Oregon St.-BYU Preview

After two years spent mostly watching from the sidelines,

quarterback Cody Vaz gets the start for No. 10 Oregon State this

Saturday when the Beavers travel to BYU.

It will be a challenging task for Vaz, who takes over after

starter Sean Mannion injured his left knee against Washington State

last weekend. Mannion had helped lead the Beavers to a 4-0 start

and their highest ranking since the 2001 Fiesta Bowl season.

Vaz has appeared in only five games in his career, completing

six of 17 passes for 48 yards. The 6-foot-1, 198-pound junior has

not played in a game since the 2010 season.

He hasn’t started since high school.

”I’m not really nervous, more so excited,” Vaz said. ”It’s a

great opportunity for our team. We’re going into a tough place to

play, a really good football team, a really good defensive team. It

will be a great opportunity for us.”

OK, really, no nerves?

”I can’t wait,” he said smiling. ”I can’t wait `til

Saturday.”

The question is whether Vaz can lead a team that has experienced

a striking turnaround since finishing last season 3-9. Coach Mike

Riley said he has complete confidence in Vaz, but does have one

regret.

”The only unfortunate part is that I haven’t played him

enough,” he said Tuesday.

Oregon State visits Provo to face an independent BYU team that

is 4-2 but facing quarterback issues of its own. Cougars coach

Bronco Mendenhall announced Monday that freshman quarterback Taysom

Hill is out for the season after injuring his left knee in BYU’s

6-3 victory over Utah State last Friday night.

Hill was standing in for senior quarterback Riley Nelson, who

missed two games with what he described as ”back fractures.”

Nelson, who has thrown for 754 yards and five touchdowns with

five interceptions, is expected to play against the Beavers on

Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Mendenhall learned of Oregon State’s quarterback situation just

before the start of practice on Monday.

”Who knows what the fallout is. You have a good offensive

system in place that’s very consistent from year to year. How that

will be tailored all of a sudden to a new quarterback, I’m not

certain,” he said. ”We’ll prepare for what we know and then

adjust to what we don’t know or what we see on game day. That’s

really the best we can do.”

Mannion’s injury was a surprise, even to Riley. The 6-foot-5,

212-pound sophomore showed no sign of it during the Beavers’ 19-6

victory over Washington State, when he was injured on a handoff but

did not leave the game. He finished with 270 yards passing and a

touchdown.

At 9:45 a.m. on Monday morning, just as the team was about to go

into a meeting, the news hit.

”It was a total shock,” Riley said. ”The doctor and the

trainer came running down the hall. So I knew it wasn’t good.”

Mannion is expected to have surgery to repair meniscus damage in

his left knee as early as Wednesday. He will be week-to-week

following the procedure.

Mannion was averaging 339.5 yards passing a game, second in the

Pac-12 and sixth in the nation. He has thrown for 1,358 yards with

seven touchdowns and four interceptions this season. He is sixth on

Oregon State’s career list with 4,686 yards.

A classic drop-back passer with a calm demeanor and a good grasp

of the fundamentals, Mannion is the son of a high school football

coach. He is one of four team captains for Oregon State this

year.

Last season as a redshirt freshman, Mannion unseated junior

starter Ryan Katz, who had started the 2010 season for the Beavers.

Katz has since transferred to San Diego State.

Vaz grew up in Lodi, Calif., and played at St. Mary’s High

School, where he was 24-5 in two seasons as the starter. He was the

Stockton Record’s player of the year his senior season.

Vaz’s backup going forward will be redshirt freshman quarterback

Richie Harrington, a walk-on.

Oregon State has not opened a season 5-0 since 1939.