Riley Meets The Press
Sept. 7, 2004
(How did Oregon State respond on Monday to the loss at Louisiana State?) 'Good, considering when we got back and all that stuff. We immediately started talking about, `Hey, we knew this was going to be a short week so we had to get ready to go.' Normally, Monday is a day off but we went out and practiced; probably a little lighter than we would on a normal Tuesday but we still had a pretty good go. And I thought the guys did a great job, they worked hard. Game aftermath is tough generally physically anyway, but Monday is always a little rougher day but I liked how we went back at it.' (Do you find older people tend to suffer over losses like the one at LSU longer and younger people bounce back more quickly?) 'I hope that's true. I still think despite the loss, which was hard, that there's also a little bit of confidence and there was a lot of good football in the game. There were guys who played a lot of good football, and there were a lot of things we were anxious to see. We talked about this a million times - Who's going to block? Who's going to catch balls? Who's going to run? We felt good about what we'd seen in camp and I made the statement that I thought we were gong to have a pretty good team but I didn't know how we matched up against that team. So I think there are some things coming out of that game that - coupled with the fact that this group is pretty focused, practices well, works hard - all that part of it, put together, I think we're on our path to the next ballgame and looking forward to it.' (Without calling the next game - or any game - easy, was playing the opener at Louisiana State an early test that makes everything that follows easier, in a way?) 'I don't know that it gets easier as far as winning the games, but we're not having any tougher environment or climate or any of that stuff anywhere. One of the big purposes in taking the ballgame was the fact that this would be a chance to harden ourselves. We have a long road to go, so the more you can sharpen and get better and handle all sorts of circumstances, I think the better off you are in games as they come if you do, indeed, grow from it - and I'm hopeful that we will.' (How do you approach this game, and how do you get your team ready both physically and mentally?) 'The best way to approach anything - besides the fact that you've got to go on to the next game - is concrete issues. We're playing a very good football team; a team that's used to winning, expects to win, has won a ton of games over the course of the last five or six years - one of the top three winning programs in Division I football, 54-11. These guys are good, and they're at home. I feel like we're going into a hornet's nest. It'll be another tough night.' (What concerns you most about Boise State?) 'They're pretty explosive. I was hoping with (former quarterback Ryan) Dinwiddie gone, they wouldn't be able to put up the numbers and they only started out with 65, so that's out the window. They have a great system, they're well-coached. Dan (Hawkins, head coach) does a great job, Chris Petersen (offensive coordinator) does a great job over there. And they're very sound, they play good defense. It's just a solid, solid football program they've got going. They're versatile on offense and defensively, as I said, they're very sound. And they're good in the kicking game; they beat us in the kicking game last year. We won the game, but they beat us in that phase, for sure.' (How fast did you, personally, get over the loss at Louisiana State?) 'One thing about it is, you don't really have time to dwell on it. We have encouraged, from the opening night of our fall camp, that because of our schedule we absolutely have to live in the moment. We can't dwell on the past and we can't look down the road. Our schedule is as tough as it gets in this country, so we have to focus on the task at hand. And for all of us - coaches, players, the whole deal - we have to go forward. We came back and watched film and started on Boise State, just like we needed to do.' (Can that experience bring Oregon State together as a team?) 'There can be some residual things from that ballgame that should be very good for us. We talked about playing the game, staying in the game, being focused, not a lot of other stuff than playing football, and I thought our guys did a nice job of that. If we can continue to build on that, it will be a positive to come out of that.' (How had you felt about changing the schedule to open at Louisiana State? And did you think Oregon State was impressive?) 'I was impressed with how we went in and played. The way it came down, (athletic director) Bob De Carolis kind of left it up to me to say, `Yes or no, do we want to do this?' This was well-done by Bob and our athletic department. I thought it would be good for us. As the game got closer I wondered, watching all that film of those guys, but I'm happy with the way we responded and very disappointed that we lost. But then you try to take the positives from that game and go forward, and learn from the negatives. There was stuff for all of us to get better at.' (How do you handle a locker room talk after a loss like the one Saturday night?) 'There's a lot to the locker room after a ballgame, especially after a tough, tough loss. I never know exactly what I'm going to say when I go in there; I just kind of react to the moment. I was actually kind of worried later when I heard there was a camera (from ESPN) in there - I didn't know what to think about that. But you kind of react to what you see, and I felt really badly for our players and coaches. They gave everything. I thought our coaches had a great plan for the game - (defensive coordinator) Mark Banker and (offensive coordinator) Paul Chryst and (special teams coach) Bruce Read - all the coordinators had this team well-prepared for that ballgame. And then our players played hard, hard, hard. So it's a difficult reaction to see all that disappointment, but that's part of life.' (How was placekicker Alexis Serna on Monday? How do you handle that situation this week?) 