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.