CORVALLIS — The stats comparing the Oregon State passing game to the Oregon State running game couldn't be more jarring.
The Beavers average 420.8 yards through the air per game, third best in college football. And they're averaging a measly 55 yards per game on the ground which is "Ľ third worst in college football.
In Saturday's 34-30 win at San Diego State, OSU attempted just 20 rushes (which went for a net 10 yards), and threw the ball 55 times. Some of that was dictated by the score, as the Beavers played catch-up. But head coach Mike Riley takes some responsibility, too.
"In San Diego we were seeing a lot of (defenders) in the box, and we saw a blitz about 80 percent of the time," Riley said. "We should try to run more, and that's probably my doing. I've got great confidence in our passing game right now and I call that more. I haven't given our running game a chance to build any confidence."
The Beavers are working with a patched together offensive line in the wake of injuries, which is part of the problem. Quarterback Sean Mannion has been given enough time to throw, but pass protection is easier than opening up holes in the run game, according to offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf.
"I told the guys this morning, the running game is a little glaring and it's not where we want to be, but part of it is on us (the coaches) because we're not getting to it," Langsdorf said. "It's not like we tried a bunch of times and were terrible; we just didn't try that much. We ran the ball well to start the second half, but then we fell behind, gave the ball up on a couple of drives and had to throw."
Starting running back Storm Woods, who watched the game on TV as he continues to recover from a concussion he sustained Sept. 14, said he remains convinced the Beavers are almost always "one block away" from breaking a big run.
So what's the solution? Blowing someone out, for starters. The next opportunity for that will come Saturday against Colorado, though coaches and players know this is a very different Buffs team than last season's.
Still, getting a lead would help the Beavers do something they haven't been able to practice much in a game: Hand off the ball.
"Hopefully we can score early, stop them early and then be able to run the ball and in doing that, run the clock a little," Langsdorf said. "In reality, it's three factors: It's a little bit of the game we're in, a little bit our personnel and a little bit of us staying with it."
NATIONAL LEADERS: One player who has thrived through four games, despite having a patchwork offensive line, is quarterback Mannion, who leads the nation with 1,604 passing yards. He is also first in touchdown passes with 15.
Mannion has completed 133 of 186 passes and has thrown just one interception.
Cooks is first nationally with seven receiving touchdowns and first with 639 yards through four games. He is first with 10.8 catches per game and second behind Colorado's Paul Richardson for yards per game with 159.8. Richardson has played just two games but has 417 yards receiving.
Cornerback Steven Nelson, the hero on Saturday with his interception return for the game-winning touchdown, is tied for first nationally with four picks.
RISING STAR: The first question posed to linebackers coach Trent Bray after OSU's Tuesday practice was probably one he anticipated: How the heck do you pronounce Rommel Mageo's name, anyway?
For the record, it's "RAW-mo MANG-yao" according to the pronunciation guide. And people better get used to saying it, if Saturday's win over San Diego State is any hint of what's to come.
The redshirt freshman from Pago Pago, America Samoa came into camp expecting to contribute on special teams but got a chance to prove he could do more Saturday at Qualcomm Stadium when starting middle linebacker Joel Skotte missed some tackles early. Bray pulled Skotte in favor of Mageo, and the 6-foot-2, 244-pounder responded by recording six tackles, including 2.5 for loss.
"Joel's been struggling a bit not trusting himself, so it's slowing him down," Bray said. "Mageo came in and played fast, brought a physical presence to the game. So that's where we're starting this week. As the season goes on, it's going to be a constant competition."
Bray likes Mageo's speed for his size, and says it's obvious in watching replays of the game that Mageo can chase ballcarriers, and do it quickly.
The addition of Mageo is yet another change in an ever-evolving linebacking corps. The Beavers were without starting outside linebacker D.J. Alexander for the first two games of the season as he recovered from a knee sprain, and their other starting outside linebacker, Michael Doctor, is in a boot after an ankle injury that's expected to sideline him for at least another month.
But in Mageo, the Beavers might have found a rising star.
"He brings power and physical(ity) to the game," Bray said. "He gets downhill and gets to the ball and he's a good tackler, and that's the biggest thing that helps us."
INJURIES MOUNT: Usually at this point in the season, Mike Riley and his staff have trouble trimming the travel roster to 70. But right now, with the Beavers so beat up, Riley joked that he's having trouble just finding 70 healthy guys.
One look around Monday's practice inside the Truax Indoor Center explained a lot.
A variety of Beavers sat out completely or were limited as they recover from some bumps and bruises suffered last at San Diego State in what Riley described as a very physical game.
Woods, who is still recovering from a concussion he sustained on Sept. 14 at Utah, sat out, as did receiver Cooks, who has a quadricep contusion. Fullback Tyler Anderson (hamstring), defensive lineman Siale Hautau (triceps strain), receiver Richard Mullaney (hip contusion), cornerback Sean Martin (shoulder) and tight ends Connor Hamlett (quad contusion) and Caleb Smith (ankle) are some of the players nursing injuries.
None appear too serious, save for offensive lineman Josh Mitchell's sprained right ankle, which Riley said will be evaluated daily.