Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion hesitated — but only for a moment — when asked if the crowd-rushing chaos following the Beavers' upset victory over Arizona State was one of the reasons he stayed for his senior year.
"You know what? Yeah," he said with a broad smile. "The things that last for you forever are the stuff right down there in that locker room. To get to celebrate with your teammates, to be on the sidelines when the defense makes a huge play. Those are the moments that are really special. Those are the moments that will stay with me the rest of my life, for sure."
Oregon State is known for pulling out the big upset wins in Corvallis, and the Beavers did it again on Saturday night when then beat the then-No. 7 Sun Devils 35-27.
The victory gives Oregon State (5-2, 2-5) something to be proud of in an otherwise disappointing season. The evidence was clear on the face of Mannion, who greeted linebacker Michael Doctor with a huge smile and a slap of the hand when the two seniors ran into each other following the game.
Mannion's 67-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter pulled Oregon State in front of the Sun Devils, and Doctor's 35-yard interception return for a score sealed it. Then the defense stopped already stunned ASU's final shot.
The victory snapped a four-game losing streak and pulled the Beavers within one game of becoming bowl eligible. Oregon State visits Washington (6-5, 2-5) in Seattle next weekend before hosting No. 3 Oregon (9-1, 6-1) in the Civil War rivalry game on Nov. 29 to finish the regular season.
"I am really happy for our players," said coach Mike Riley, who was increasingly feeling heat from fans unhappy with a four-game slide. "They have competed well and they've been ahead three times in the fourth quarter in the last month and haven't won, it was a great reward for them to finish and win."
Mannion, a classic drop-back quarterback in Riley's pro-style offense, entertained the idea of leaving school early for the NFL, but decided to stay his senior year with several team and conference records in grasp.
Earlier this season, he surpassed former USC quarterback Matt Barkley on the Pac-12 career list for passing yards, and now has 13,124. He threw for 251 yards and two touchdowns against the Sun Devils.
Against Arizona State he passed Derek Anderson (2001-04) for the most career touchdown passes in school history with 80. In all, he has 12 Oregon State records.
He credited the entire team for the victory over the Sun Devils (8-2, 5-2), who dropped to No. 13 in the AP Top 25 on Sunday. The loss muddied the picture in the Pac-12 South, where four teams have two conference losses. It also took Arizona State out of the equation for a spot in college football's first playoff.
"I think every aspect of the game came up. The run game was outstanding, the O-line was rock solid all night, our two backs ran very well with two long ones," Mannion said. "Our defense played outstanding all game and Mike came up with the big pick six at the end. Just a great, great team victory all the way across the board."
It was another big win in Beavers' lore.
In 2012, the Beavers upset No. 13 Wisconsin — which went to the Rose Bowl that season — at Reser Stadium. In 2008, the Beavers were 26-point underdogs when they knocked off then-No. 1 USC 27-21 on a Thursday night in Corvallis. Two years earlier, Oregon State topped the then-No. 3 Trojans at Reser 33-31.
Oregonians remember the so-called Giant Killers of 1967, who bested the top-ranked Trojans and running back O.J. Simpson 3-0 in Corvallis. Riley's dad, the late Bud Riley, was the defensive coordinator for that Beavers' team.
"I told most of those seniors, it will be a great memory for them," Riley said. "This was our opportunity to beat another ranked team coming into our stadium. Those are always special."