really think (Adams is) a good player,” OSU coach Mike Riley said. “His quickness was outstanding. He just froze our guys and eluded them, sometimes two or three at a time. I thought he was a really good player and kept things alive and made some throws on the run. And they made some of those catches that, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ ”
Despite Adams, the Beavers (0-1) had their chances thanks to a big performance by quarterback Sean Mannion, who completed 37 of 43 passes for 422 yards and three touchdowns and led a second-half charge that resulted in a 46-43 lead with 4:50 to go.
“The way that game was going was who had that ball last was going to win the game,” Riley said. “I only think we had one stop in the game and I think that was when (Adams) wasn’t playing.”
Mannion connected with Brandin Cooks 13 times for 196 yards and two scores. Both touchdowns came in the second half as the Beavers overcame a 29-17 halftime deficit.
It was evident from the start that the Eagles were going to give the Beavers fits.
Adams was making plays and finding his receivers. Too often those receivers were wide open. OSU’s defensive backs struggled in coverage and the Eagles took full advantage.
“They did everything we had seen on film for the most part,” OSU cornerback Rashaad Reynolds said. “Their quarterback made some great plays running and made some nice passes. They did everything we knew they were going to do.
“It’s pretty tough when you’ve got a guy that can extend a play, so you’ve got to cover for longer than normal, but that’s no excuse. That’s what we’re here for as far as defensive guys. As a unit we’ve got to step up.”
Poor tackling also plagued the Beavers. Ball carriers too often slipped through grasping hands for extra yards.
“It was sloppy out there,” Reynolds said.
The Beavers were not pointing fingers after the game.
“There was none of that,” Mannion said. “No one played a perfect game. The offense, especially. We’ve got our defense’s back 100 times out of 100 and they would do the same for us.”
The Eagles built the 12-point halftime lead, slicing through the OSU defenders for 376 total yards.
The Beavers responded to EWU’s opening drive for a field goal by going 78 yards in eight plays, sparked by a 27-yard screen pass to Storm Woods and a horse collar penalty on a pass to Cooks. Mannion eventually hit tight end Connor Hamlett with a one-yard touchdown throw.
Kevin Miller hit another field goal for the Eagles, who then took the lead on a 24-yard strike from Adams to Ashton Clark.
A drive fizzled in the red zone and Romaine knocked through a 33-yard field goal. The Eagles struck quickly, with Adams hooking up with Cooper Kupp for a 31-yard score.
Mannion found Cooks for 48 of his 119 first-half receiving yards and Woods scored from the 2 to make it 20-17 EWU. It seemed to be a big drive for OSU.
Instead of taking control, the Beavers faltered. Adams spotted Kupp roaming in the clear and hit him with a 48-yard scoring pass with 1 minute, 19 seconds to go in the half. The Beavers sputtered on their possession and the Eagles made it 29-17 at the break on Miller’s third field goal of the half.