After an embarrassing loss to Sacramento State on Saturday, the Beavers are looking for answers and appear ready to make changes. One change that could be coming is red shirt freshman Sean Mannion stepping in as the starting QB for current starter Ryan Katz.
Ryan Katz struggled a ton vs FCS opponent Sacramento State. Play calling wasn’t ideal for him, but he looked like a guy who has regressed. Since the Arizona game last season he has been on a downward spiral. In the 8 games since he has thrown for a 60% completion percentage, 169 yds/gm and 9 touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions. That is an awful TD to interception ratio. Each game he has began to look worse. James Rodgers who was lost for the season last year in the Arizona game was a big reason for his success. Rodgers when healthy cannot be defended effectively. He’s seen it all and just cannot be stopped. This allowed Katz to stare him down and not suffer the consequences of doing so. When Rodgers went down his deficiencies were exposed. It forced him to be a true quarterback and he’s struggled to adjust.
Due to Katz’s struggles and the Beavers 14-3 hole, Sean Mannion was called upon off the bench by Mike Riley at the start of the second half. Mannion performed quite well in the second half. He was 8 of 12 for 143 yards and led OSU back from a 15 point second half to tie it and force OT and give the Beavers the lead. They would eventually fall 29-28 in OT but it was clear who was the better quarterback on Saturday.
Mannion showed an ability to scan the field and look for difference receivers and be composed in the pocket and deliver the ball accurately despite pressure. He showed leadership to bring his team back from a big deficit and didn’t look like a red shirt freshman on the field. You could tell the Beavers were just a different team with Mannion on the field. He did all the things Beaver fans had hoped Katz would do.
Many people will say they’d rather have Katz starting and he gives the Beavers a better chance to win but that simply isn’t true. He hasn’t shown improvement at all. He struggled against a middle-of-the-road FCS team. When he faces stiffer competition the Beavers will hardly move the ball. He has shown a lack of leadership and consistently makes the same mistakes. Let’s put it this way, the Beavers offensive line started blocking tremendously well with Mannion in the game, they couldn’t block a pop warner defensive line with Katz in the game. That wasn’t an accident the way I see it. It’s an indictment on the lack of leadership he possesses, as is the team not voting him a team captain. I dare you to find 3 other teams in the country with at least a 2nd year starting quarterback who isn’t a team captain. Doesn’t appear his teammates believe in him.
Mannion has advantages that Katz simply doesn’t have. Mannion is 6’5″ compared to Katz who is just 6’1″. That can make a big difference as a quarterback. Mannion is able to see the field more clearly and won’t get as many throws knocked down due to his height. Mannion also doesn’t have nearly as strong of an arm as Katz, it is still strong but not as strong as Ryan’s. This can be to Sean’s advantage. He knows he can’t always just rely on pure arm strength. A lot of times he can but there are a few times when he has to show touch and accuracy. Katz relies on his arm all the time. His answer to throwing hard and it being intercepted or incomplete is to throw much harder and that never works. Mannion will not do that. He has much more touch. Mannion is also the son of a head football coach and this works to his advantage. At a much earlier age he was taught how to be a quarterback. He’s a quarterback and not a thrower like Katz is. You see this when he’s able to scan the field and manipulate the pocket to create the best possible throwing lanes. Katz has not been able to fully grasp this.
Riley stated after the loss to Sacramento State that he planned on playing both. This was only meant as he thought Mannion would play in the fourth of a blowout. Some Beaver writers seem to think he would play Mannion all second half regardless of score to “see what he had”. That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Riley has never done this ever as a head coach, so why would he start now? He did it because he needed a QB to step up and get things done. Mannion did as well as anyone could have hoped for.
The Beavers have a brighter future with Mannion and Riley probably realizes this. Expect Katz to start Saturday vs the Wisconsin Badgers because Riley wants to give him another chance but he will struggle, then late in the first half Mannion will probably take over. From that point on expect Mannion to be the permanent starter for the remainder of the year.
The team is better off in the present and the future with Sean Mannion at quarterback.