Cody Vaz stays cool under pressure

Cody Vaz threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns Saturday in his season debut. George Frey/Getty Images

Now that Cody Vaz is a week into his career as a starting quarterback for Oregon State, we have learned that he throws a pretty good deep ball. We've learned that he's cool under pressure and he can operate the West Coast offense with efficiency and protect the football.

But his blocking skills? Well, those leave a little something to be desired.

He was able to chip just enough on BYU's Bronson Kaufusi in the fourth quarter to spring Markus Wheaton on a 12-yard reverse for a touchdown. But it wasn't a pretty.

"It wasn't a classic," said head coach Mike Riley with a laugh. "We all had fun with that one in the aftermath."

Fun was the theme Saturday after the backup quarterback paced the Beavers to a 42-24 win at BYU in his first collegiate start.

Since replacing Sean Mannion last week, Vaz has been inundated with question after question about how the chemistry would work with receivers Wheaton, Brandin Cooks and the rest of OSU's playmakers. It's the one question, Vaz said, he was tired of answering.

No more questions about chemistry this week. Vaz opened the game by completing eight of his first 10 passes (the two incompletes were batted at the line) for 157 yards and two touchdowns. He was 6-of-6 to start the game.

"I was actually pretty steady," Vaz said. "I wasn't nervous. I was just anxious. I was actually kind of [ticked] off. I just wanted to get out and play. I was tired of just sitting around and waiting for the game to get going. I wanted to be out there. "

He finished 20 of 32 for 332 yards and three touchdowns.

"We just want to keep it going," Vaz said. "We have to build off of this last week. It was a good win, but at the same time, it's in the past. Right now, we're solely focused on Utah and we're just preparing for Saturday and trying to get ready for everything they throw at us."

Despite Utah's 2-4 record, the Utes still have one of the more formidable defensive lines in the conference, headlined by Star Lotulelei. One key matchup will be Lotulelei lining head up on true freshman center Isaac Seumalo. Still, Vaz isn't having nightmares of the 320-pound Lotulelei bearing down on him.

"I have a lot of faith in my offensive line that they'll be able to handle him," Vaz said. "Isaac Seumalo is one of the best young linemen in the country."

If there were folks inching their fingers toward the panic button when Mannion went down last week, Riley wasn't one of them. Having spent so much time with Vaz, he was pretty sure the junior wouldn't get too caught up in the moment.

"I was thinking the other day, I'm probably around the backup quarterback more than any other player on our team -- whether it's on the sidelines during games or in meetings or on the sideline in practice because he always stands with me if he's not in and he doesn't get as many turns as the starter," Riley said. "I know Cody real, real well. He's a neat guy, pretty darn cool and calm and he's always been very confident. The only thing I said to him all week, I said "whatever you do out there, just go play and do what you can do.'"

And he did. But as Vaz says, last week is in the books and a Utah team, desperate to salvage anything from this season, comes to town. The support from his teammates has been stellar. And having spent so much time in the offense, Vaz is well-versed in the scheme and feels confident he can get to any play in the playbook.

He also called last week the best situation possible for him. The fact that he knew he was going to be the starter and had a week to prepare took all of the pressure off of him.

"I'd rather have a whole week to prepare and know I'm the starter," he said. "Being a backup is a tough situation. You're always on edge the whole game wondering if you'll go in. Having a week to prepare and knowing you are going to be the starter, I'd much rather have it that way."