Cooks defiant, Riley subdued after Beavers fall in Tempe
TEMPE, Ariz. -- What happened during the media conference after Oregon State's 30-17 loss at Arizona State Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium was every bit as interesting as what happened during the game.
Brandin Cooks, OSU's star receiver, was defiant in defending quarterback Sean Mannion and in insisting "it's not going to be no 6-6" season for the Beavers.
Mike Riley was more subdued than during any postgame press session in his 13 years as Oregon State's coach.
What it means for the rest of the Beavers' season will be fascinating to watch.
Arizona State (8-2 overall, 6-1 in Pac-12 action) jumped to a 20-0 first-half lead and took advantage of five Oregon State turnovers -- four Mannion interceptions and a Cooks muffed punt -- to claim its fifth straight victory and remain atop the Pac-12 South.
It was the third straight loss for the Beavers (6-4, 4-3), who drew within 20-10 late in the third quarter but couldn't overcome the miscues. Three of OSU's turnovers led to Arizona State touchdowns.
"We had a lot of mistakes," said Cooks, who had nine receptions for 99 yards. "It starts with me on special teams. A muffed punt like that, that's a huge mistake. In the game of football, you're going to have mistakes. We couldn't afford them against a good team."
Mannion completed 31 of 46 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns, but the four interceptions were costly -- especially the last one, which ASU's Robert Nelson turned into a pick-six with a 23-yard return in the fourth quarter.
"I'm disappointed in the way I played," Mannion said. "I take a lot of responsibility for this loss. I expect a lot more for myself."
Cooks, though, wouldn't allow his teammate to take that much responsibility.
"I don't want to hear anything about my quarterback," Cooks said. "There is nothing wrong at all with Sean. He's still playing with confidence. He's one guy who will never give up. He's always going to lead this team. I talk to him during the game when things aren't going our way, and he still has confidence."
Through eight games, Mannion had thrown for 30 touchdowns with three interceptions. In the last two losses to Southern Cal and Arizona State, he's had three TD passes and seven picks. Is he trying to do too much?
"No," Cooks said. "It goes back to us. He's throwing the ball for a reason. He thinks we're open, so we need to be open. Whether it's we need to disengage from the defensive back quicker, or get our eyes behind us.
"He's putting the ball where it needs to be. We just need to go out and make the play. I will never put this game on my quarterback, and I'm not just saying it because he's my quarterback. A good receiver never blames his quarterback for anything."
Riley wasn't blaming Mannion, either. But the loss seemed to take the wind out of the veteran Oregon State mentor. Normally affable even in defeat, his answers were polite but brief as he met with the media.
What did he think about the OSU offensive performance? "Not very good."
What about Mannion? "He just missed some throws."
How did he feel about the OSU defense? "We played a lot of good football. (ASU) got three (offensive) points in the second half."
What was he most disappointed about? "The opportunity to win a game."
How do the Beavers stop the bleeding? "Go win."
Riley praised the Sun Devils, saying, "They're good. I like their team. They are an excellent defensive team, and they're well-coached. Offensively, they are, too. They utilize their personnel well. They're pretty diverse."
Marion Grice rushed 24 times for 118 yards and two touchdowns and Taylor Kelly completed 22 of 37 passes for 183 yards for the Sun Devils. Oregon State won the battle of total offense (390-339), passing yardage (320-183) and time of possession (32:36 to 27:24), and first downs were even at 20 apiece. But the disparity in turnovers (5-2) and penalties (7 for 69 for OSU, 5 for 33 for ASU) were critical to the outcome.
Turnovers "is usually the name of the game," Riley said. "In the beginning, we didn't sustain anything at all, and when we found we could move the ball, we'd mess it up in some fashion. We gave them too many chances."
Arizona State took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in nine plays, Jaelen Strong catching four passes for 66 yards on the drive. Grice's 1-yard touchdown run gave the Sun Devils a 7-0 lead just 3:01 into the first quarter.
After an Oregon State three-and-out and a short Keith Kostol punt gave Arizona State the ball at the OSU 45, Rashad Reynolds stemmed the momentum, intercepting a first-down bomb and returning it 26 yards to the Beavers' 31. After Kostol punted deep into Arizona State territory, the OSU defense got its second pick, this by Jabral Johnson at midfield. But Mannion's bomb intended for Caleb Smith on fourth-and-1 from the Arizona State 41 was intercepted by ASU's Nelson.
Arizona State then went 85 yards in eight plays, aided by a facemask penalty on Reynolds after the Beavers had stopped the Sun Devils on third down. Grice got loose for a 40-yard run that set up D.J. Foster's 8-yard score, and the Sun Devils took a 13-0 lead into the second quarter.
Only minutes later, disaster struck the Beavers when Cooks muffed the punt and Nelson recovered at the OSU 15. Four plays later, Grice powered over from the 1 and the hosts' advantage was 20-0 with 8:22 remaining in the quarter.
