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Beavers plan for start of Vaz 'era'

CORVALLIS — The Cody Vaz era at Oregon State — however short it may be — began Monday at Tommy Prothro Field.

The 6-foot, 200-pound junior from Lodi, Calif., was thrust into a starting role at quarterback for Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. game at Brigham Young due to a knee injury suffered by Sean Mannion.

Mannion was scheduled to undergo surgery — probably on Tuesday — to repair meniscus ligament damage to his left knee suffered in last Saturday’s 19-6 win over Washington State. The 6-5, 205-pound sophomore — sixth nationally in passing yardage per game for the 10th-ranked Beavers — will be lost a minimum of four weeks. If more extensive damage is found, Mannion could miss the rest of the season.

Vaz, 22, was third-string QB behind Mannion and Ryan Katz last season. With Katz’s transfer to San Diego State in the offseason, Vaz moved into a backup role this year.

“We’re going to go win the game with Cody,” OSU coach Mike Riley said Monday after practice. “Cody is a good quarterback. He has been preparing for this for a long time. He’ll be good, and we’ll be ready to go.”

Vaz hasn’t started a game since his senior season at St. Mary’s High in 2008, when he threw for 3,908 yards and 32 touchdowns. He saw action in five games as a redshirt freshman at OSU in 2010, completing 6 of 17 passes for 48 yards, but did not step on the field a year ago.

“I’m not really nervous,” Vaz told reporters Monday. “I’m more excited. It’s a great opportunity for our team. We’re going into a tough place to play against a really good defensive team.

“I feel good. I can’t wait until Saturday.”

With Katz out due to injury, Vaz went into 2011 spring practice in a battle with Mannion for what was, at the time, the backup job to Katz. Mannion beat out Vaz and, early last season, beat out Katz for the starting job.

“Cody had a great spring (in 2012), a great (August training) camp, and had almost even reps with Sean all through camp,” Riley said.

Mannion was injured while handing the ball off — “pretty ironic,” Riley noted — in the win over Wazoo. The QB wasn’t limping when he met with the media post-game, but the knee had swollen by Sunday morning. A Monday MRI showed the ligament damage.

“It’s very disappointing for the young man,” Riley said. "Sean has invested a ton and is going to miss some time, but he is going to be fine.”

Both teams are at less than full strength at quarterback. Brigham Young will be without Taysom Hill, who injured a knee late in the Utah State game and is lost for the season. The 6-2, 220-pound freshman, who started the past two games in place of Riley Nelson, has rushed for 336 yards and four TDs this season.

Nelson, who has dealt with a back injury, is expected to return for Saturday’s game. The 6-0, 200-pound senior has completed 64 of 109 passes (58.7 percent) for 754 yards and five TDs with five interceptions in four games.

A year ago, Nelson threw for 217 yards and three scores and ran 12 times for 87 yards in the Cougars’ 38-28 victory at OSU.

“They had put in some option plays for Hill,” Oregon State defensive coordinator Mark Banker said. “They also had the quarterback draw that Riley ran effectively against us last year.”

Brigham Young pounded Oregon State 44-20 in the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl.

“They’ve dominated us two times in a row with the running game,” Banker said. “Last year, I’d like to think it was at least partially due to us losing two middle linebackers and a defensive tackle early in the game. But at the Vegas Bowl, we were just out-physicalled.

“Both years, they hit us on some deep passes. Last year, they were able to use play-action and single up our cornerback on deep diagonals, and we weren’t able to stay on top of the route.”

Oregon State went into the 2011 BYU game without injured starter Lance Mitchell at safety, and linebacker Cameron Collins played sparingly. During the game, the Beavers lost middle ‘backers Feti Unga and Tony Wilson and D-tackle Castro Masaniai to injuries. OSU’s defense is at full strength for Saturday’s game.

“This year, we virtually have the same group of players on defense, with everybody a year older,” Banker said. “Hopefully the work we’ve put in and with the chemistry aspect, we’ve taken things a step further.”

After facing spread teams that like to pass in UCLA, Arizona and Washington State the past three games, Oregon State goes against a run-oriented opponent in BYU.

“We’re facing an offense more closely related to a Wisconsin team — physical and will pound it at you,” Banker said. “Then you add the threat of a running quarterback.”

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Twitter: @kerryeggers



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