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Know Your Enemy: Previewing the Oregon State Offense

Sean Mannion and Brandon Cooks could provide the stiffest challenge yet for the Bears' depleted secondary. Can Cal find a way to stop the nation's most productive quarterback and receiver?

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

"Never do any enemy a small injury for they are like a snake which is half beaten and it will strike back the first chance it gets" - Niccolo Machiavelli

The Oregon State offense is painfully one-dimensional right now. A wave of injuries throughout the offensive line has hampered the Beavers' running game. As a result, Sean Mannion has been forced to lead the offense singlehandedly. They have since developed the most productive passing game in the nation, by a large margin. The injuries at offensive line were merely temporary, however, and the unit is approaching full strength. When they return to their 2012 form, watch out. As soon as this team gets a running game to balance out Sean Mannion's out-of-his-mind performances, this team could challenge for the second spot in the Pac-12 North. As is their custom, the Beavers are steadily improving after an early season lull and they will put all the pieces together very soon. Will the offense find balance this weekend? Pray to Oski that it takes another week for the Beavers to restore their running game.


We've been fortunate so far this season because most of the offenses we've played have been analyzed all over the internet. The internet has been eager to break down offenses like Oregon's and Washington State's. Oregon State's offense, however, has been given little attention. Perhaps because it's a pro-style offense. Perhaps because it isn't full of household names. Whatever the reason, you'll have to rely solely on the good ol' editorial integrity of CGB this week. Liffey Bear has already analyzed the Beaver offense from last week's Washington State game. Today I'll use some plays from the Colorado game to illustrate why our pass defense must be vigilant and expect a pass on every single play.

1. This looks like it could be a run

When first glancing at the Beavers' offensive statistics, it looks like they do not run the ball very much. Let's take a look at some plays that look like they could be runs. Have a look at this formation:


Here the Beavers have only two wide receivers, a tight end on the right side of the line, and a tight end/fullback just behind the other TE. This is probably a run, right?


Yeah, it's definitely a run. Look at Mannion as he prepares to hand off the ball. Also, see how Brandon Cooks (top of the screen) is double covered. There's no way Mannion will try to pass to him.


Oh. Look at that. He threads the ball into double coverage and directly into Cooks' hands. Well, I guess that wasn't a run. Who needs to run when you have a QB who is that accurate?

2. This also looks like it could be a run

Now this looks like a run. We have 1 WR, 2 TEs on the right side of the line, and the RB and fullback in an offset I-formation. This looks like a good old fashioned power run from the pro offense.


Mannion is even dropping back to hand off to the RB. This must be a run, right?


Nope. It's another pass. From bottom to top, we have a WR running a crossing pattern in the back of the end zone, a RB running a curl route just inside the end zone, the inner TE running another crossing pattern, and the outer TE (circled) who blocks a defender before releasing and running into the end zone. Keep an eye on that circled TE in the next image.

The challenge here for the defense is picking up all these receivers. What happens next should be no surprise:


Colorado loses tight end Caleb Smith, who is wide open for a touchdown reception from Sean Mannion. Who needs to run when you can sneak a TE into the end zone for an easy TD?

3. This HAS to be a run

Just like last time, we have one WR on the field side and two TEs on the boundary side of the line (towards the top of the screen). Instead of a FB, however, we have a WR running behind the line. This looks like it must be one of OSU's signature fly sweeps.


Nope! It's a screen! Now that the sweeping WR has pulled the defense towards the top of the field, the RB Terron Ward has plenty of room to run the screen. In fact, all he needs is a block from the lineman at the nose of that unfortunate new beaver logo.


He gets that block and is sprung free for a huge gain.


Some nifty footwork brings a safety to the ground.


And Ward turns a simple screen into a 50-yard touchdown.


Who needs to run when your RBs can do just as much damage with the passing game?

4. Surely this must be a run

We're back to the 22-player personnel (2 tight ends, 2 running backs). Prior to the snap, a TE moves from the right side of the line to the left side. If this were Andy Ludwig's offense, there is a 100% chance this is a run to the left. Will Mike Riley run the ball?


This time I'll spoil the result before moving to the next frame. No, OSU will once again pass from a seemingly run-focused formation.


From top to bottom, the WR runs a crossing route, as does the TE on the left side of the line. The circled TE on the right... well, he has quite the journey in this play. Keep an eye on him.

This play is doomed to failure. First our focal TE stumbles off the line. Meanwhile the WR and left TE are about to run into each other.


Now our focal TE runs into the ref.


Amid this chaos, the defense loses our TE Caleb Smith, who is now wide open for a TD reception.