Mannion hit Cooks for a 42-yard bomb to the ASU 32. Two plays later, Mannion's pass for Cooks was overthrown and intercepted by Damarius Randle at the Sun Devils' 13.
After a three-and-out and a punt, Oregon State took over at its 49. The Beavers got to first down at the ASU 5, but failed on three attempts for the TD, settling for a 22-yard Trevor Romaine field goal to go into intermission trailing 21-3.
The Beavers, with only 127 yards total offense in the first half, came to life with a 12-play, 96-yard third-quarter touchdown drive. On fourth-and-2 from the ASU 25, Mannion found Connor Hamlett for 19 yards to the ASU 6. On the next play, Mannion connected with Smith for a touchdown, closing the margin to 20-10 with 2:17 remaining in the third quarter.
When the OSU defense forced an ASU punt and the Beavers took over on their 17 to begin the fourth quarter, "we felt like we were going to go down there and make this game wild," Cooks said.
Oregon State, with momentum for the first time in the game, advanced to the Sun Devils' 11. On third-and-1, though, Terron Ward was tackled for a 5-yard loss, and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against center Isaac Seumalo pushed the Orangemen back to their 31. When Trevor Romaine's 48-yard field goal attempt was partially blocked, air sucked out of the Beaver sails.
Arizona State's lead was 23-10 when Nelson's pick-six on a misthrown out pattern with 5:08 left iced the Sun Devils' victory.
The Oregon State offense, Mannion said, "did a lot of good things. Really only three throws I want back, and two of them were just inaccurate balls. The last one, I made a bad decision and played the wrong side. Outside of that, I felt pretty good about the things we did. We put together some good drives late. We just needed to get into a rhythm earlier."
Arizona State coach Todd Graham said his defense blitzed less than it has all season long.
"Great players make great plays," he said. "We did a tremendous job of putting pressure on with four guys. holding a team like that to 17 points is pretty good."
Mannion said the Sun Devils didn't do anything special to confuse him.
"They're a great defense, a great all-around team," he said. "They're going to make some good plays and take some things away."
The Beavers lamented their performance in the first half.
"We started slow," said linebacker D.J. Alexander, who made 10 tackles. "We let (the Sun Devils) get up on us. We started reacting, but it was too late for us."
The Sun Devils "are up there with the top teams in the league," Reynolds said. "Against a good team, little mistakes can bite you.
"We just didn't come out to play. They came out and jumped on us on both sides of the ball. We can't fall so far behind. We have to come out the first half and set the tone for the game."
The Beavers sounded desperate to get back on the winning track beginning next Saturday.
"We have Washington in our backyard, the last home game for our seniors," Cooks said. "We have to send those guys out right.
"We're not making this thing a half-an-ass season. It's not going to be no 6-6. That doesn't look right. We're going to turn this thing around. We have no choice."
"We have a lot of guys who love the game," Reynolds said. "Any competitor, when your back is against the wall, you'll come out swinging. We have to finish this thing off right."
Riley said his players will come out with resolve next week.
"They will," he said. "It's a good group of kids. No doubt about it, they'll fight."
NOTES: Cooks, who has 100 receptions for 1,443 yards this season, is now the Oregon State single-season record holder in the former category and ranks second in the latter. He trails only Mike Hass (1,532, 2005). Cooks is fifth on the Pac-12 single-season list in receptions and eighth in receiving yardage. Mannion moved into second on the OSU single-season passing yardage list with 3,860, putting him No. 8 in Pac-12 history. He has 9,634 career passing yards, moving him ahead of John Elway, Erik Wilhelm and Andrew Luck into 13th place on the Pac-12 list. Scott Crichton had two sacks to increase his career total to 21.5, moving into third place on OSU career list behind Bill Swancutt (37) and Victor Butler (26.5). Hamlett had a career-high nine catches for 119 yards and a touchdown. Grice, who entered the season as the national scoring leader, now has 20 touchdowns -- 14 rushing, six on pass receptions. OSU senior offensive tackle Michael Philipp made his 45th career start, moving him into a tie for fourth place on the school career list. Guard Roy Schuening (2004-07) is the all-time leader with 50. The Beavers, who had won four of last five meetings with the Sun Devils, are now 4-20 over the years at Tempe.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Oregon State 0 3 7 7 -- 17
Arizona State 13 7 0 7 -- 30
ASU -- Marion Grice 1 run (Zane Gonzalez kick) 11:57
ASU -- J.D. Foster 8 run (kick blocked) :32
ASU -- Grice 1 run (Gonzalez kick) 8:22
OSU -- Trevor Romaine 22 FG :00
OSU -- Caleb Smith 6 pass from Sean Mannion (Romaine kick) 2:17
ASU -- Gonzalez 18 FG 5:25
ASU -- Robert Nelson 23 interception return (Gonzalez kick) 5:08
OSU -- Connor Hamlett 29 pass from Mannion (Romaine kick) 2:41
ATT. -- 62,386