Not long ago there was Heisman Trophy talk surrounding Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion.
Now a few fans are calling for coach Mike Riley to go to backup Cody Vaz.
There’s no doubt Mannion has gone through some rough spots in the past three games, all losses.
It started against Stanford, where Mannion faced a fierce pass rush, was sacked eight times and limited to a season-low 271 yards passing with one touchdown, though he did not throw an interception.
Next, he had three interceptions in a 31-14 loss to USC, including one at the USC 3 and another at the Trojans’ 16.
On Saturday, Mannion was picked four times by Arizona State in a 30-17 defeat at Sun Devil Stadium.
One was returned for a touchdown to seal the win.
“I think USC was a couple decisions, just balls I should have thrown away,” Mannion said. “I think last game I just had really two misses and one play where I probably should have played the other side.
“I think those are things that can be fixed. I think that’s part of what’s so frustrating about it is the balls that I missed, those are ones that I feel I can hit every time here in practice. So while it’s frustrating, I think it’s also a cause for comfort knowing that I’ve hit those many times.”
Had Mannion been able to take the Beavers in for scores in the red zone trips against USC and avoided the mistakes against ASU in what was otherwise a strong statistical performance — he wound up throwing for 320 yards and two touchdowns — the Beavers might have come out on top in one or both games.
Mannion and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf go over the film following each game. It helps Mannion with his physical and psychological approach.
They’ve picked apart Mannion’s mistakes in the past two games and are working on making sure there’s no repeat performances.
Langsdorf said Mannion made quite a few good decisions against ASU and did so on the two missed throws that wound up in the Sun Devils’ hands.
“I thought they were both good reads, they were open receivers,” Langsdorf said. “I think the one at the end was probably a product of a poor decision. When we had Brandin (Cooks) on the boundary we were trying to get him the ball on a little bit quicker route. That was just a bad choice. We were probably trying to press there and make something happen.
“I think overall, besides the turnovers, really a pretty solid game. I thought he spread the ball around pretty well. I thought he got it to Brandin a little bit when they were allowing it and made some great throws to the tight end on some seam throws that were important.”
Part of the problem has been the other side of the ball.
Those three teams have some of the best defenses in the Pac-12. The Cardinal physically pummeled Mannion.
“I think getting hit like that, sometimes it shakes you up a little bit,” Langsdorf said.
The Trojans and Sun Devils are loaded with athletic, quick, strong players up front and ballhawks in the back.
Mistakes against those teams are not forgiven.
“I’d say that’s part of it. I know for us, we want to pride ourselves on being sharp regardless of who we go against,” Mannion said. “I know for my end of it, I don’t want to make mistakes against anyone. I try to be really critical of myself and not take how good the other team is into account when I evaluate my own play.
“But I think the good defenses will make you pay when you make a mistake and I think in the past two games they’ve done that. At the same time, I don’t want to use that as a cop out and I know that I can’t make mistakes like that.”