Riley Meets The Press

Sept. 2, 2003

(After having the chance to take another look at the Sacramento State game, what are your thoughts on the season-opener?) 'I think we had a pretty clear picture. We did some things that were very good; we kind of laid a foundation for what we want to do, and then found out some things we need to work on, for sure - some things we really need to improve this week, dramatically, in order to beat Fresno State.'

(What do you expect from Fresno State?) 'I think Pat (Hill, Fresno State head coach) has done an outstanding job over the years he's been there in building back that program to one that is respected nationally and has won a lot of big games. They have, it sounds like, a particularly good homefield advantage going down there. So I think it's a great opportunity for our team to really have to go and focus on playing good football and not being distracted, and being able to handle the noise and the crowd, and also the passion of the rivalry - all those things together. It will be a good test for our team, for sure. Besides the fact they are physically talented. They have some individuals who can beat you.'

(What concerns you about Fresno State's offense?) 'I think the first thing you look at is (Bernard) Barrian, the receiver - he is an outstanding football player. He can beat you catching the ball, and running a reverse, and running kicks back. He's a major factor in this ballgame. They do an outstanding job on special teams, beside the fact that offensively they have a system they've been running a few years. They do a good job with it. Their running back (Rodney Davis) is a good player; we're going to have to do a great job tackling him. And they have other receivers like (Marque) Davis, besides Barrian, who play a major role. So I think we've got to be able to handle their skill people.'

(Have your players given you a sense of the rivalry that's developed with Fresno State?) 'From the time I got here, I think one of the major things about our preseason schedule was the fact that there is kind of a new rivalry with Fresno State. It kind of surprised me, because I didn't know much about the meetings that have taken place in the last couple years. But it sounds like a game that has added importance from what would be a typical non-league game. I think that's good. I think this will be a great opportunity and challenge for our football team, playing early in the season in a place that has a distinct homefield advantage.'

(What is the importance of special teams play this week?) 'I think special teams will play a major role in who wins this ballgame. I think we have to improve dramatically, particularly our kickoff coverage; we did a pretty good job with our punt coverage, but our kickoff team was a little overzealous, I guess is the best way to put it. We had great effort, but not many good choices when it came to defeating blockers down field. We're going to have to improve there, for sure. I think our punt team has got to do a great job of protection, then coverage - they'll have the whole picture, because Fresno State is a good pressure team. And they do a good job overall in special teams. We're going to have to definitely step up our game there this week.'

(What do you tell your team this week about controlling its emotions during the game?) 'The control of emotions is always a big part of playing a good, focused football game. There will be, obviously, added distractions because of the homefield and home stadium advantage that Fresno State has, and because of the rivalry that's built up. Our team is a very spirited team, and I don't want to break the spirit of this team in any fashion. But the control of emotions is huge in playing football, and so we're going to be in a tough football game and we can't do anything that will hurt ourselves, and that's the message for the week.'

(On about quarterback Derek Anderson's progress) 'I think Derek has, from the very start, been a tremendous worker and had a great ethic about learning a new system, new terminology, and I think has made progress from almost Day One of spring practice. This is a process for him, and he missed some throws in the game the other night I know he'd like to have back. The location wasn't far off, but it was a little off and perhaps we could have caught four or five other balls for him pretty easily that would have increased his percentage. And his completion percentage is one of those factors we want to look at to really improve from a year ago. But, he's doing a nice job with his knowledge of the offense, which gives him a chance to maybe not throw to one guy because he's covered, and come back and find somebody else pretty easily. And that will be a major factor as we go through the year, because people play good defense and take away some of the things you want to do, and you've got to be able to go to another option in the passing game. Derek is capable of doing that, and he's shown progress in doing that, and I think he's getting better all the time.'

(On the importance of having wide receiver James Newson?) 'James Newson is definitely one of our playmakers and a guy who can make things happen. He's been a very productive guy all through his career at Oregon State, and has been our most productive player in spring training and fall camp. We're glad to have him back. He started running earlier this week and has practiced well, so we're hoping he becomes a major factor for us in every ballgame, starting this week.'

(On Oregon State's offensive line facing Fresno State's defensive pressure up front) 'You talk about special teams, then you talk about handling pressure - those are two of the major factors in this game. We're going to have to handle major line stunts - looping, slanting, stunting linemen - and then we're going to have to handle blitzers, both the linebackers and secondary. So protection, being smart in the pickups - that's why staying focused and not being distracted, really staying in the ballgame is a big deal. Because when we do throw the ball, we have to give Derek time to throw it, and give our receivers a chance to get open against what I think is pretty darn good coverage. That's going to be a major factor in the ballgame, handling what they bring.'

(On the Pacific-10's weekend) 'I thought the Pac-10 showed very well across the country. We're all obviously aware of what USC did (beating Auburn), and very aware of what Oregon did (beating Mississippi State) down in the Southeastern Conference - that's two good Southeastern Conference victories for the Pac-10. And then Cal played a team that I respect as a football school, Southern Mississippi, and beat them pretty well. So, overall, there were some good things happening for the Pac-10 this week. I got to see parts of all those games.'

(On Fresno State's season-opener at Tennessee) 'You go into a situation like that, and probably if you look at the top 10 toughest places to open, Tennessee might be in there, with 100-some-thousand people. I thought Fresno State handled that pretty well; that score never got out of hand. They had a hard time, they were a little overwhelmed offensively in getting production. But their special teams - again, one of their strengths - showed up well; their defense hung in there well. (Tennessee quarterback) Casey Clausen never got off throwing the football that much against them. I thought they played a great football team in a very tough environment and hung in there and played them hard. I anticipate them going home, being very comfortable at home with now their homefield crowd like that, and being a very, very tough football game.'

(Will wide receiver Cole Clasen play? And will he return punts?) 'Cole has practiced this week and we anticipate him playing and returning punts for us.'

(Will Steven Jackson consistently have as many carries and catches as he had against Sacramento State?) 'It's fairly obvious that Steven is a great player; we've got to get the football in his hands any way that we can. We want to have a particular number of touches for him in every half of each ballgame, so we want to make sure he gets the ball and gets rolling. Really, that's one of the things we tried to do in the ballgame was establish an identity, really, with our base stuff. That's what we went in there to do, and just ran some stuff we'd run on Day One of practice and giving him the ball is one of those things. A couple of plays that we ran, which are very base plays for us that gave him the ball, and then we tried to throw him the ball, too, to get that started.'

(On Oregon State's injury situation) 'I think up to this point, if you take the start of fall practice, I think we're in pretty good shape. (Defensive tackle) Sir Henry Anderson is back and just beginning to practice with our team. The one guy I'm really disappointed that got injured in the last ballgame was (linebacker) Chaz Scott, he hurt his knee and is going to be out maybe four to five weeks. He has made a ton of progress and was really entering into that upper echelon of linebackers on our team, which is a pretty tough group to break into. He's going to play a lot of football for us. And, he's an outstanding special teams cover guy - a guy who can run. We'll miss him and look forward to his rehab and his return.'

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