Riley Meets The Press
Oct. 26, 2004
(On the balance of running and passing in the offense in OSU's win over Washington State) 'We did talk about that, and it is very important that you run the football. We're not where we want to be or need to be, but we're better than we were three weeks ago, which is encouraging, and hopefully we can keep it going.'
(With the performances of Dwight Wright and Ryan Cole, do you have a running back controversy?) 'I haven't noted one as we speak, but if we did it would be good. We feel good about our rotation, that's a good thing. We even rotated Dwight last year in with Steven (Jackson), but Ryan plays more than Dwight did a year ago. They're both good backs, and they're both different enough that it might be a good change of pace for us.'
(Going against an Arizona defense that concentrates on stopping the run, does that present a danger of slipping back into a one-dimensional offense?) 'I hope note. I think it's important that we continue to strive to run the football. Everything goes better when you can run. Arizona's defense is a very good package, it's well thought-out, well coached. There are a couple of different ways they play base defense, but then they intermix a ton of zone blitzes - that's what they are, a zone blitz team. You'll see the weak corner blitzing, you'll see the two strongside backers blitzing, then they'll play zone behind it. Their secondary is sound, you don't see a lot of deep balls. Washington State got a couple on fades, but for the most part those young corners play with some cushion but they're very well schooled. They make it hard to get some big hits, but at the same time they're trying to put some pressure on you with those blitzes. I really like their scheme, and there's a variety to it that makes the quarterback really pay attention to secondary rotations and who's coming. And when they bring somebody in a zone blitz, somebody fills that void, whether it's a safety or another linebacker running to the other side of the field. You've got to pay close attention to it blocking it and, of course, reading it to throw against.'
(What led to OSU's success running the ball against Washington State?) 'I think our line is doing better, for sure, and I think our backs are seeing the holes and running hard, which they have been for the most part. It all has to fit together. And we found a pretty good variety, inside-outside stuff, and that also helps when you can have a little success. Sometimes you just hit one, like we did on that trap - I mean, it was the right defense at the right time; their safeties were vacating the middle. I think Bob (Rodman of the Eugene Register-Guard) could have run through that hole right there - you couldn't have gotten 80 (yards), but you could have gotten 20.'
(On Arizona's offense) 'I think they're getting better and better offensively. Mike (Stoops, Arizona head coach) is doing a good job of installing their system and in the first year you see improvement as the year goes by in the ability to move the football, throwing the ball, running the ball. They've played some very, very tough games I thought, and they've let a couple of them get away. California is a good example - they were playing Cal pretty well, with a minute to go in the first half it was 14-0 but Cal isn't getting any big plays, they're moving the ball the way they do. Then, boom, just before the half they scored two touchdowns and it's over, it's 28-0. But it didn't have to be like that. I watched the whole game against the (Washington State) Cougars quite a while ago on TV when we were in the hotel, and they had that game won and it was at their home. I expect it to be a very tough game with a team that is working hard to grow - you can see that, the tenacity with which they play defense and the improvement in their offense. They're working hard to grow.'
(On OSU in the Pacific-10 race as it reaches its midpoint) 'I don't really see any major surprises. I see, for the most part, a very balanced conference. The teams that were at the bottom last year are better football teams this year, so it just makes for more tough games and it's very, very competitive. Where we are is, we're in a hole trying to climb out. We've come a little ways out the last couple weeks, but we've got a long way to go.'
(On OSU quarterback Derek Anderson nearing Jonathan Smith's records for career passing yardage and career total offense yardage) 'I'm excited for him. We were reflecting on this Monday. With the last two quarterbacks here, Jonathan and Derek, they've probably won more games than the previous 10 guys between them at this school. I think in the future when we look back, he will have a very productive winning legacy and, obviously, most all the records.'
(On the health of OSU center Matt Brock and tight ends Joe Newton and Dan Haines) 'I expect Joe to make improvement weekly, hopefully daily. We'll still limit him in practice; if you watch us today, he won't be going every down and every situation in practice. It's one of those injuries that suddenly you could have a setback, just hitting it the wrong way or something, so we'll try to limit the opportunity for a setback. But we'll practice him and hopefully it just gets better during the week and he feels better. It's nothing that's going to go away, I don't think, for quite a while but he can play; he's been given the go-ahead through the doctors and trainers to play, so we just want to make it as comfortable for him as we can. Matt Brock is getting a test today. We don't anticipate anything bad there, but it's precautionary and I would hazard a guess that he will play this week. Dan Haines is pretty sore still; we'll see where he is this afternoon when he starts running - I don't think we'll really know until he does that. He kind of limped through a couple of practices last week and then played, and hopefully he feels better today.'
