Sean Mannion has not played a football game in Washington State’s Martin Stadium.
When Oregon State was scheduled to play the Cougars in 2011, the teams met in Seattle.
Mannion has been to the stadium on a recruiting trip, but he saw enough to know that when the Beavers play in Pullman on Saturday, the game is going to be loud.
“My impression of it was that it’s not the biggest stadium but it’s probably a place that will fill up and get pretty rowdy,” Mannion said. “So we’re preparing for silent count and all that stuff.”
The game doesn’t start until 7:30 p.m., so Washington State fans will have plenty of time to get revved up before kickoff.
The Cougars have played well this season and the game is a sellout, so there will be a packed house.
“It will be a tough atmosphere,” OSU offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “It’s always tough playing over there. It’s a little like our place. There’s a lot of students, it’s pretty tight to the field, it’s loud. So it will be a tough environment. It will be a team that’s coming off a big win and has some confidence and some momentum.
“We’ll have to use that silent count to make sure it helps us.”
The Beavers work on the silent count every week to stay ready for what can be ear-splitting screams from the stands.
On Thursday, Mannion marched the starting offense up and down the field in Reser Stadium while speakers blasted Metallica.
It was business as usual for the Beavers, who usually turn up the music late in the week.
“We have plenty of work at that weekly with having to communicate with that music playing,” Langsdorf said. “So it’s something that we’re used to and our guys really have to stay focused and move on the ball.
“We have to plan for not really being able to hear some calls so we work on some different ways of communicating.”
The so-called 12th man is common in college football today.
Students and fans head to the stadium with the intent to cheer the home team and jeer the opponents.
When the noise starts hitting those levels, it becomes difficult for the offensive players to hear the quarterback. The results can range from false starts to broken plays to turnovers.
To counter the loud crowd, most teams go with a silent count. Execution of the count varies. A quarterback often taps the center when he’s ready for the snap or lifts a leg if he’s in the shotgun formation.
“I know when you’re under center it’s less of an issue, just because when I’m closer to the line, they can usually hear me,” Mannion said.
“The time you really want to be sharp on it is when you’re in the shotgun, just because you’re farther away from the line of scrimmage.”
The center usually signals the rest of the line to mentally start the count, for example, one, two, snap.
The count is varied so the defense does not know when the snap is coming. If done well, it can keep the defensive players on their heels because they can’t anticipate on the quarterback’s cadence.
It’s crucial that the quarterback and center are on the same page.
“Then we have our guards that have to be able to communicate that stuff, too,” Langsdorf said. “Plus the communications on the perimeter with the guys that aren’t real close and can’t hear a possible call that we’ve changed or checked out of. So they’ve got to be able to echo the calls and the communication all the way out to the receivers.”
Execution has to be crisp and it can be tough for the linemen because they have to worry about the rhythm of the count, watch the ball and stay focused on their blocking assignment.
Peripheral vision becomes paramount.
“You’ve got to keep an eye on the guy but still see the ball snap,” left tackle Michael Philipp said.
The responsibility of the receivers boils down to staying still until the snap.
“We just watch the ball, so we don’t even really hear Sean giving the cadence during regular games,” receiver Richard Mullaney said.“It’s more easy for us than the linemen. We just have to watch the ball.”