Before the coach could fully focus on the sixth ranked Cougars he assessed
the teams attitude after the devastating defeat last weekend. "We
have a pretty tough-minded group; I think they'll come back to work today and
get ready for the next ballgame," Riley said. "We responded
from a similar disappointing performance earlier in the year very well. I thought
we came back and put a string of pretty good football together. We took a step
backward, and now we have a chance to respond again."
The Washington State/Oregon State rivalry renews after a one year hiatus.
The Cougars lead the series 45-39-3 and won the last game in Pullman 34-27 in
2001. While playing in Martin Stadium WSU has a 22-15-2 edge over OSU
and has won 18 of 23 games since 1975.
Despite the history of tough losses in northern Washington, Riley believes
a road game is just what the Beavers need. "The main thing for us
is starting the preparation for another game. We've been through the film, we've
talked about that last game, we've been through the issues of that last game;
now the best thing for our team is to go play," Riley said. "Maybe
going on the road will be good, maybe going on the road will be a factor, but
my sense is that it won't be. I think our practices will tell the tale."
Riley has never coached against Washington State since the Beavers did not
play the Cougars in 1997 and 1998 while Washington State head coach Bill Doba
is in his first year at Wazzu and is one of three rookie Div. 1 coaches who
The Cougars ride a five game winning streak, are a perfect 3-0 in conference
play, and are anchored by the WSU defense that leads almost every defensive
category in the Pac-10.
The dominating play by the crimson and gray on defense has earned them the
nickname "Damage Incorporated." "They have an outstanding
group of defensive players. They've been in that system for a while, and I think
a big, big factor is that they get the ball back from the other team,"
Riley said. "They're very quick. I think when you look at Oregon
State's defense and Washington State's defense, you see pretty similar characteristics
- fly to the football, lots of different kinds of pressure, sound coverage.
They have good cover people in the back end; they have as good an overall defense,
for sure, as we've seen."
Besides the headache of the Cougar defense, the WSU offense has rolled in the
first quarter outscoring their opponents 75-8 giving Wazzu an early advantage.
Quarterback Matt Kegel runs the offense and has done a nice job filling in for
the now departed Jason Gesser. Wide receiver/kick returner Sammy Moore
is an explosive player who can hurt the Beavs on offense and special teams,
an area the Beavers must improve on from last game.
"He's (Matt Kegel) done a great job in a situation where it looked like
everybody thought that was going to be a focal point about replacing (Jason)
Gesser. Matt has done a very good job of coming in and running their offense
and producing," Riley said. "I'm looking for great improvement
in that area (kick coverage). Obviously, you can't give up returns for touchdowns
- in a close ballgame, they're killers. Again, that's one area of the ballgame
I think we can be good in and have been outstanding at times, but we've got
to do better than we did last week."
Although the history, numbers, and rankings point to a blowout in the frigid
northwest, the Beavers know they face a must win situation. Improvement
in all areas of the game, especially penalties is the key to the game.
"We have to be really sharp in what we do, take care of the football and
play good defense. Who knows how this game is going to start, but we can't let
them get off to a fast start."