Mannion looks to keep Beavers rolling on the road

Oregon State’s Sean Mannion is headed home this week, even if it
is for a brief stop to say hello to friends and family.

Mannion, the Beavers’ junior quarterback who leads the country
in passing, grew up in Northern California about 30 miles away from
the Berkeley campus. That’s where he’ll be Saturday when the
Beavers (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) play the Golden Bears (1-5, 0-3).

The game will feature two of the most prolific quarterbacks in
the nation.

Mannion set a school single-game record when he threw for 493
yards in a 52-24 win over Washington State last week. He leads the
Pac-12 in passing and has thrown 24 touchdowns with just three
interceptions.

”They’ve put him in good situations and have done a nice job of
building the offense around him,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said.
”They’ve simplified the game a little bit for him and he’s
improved. The combination of those things have allowed him to be
much more successful.”

Cal’s Jared Goff – whose father attended high school with
Mannion’s father – isn’t far behind.

A true freshman, Goff already owns three of the top four
single-game passing performances in school history. He is fourth in
the country at 339.3 yards per game and is the second Cal
quarterback ever to pass for more than 450 yards in three
games.

A week after getting benched in the first half against No. 2
Oregon, Goff set a school record with 504 yards in a 44-22 loss to
Washington State on Oct. 5.

Here are five things to watch when the Bears host the
Beavers:

ROLLING ON THE ROAD: Oregon State is attempting to go 3-0 on the
road for the first time since 1939 when they finished 9-1-1 and
played in the inaugural Pineapple Bowl in Honolulu. History is on
the Beavers’ side, too. They’ve won five straight games in Berkeley
and 11 of 14 overall in the series between these two longtime
conference rivals. Cal beat Oregon State 23-6 at home in 2011 but
that game was played in San Francisco at AT&T Park, home of the
San Francisco Giants.

KEEPING THE FAITH: Cal hasn’t had a lot of success in Sonny
Dykes’ first season. Barring a major turnaround, the Bears will be
headed for one of their worst records in more than a decade. Dykes,
who replaced longtime Cal coach Jeff Tedford, hasn’t wavered in his
approach to rebuilding the Bears. Steadily, he’s beginning to see
the payoff, even if it hasn’t shown up on the scoreboard. ”Like
anything else when you’re 18-22 years old, you want to see results
yesterday,” Dykes said of his players. ”There’s a little bit
better sense of mental toughness. We were a little fragile earlier
in the year. The fact that they’ve continued to buy in when things
haven’t gone our way shows a lot of maturity and commitment from
those kids.”

CHANGING POSITIONS: Brendan Bigelow leads Cal with 277 yards
rushing but it might be a while before he returns to the Bears’
backfield. One week ago, Bigelow was switched to receiver and has
been lining up in the slot ever since. He caught just two passes
for 18 yards in the loss to No. 9 UCLA on Oct. 12, but Dykes is
confident the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Bigelow will excel as a
receiver. The move was made due to a series of knee injuries
Bigelow has suffered over the past few years. By using him as a
receiver, the Bears believe they will get Bigelow in more favorable
matchups.

MOVING THE CHAINS: Brandin Cooks has gotten plenty of attention
as Oregon State’s top wide receiver, and for good reason. Cooks has
caught 63 passes for 944 yards, and he leads the nation with 11
touchdown receptions. The Beavers are also getting plenty of solid
production out of Richard Mullaney and Kevin Cummings. Mullaney is
second on the Beavers with 30 receptions, 24 of which have resulted
in either a touchdown or first down. Cummings has also come up big,
turning 12 of his 18 catches into first downs or touchdowns.

OPPORTUNISTIC DEFENSE: The Beavers get plenty of recognition for
their high-powered offense. Their defense isn’t too shabby, either.
Oregon State is second in the Pac-12 and tied for eighth nationally
with a plus-eight turnover ratio. That matches its mark for all of
2012. More telling is how well the Beavers have played when their
offense has coughed the ball up. They’ve committed seven turnovers
but have yet to give up a touchdown on any of the ensuing drives.
Cal owns a plus-nine turnover ratio but hasn’t been as fortunate as
the Beavers. Opponents are averaging nearly 44 points a game
against the Bears.