'I thought he was great. I was really impressed, actually. He was ready to talk about it, he was forthcoming, he handled everything real well. From the minute I met him a year ago when he walked on here, when he went out and went to work, I thought, `This kid's got some stuff to him.' He'll battle back for it. I don't know if `re-opened' is the right word, but we have had competition right up to a couple days before the game last week for that spot and kind of left it open. So we'll continue the competition and make another decision. Now, the decision might be the same one we made before, but we'll make that later in the week.' (Playing back-to-back games on national television and having lost the first one, does this make the game at Boise State sort of a must-win?) 'We really want to win, there's no doubt about that. That second ballgame, you can look at it a couple ways - had we won and then lost, how would we feel? So winning the game, regardless of the circumstance, is a big deal and it's going to be tough.' (On tight end Joe Newton) 'Joe Newton had a real good fall camp and a good spring. He had a great break-in year last year working together with Tim Euhus as our tandem of tight ends. I was impressed with him in the ballgame, how he played and making some tough catches. He played hard in the ballgame. I think he's got a lot of stuff to him. We thought going in that he'd be a guy we'd have to look to in our offense. He was one of the more stable guys as far as what we knew about him in a ballgame coming back. If you look at the receiving corps, basically him and Mike Hass were the two guys with some history that we really felt good about, and then who's going to fit in around them and who's going to make big plays are big issues. Joe, in that first ballgame, fulfilled what we thought we needed from him, so he's been a factor in our thoughts all along.' (Looking at the three missed point-after-touchdown kicks, was there anything that you could spot wrong with the holds or snaps?) 'No, there wasn't really. The only thing on the last kick was that there was more pressure from before from his left side. But I thought the snap and the hold by Colt Charles was good, the holding in general.' (With Dwight Wright having a strong game at Louisiana State, do you now re-evaluate the situation at running back?) 'Dwight really stepped up and played well. I thought Ryan Cole ended up with some good plays in the ballgame, too. Like I said before, I think we have very capable people. Dwight hasn't done it in a starting role until last week, but I thought he stepped up and I liked everything about how he played and his attitude and his mental toughness in the ballgame - I liked all of that. And I liked Ryan Cole; he's a tough, hard-headed guy and likes to play and will hurt you when he runs. I was pleased with both of those guys, and Yvenson Bernard played his role in the ballgame. We'd like to get him more involved, probably in the third-down area, but I think all three of those guys were factors in the game.' (On Oregon State's offensive line) 'That's the key to a lot of things, is how they do. From here on out, it's how they progress and they were pretty darn tough. LSU's defense is not easy, either physically or mentally, to play against because they do a lot of stuff, there's just a lot there and they do it with really good people. So I thought our offensive line kept their poise and did a lot of good things. I'm excited to build on that group. That was probably my biggest worry going into the game, that matchup itself, so if we can build from that we'll be okay.' (You always want to win, but does your team maybe want to win this game even a little bit more because of how the game at Louisiana State ended?) 'The next ballgame is always looming and we are so early in the year, it's our second game. We all want to get started on the right foot, and we have a loss next to our name, so I suppose ... but it's like I said, win or lose that ballgame last Saturday night, coming out of the next game will determine how they feel; that's sports for you - `What have you done lately?' It's as much as your last ballgame that you really have to think about. We lost that ballgame and were bitterly disappointed but after that, who cares? You've got to go on and get ready to go, and we have another tough game. And it's a great challenge - we're not scared about it, we're not anxious about it, we just have to be mentally tough and go get ready to go.' (Will the ties between OSU and Boise State and the history of the series affect the players getting ready for this game?) 'I don't know - I don't know how much they really think about some stuff like that. But there's definitely a history of football, for me just last year. I've followed that program for quite a while when Dirk Koetter went over there, then Dan (Hawkins) took over, and it's been a solid, solid program. And then a couple years ago, I watched them really trounce Iowa State in a bowl game. They've been very consistent in winning football games. And there are personal ties. I've known Dan (Hawkins) for a long time and we're friends, and I have a lot of respect for what he does. And (offensive coordinator) Chris Petersen is a heck of a coach and I've known Chris for a while. You end up having personal ties the longer you're in this business, but this will come down to two good football teams battling it out.' (With Boise State's long winning streak and long home winning streak, what are your biggest concerns going in there to play?) 