By Nicholas K. Geranios Associated Press
PULLMAN — An aerial blitz is expected when Oregon State meets Washington State today.
Two of the most potent passing attacks in the Pacific-12 Conference will be on the field as Washington State (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) plays its league home opener.
Oregon State (4-1, 2-0) quarterback Sean Mannion leads the Pac-12 with 2,018 passing yards, and has thrown 21 touchdown passes against just two interceptions, while completing 67 percent of his passes. Oregon State ranks second in the nation for passing yards per game at 420, while WSU is eighth at 359.
“He can sling the ball,” WSU defensive lineman Toni Pole said of Mannion.
Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday connected with 12 different receivers in throwing for more than 500 yards in last weekend’s rout of California.
The Cougars, who lost 19-6 to Oregon State last season, are wary of Mannion, who was intercepted three times in last year’s game.
“It’s been a whole year for him to get better, and clearly he’s gotten better,” WSU safety Deone Bucannon said. “We’re not going to take anything from last year to this year.”
Mannion is just as respectful of the improved WSU defense.
“WSU has a very underrated defense,” Mannion said. “Obviously their offense gets a lot of attention, but I think their defense is strong and you can’t make any mistakes.”
The Cougars did allow 521 passing yards at Cal, but largely kept the Bears out of the end zone.
Five things to watch when Oregon State plays at Washington State:
Numerous OSU players have missed practices or games with various injuries this year, but the Beavers are nearing full strength. Linebacker Michael Doctor (foot) and offensive lineman Roman Sapolu (foot) were still sitting out of practice earlier in the week.
Oregon State was shocked 49-46 in its season opener by FCS Eastern Washington. The Beavers have since beaten Hawaii, Utah, San Diego State and Colorado. Washington State pounded FCS Southern Utah this season. WSU’s losses are at Auburn and to No. 5 Stanford, and they already have surpassed the three wins for all of last year.
The OSU-WSU rivalry is one of the longest in the Pac-12, ranking sixth in number of games played at 97. Washington State leads the series 48-46-3.
Washington State leads the Pac-12 in interceptions with nine, while Oregon State is second with eight. Both figure to have plenty of opportunities for picks this week as the teams together average 104 pass attempts per game.
Plenty of Cooks
Through their first five games, Mannion and receiver Brandin Cooks have combined for nine touchdown passes. Cooks is the Beavers’ top receiver with 897 yards and is averaging 161.4 per game and 15.5 per catch.