How about a glass of Beaver Juice?


PHOENIX — Unlike Desmond Howard, I’m drinking the Beaver Juice right now.

It took three games, two victories over top-20 teams and a pair of Pac-12 road wins to convince me that Oregon State is for real.

Saturday night’s rollicking 38-35 triumph at Arizona punctuated the best start in Mike Riley’s 12 years as OSU’s head coach.

The offense was spectacular save for a few sputters early in the second half. The 613 yards total offense was the most by an Oregon State team since a 654-yard display against Arizona in 2005.

Sean Mannion’s 443 yards passing ranks fifth on the school’s single-game list. Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks have me believing they’re the best 1-2 receiver punch in the Pac-12. Storm Woods looks like the real deal at tailback.

Mike Riley’s play-calling against UCLA and Arizona may have been as well as he’s ever done in that department, but it’s much easier to do when your team can run. The Beavers were pretty good against the Bruins, but the run-blocking against Arizona was the best I’ve seen by an OSU offensive line since Jacquizz Rodgers’ sophomore season in 2009. OSU’s front five of center Isaac Seumalo, guards Grant Enger and Josh Andrews and tackles Michael Philipp and Colin Kelly tore open gaping holes for Woods to dart through.

“The line was perfect,” said Woods before scaling back his praise just a little. “There were little things here and there, but we’re going up.

“They surprised me tonight, especially Seumalo. That kid’s a true freshman, but he handles his business. Because of him, there were a lot of cutbacks open. He’s a beast, man — a monster.”

Oregon State’s defense was terrific for a quarter and a half. Then Arizona’s offense caught on to what would work — eschewing the running game, throwing screen passes and utilizing quarterback Matt Scott’s mobility and ability to throw on the run.

“He’s real good,” said Oregon State cornerback Rashaad Reynolds, who was also real good Saturday night with a team-high 10 tackles, five pass break-ups and the game-saving interception. The Wildcats “have a lot of playmakers, and they get their playmakers the ball in space.”

I still think Oregon State’s defense is pretty good, especially when it matters most. Arizona was 4 for 10 on third-down conversions, leaving OSU ranked second nationally with opponents converting only 8 of 39 opportunities this season. The Beavers are also ranked No. 9 nationally in run defense at 83.0 yards per contest.

Punter Keith Kostol was terrific again. Kicker Trevor Romaine regularly boots touchbacks but has missed a couple of mid-range field goals, including a 35-yard attempt at the end of the first half Saturday night that could have proved costly. He needs to be consistent, at least inside 40 yards.

Oregon State has set itself up for a season to remember. The Beavers have six of their final nine games at home, with visits only to Brigham Young, Washington and Stanford remaining. All three of those games will be challenging, for sure. But the home slate — Washington State, Utah, Arizona State, California, Oregon and Nicholls State — offers the potential for plenty of success.

Oregon State’s margin for error is small. If the Beavers don’t bring their “A” game against most opponents, they’ll lose.

They’ve had the "A" game three times this season, leaving Lee Corso inclined to drink the “Orange and Black Kool-Aid.” It’s a long road to December, but the Beavers have given themselves a chance to go for glory.