'My biggest concern is that they're a good football program. They know what they're doing and they do it well. They're well-coached and they have some good players; that's my biggest concern. The other factor is that when you're a winning program, you expect to win, and their attitude is going to be one of `We're going to win the ballgame.' We know that, and that's why I say we're going into a hornet's nest, but I have faith we'll be up for it.' (How important is it to build on how you ran the ball at Louisiana State to help the passing game?) 'It's absolutely necessary that we maintain and find more and more balance in the offense. I thought running the ball against LSU that a three-yard gain would be a major big deal, believe it or not. We were able to do that a few times and then hit a pretty good long one, so I was impressed with that. But we have to build on that; we have to become a team that can run the ball and that people have to honor that because I think you can control football games better running the ball than throwing it.' (Comparing Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky to last year's BSU quarterback, Ryan Dinwiddie) 'He's an athletic guy, and that always causes a defense more problems. And you know what? He's right in the thick of that offense and looks like he functions very well in it. And they have a lot of variety. That both is a burden on the quarterback, but once he's got it, it helps the quarterback. That's where their consistent explosiveness is evident. You see it in their program, and they carried it right on into the first game this year.' (Can the short week help you? And if so, how?) 'I don't know how it helps us, necessarily. If there's one thing I might point to - and I don't even know if this is true or not - I think getting back to work was not a bad thing to do for our team right now. We had one day to put that game behind us as a football team and then we're on to the next deal. That may be a positive thing.' (On Derek Anderson's health and his performance at Louisiana State) 'Derek is fine. On Sunday, he was the first player up. The players had the day off, but a number of them came by and wanted to watch the film, and he was the first one there. He threw the ball well Monday. I think he's pretty sore, but the quarterbacks don't get hit as much as the other guys in fall camp so that was his first go-round of live stuff, and he took some hits. That very last play that he threw the touchdown pass, he hung in there like a stallion and threw that ball for a touchdown and got whacked. And then (Louisiana State defensive end Marcus) Spears got him one other time right after he released the ball that was big-time. But I thought he hung in great and he had a good practice Monday, so we're on to the next deal.' (With the blue turf at Bronco Stadium matching Boise State's uniforms, do they tend to blend into the turf visually?) 'I don't know - that's a good point. I wanted to go over there on Thursday evening and have our last run-through in their stadium, but the way we're getting their time-wise, then they have a high school game there that night. I talked to Dan Hawkins on Monday and told him `I guess we'll have to paint our field blue just to work on it,' but I don't know what that is or what it's all about.' (Is the challenge for your defense this week at Boise State even greater than its challenge was at Louisiana State because of the variety of things in the BSU offense?) 'There's a lot of stuff. Boise State does a good job of keeping you on the mental edge in the football game. There's a lot of movement, shifting, motion. They have some elements of that Fly offense that Dan Hawkins ran at Willamette when he was up there. There's a lot of different things that we'll have to mentally adjust to and then physically play the game. That's defensive football for you, and they test you in every way both ways.' (Who did Oregon State take off its schedule to play Louisiana State? And when that game was added, was there concern over playing LSU and Boise State back-to-back?) 'We were scheduled to play Temple, and then this opportunity came up and we pursued it. We are very, very respectful and know that we're going into a hornet's nest, but my point is that I don't think our guys are going to be scared about that or anxious about it. I would hope they look forward to it with the excitement they looked forward to playing last week.' (Did wide receiver Anthony Wheat-Brown know about the delay-of-game rule for taking the ball back to the sideline? And how have you handled that?) 'I don't think he was aware of that rule, as a matter of fact. And we have made him aware of it.' (What sort of atmosphere do you expect to find at Boise State?) 'Everybody will be geared up for the ballgame over there. With the success of their program, they've developed a tremendous following, great fans. I've not been in the stadium for a game, but from what I understand it's a great atmosphere. With this ballgame and the history of the ballgame last year, I think people in general will be fired up about the opportunity. For us to go on the road and play another tough, challenging football game is big; I think it's really big for us. For them, it's an opportunity to get another win.' (How tough an environment was Tiger Stadium? And what in particular makes it that way?) 