Riley Meets The Press
Sept. 28, 2004
(You've played three teams in the Top 25 and have another one coming in this week, so it doesn't necessarily get any easier) 'It's definitely another good team, and we haven't seen a lot of them. We've got their two games and it feels a little bit like an opening game as far as our preparation - not physically, but as far as looking at the other group. We know they're good. They have a very balanced, powerful offense and their defense has been playing very well. It's another big test.'
(Are some of California's statistics misleading because they've played Air Force and New Mexico State?) 'The other side of that coin is, they have been productive. You look back at their year last year and they're a very productive offense and fairly experienced - a lot of people back. I think they're pretty good.'
(Is there any way California could look past this week to their game next week against Southern California?) 'I have no idea. That's really their deal, and we've got ours to deal with.'
(Being 0-1 in the conference and playing at home, is this a must-win game?) 'It's a good question, but as a coach ... we're not even halfway. You don't draw any lines in the sand. It's a really important game, it's a conference game, and the other fact of the matter is that when you lose, you do dig yourself a hole. So those are real issues, but the most important issue is us and playing better. We've played some awfully good football but we just shoot ourselves in the foot. We've just got to get those things straightened out, and we can play good ball.'
(When you evaluate Oregon State's running game, what has been the problem in being productive?) 'You look at Arizona State and we knew they were much-improved with a good defense and playing very well, so you have to give them credit. But on the other side of the coin, we have to be better. The running game involves everybody. I think our runners are pretty good, and I'm excited about being able to give them the ball and gain some yards; we've just got to do a better job being consistent with it. We can make some plays, but we have to be more consistent and establish an identity. When you don't succeed at what you're trying to do, you question your identity and what's your best play and what can you rely on, and that's disappointing. I think what's most disappointing to me is that on two third-and-shorts we didn't get it; we didn't convert two third-and-shorts and two third-and-mediums and our third-down ratio isn't horrible as it is. The game changes dramatically with those kind of conversions, and the ability to run the ball in those situations is huge - you don't always have to run a play-action pass to try to get the first down.'
(On using a two-back offensive alignment) 'We're pretty balanced with that; we play an H-back who is a pseudo-fullback as a lead blocker in quite a few different things we're doing, so we're fairly balanced. We're not in a position, personnel-wise, to just go full-fledged with a fullback but we have plans for that down the road. But we also want to maintain what we do with a single back; we have been a good running team in the past with a single back so we want to maintain that and then utilize our H-back when he goes in sometimes as a receiver, sometimes as a blocker in pass protection and sometimes as a blocker in the running game.'
(Would you like Ryan Cole to get more carries?) 'We've got a pretty good rotation going and Ryan is part of that, and will continue to be. The rest will depend on how it goes. I think both of those guys are very capable and have proven to be very capable and Ryan is a good, tough runner and will add to our running game for sure.'
(Worried that California has had two weekends without a game to get rested for this week?) 'I don't know what to think about that; it's out of our control, so it doesn't really matter. They've had to deal with that time. Only the game will tell if it's a positive or negative effect. For us, we obviously have our things we have to do to get ready for the ballgame and our sequence of events that have to occur to get ready for it, so that's all we're capable of taking care of. The rest is all so subjective that you can't spend any time on it.'
(Comparing Arizona State quarterback Andrew Walter to California quarterback Aaron Rodgers, after defending Walter reasonably well last week) 'That's the sad part about the ballgame - we did a nice job defensively in a lot of ways. The problem we had in the ballgame was giving Walter and his crew short field many times; they played on their end and it made a big difference in the ballgame. We've got to come up with another great defensive performance against a very balanced team. They're both top-notch quarterbacks, but it's a different team and so is preparing for this and getting ready for Cal.'
(On California head coach Jeff Tedford's success in developing quarterbacks) 'Jeff has a great history of that, for sure. They do a very nice job overall with their offense in the development of people within their system, and they've had a number of good talents that have been developed and played very well.'
