Riley Meets The Press
Nov. 16, 2004
(On the Civil War in general, and it being a 'winner-take-all' for the postseason this year) 'It's certainly one of the great games in the country every year, I think. I've been fortunate to have been part of some great rivalries, but I don't think any match the Civil War. With the long, long histor,; with the relatively small state, you're on one side of the fence or the other. Then this game has some added attractions for sure, so it's a big game with a lot of ramifications for the future play of either team. It's a great game to be a part of. Oregon has a very good football team, and we're going to have to play very well to win the game.'
(On the suspensions of three additional players announced Monday) 'We obviously find out, little by little, more and more sometimes about situations. What I have basically discovered is that we had players involved in actions and an incident that we don't condone in any way. We haven't found out everything about it, so that's why we have an indefinite timetable for the suspension. It will definitely last through the week, so these players won't play in the game (against Oregon). And there is, as we speak, an ongoing investigation of what is going on. As we find out more - as we have, and that's why the additional suspensions - we will act accordingly.'
(Corvallis Police have said the other three players are not likely to be charged; are they suspended for being under age in that establishment or what other reasons for the suspension could you shed light on?) 'I really won't and can't elaborate on what they were. It was a violation of what I consider team policy, so that's the reason for the suspensions.'
(What is the team policy for the night before leaving on a road trip?) 'There is no curfew or anything, but there are other rules regarding what our team does. Basically these are in-house things that sometimes I just have to make a judgment on and decide about the situations like this.'
(On not having Anthony Wheat-Brown after his big game at Stanford) 'We are in the people business and we want every player on our team to grow and be able to come out of here as an established member of the community. We're looking for growth, so this is one of those things that overshadows football. It's not all about football. We know the importance of the games and all that, but there are some issues that go above that realm and this is one of them.'
(What about Oregon scares you the most?) 'I'd have to say that I have a ton of respect for (Oregon quarterback Kellen) Clemens - he is a really good football player and is a versatile football player. He does some things with his athletic ability where we had problems at certain times during the year. He not only has designated running plays that he's good at - the quarterback draw, the option, the counter - but he'll also pull the ball down on a pass play and hurt you running the football, which he did numerous times against us last year. So he's definitely a concern. And then, besides that, I think physically up front on both sides of the ball they're very good. They dominated the game in that aspect last year so we're going to have to do a better job of handling their defensive front and controlling their offensive front. To me, that was one of the major factors in the game a year ago.'
(What do you tell your players you expect of them?) 'There's a long list of things we go through almost every day that we touch on from time to time, and begin the year with a list of guidelines, policies, rules. But for the most part, we don't want to be involved in anything that's either illegal or embarrassing to the program or the University. We represent a ton of people here, so everything that we do is held out there in front of our public and we want to be the best representatives we can. Now there's a whole bunch of specific things, but in general that's how our guidelines are brought out and that's how we go forward with our team each year, every day, all the time.'
(Was it a hard choice to suspend all four players indefinitely? And are you worried this might reflect on your overall program?) 'You never know how it will reflect. When you have 100 kids in your program, it's not ever going to always go smoothly; there's always going to be something and there is in most every program, and we try to prevent these things, talk about them way before they happen. This is one of those things that you ask if it was hard to do. It was not really hard to do. It's disappointing for the individuals because we're dealing with four individuals here that did something we don't condone. But I think it's been very clear-cut with in our team that when something like this happens, there will be a suspension. So in that regard, it wasn't hard to do.'
(Are you worried about it being a distraction for the other players going into this game?) 'That's an individual thing. I think probably it won't be a distraction as we get going and I think the players feel like I do - disappointed. Because this is a case where, like I said, you have 100 individuals and each one of those individuals represents the whole group. And as the whole group of Oregon State football players, this is not something that happens. There are a lot of guys who will be disappointed that something like this happened because they don't want this as part of their football team.'
