Riley Meets The Press

Nov. 18, 2003

(On the emotion of the Civil War compared to other rivalries Riley has been involved in) 'For me, personally, going way back it's always been that saying it's a big game is an understatement. I remember as a kid, you couldn't stand the thought of the Beavers losing to the Ducks. And, of course, Coach Andros had a pretty good record against them so it was mostly good news. But I have been around a lot of rivalries - I was a graduate assistant at Cal when we were in the Big Game down there, and then USC and UCLA, and Alabama-Auburn, and those were all big games, but nothing like the Civil War. I think the size of our state lends itself to that, too. Everybody gets the news, everybody follows these two teams closely, there's no riding the fence - everybody's got a team. And us being so close geographically, I think that lends itself to it, too. I just think it's pretty unique.'

(On Oregon State's season to date) 'I've had a heck of a lot of fun with it. I think you feel like that if you win your last game. Overall, I'm excited about our team. I think we have gotten better. I really, really like the spirit of this team. We'll look back and have regrets - and we do - about a couple of ballgames, but there's nothing you can do about that except come out in the next game and try to win it. We've got to play the cards that we have right now, which are not bad. We're in pretty good shape; we just have to win, that's going to be the key. The stretch run will dictate for everybody in America how their season goes, really.'

(On the difficulty for either team of winning on the road in the Civil War lately) 'That's a great point. It's been a long time since Oregon State has won (in Eugene), and I think the last six games have been tradeoffs as far as the home-field wins. To break that cycle, we're going to have to play better than good, and we're going to have to handle the noise, and we've got to handle the distraction of being in a place that's been a bad place for the Ducks' opponents, so there's a lot to overcome there. We've got to play with a lot of poise, confidence - and still have the emotion that we need to win the ballgame. And we've got to play good football, we've got to make plays. We made a lot of plays in the Stanford game - guys who made tackles, they did a great job playing the ball down the field, and we made a lot of tough catches in the game. Steven Jackson makes a huge play in that game where he reverses field; nothing's done there that looks like the playbook we drew up for the game, but the guy made a play. Football's all about that, when it comes down to it - making a block, or making an extra effort to make a big catch, or do something extraordinary running the ball like Steven did on that play. It's something you can't really account for in the day-to-day life of a football team.'

(On what he sees at Oregon after its midseason struggles, then two straight wins) 'I see it as a team like our own, that's won two games in a row and probably is feeling like it's playing as well as it has all year. That's where we are. I think it's a great matchup in that regard - we're almost in the same boat as far as where we are in the conference, and what could happen after whoever wins the ballgame. I think there's implications for bowls and standings in the Pac-10. Then the obvious part about it just being the Civil War game. There's a lot on this ballgame, and I think they're playing good football right now. They've had two impressive wins; one come-from-behind one that says a lot about a team, and then going down to LA and beating UCLA like they did is pretty impressive, so they've got to be feeling pretty good. I think a couple keys in the ballgame will be that we've got to do a great job on our kick coverage. Our punt team and our kickoff team have to do a great job, because Oregon is leading the league in one and is second in the other one in punt and kickoff return. They do a great job, and we can't afford a big play against us in that regard. Then I think our secondary against our receivers; I really like their receivers' big-play capabilities, they're fast and we're going to have to have that all under control. Then their defensive front is physical, so our offensive line has got to put the anchor down and be able to block these guys. They've done a nice job, which I think is the best way to play defense, they haven't had to blitz a lot and they've played a lot of good defense.'

(On what Oregon does offensively and how Oregon State matches up against it) 'They're definitely an offense that has a lot of variety in it. They've run everything from the option the deep angles down the field throwing the ball. They can attack in a lot of ways; they want to run the football, also. They've got a variety of things that you have to look at, and that's a big factor in defensing Oregon - there's no one thing you can center it on.'

(On Oregon State's special teams this season) 'We've had moments where we've been okay, but overall I think it's been pretty average. Like I said, I tend to look at where we are right now and I don't think our coverage teams are playing up to their capability; we've got to get that going this week. The turnover element in the kicking game is very big; we've got to take care of the ball. All those areas of the game, I think we've had our moments when we've really struggled and we've got to have a good game that way. Oregon has made big plays against Oregon State, historically, in the kicking game and everybody knows that.'

(On both teams having in-state quarterbacks with Oregon State's Derek Anderson and Oregon's Kellen Clemens) 'There have been a lot of quarterbacks from the Pacific Northwest and from Oregon that have been playing all over the place. I think it's great. I don't know if it's unique; I can remember back in the day, watching Tom Blanchard against Steve Endicott when Tom was quarterbacking the Ducks, and they're both from the same town, Grants Pass. That was the story back then. I think it's great. There's good football in this state, and well-coached football. There's not a ton of prospects, there might be a dozen, but there's good football everywhere so the quarterbacks who are out there who have the physical capabilities are getting coached, and therefore they're getting noticed and they're getting opportunities. Arizona had a starting quarterback this year, Nic Costa, who was also from the state.'

