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by | College Football Insider

Rules of Engagement: Backup quarterback Vaz keeps Oregon State rolling


Rule No. 6,023: When there's panic around you, and you're able to quell that panic with touchdown passes ... yeah, that's a really good feeling.

Cody Vaz sensed the doubt. Not in his own locker room. The Oregon State Beavers were supportive when he was scheduled to start against Brigham Young in place of injured Sean Mannion, who tore his meniscus.

But Vaz, a junior, also noticed everyone outside of the program was a little uneasy -- fans, students, media. And probably with good reason: He hadn't started a game since high school, when he was the nation's 46th-ranked quarterback out of St. Mary's in Stockton, Calif.

Nobody in Corvallis wanted the No. 8 Beavers to spoil the best chance at a 5-0 start since 1939. Mannion was playing well.

"They don't know the situation, so they are frantic, scared," Vaz said. "But I knew I could perform well."

Hanging 332 yards and three touchdowns on a stout BYU defense in Saturday's 42-24 win fortified that confidence, which stemmed from more than having a strong arm. The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week has taken a gazillion reps in practices the last three years. Since spring ball, Vaz and Mannion, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, have shared reps equally. He's pretty confident he can handle the offense until Mannion returns in a few weeks, or maybe longer.

"I didn't have to think when I was out there," Vaz said.

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Now he's "VAZ-tacular," one of several nicknames Twitter branded him after he perpetuated the Beavers' miraculous recovery from last year's 3-9 dud.

Vaz always knew he could play, but he had little interest in bailing on the program just because he was a backup. He has made a home at OSU, has a girlfriend, lots of good friends and, apparently, lots of good practices. So when coach Mike Riley notified him in the preseason he did not win the starting job, he didn't play the transfer card.

The proverbial "program guy," Vaz lives by this: Stay patient, good things happen.

"I gave Coach Riley my word that I would be here for four or five years," Vaz said.

After returning from Provo late Saturday, Vaz hopped into bed and watched part of the Washington State-California game until he eventually dozed off as Cal won 31-17.

He hopes to keep OSU fans more entertained than he was, even on temporary assignment. The next three opponents -- Utah, Washington, Arizona State -- rank among the Pac-12's top four in total defense.

"I'd like to see a wide receiver duo in the country that's better than those guys," Vaz said.

Rule No. 109,006: Don't let career struggles get in the way of what you believe in.

Louisiana Tech offensive coordinator Tony Franklin had to say something out loud to Tech coach Sonny Dykes back in 2010.

If this works, great. If not, fire me. But we've got to fully invest in this offense.

That message was implied while at Auburn in 2008, or at least he thought it was. Franklin lasted seven games as the Tigers' OC. The offense was reeling, yes, but Franklin knew he couldn’t truly craft a team identity in half a season.

Now that Franklin runs college football's top scoring offense, he credits Dykes for remaining patient with his no-huddle attack.

When the 2010 Bulldogs ranked 49th in total offense and 54th in scoring offense, Dykes never questioned Franklin.

When the 2011 Bulldogs ranked 51st in total offense and 42nd in scoring offense, Dykes still never flinched while waiting for the payoff. Five wins and 323 points later, Franklin admits it’s nice to have time to build something.

"I was a good coach at Auburn, I'm a good coach today," said Franklin, who also spent a season with Middle Tennessee State between the Auburn and Louisiana Tech jobs. "I've coached football the same way. It would have been fun to have people believe in what you're doing. But we have people on our staff who believe."

That process wasn't always easy, especially that stagnant second half in a 35-34 loss to Houston a year ago.

"There were tough times for [Dykes] at times, like, 'Do I really believe in this or not?'" Franklin said. "But he knew if we were going to do it, it might take some time but would eventually succeed."

Franklin understands the leash is longer in the WAC than the SEC, which is why he sympathizes with Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, whose Tigers rank 115th nationally in passing yardage and 117th in points.

Sounds familiar. Franklin was once buried in the 100s, too. At 1-5, changes could be looming at Auburn.

"It's a miserable feeling to feel helpless," Franklin said. "I feel for the guy."

Gene Chizik could be on the hot seat at Auburn. (US Presswire)  
Gene Chizik could be on the hot seat at Auburn. (US Presswire)  
Rule No. 28: Twenty-eight head coaching changes will be tough to match this year. This week, embattled coaches around the country will go to work, maybe as early as 5 or 6 a.m., and look for ways to drown their sorrows in a win, a good game plan or a way to reach their teams.

"In your life and in football, you've really got one choice," said Auburn's Gene Chizik, sitting on a disastrous 1-5 start, to a local booster club this week. "You've got to keep fighting."

But how many of these coaches on the unrelenting "hot seat" will actually lose a job? The number could very well be less than last year, when 28 head jobs turned over.

After talking with a few athletics directors and coaching agents, matching 28 will be an arduous task, in part because of the buyout money involved, but also because of tenure.

Of the top 30 names on the "Coaches Hot Seat Ranking," brought to you by CoachesHotSeat.com, eight are in their first or second year (not including Arkansas' John L. Smith, a one-year stopgap to get Arkansas back on the motorcycle after Bobby Petrino). What will increase -- and continue to do so -- is the mounting pressure on coaches early in the season. Seems a losing SEC coach can’t get out of September without becoming in danger of losing company medical insurance. Then there’s the Mack mess. Mack Brown’s job security at Texas did not fit neatly into most preseason job forecasts.

Rule No. 11:00: Six a.m. wakeup calls are not cool. Just ask LSU and Texas A&M.

What a privilege it is for the Tigers and Aggies to play on a national network ... at 11 a.m. Maybe wait until the second quarter to tune in for less groggy action.

Rule No. 542: Fire one, keep nine.

That's how it goes sometimes with midseason assistant coach firings and head coaches that need to protect the brand. Because of this, I'm not so sure some of these struggling high-profile coaches won’t get to make a few fires before someone fires them.

Rule No. 116,084 (population of Athens, Ga.): Expect the Georgia Bulldogs to resurge after the ugly South Carolina loss.

They aren't a title contender, but they are better than the 35-7 score at Columbia. Two-loss season, max.

Rule No. 607: That third cup of coffee is probably a mistake. Just stop at two. Never settles well.

Rule No. 2,831: Hip surgeries wait for no one.

What timing for Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, who undergoes hip surgery before the most important three-game stretch of his career. At first, I thought his coaching last week's Mississippi State game from the box after surgery was a great storyline, but now that he's entering the Alabama-South Carolina stretch with 15 career SEC losses and zero mobility, I kind of feel bad for the third-year coach.

Rule No. 1,761: Make sure to #PrayForPaige. Paige Raque is a Penn State cheerleader who is in critical condition after falling five stories from an off-campus apartment complex. Keep her in your thoughts. I know Penn State is.

Rule No. 36: It would not be such a bad thing to see Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, who had another seizure last week, finish the Big Ten season on a successful note.

Jeremy Fowler is a national college football insider with CBSSports.com. Fowler joined CBS in 2012 after covering the Minnesota Vikings for the St. Paul Pioneer Press for two seasons and covering the Florida Gators for the Orlando Sentinel for two years. Fowler is also a contributor to the CBS Sports Network.

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