Who needs to run when your pass protection lasts long enough to turn a broken play into an easy touchdown?

5. In which the pattern is finally broken...?

Now we have a 21-player personnel set (2 TEs, 1 RB) and 2 WRs split wide. After diagramming 4 pass plays that looked like run plays at the outset, I bet you think I've turned the tables and will have a run play from a formation that suggests pass...


Of course I'm not going to do that. This is Oregon State. They don't run the ball. Instead, I will highlight yet another tight end touchdown (I won't blame you for closing this tab, shutting off your computer, and throwing it out the window).

From top to bottom we have a WR running a crossing route in the back of the end zone, a TE who briefly blocks the DE before releasing down field, and a WR running a slant route. Keep an eye on the circled TE.


The defense finally keeps track of the TE this time! Well, until he muscles right past that poor linebacker.


This is too easy for Sean Mannion, who throws a TD pass to Connor Hamlett. Who needs to run the ball when your TE will bulldoze every defender in his way?

At the beginning of this section I said it looks like the Beavers do not run the ball very much. This is because...the Beavers do not run the ball very much. The Beavers only run the ball 27 times per game and are 120th in the nation in rushing attempts. When you take out sacks and kneels, they run the ball less than half as often as they pass. Even when it looks like Oregon State will run the ball, they'll probably pass. With a QB like Sean Mannion, a receiver like Brandin Cooks, and a stable of talented tight ends, who needs to run the ball?

If Cal hopes to contain this offense, they must keep track of potential receivers on every single play. As we have seen, these tight ends are very easy to lose, especially when they initially look like they're staying in for pass protection. These are some BIG tight ends too. The Bears must be sound and physical with their tackles. Arm tackles will not get the job done. Further demanding discipline from the Cal D is the frequency of OSU's playaction. Several of these plays had fake handoffs to get the defense to bite on the run. But what have we learned so far? Say it with me: "OREGON STATE WILL NOT RUN THE BALL" Sure, they'll line up like they want to run the ball. Sometimes they'll even run the ball, but they'll only pick up about 2 or 3 yards. That's not a real run.

Let's meet Mike Riley's merry band of Beavers.


* Denotes returning starter


*Sean Mannion: 6' 5", 220 lbs, Junior

We're facing Sean Mannion at the worst possible time. Last year he had 2,446 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) on 64.5% completions, with 15 TDs and 13 interceptions. Other than a high interception rate, those stats are pretty good. With some better ball management, he could keep doing the same thing and be a pretty good QB. That hasn't happened.

Do you remember the Sean Mannion who passed for 325 yards on 70.6% completions and 4 TDs against Cal last season? He's been doing that against everyone this season. In fact, he set a school record last weekend with 493 passing yards against Washington State. He is quietly having an incredible season. If Mannion keeps this up all season, he's going to be a first-round draft pick this spring. He has everything a pro-style offense wants: excellent accuracy, great reads, solid frame. He isn't very mobile, but he is very good at delivering the ball to his receivers even with defenders in his face. Against San Diego State, he briefly looked rattled when the blitz-heavy D was pressuring him. Instead of panicking and making mistakes, he settled in and started picking apart the D before the pressure could reach him. Cal's best bet is try to flush him from the pocket or sack him before he finishes his five- or seven-step drops.

Simply put, Sean Mannion is an excellent quarterback. Be afraid.


  • Most productive QB in the nation
  • Accurate, efficient, intelligent
  • Singlehandedly leads the OSU offense
  • Unflappable under pressure


  • Limited mobility
  • Nearest In n Out is about 25 minutes away

Running Back

*(RB) Storm Woods: 6' 0", 205 lbs., So.

(RB) Terron Ward: 5' 7", 202 lbs., Jr.

*(FB) Tyler Anderson: 5' 10", 223 lbs., Jr.

The Oregon State running backs are suffering from a surprising lack of production this season. Storm Woods ran for 940 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. If he continues at his current rate, he won't even gain half as many yards this season. While his number of carries is down this season, his yards per carry has plummeted from 4.90 to 2.98. His fellow RB Terron Ward has suffered similarly. In 2012 he ran for 415 yards on 6.10 yards per carry but he only has 151 yards on a disappointing 2.75 yards per carry this season. The running game is even worse than it was during that horrific 2011 season. This certainly isn't due to a lack of talent.

Storm Woods is a fast, physical back who excels in short yardage situations on third downs and in the red zone. With 38 receptions for 313 yards last season, he's a capable receiver. Terron Ward is similar in that he's a fairly powerful runner. He's more than capable of shouldering the load, as he ran for 146 yards on 19 carries as starter against ASU last season. He enjoyed the best game of his career against Cal last year when he tallied 128 yards and 2 TDs. Their talents cannot make up for the attrition at offensive line. Once a promising unit full of starters, the OSU O-line is a patchwork unit that hasn't done any favors for the running backs.

