CORVALLIS, Ore. — If there’s room for another Heisman Trophy candidate, Oregon State could have one in quarterback Sean Mannion.
The Beavers’ junior quarterback passed for 414 yards and a school-record six touchdowns and Oregon State won its fourth consecutive game Saturday with a 44-17 victory over Colorado.
Mannion, who completed 27 of 52 passes, leads the country with 2,018 passing yards this season.
“He better be in the Heisman talk after this game,” OSU receiver Brandin Cooks said. “He’s great. He’s playing with confidence and playing like the Sean I know. He’s having a lot of fun.”
Cooks helped enhance Mannion’s stock, as the junior caught nine passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns for the Beavers (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12). Cooks also had five carries for 47 yards.
Cooks came into the game leading the country in receptions with 43. Cooks made several dynamic plays against Colorado, including a 52-yard reception where Cooks went up between two defenders and grabbed the ball.
Cooks, who has 52 receptions for 807 yards and nine touchdowns through five games, deferred his own Heisman talk.
“Nah, nah, nah, not me. (Mannion) is doing all the work. I’m just catching the ball like I’m supposed to,” Cooks said.
Mannion battled gusty winds and a Colorado (2-1, 0-1 Pac-12) team aiming for its first 3-0 start since 2008. Mannion was workmanlike during the first half, but caught fire during the third quarter, when he threw three touchdown passes that allowed Oregon State to pull away.
“I feel all right about it. We were much better in the second half. I think I missed a lot of throws I can hit,” Mannion said. “Obviously, the defense is going to make some good plays, and there’s going to be a drop here and there. What bothered me is that there were some throws I think I can hit.”
Mannion said he was honored to break the school’s single-game touchdown pass record.
“I never focus on stats that much. But to be there with some outstanding players, it’s a cool honor,” Mannion said.
Colorado played its first game in three weeks. Flooding postponed the Buffaloes’ Sept. 14 game against Fresno State, in addition to a bye week, causing Colorado coach Mike McIntyre to say earlier this week that “it seems like three years ago since we last played.”
The Buffaloes’ offense was out of sync for most of the game. Quarterback Connor Wood connected on just 14 of 34 passes for 146 yards. Paul Richardson, who came into game as the country’s leading receiver averaging 208.5 yards a game, was held to five receptions for 70 yards.
Colorado had four turnovers, including two fumbles on kickoff returns.
“Turnovers, that’s probably what the difference in the game was. Kickoff turnovers, we’ve got to make sure we handle that. That kind of flipped the game for us,” McIntyre said.
The Beavers’ oft-maligned defense played their best game of the season. Ranked No. 92 in total defense, Oregon State limited Colorado to 124 yards through three quarters, and 300 for the game. The Buffaloes converted only two of 15 third downs.
Oregon State’s offense generated 542 total yards.
Caleb Smith also caught two touchdowns passes for the Beavers, who never trailed in the game.
The Beavers led 17-3 at halftime. OSU scored on its opening possession on a 36-yard field goal by Trevor Romaine, then added touchdowns on Mannion passes of 3 yards to Smith and 8 yards to Cooks.
Oregon State put the game away during the third quarter on a combination of its offensive efficiency and Colorado’s special teams miscues.
Mannion and Cooks connected on a 22-yard touchdown pass on the Beavers’ opening drive of the second half for a 24-3 lead. Oregon State then converted two Colorado fumbles on kickoff returns into touchdowns, on passes of 42 yards to Terron Ward and 10 yards to Caleb Smith, to take a 38-3 lead.
Mannion broke OSU’s single-game touchdown passes record on a 11-yard throw to Connor Hamlett with 6:48 left in the fourth quarter.
Colorado scored two touchdowns during the fourth quarter, on Wood passes of 24 yards to Tyler McCullough and 28 yards to Richardson.
Mannion has thrown for at least 350 yards in each of his five games this season, an OSU record, and his 52 career touchdown passes tie him for third all-time with Erik Wilhelm.