You'll hear no complaints about this Oregon State football season from Sean Mannion. The No. 15 Beavers are 7-2 and have opportunity in front of them as they prepare to face Cal on Saturday night in Corvallis, Ore.
Mannion, a redshirt sophomore quarterback from Pleasanton, began the season as the clear starter, missed two games after minor knee surgery, regained his No. 1 status, then lost it again after a four-interception game at Washington. Junior Cody Vaz sprained his left ankle on the second-to-last play at Stanford last week, so Mannion could get the call again.
"That's not my decision to make," he said, when asked if he will start against the Bears. "I just control whatever I can. It's about becoming a better football player.
"It's about the team, not any one player."
But those around him know how tough this has been on Mannion.
"I know it hurt. I know that he would never say it, but it was definitely a crazy experience for him," said his father, John Mannion. "The overall whirlwind effect of it all was hard at times. But he's a competitor and been a good teammate."
No one has been more impressed with Mannion's demeanor under stress than OSU coach Mike Riley.
"As much as it might be eating him up inside, he's not showing it outwardly ever at practice,'' Riley told the Oregonian this week. "A lot of adults can't handle a disappointment like that, let alone a young kid."
Mannion, who set OSU's freshman
"I feel good as new," Mannion said. "Team-wise, we've got to bounce back from a tough (27-23) loss at Stanford. We can do it. We're staying positive."
A year ago, Mannion enjoyed individual success but the Beavers staggered to a 3-9 record. He was good enough that Ryan Katz -- the 2011 opening-day starter -- transferred to San Diego State.
OSU began this season with three straight victories as Mannion passed for 1,088 yards with six touchdowns and just one interception.
Then he injured his left knee on a handoff during the Beavers' win over Washington State and underwent arthroscopic surgery to have a meniscus tear repaired.
While he was out, Vaz delivered big-time. The Lodi native hadn't played in two years and hadn't started a game since high school, but he passed for 322 yards and three touchdowns to spark a 42-24 win at BYU. He helped beat Utah a week later.
Mannion healed quickly, and Riley gave the job back to him Oct. 27 at Washington, but the Beavers lost 20-17.
"Obviously, I wasn't happy with how I played," he said. "I'm not going to make any excuses about coming back from injury."
Having thrown seven picks and only two TDs in the WSU and Washington games, Mannion was once more out of the lineup in favor of Vaz.
"I think there was a lot of disappointment because he's put so much into it," OSU offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. " He needed to perform better. We needed a change to a guy who was 2-0 in his absence. We feel like we've got two very good players."
Mannion said he relied on counsel from his dad, who coached him at Foothill High, to get through a couple rough weeks.
"I talked to my dad every day, especially during that whole time it was difficult. He had a lot of encouragement for me. He just said to keep working and focus on what you can control."
"I've been proud of how he handled it all," John Mannion said.
Now it appears Sean is back in the saddle to face Cal. Riley said Vaz might be able to practice Wednesday, but Mannion was getting all the first-team reps.
"He'll play well again," Langsdorf said. "He's got a lot of football in him."
"I'm just kind of taking every day as it comes," Mannion said. "There's been some bumps in the road, a couple tough losses. But we can do a lot of good stuff this season."