To gauge the improvement and maturity of Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, you need only to look at his numbers on the game-winning drive Saturday at Arizona. The second-year starter was 6 of 6 for 52 yards and capped the march with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Connor Hamlett with 1:09 left to secure a 38-35 win over the Wildcats.
It seems like every week, Mannion is re-establishing his career highs. He did it again on Saturday, throwing for 433 yards on 29 of 45 passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions. And his scoring strike to Hamlett at the goal line was a pretty pass that split two defenders.
There are a lot of different factors contributing to Mannion's improvement this year. For starters, the Beavers have a running game to take some of the pressure off of him. Storm Woods gave Oregon State 161 yards and a touchdown on the ground. That's opening up the play action downfield.
Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks are making things happen when they get the ball. The duo has each gone for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games. Deep threats are nice -- but it takes good quarterbacking to get the ball to those deep threats and Mannion has certainly delivered. Saturday, he showed his ability to stretch the field, but also showed a great deal of touch. He can put something extra on the ball, and take it off when he has to.
With this latest victory, Mannion has his Beavers ranked in the top 15 for the first time since 2009.