(After a 1-4 start, OSU has gone 4-1 - how excited are you to be back in the position of playing to go to a bowl game?) 'This is one part that I'm very, very proud of our football team for - the fact that they had the perseverance and character to keep working. It was definitely a tough road to start the year. I think our losses have been hard ones and they kind of multiplied early, and they were to very good teams. I think all those teams are ranked in the top 16 in the country that we lost to, so we had worthy opponents, for sure. But that still compiles upon itself into an attitude that you have to get by in order to be successful and I think after our bye week, our guys were able to regroup and put together enough stuff to win a football game. And then that starts building on itself, too, and we've won three games on the road which has been good for our football team. So I'm very proud of from where we've come and where we are now, and I feel good about us and the work we've done and the tough-mindedness that is part of our program.'
(How will not having Anthony Wheat-Brown affect OSU's passing game?) 'You hate to lose any part, whether it's due to something like this - which is bad - or an injury. This is just one of those things where somebody else has to step in and make plays. Within our structure, there have been guys throughout the year - according to the defense we're playing, according to what we have in our game plan - when those things fit together where there are more balls, more production, and ironically Anthony's most productive game this year was this past weekend. And we don't like to lose that continuity; nobody would. However, we have, and we will have George Gillett and Josh Hawkins and Sammie Stroughter try to pull us up and step in and do what they're expected to do, which is contribute to the offense, make plays, know what they're doing and prepare for the game.'
(On the recent home-field advantage in the Civil War, as opposed to the success each team has had on the road this season) 'We've won, I guess, the bulk of our games on the road, which is unusual, maybe. I don't know what their deal is for sure, but I think they might be close, too. So it's one of those things that is kind of history and it's out there. Sure, there's something to home-field advantage, we'd all rather play at home, but once the game starts it doesn't really mean anything to us. You've got to go out there and make plays and make things happen and play a good football game in order to win. So I don't put a lot of stock in that, that's not anything we're relying on going into the game as far as the preparation is concerned.'
(What do you think this Civil War will mean to Derek Anderson?) 'I think it's pretty neat - both quarterbacks are from the State of Oregon, and that speaks well for our state and the football that's going on right here locally. For Derek, Derek has been a great Oregon Stater. As you go through, and it gets time to be close to the end, I think you start to appreciate even more so what it's been like to play in many big games and especially all the Civil Wars he's been involved in. You'll have to ask him exactly how it feels, but I would sense that it's pretty special because I can relate. And maybe he doesn't feel like I do, but having grown up with it and watched it and my dad coaching in it, and the tremendous involvement and emotion and caring about it - I think for almost anybody who's been in the state, it's probably somewhat like that.'
(Did you see anything that UCLA did that enabled them to run against Oregon last week?) 'First of all, I think UCLA is one of the better running teams in the conference. They have come back this year as a football team because of the physical part of their game and because of what they've done in the running game. I would love to emulate that game this Saturday and we will work to establish the run, we will obviously try to have every bit of preparation that we can to run the football in this game and it can play a major roll in this game. We have had our moments where we have had some good runs and some good plays, so I think we are more and more capable of doing that. However, we have not reached the point where I'd say we are a good running team, but our goal will be, and will always be, and we will one day be a good running team as we grow. I don't think it will be this year. Now, we might have a great running game Saturday and I will be tremendously thrilled for that, that will bode well in this ballgame if we do that. And we will attempt this week to get it ready to go. It's from a combination of reasons; there's not any one thing it's about. We're continuing to work on it, and I think in the last five weeks we have gotten better, believe it or not.'
(In your coaching career, have you experienced a lot of seasons in which a team just hasn't been able to get one part of its offense to click?) 'Not in the running game. Fortunately, that's been, in my life, pretty good. The teams that I've coached before, way back in the World League and the Canadian Football League, we usually led the league in rushing. I tell you, when you're not doing it, football can be hard. It's like pulling teeth because you don't have the balance, the defense can basically gang up on you a little bit in one phase. Then the thing that's really wrong with it is, you put too much of a burden on your quarterback. I think Derek Anderson has really held up to this tremendously and continues to be very productive. I told the story to the Beaver Huddle yesterday about (Green Bay quarterback) Brett Favre - he had one game this year where I think he had six interceptions. (Green Bay head coach) Mike Sherman asked him if he wanted to come out, and he said, `No way - I must be close to some kind of record here! I might as well stay in.' So we're going to keep slinging it; that's been our best way to move the football and we've been pretty good at it, but we would really like to be able to complement it with the run and be a balanced team, and that will forever be our goal.'
