Riley Meets The Press
Nov. 9, 2004
(On Stanford) 'Stanford has made great improvement. I think offensivley, they're running the ball well. They're physical. They've had a very efficient passing game. They have a much different, more efficient identity on offense than they did a year ago. Defensively, they're athletic. They play a little different style of defense with that 3-4 than what we're used to seeing, so they have that uniqueness about them in this conference that's special and, I think, a good thing for them. Then they've blocked kicks; I think they've blocked five punts this year. Their football team is a whole different picture than it was a year ago.'
(Stanford has lost three games by nine points - is the Cardinal that close to being 7-2 this season?) 'That's the kind of year that they've had - they haven't won; they've been tremendously competitive and very impressive. I expect both teams to be in the same predicament as far as hoping to be bowl-eligible.'
(What concerns you most about Stanford?) 'Well, I'm concerned about handling their defensive front and their blitzes and that 3-4 defense. I'm concerned about protecting our punter. I don't want them to get into any rhythm offensively; I think we have to be disruptive and play sound. They have some very big receivers, they have athletic receivers and they have a very good tight end, so they've got some weapons that we have to account for. So I'm concerned in all areas about this game.'
(Are you confident in OSU's ability to pass against Stanford's defense?) 'It all starts with protection. Right now, Tuesday of this week, as we begin practicing for the week, I have to reserve judgement. Hopefully on Saturday morning, I'll feel very good about where we are and being able to recognize and pick up an assortment of blitzes. One of our coaches spent four hours the other day charting all of their blitzes that they run, so there's a variety we'll see. If you can pick them up, you have a better chance of being able to throw the ball.'
(How do you feel about the development of OSU's receivers as the season has progressed?) 'I feel okay. I think we can do better, but there has been more consistent play from more people lately than earlier, so we have progressed.'
(Given the graduation of defensive tackle Dwan Edwards after the 2003 season, do you think OSU defensive end Bill Swancutt has played even better this season than he did a year ago?) 'I've thought all along that is very possible, and I've thought all along going into the year that one of the guys we'll miss the most is Dwan Edwards. I think those guys that are playing inside, however, are doing a better and better job all the time, so we're pleased with that. But Dwan - you had to make some tough choices of who you were going to double team. That position in there is a great position in the defense, the guy who plays over the guard. It makes the offense make a lot of decisions on how they're going to block people. Back in the day with Dwan, if they singled him up, it was trouble. And that, of course, then opens up different opportunities to other people.'
(Do you think you'll see Bill Swancutt in the NFL next season?) 'Oh, I think we'll be watching Bill for a while. I think he's one of those guys - because of his ability, first of all - and then because of who he is, that he'll go someplace and last a long time because they'll like him a lot.'
(On the challenge for OSU's offensive line picking up Stanford's variety of blitzes) 'It is a different deal. Instead of all the time facing somebody who's 300 pounds, you're going to be facing sometimes, as you pass protect, an athletic linebacker, one of the four guys in the 3-4 defense that you're going to block maybe in space. And that guy's not going to run over you, but he's going to have some movement that you may not be as used to, so that's a factor. And then with that 3-4, you have all sorts of different twists and linebackers coming from the back side that can basically flow blitz on your team and you get more configurations and more movement when you really have to recognize people. And then you add the strongside safety or the weakside corner to the package, and you have a pretty good mixture of different kinds of blitzes. I coached the 3-4 defense in Canada, and we were the only team - just like Stanford - in the league that ran it and we gave people fits so I don't necessarily like playing against it.'
(On the health of OSU linebacker Jonathan Pollard, and how OSU's linebackers played against USC with Pollard sidelined) 'I think the whole defense played very well for most of the ballgame the other night and our linebackers are obviously a key part of that. I think we're still day-to-day with Jonathan Pollard with that high ankle; we'll probably know more this afternoon but we won't have a final answer. The rest of them will be ready to go. I think Keith Ellison will be a little slowed by an ankle, but it's not the same kind of ankle sprain Jonathan had.'
(How do you avoid an emotional letdown after a tough loss to No. 1-ranked Southern California?) 'It started Sunday and will build toward practice today. Our focus is absolutely on the future, so a lot will be determined as we progress through the week and we're focusing on what we're doing and getting detailed about what we're doing in all aspects. It is truly one of those times where we can't look back, that there can be no hangover, that it has to be our best preparation of the year for this game.'
(Have you mentioned the bowl outlook to the Beavers?) 'I already have. I said it's very obvious to everybody that we have to win two games to be bowl-eligible. You can't win two unless you win the next one, so that's why our focus has to be exactly where it is.'
(With a rather low-key atmosphere likely in Stanford Stadium, how do you avoid playing down to that atmosphere?) 'It's all about what you commit to the preparation that creates how you feel about the game. I think that being at Oregon State and being at our games, you're always in for a great atmosphere and we've played in some tremendous atmospheres throughout the country this year, but at the same time that can't be what the player is in it for. It has to be the commitment to the preparation, and then the play of the game - that's it. If nobody showed up, we should still have the same commitment, the same preparation and the same focus as if there's 92,000 people in the stands. That's ideal, but that's what it's really about - it's about the competition and the play.'
