CORVALLIS, Ore. — Markus Wheaton swears he didn’t know he was close to setting Oregon State’s school record for career receptions against lower-division Nicholls State.
“I was wondering why I was getting the ball so much,” the senior receiver laughed after 12 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown in No. 16 Oregon State’s 77-3 rout of lower-division Nicholls State on Saturday.
Wheaton has 224 receptions, surpassing James Rodgers, who wrapped up his career at Oregon State last year with 222. Rodgers is on the practice squad with the Atlanta Falcons.
Wheaton also ran for a score before retreating to the sideline when the Beavers piled up a 35-0 first-half lead.
Oregon State’s 77 points broke the record for most in a game, surpassing a 76-0 victory over Willamette in 1931.
The game was originally scheduled to be the season opener for both teams on Sept. 1, but it was postponed when Hurricane Isaac bore down on the Colonels’ campus in Thibodaux.
Officials for the schools decided it was in the best interests of the players impacted by the storm to put off the game.
“I thought it was great Nicholls State still wanted to come out and play it,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. “It’s good for you. You’ve got 12 games, you might as well play them.”
The Beavers, now 9-3, have flipped their 3-9 finish last year. It is the biggest turnaround in school history.
The team will learn its postseason destination on Sunday. Representatives from both the Holiday Bowl, set for Dec. 27 in San Diego, and the Alamo Bowl, Dec. 29 in San Antonio, were at the game.
Oregon State piled up 683 yards against the FCS Southland Conference Colonels (1-10), who lost their eighth straight.
“What we’re going to do now is move into 2013,” said Nicholls State coach Charlie Stubbs, who was an assistant coach at Oregon State from 1985-90.
“I told the team my concerns, and things we needed to do moving forward. I also appreciated the seniors in the locker room after the game. Right now, Nicholls State is knocked down, but we don’t plan on staying there.”
Storm Woods ran for 54 yards and scored on runs from the 8 and 1. Wheaton added a 10-yard score early in the second for a 24-0 lead.
Terron Ward added a 15-yard TD run after Oregon State took out starting quarterback Sean Mannion and put in Cody Vaz, who had missed the past two games with a high ankle sprain.
Vaz hit Wheaton with a 2-yard touchdown pass with 1:14 left in the first half to make it 35-0. On the prior play, Wheaton caught his 223rd career pass, surpassing Rodgers’ school record.
One of his teammates tossed the ball to the sideline, and Wheaton was treated to an ovation from the fans.
“I was surprised that we were already at the point where somebody else would break it,” Riley said about Wheaton’s record coming so closely on the heels on James’ mark.
“But when we found that out, I left him in for a couple of extra plays so could get that out of the way before we go to a bowl game.”
Wheaton, a senior, said it was special to break the record in his final game at Reser Stadium.
“It feels good but records are meant to be broken,” he said. “So I’m sure it won’t last long.”
Riley played Mannion and Vaz interchangeably.
Mannion was Oregon State’s starter when the season opened and led the team to its first four wins, but injured his left knee and required surgery.
Vaz took over the job, but he hurt his left ankle in the Beavers’ loss to Stanford. The Cardinal won the Pac-12 championship on Friday night with a 27-24 victory over UCLA.
Mannion, coming off a rough outing the week before with four interceptions in a 48-24 loss to rival Oregon, also started the second half, throwing a 4-yard touchdown pass to Richard Mullaney and a 22-yard TD pass to Kevin Cummings.
The Colonels avoided the shutout with Andrew Dolan’s 26-yard field goal with 2:40 left in the third quarter. The Beavers answered with Vaz’s 7-yard scoring pass to Obum Gwacham early in the fourth. Vaz added a 20-yard TD to Jordan Jenkins to make it 63-3.
Malcolm Agnew ran for an 11-yard touchdown and Michael Balfour ran 4 yards for another score for the final margin.
Mannion finished with 231 yards passing and two touchdowns, while Vaz threw for 190 yards and three TDs.
Junior Landry Klann threw for 164 yards, becoming first Colonels player to throw for 2,000 yards since Brad Zeller in 1998. Klann finished with eight touchdown passes this season.
Oregon State was the third FBS team that Nicholls State has played this season. The Colonels also lost to South Alabama and Tulsa. The Colonels have two wins over FBS opponents since 2000: They beat Arkansas State 28-22 in 2001, and Rice 16-14 in 2007.
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