Starting fullback Tyler Anderson may see a few carries on Saturday. If he does, watch out. On 17 career carries, he has tallied 3 TDs and 9 first downs. He gets the job done on short runs.


  • Talented and experienced
  • Running behind a veteran O-line (when healthy)
  • Reasonable productivity in 2012


  • Offensive line injuries, struggles have crippled the running game
  • The fries will already be cold by the time they arrive at Memorial Stadium

Wide Receiver

(Split end) Richard Mullaney: 6' 3", 194 lbs., So.

*(Flanker) Brandin Cooks: 5' 10", 186 lbs., Jr.

*(Slotback) Kevin Cummings: 6' 1", 184 lbs., Sr.

Brandin Cooks is the star of the Beavers' receiving corps. He leads the nation in receiving yards per game, receiving touchdowns, and receptions per game. He has more than twice as many receptions as Richard Mullaney, the Beavers' second-leading receiver. Cooks runs great routes and has great hands . Despite a smaller frame, he has an excellent vertical leap that makes him a great red zone target. He was the team's second-leading receiver last season with 1,151 yards and 5 TDs. He earned a Pac-12 honorable mention and was a Biletnikoff Award finalist. Cooks and Mannion are the most productive QB-WR pair in the nation. Keeping him contained will be an extraordinarily difficult task for the Bears.

Richard Mullaney is replacing the new Pittsburgh Steeler Markus Wheaton. Despite playing second fiddle to Cooks, he is on pace for a 1000-yard season. He may be slightly hobbled with a case of turf toe, but he is probable for Saturday's game.

Kevin Cummings has been a reliable target and has already eclipsed his 208 yards and 1 TD from last season.


  • Brandin Cooks
  • Incredible productivity
  • Great depth
  • Brandin Cooks


  • No one has elite speed
  • Only one Brandin Cooks
  • The shake melted too

Tight End

*Connor Hamlett: 6' 7", 263 lbs., Jr.

Caleb Smith: 6' 6", 260 lbs., So.

Connor Hamlett had the best game of his career against Cal last year (didn't everyone?) with 80 yards and a touchdown. He will not get an encore performance this week, as he is out with a knee injury. The reliable tight end is second on the team with 4 TD receptions. In his place we will see a combination of Kellen Clute and Tyler Perry. No, not that Tyler Perry. No one will be dressing up in wigs and frumpy dresses this week. Despite suffering an injury during practice this week, Caleb Smith should play. Clute and Smith have proven themselves, as each has 2 TDs this season.


  • Great names
  • Reliable red zone targets
  • Injuries have created a sudden lack of depth
  • Those delightfully crisp buns will get soft on the drive to Memorial Stadium

Offensive Line

*(LT) Michael Philipp: 6' 4", 328 lbs., Sr.

*(LG) Josh Andrews: 6' 3", 304 lbs., Sr.

*(C) Isaac Seumalo: 6' 3", 305 lbs., So.

*(RG) Grant Enger: 6' 6", 291 lbs., Sr.

(RT) Gavin Andrews: 6' 5", 325 lbs., So.

At the start of the season, this was an extremely promising unit. Injuries decimated the line in September, but it's nearly back to full strength. Starting right tackle Grant Enger tore his MCL, starting right guard Gavin Andrews missed time with mononucleosis, and backup right guard Roman Sapolu injured his foot. This forced center Isaac Seumalo to move over to right tackle while sophomore Josh Mitchell filled in at center. Redshirt freshman Grant Bays filled in at right guard. Further exacerbating the situation, several of the line's backups have been injured. Against Utah they were down to a mere two backups for the entire line, a walk-on and a true freshman (whose redshirt the coaches want to avoid burning). Enger and Andrews have been available to play since last weekend and should be able to play against Cal.

Fortunately for OSU, the left side of the line has remained healthy. The offensive line is anchored on the left side by Michael Philipp and Josh Andrews. Left tackle Philipp has more than 40 starts in his career and is living up to the promise of his freshman year, when he earned several freshman All-America honors. He struggled with injuries in 2010 and 2011, but bounced back last year and is enjoying a solid senior season. Andrews is a two year starter, but there is a slight chance he might not play Saturday due to a quad contusion.

Projected starting center Isaac Seumalo won the starting job in his first day of a true freshman. Despite his youth and inexperience, he's on the watch list for the Rimington Award, awarded annually to the nation's top center. He is also a candidate for the Outland Award, given to the nation's best interior lineman.

