PULLMAN – Sean Mannion is effectively perfect.
With 21 touchdowns against just two interceptions, Oregon State’s quarterback is as close to flawless as a Swiss watch. His 2,018 passing yards lead the quarterback-fertile Pac-12, and his 67.2 percent completion clip is the envy of offensive coordinators across the county.
But it wasn’t always this way.
In 2012, against Washington State, Mannion was more pauper than prince, more king without a crown than golden boy with a golden arm. While the Beavers won an ugly game (19-6) at home, Mannion’s three interceptions were matched only by the three sacks he suffered.
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Adding injury to insult, Mannion suffered a torn meniscus in the third quarter, after all of his giveaways.
“It was a tough game,” Mannion said. “WSU has a very underrated defense. Obviously, their offense gets a lot of attention, but I think their defense is strong and you can’t make any mistakes.”
That defense won’t be any easier for the OSU quarterback to crack this time around. The Cougars lead the conference with nine interceptions, and defensive coordinator Mike Breske has a mandate that his players generate a minimum of three take-aways each game.
“They do a great job,” OSU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf said. “They’ve done a nice job of disguising looks and giving you different coverage change-ups and I think that’s led to their interceptions. They do a nice job in the secondary, put some pressure on the quarterback, but don’t have to do it all with pressure.”
But that defense is going to be facing a different Mannion on Saturday than the one it saw last year. Mannion threw 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2012. In 2013, he’s already passed his touchdown total of last year and is on pace to throw less than half as many interceptions.