When the franchise player goes down, the troops have to rally around the successor.

That’s what will have to happen Saturday when Cody Vaz makes his first career start at quarterback for Oregon State in a big intersectional at Brigham Young.

Vaz hasn’t started a game in almost four years, when he was a senior at St. Mary’s High in Stockton, Calif., in 2008. His college baptism couldn’t have come against a much tougher defense than BYU’s, which ranks among the top 10 nationally in nearly every statistical category.

Since spring ball, OSU coach Mike Riley has done a masterful job preparing his players for this very situation. He has spoken highly of Vaz and done his best to pump confidence into the player he knew was one play away from being the guy for the Beavers.

Now the time for Vaz is here. Who knows how it will play out? He has a rocket arm, is a much more mobile quarterback than Mannion and owns a demeanor seemingly suited for such an opportunity. He can’t help but be rusty, though, and he has no experience in situations with the game on the line at the college level.

A bigger problem is what is available at quarterback behind Vaz, should he, too, go down to injury. The third-string QB is Richie Harrington, a 6-1, 230-pound redshirt freshman walk-on from Westlake, Calif., whose work has been entirely with the scout team thus far. The Beavers’ other quarterback is Brent Vanderveen, a highly touted true freshman from Arroyo Grande, Calif., whom the Beavers had intended to redshirt this season. Vanderveen, 6-5 and 230, is built along the lines of Mannion, and OSU coaches hope he develops into something like what Mannion has become.

All three will travel to Provo, Utah, on Saturday. Should Vaz get hurt, Riley might opt to bring Vanderveen out of his redshirt year. It’s a prospect nobody in the OSU program wants to think about.

Brigham Young has its own quarterback issues. Riley Nelson — the one who hurt Oregon State badly through the air and with his nimble feet in a 38-28 win at Corvallis a year ago — is expected to return after missing the previous two games with a back injury. His replacement, able-running redshirt freshman Taysom Hill, will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.

The Beavers need everyone to step up around Vaz for this one. The defense will have to control the Cougars’ vaunted running attack. The offensive line must provide running room for Storm Woods and provide Vaz time to throw. Special teams must be better than they have been all year.

“This is a team thing,” Riley says. “If somebody goes down, somebody goes in and plays. I use the example of our defensive line. Everybody rolls in there and does his job and helps the team. This is a case where (Vaz) is ready to go, and he’s going to help us win the game.”

There’s no real correlation between the D-line and quarterback positions, of course. Riley is putting on a brave face here, as well he should. His calm amid this storm reflects well on his players, who believe in him as coach and in themselves as a team. There’s a quiet confidence there that could play well Saturday in Provo.

It could come down to turnovers Saturday. If the Beavers keep theirs to two or fewer, their chances grow considerably.

The Beavers can win Saturday. It’s too much to ask of them to do it, though, against such a strong defensive team in Vaz’s first career start.

THE PICK: Brigham Young 17, Oregon State 14

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