(On the emergence of OSU wide receiver Marcel Love) 'Marcel has obviously been more productive as the season has gone along. It's encouraging - if we get Joe (Newton) back full speed ahead, it will be a more balanced attack. Marcel's strengths lie in his quickness. I think he's pretty fast; he's not super-fast but pretty fast but he's got really good feet. He seems to find those spots in the interior of the defense. He's in the slot, so there's a little bit of a feel for those routes behind linebackers and in front of safeties. He made a great catch on a great throw on third-and-long the other day, running down the middle with a guy trailing him just barely. It was a really nice throw. He comes up with catches. When guys do that, it's not only obvious to all of us that he's made a play on it, but the quarterback starts to think that if a guy makes that kind of catch, he's going to go back to him and feel good about it. That's what I like - I think Derek is comfortable with (Mike) Hass and Joe Newton and he's finding that level of confidence with Marcel, so we just have to keep going. Our flankers are not making many plays; if we get that part going, we'd be very well rounded.'
(On playing a third straight game against teams using inexperienced quarterbacks) 'To have an experienced quarterback who has been around your team and your system, who has been productive and playing and winning, is always a good deal. But I like this new guy they've got (Richard Kovalcheck) - he's a footballer. He appears to be good and he appears to have a grittiness about him, which is important to the position. We've got to definitely not let him get on track.'
(OSU hasn't had much success playing at Arizona in the past. Does getting OSU's first win at Washington in 19 years recently help in that regard?) 'That's another thing that we hope for. I'm glad we've won a game on the road and I hope we can build on that, that it's not about environment, it's about play, so I hope we go down there and play. One of our main goals right now has to be to improve. We have to improve every week. There's plenty of stuff that we need to absolutely get better at from the last game. Even though we played a good game, we can't overlook the stuff that needs improvement. We've got to do better. If we continue to do that, then we'll be playing our best ball in this time of the year that's crunch time, the time that will determine how your season is reflected upon. It's a real important time of the year, it's a very, very big game to get us back to .500 and get us in better shape for the future.'
(Did the bye weeks affect OSU differently last year and this year?) 'Last year was weird - I think we had three byes. So we dealt with it back and forth, playing and not playing. I don't even remember how it was or what we did after the byes; obviously, it wasn't very good. This year, there's no question that it was a good time for a mental break. It was a rough month, and it was good to be able to go back and just work football for a week and detail some things and then give them a break, then come back and get ready for a game. That was a positive. I really believe that, although it was an intangible thing that you can't really measure for sure, but it seems like it made a difference. And hopefully we just build on where we've been the last couple weeks.'
(Did Arizona's last-second loss to Washington State break Arizona's spirit?) 'I don't think so, because this is a new regime. They're building something. They've got some young guys playing in spots, I guess their corners are freshmen. I see a team with effort, I see them getting better and better in their schemes, and I really like the schemes they're running. I think they're approaching life as a new ballgame and a new chance to grow.'
(With Arizona scoring fewer points each of the last four weeks - and hitting bottom in being shut out last week - do you worry about them bouncing back and exploding offensivley?) 'We've seen them move the ball, that's the difference. If they find a way to capitalize on that movement, that's what's scary. Mark Banker, our defensive coordinator, was very impressed with how they moved the ball and told me right off the bat when he started watching film that they move the football. Their competition has been very strong, also. It was very impressive, the game they played against Wisconsin; it was very impressive how they played the Cougars. And we've seen moments in the last few weeks during their games when they've been very impressive. Like I said, if we don't handle their defensive schemes well and get a feel for those zone blitzes, we can be in big trouble - as were a few of those teams we just mentioned. We have to be very thoughtful, careful, and then play football besides that. I think they're doing a nice job.'
(On OSU punter Sam Paulescu being able to get the ball away under heavy pressure, and getting some tremendous rolls at the end of kicks - how much is talent and how much is luck?) 'It is a skill in getting rid of the ball, there's no doubt about it. It's a skill that has a feel to it. You can't kick a ball and be looking at the rush, but you can have a sense of it. It's just like quarterbacking - some guys have better vision. Jonathan Smith was uncanny. He could come off the field and say, `That middle linebacker, he just flowed over there right into that deal and that's why I had to go back and ...' The games are just slower for some people, and there's no question that can be the case for a punter. I think Sam either takes an angle or hurries up a little bit or shortens his stride a little bit and gets rid of the ball. I know he's had to pull up on a couple. Now, as far as the roll, we are a directional team so sometimes probably on the bounce you can get lucky, but you also - when you directional punt - if the ball hits and the guy isn't playing the direction you're punting, the ball can hit and therefore give your coverage a chance and maybe you do get a good roll on it, which has happened a couple of times.'
(Next Tuesday is Election Day, and OSU tight end Pat Loney is co-chairing a drive to register and educate Beaver student-athletes as voters) 'I do know that there is an election coming up - they flash it on the Weather Channel once in a while. But I think it's great. There have been not just football players but a number of student-athletes involved in functions; I know they had one up here one night a couple weeks ago and they were planning more. I think it's great. College is about involvement and learning and growing, and it's a chance for them to really get their teeth into something that's important. And I'm glad to see that we have leadership on our team that is kind of spurring that on, so it's kind of fun, really, to see that. I think some of those guys come to the functions for the free meal, but that's okay - they might learn something from it while they're eating.'