(You've played in rain, sun and fog this season - what do you want to see Saturday?) 'I looked at the seven-day planner on the Weather Channel the other day, and there was no green on it on Saturday. You guys probably know a lot more about the true forecast than I do, but whatever it is, it will be appropriate for this year because we've seen it all. We even had the big rain in September, which surprised everybody.'
(Both teams are 5-5 but all of OSU's losses have been to ranked teams, while Oregon missed No. 1 Southern California on the Pac-10 schedule and didn't play defending national champ Louisiana State. Does OSU deserve a bowl game more?) 'They did play Oklahoma, and they're pretty good. Really, it is one of those things where no matter what happens, like the start of our year, the identity for your team is - and I said this already, I think - is set as time passes through the year. For us and Oregon, we have reached a point together where a major part of our identity will be set on this one Saturday - how we feel about the season, the opportunity to go to a bowl game. So whatever happened before, however each team got to that point, it's just a formation of who we're going to be. They are who they are right now, we are who we are. Because of what we went through, I hope we're hardened by our early part of the year and have grown enough to play well in a big game like this. That is what I think about what has happened to our team. What has happened to their team is their own identity, which I can't pretend to know much about.'
(Were you surprised by anyone involved in the suspensions, given what you've come to know about them as people?) 'They're like your kids, so yes. Surprised, disappointed, and at the same time I would have to say that we're not at any way deserting those guys. They are ours, and we will do everything to support ... and like I said, we'll find out more as we go because I don't think we know enough to say anything more or do anything more than we've already done, which I think is a major penalty for a player. And then we'll see.'
(Have you talked to those players, and how do they feel about what has happened?) 'Oh, yeah, I talked to each guy and they feel badly. That's the only way I can say.'
(Will Derek Anderson's last game at Reser Stadium go a long way toward determining his legacy at Oregon State?) 'I think for the moment, that's for sure. Sports fans and people in sports live in the moment. You're as good as your last game usually, that's life in athletics. But whatever happens in this game, Derek's legacy here will be a long-term positive, at least in my regard, and that's the only opinion I can really form. This guy has been a part of the resurgence of this program. He and Jonathan Smith have won more games than anybody in the last 30 years here. He's the most prolific quarterback in the history of this school and it will be hard to break his records. Had he had a redshirt year, where he only threw 41 passes his freshman year, and not played that year he would break every Pac-10 record that is notable by mid-year next year. This guy has had a tremendous career, and we at Oregon State should all be very, very thankful that he's been the quarterback.'
(What do you have to do to contain the running of Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens? And what is the health of OSU's linebackers?) 'Absolute discipline in every way, as far as containing the quarterback. Outside containment, inside containment, a disciplined pass rush. Pass rush is an interesting phenomenon, because it takes tremendous effort. You want sometimes to take the quickest way to the quarterback, but the quickest way to the quarterback may be dangerous if you make the wrong move and the quarterback goes the other way and you're responsible for that area you just left, and that wrong move may be the easy-looking attack. And that's where the discipline ... and the persistence; pass rush is a persistence thing that you stay after it and grind it and keep going and work for containment and work for pressure and work for the sack, and at the same time keep that quarterback bottled up. So it's a lot about self-discipline on the field and not losing containment. And some of it is going to be the athletic ability of the quarterback, too. You will lose containment on Michael Vick once in a while. No matter how they talk about it in the NFL, they sometimes can't do anything about it. But we have to do our best and make good decisions and not make assignment mistakes regarding containment. If you get beat athletically, you get beat athletically. If you get beat assignment-wise, that's different. Jonathan Pollard has done a tremendous job of getting treatment, done probably everything he possibly can to get ready; I don't know if he's ready yet. I think we'll have to look at it and we won't know until Thursday, that's what it will probably be. He tried to get ready for Stanford, he dressed for the game, he went through pregame. All along, we were hoping he would not have to play. He went in as an emergency player only, we did not have to use him in the game and that's probably very good for this week so he didn't have any setbacks. We'll see where he is. Keith Ellison was amazing against USC, had the bad ankle and played three quarters, played last week on one leg and led our team in tackles and got a game-clinching interception at the end, and I'm assuming Keith will be back and playing again, but I don't think he's 100 percent.'