(On why Oregon State and Oregon are 10th and ninth in the Pacific-10 in penalties) 'I don't know. That's something we've been doing a pretty good job on but obviously the frustration in the ballgame led to a meltdown of sorts and we just can't have that.'
(How similar is California's offense to the ones at Boise State and Arizona State?) 'There's a family out there, a group that intermingled through the years at Oregon with Dirk (Koetter, ASU's head coach and Boise State's former head coach) and Jeff (Tedford, California's head coach) both having been there, so you have Cal and Arizona State and Oregon and Boise State. They all have their unique parts to it, but there's definitely a foundation there that's similar in a lot of ways. It's very interesting as we look at it and prepare defensively for those teams. In one way, people think it's an advantage; in other ways, it's like they can look at the film pretty closely and then see what you're doing against somebody and have a picture of it. It's a pretty interesting phenomenon, but there's definitely a family tree out there.'
(On California having the best rushing offense, statistically, that OSU has faced this season) 'That's going to be the factor in the ballgame is being able to play balanced defense. There's nothing you gang up on in this thing. Philosophically, you'd like to take away the run and then play pass defense - that's what we'd like to be able to do. With an offense like this, it's easier said than done, for sure. That's going to be our big, big challenge is not letting them establish that running game where everything goes easier. It's the same thing I've talked about with our team for a long, long time - you're going to have more success if you can run the football.'
(Is this a week when you need some players to take over in the locker room and pull the team together?) 'I think that's a great point. There has to be, within our group, physically and emotionally and attitude-wise - the whole thing - have to step up and go to work. I think our team realizes our capabilities and is frustrated with what our record is, but at the same time I think there are people there who will step up and go to work and get ready to play.'
(On not just being home this weekend, but also in the Pacific Northwest for the next month) 'It's great. It was a tough September; we all knew that, it was going to be tough. Good, ranked football teams on the road. When you lose, though, you dig yourself a hole and we've got to fight back out of it and get a win this week.'
(On Joe Newton's fumble at the goal line against Arizona State and what you said to him about it) 'I just told him, `The most dangerous guy is behind you, Joe.' And that's always the case in football. That was a great play defensively. It's something offensively you talk about, and it's really the truth - when you're running in the open, the only person to be aware of is somebody chasing you. And what that guy did is exactly what you should try to do in that situation and he made the play. So it's over and we've hopefully learned a lesson from it. That was a big play in the game but it wasn't the thing that cost us the game. And Joe has been playing great for us, so he'll be fine.'
(Will Oregon State's recent success against California have any affect this year?) 'I don't think it plays a role. It's a brand new team, game, new dynamics - the whole deal. We don't put a lot of stock in that. We've been through this before. Historically, in the Pac-10, it's anybody's ballgame - you just have to watch on Saturdays to find that out.'
(Other than your record, is there a trend that you like that this team has shown you?) 'The last two weeks, we've played our style of defense and played it pretty well. I think the longest gain in the game last week was 17 yards, and in my history if you hold somebody to where their longest gain is less than 20, you win the game. We're also having some people come to the front. Anthony Wheat-Brown caught some more balls, Marcel Love in the last couple weeks has made more plays. We continue to find some consistency with Jonas Newton and Mike Hass. Obviously, what I'm leaving out is that we've got some holes; we've got a running game to get established. But we've got a lot of other good things going. We can move the football, we can stop people, our kicking game has improved, our coverage teams - except for one punt return last week - did an excellent job, great kickoff coverage, we appear to be better in the return part of the game, making better decisions, getting some yards. Those things are all starting to look better, so there is some stability in a lot of areas on our team that are rounding out and we're doing a pretty good job. It's all overridden by losing, which is the way sports are. But I think the question is a good one and there are some things that are happening that are positive that we need to accentuate, but we drastically need to improve those other parts of our game to win games and be the kind of team we want.'