'I think it has all the stuff, when you talk about going into a place. The arrival at the stadium was intimidating in its own way. I don't know how many thousands of people are outside pounding on the busses as you go in, but it seemed like a lot. Then for us, there's always a factor with noise and that was as noisy as it gets. The other factor - for us in particular - is dealing with the weather. So there are a lot of things surrounding that game that our players had to deal with. That's one of the things I'm most pleased about, is that I thought they just went down there and played ball, which was very, very good.' (After taking one of the defending national champions into overtime and now playing a team from a non-Bowl Championship Series conference, are you worried about your team being overconfident?) 'Not really. I think our guys have a very good understanding of how good Boise State is. Our motto from the beginning of the year has been, absolutely, that with our schedule we have to live in the moment and can't dwell on the past or what happened, and we can't look down the road because whoever we're playing is going to be pretty darn good. I'm not really worried about being overconfident. We've got a short week to teach our players about Boise State so we can adapt what we do to either attacking them or defending them. That's our main deal right now - the nuts and bolts of the football game are in progress right now with practice, so that's what we focus on. I want our kids to go over and enjoy that moment, too - go play like crazy. It's going to be fun, it's a great opportunity, and it will definitely be a challenge.' (On Boise State's defense) 'I really like their defense. I thought, playing them last year, that it was one of the most sound defenses we've played against. They're well-prepared, well-coached, they play extremely hard. They give you a variety of a lot of different looks and blitzes, so they're difficult to play against. Anytime you have a team that's won that many games, their offense gets a lot of notoriety because they are explosive and score a lot of points, but there defense has been a consistent factor, too, and I think they do a great job of coaching that defense.' (Yet Derek Anderson threw for over 400 yards against them in 2003) 'I know he did, but they weren't easy. I remember both Mike Hass and James Newson making some really tough catches. I looked at that game film and thought, `Wow, this was hard.' So I'm not necessarily enamored with the numbers as much as I am about how difficult it is to make plays against a team that's usually in position.' (On Boise State's special teams) 'They do a nice job on special teams. I'm anxious for our team to get another chance to go out on special teams. I think we made improvement in a lot of areas; the unfortunate thing is that it's overshadowed by our missed PATs but there was a lot of good football on coverage teams and hopefully it's an indication that we'll be able to return the ball a little bit this year on kickoff returns and punt returns. I thought Yvenson Bernard settled down and had some good plays and showed a lot of courage in the ballgame, so I'm anxious for our special teams to match them. I know they'll be good at it and they have good returners and a great kickoff guy; I don't even know if we'll get a chance to return a kickoff, because I think I saw that he kicked 47 touchbacks last year, so he's got a big leg. But they've got a good kicking game and it will be a great test for us.' (On Derek Anderson's progress) 'Derek has been progressing from the time that we've known him, and the main reason for that is that he's a hard worker and conscientious. He had, as some would look at it, a pretty rough start least year; not real efficient or consisent in the passing game, and I thought as the season progressed he got more and more comfortable and played some of his more productive games as the season grew and as the competition stiffened, even. He stood pretty tall and played a lot of good football. Then he was one of the main stable factors in spring ball and in fall camp, and I think he's grown as a player and he's grown as a person. I think the offseason was great for him. He went to the Peyton Manning Academy as a counselor, he went to the Elite Eleven camp as a counselor, he's met a lot of people and traveled the country - I think all that was real good for Derek. He's from Scappoose, so that opportunity to go out in the world and meet people, I think it's all good for him. His confidence is high, he's a fun guy to be around. I thought he reacted tremendously in that last ballgame, just competing and fighting and making some plays, so I'm anxious for his continued growth and we need to continue to build the people around him, whether it's in the line or in the receiving corps and the running backs.' (What specifically do you like about his skills?) 'He's got a great arm. And he can throw all the passes you want - deep balls, the intermediate balls - and he's got a nice touch. He's got a real good release. I wouldn't qualify him as a runner, but he does enough in the pocket to find his way around and make some plays. He scrambled for a first down against LSU, which is a major undertaking, but there's a lot of stuff he has as a quarterback that is very positive as far as skills.' (Not many teams - particularly Pac-10 teams - are willing to travel to play Boise State. Are these kind of guys something you'd rather not play, or something you think your program will continue to do?) 'We're playing a very, very good opponent, so that part of it will be good for our football team. It's always tough to go on the road. As far as anything else about it, we can't really worry about it. This games on the schedule, we're going to Boise to play a very good football team.' (What was your reaction on Saturday night/Sunday morning when you found that the Eugene airport was closed and you had to fly into Portland, then wait for buses to arrive to get you home to Corvallis?) 'I wasn't alone, but it wasn't very good news. Everybody is a little cranky and tired after a loss.'