(On the role of emotion and other intangibles in rivalry games) 'I think you might call it a tossup on those things. I think those things are important and they are relevant, for sure - how a team has done and where they are statistically and all of that. But I think both of these teams have played well enough in the last two games where it is a tossup in that regard. And I think emotion is a big deal, but being emotional won't be a problem, it'll be can you handle that emotion and use it in the right way - I think that's the biggest factor in a game like this.'

(On what quarterback Kellen Clemens brings to Oregon's offense) 'He's strong, that's for sure. I think both of those guys (Clemens and Jason Fife) have played good football for them at times this year - the majority of the time, and I think they've done an outstanding job with both of them. I would say that Mike (Bellotti) assumed both of them can play, and they can, and he played them like you would guys at another position. I've told you before, I've seen that work. We did it at USC; I thought it was a horrible idea. John (Robinson, former USC head coach) wanted to play both quarterbacks, alternate them by quarters, and we did it all year long and went to the Rose Bowl. At the end of the quarter, the other guy went into the game and it worked. These guys are doing a good job with it. I don't know how they're going to deal with the mix; you'd probably know more about it than me but they're both pretty good.'

(Does it put added stress on your defense with both of Oregon's quarterbacks being mobile?) 'A lot. Besides, they run the option play with them, which is not necessarily a quarterback run but he has a chance to run. They get a lot of third down-and-short conversions when they run the option, they make some plays that way. It puts added stress on the defense any time you run the option play - now, whatever you're playing, you've got to account for the quarterback and the pitch. It adds a whole other dimension to playing defense when you have to play the option. And they don't have to use it a lot, but just having it in and having some success with it, it's always there.' (Does having seen Boise State's Ryan Dinwiddie and Stanford's Chris Lewis already this season help your defense?) 'We've got speed, so I feel good about that. And we've defended some pretty good athletic quarterbacks. But it's still a matter of making the play at the right time. And the option - your speed is good, but you also have to account for one more guy. You can't just account for the quarterback; you've got to account for the quarterback and the pitch man, so that's another factor.'

(On Southern California dropping a spot in the Bowl Championship Series rankings) 'I don't worry or think too much about that stuff right now. That will all play out later on.'

(On the 1998 Civil War being the start of Oregon State's football turnaround, and Riley's recollections of that game) 'I think that was pretty much a landmark game in that regard. We played a very good Oregon team in a really good football game by both teams, and to win it under pressure of overtime was a big, big thing for sure. That group went on with Dennis (Erickson) and did great things. Somewhere in that final part of that season, the team definitely turned around and that game, I think, just put an exclamation mark on it. I knew the team thought we were pretty good and we were definitely improved and we could compete and play, but to win that game put an exclamation mark on it and was a kickoff for bigger and better things to happen.'

(On working with Oregon State linebacker Richard Seigler and his chances to play in the NFL next season) 'Richard is a tremendous guy. He's got that side that everybody sees with the emotion and the talking and all that stuff. But I tell you what, every day in practice he makes it fun because he likes to practice. His number one goal is for this team to win, and he's been a real good leader for this team. He was one of the guys elected captain and it wasn't close. He was recognized as a guy to be in that role. He should say this, but I think he's really fallen in love with the State of Oregon and Oregon State University, and feels a great, great commitment to this program. When he goes on and plays in the NFL, he'll just be another part of this being Linebacker U. You look at James Allen two years ago, and Nick Barnett, and Richard will follow in those footsteps and do very well.'

(On how the talking - like Oregon State linebacker Richard Seigler's comment about it being 'open season' after the Stanford game - comes into play for these games, and whether Riley worries about it) 'Oh, not that kind of talk. I thought that was fun, personally. I mean, you talk about going Duck hunting and there's no disrespect whatsoever in that comment from what I heard about it. I mean, you look around the country and people say stupid stuff going into ballgames, and I don't think that was a very good example of that at all. I thought it was a lot of fun, and that's really what this is about. Nobody's going to back down from this being a big game, and we're pointed toward the Duck game, and we are going after it, and we're going Duck hunting. I don't know if we're going to be successful or not, and it's going to be really hard. But I think Richard said it in a great spirit.'

(On how the importance of the Civil War was impressed upon Riley when his father, Bud Riley, joined Dee Andros' coaching staff in the 1960s, and whether it was a part of his youth) 'I would say it is. When you grow up in a football family, you feel all the emotion and all the tension of the games. Those are in your household every day, so it's kind of built up. Actually, when you're not in it - I was part of the family that was involved, but I wasn't going to be part of the outcome in any fashion except for cheering in the stands - and that's harder, I think, because you care so much about how they do. And I can see how fans get into it. We have so many things to do to get ready for this game that we're kind of swamped with that, so we can't get caught up in being nervous or being anxious; there's a lot of stuff to do for that. Then when you go play the game, you can't really either; you feel that all afterward and it all comes out. I think it's harder - it builds up in you and what your expectations are - more when you can't do anything about it but go watch. I had the hardest time in the world, ever, watching my dad's teams play. I was much more nervous about those games, wherever he was, than when I got to coaching.'

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