(On Stanford's Alex Smith and the Cardinal's receivers in general) 'They're an interesting-looking bunch. XXXX, No. 4, is really athletic - he's a superstar in the making and makes plays. But all those guys, they present problems because of their ability and their size, and they can run pretty darn well. The thing Stanford does a great job of is, they can match up and make some plays one-on-one because of their size and ability.'
(Is there a different kind of disappointment after losing to USC because of having played well against a great team than there is if you're disappointed after a game because you played poorly?) 'I think that's a great point, and that should be the encouragement and motivation factor that comes out of that game, exactly what it should be. I think what people ask, and why they ask it, is `Do you dwell on the fact that we played pretty good against the nation's leading team?' There are two points there that you have to deal with. One is, yeah, we played well, but we didn't play our best. We absolutely did not. So we've got room for improvement and we've got a tough opponent, so that shifts the focus. But the motivation can be that we did do some good things and we can build on that.'
(Does having won your last two road games and playing well against USC last week mean much this week?) 'I've thought about that exact thing. The road shouldn't be the factor. I hope we've proven to ourselves that we can win on the road - that's not the deal; it's about how you play wherever you are. Coupled with the other things, we're very capable. If we do the things that we need to do that are necessary to win this game, then I feel confident we can win. If we don't, we won't. It will be that kind of a game.'
(On picking up some yards in the running game by going wide the past few weeks - is that tougher against a 3-4 defense?) 'It varies. You see so many different looks, you can have one time that will look really good, then another time it might not look as good as you come around the edge. They might have a safety up there with all the linebackers, then you have to handle him. But our improvement, as little as it may be, in the running game over the past four weeks has to be a positive thing and something we can build on. I've made the point before, we're not going to be who we want to be in the running game this year; we're way past that. But we can improve yet and get better and build on that as we go into the future.'
(Not to look ahead, but looking ahead to the Civil War if both OSU and Oregon need a win there to become bowl-eligible) 'No matter what, when we get to that point it will be exciting. If that's one of the residuals, then that's a big deal - there's no getting away from that. I'll go back to my original point - that part of it won't be a residual unless we win.'
(Stanford had only allowed three touchdown passes all season going into the Arizona State game last weekend. Does the Cardinal defense tighten up inside the 20-yard line, or is it their alignment?) 'I think it is, because they have a variety. They'll come at you with the kitchen sink, and they will also drop everybody and rush three guys because in the 3-4 they can also do that very easily. They've got four linebackers that can be added to the four second secondary guys, so now you're talking about eight guys down in an area where you already have tight windows, where there's not a lot of room, and it's hard to find spots in there. That's what people have faced when they've gotten into the red zone against Stanford. It's hard to find that little niche; where they're rushing four guys or more, you have few more windows back there to try to pry yourself into. The passing game in the red zone is a very interesting phenomenon, it really is. It's very exacting. You've got to be very careful, and at the same time you have to be aggressive, you have to make some throws that are smaller windows down there to get anything.'
(On OSU wide receiver Mike Hass catching passes for over 1,000 yards this season without having the graduated James Newson capturing some of a defense's attention) 'Mike is a very good receiver, and he's very competitive. When a guy does what he did a year ago and makes tough plays and catches, then in a lot of respects that becomes a quarterback's comfort zone - he knows the guy will go get the ball, and if he has the opportunity he'll get the ball to him unless the coverage absolutely dictates that he can't. Mike has played the focal point in our intentions a lot of times in what we want to do with the ball, and he'll take advantage of those opportunities. But we also have some other people who have balanced this thing out that have helped with the production Mike has had. Jonas Newton has become a very good weapon at tight end and is a really good player and will get better and better. You can only double-cover so many people, so the other guys have to make plays and Jonas has made his share of the plays, for sure. Then Marcel Love has made some plays, and our backs get the ball, and our flankers are catching some balls. All that helps other guys. They want all the balls, every guy wants all the balls. But believe it or not, another guy catching the ball helps you. And that's happening probably more now than it was earlier in the year.'
(On the Pacific-10 possibly ending up with only four teams end up bowl-eligible but perhaps being one of the very best conferences in the country) 'I had heard that today and I don't pay much attention to it at this point. But somebody asked me that on a Pac-10 conference call, and the only thing I can think of is, we do have a couple of strong teams and then the rest of the conference is very competitive. We've seen time and again somebody knock somebody off that you wouldn't necessarily suspect. That's where you get a lot of the NFL 8-8 - that competition is like that in the Pac-10. We're seeing our teams that were not as good last year, like Arizona, being a better football team and they won a game. Even though they haven't won, they've been very competitive and they'll enter more into it in the future, I believe. So it's not going to get any easier.'