The right side of the line was held down by 2012 All-Pac-12 honorable mention guard Grant Enger and tackle Gavin Andrews. Enger's injury was a huge loss for the Beavs. Fortunately for them, he should play on Saturday.

Despite the injury woes, the line's pass protection has improved substantially this year. They allow only 1.17 sacks per game, fewer than half as many as the 2.54 per game they surrendered last year. The number of tackles for loss per game is identical to last year's mark, however (6.17). Run blocking has not withstood the injuries...

A strength of the team last season, the running game has nearly disappeared this season. Run blocking has suffered due to the injuries. The lineman have struggled to get low and use leverage in their blocks. Instead, they have been blocking high and failing to finish their blocks. As a result, the running backs haven't had many running lanes. Until the injured players get back in playing shape, the running game should continue to struggle.


  • Pass protection has improved
  • Great line until injuries piled up


  • Injuries everywhere
  • Poor run blocking
  • Does the Oakland In n Out even have a delivery truck?

And now, the numbers.


Abandon hope all ye who read this section.

Individual Statistics (2013)


  • Sean Mannion: 2,511 yards, 67.1% completions, 8.7 yards per passing attempt, 25 TDs - 3 interceptions, 166.59 efficiency rating
I don't know which is more impressive, that Sean Mannion leads the nation with 418.5 yards per game or that he has an incredible 25-3 touchdown to interception ratio. Cal has faced several excellent quarterbacks this season and Mannion is easily #1 or #2.


  • Storm Woods: 170 yards, 2.98 yards per carry, 4 TDs
  • Terron Ward: 151 yards, 2.75 yards per carry, 2 TDs
  • Brandin Cooks: 106 yards, 6.63 yards per carry, 1 TD
Other than the occasional fly sweep to Brandin Cooks, the Oregon State offense has struggled to run the ball.


  • Brandin Cooks: 944 yards, 11 TDs
  • Richard Mullaney: 521 yards, 2 TDs
  • Storm Woods: 227 yards, 0 TDs
  • Connor Hamlett: 198 yards, 4 TDs
Some players would be happy to log 944 yards and 11 TDs all year. Cooks has done that in half a season. He is a serious candidate to break Trevor Insley's NCAA record of 2,060 single-season receiving yards. Mullaney's numbers do not look as impressive in comparison, but he is on pace to tally more than 1,100 yards. Running back Storm Woods is a reliable receiver and Hamlett is a TD threat in the end zone.

Team Statistics (2013)


  • 42.3 points per game (11th)
  • 506.8 yards per game (15th)


  • 433.2 yards per game (1st)
  • 25 TDs (1st)
  • 163.73 efficiency rating (11th)
  • 8.6 yards per passing attempt (18th)
This is going to be one of the toughest challenges of the season for the defensive backs (I'm getting tired of saying this every week).


  • 73.67 yards per game (124th)
  • 2.65 yards per carry (123rd)
Although our rushing defense has improved over the past few weeks, we won't have much of a chance to show it on Saturday. Oregon State only runs the ball 27.8 times per game (120th).


  • 44.71% third down conversions (47th)
  • 66.67% fourth down conversions (19th)
  • 74.36% red zone TD conversions (14th)
What's particularly horrifying about that red zone conversion stat is that they're second in the nation with 39 appearances in the red zone. That's as many as their fellow statesmen in Eugene.

Ball Management

  • 7 turnovers (24th)
  • 33:23.83 average time of possession (12th)
  • 25.72 seconds per play (Pace: lethargic)
This is the worst kind of offense to face when you have a deficit. They take excellent care of the ball and hold onto the ball for a long time. If we fall behind by multiple scores in the second half, it will be very difficult to come back.

Negative Yardage

  • 1.17 sacks allowed per game (23rd)
  • 6.17 tackles for loss allowed per game (79th)
  • 54.7 penalty yards per game (78th)
Despite throwing 50.2 times per game, the Beavers only allow 1.17 sacks per game. That's an impressive 43 throws per sack. Cal, by contrast, allows a sack for every 16 attempts.


This isn't going to be easy. Oregon State boasts the most productive passing game in the nation. Sean Mannion is an accurate, efficient quarterback who can deliver a ball through the smallest of windows. His top receiver Brandin Cooks leads the nation in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. To stop the Oregon State offense, Cal needs to flush Mannion from the pocket, cover the tight ends, and hope that Brandin Cooks gets lost in the bowels of Memorial Stadium. Once again, the Cal defense will have its hands full with another of the nation's best offenses.