(What's the biggest benefit from playing in a bowl game?) 'No. 1, for your team, it's a reward. No. 2, for your team, it's almost another spring practice, another 15 practices; it's great for the young kids in the program. From the coaches' viewpoint, it's a tremendous thing, the added work with your team that those not in a bowl game don't get. The third thing is, there's definite notoriety to being in a bowl game so I think it helps your program overall and possibly has residual effects on recruiting.'
(On George Gillett, Josh Hawkins and Sammie Stroughter) 'George Gillett has done a great job of working all year long in a rather disappointing situation for him. He's a senior, he's worked hard to be a starter but wasn't a starter, but he's kept a good frame of mind and worked hard so I anticipate George being ready and being able to step in. Sammie is a young guy who doesn't know what he's doing yet, but when he does, he's dangerous. So I think he probably will continue to work and be ready to go in somewhat of an emergency situation. And Josh Hawkins is probably one of our most reliable people. He probably knows both positions, the X and Z positions, as well as any guy on the team. He's been playing behind Mike (Hass), but we'll get him schooled up and refreshed on the Z, so he might be a factor at that position, also.'
(Your last Civil War game at Reser Stadium was a memorable one - OSU's 44-41 win in double-overtime in 1998) 'That was a great, great game to be involved in. Oregon had a great team, and our team was just discovering that we were pretty good, too, around that time. So it ended up being a great, great battle. I thought one of the keys to the ballgame was that we stayed close early, then gained confidence as the game went on. The other thing that was big was that we did run the ball very well in that game and they did not, and that's always a big factor in the game. Then all the kind of unreal atmosphere through the overtimes - the false end of the game, then the overtime that came after it. It was just all great. And I remember all too well Akili Smith - he was phenomenal, 400-some yards in that game and we couldn't really stop him but we got just enough to stop him at the right time to give us a chance to score a touchdown to win the game.'
(How would you prepare younger players to play in their first Civil War?) 'Our preparation will stay pretty status quo. I think we have a good rhythm to what we're doing; I think it's important to stay in that rhythm as we go into this game. We've found a pretty good focus to our preparation and I think that has to do with some consistency in what we've been doing and we've built up to this, so we won't change much of that. But as we go through the week, talking about this game and how really great it is to be a part of. I don't want to make it sound too melodramatic, but it's a great, great game to be involved in and I think these young guys won't really get it until they see one and then they're here for a while, and that's when it really hits you.'
(Where does this Saturday rank with the other Civil Wars you've been involved in?) 'I think it would probably, for the moment, rank as the greatest. That's how you feel. All the other games I either saw or coached in here were memorable because they were Civil War games. This one, we are absolutely enveloped in our own football teams. Players are like that, coaches are like that - we're in it for what it is exactly right now, which is an exciting, great football game. Now the added bonus is all the ramifications of this ballgame. We live in that deal, so how it stacks up is, it stacks up very well for me as I'm in it right this week as one of the most important Civil Wars of all time.'
(Will you use former players and memories of Civil War games to get your team ready this week?) 'We'll focus on the details of our preparation, but we'll also talk about some memories from some of those games, what it's going to be like, how to deal with it. And we've already begun those talks, even after the Stanford game.'