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Sac State's visit to OSU will take Hornets coach Sperbeck down memory lane

Marshall Sperbeck hasn't set foot on the Oregon State campus since he left after the 1979 football season.

The Sacramento State coach is anxious to see how things have changed when he visits Corvallis Saturday for his team's game against the Beavers in the season opener for both schools.

'I see on TV how great their facilities are now,' says Sperbeck, 51, who played quarterback at Oregon State in 1978 and '79. 'I'm kind of curious to go down memory lane and look at all the improvements.

'I may take a look around town and see how it's changed. I definitely want to walk around on campus. I had a couple of years of good memories there. I had a great time at Oregon State - it just didn't work out for me football-wise.'

Sperbeck was never a starter during his time at OSU, the last two years of the Craig Fertig era. Sperbeck redshirted his freshman year, then was backup to junior Scott Richardson as a redshirt freshman, completing 17 of 58 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown in spot appearances. The third-string quarterback was true freshman Ed Singler.

'We weren't very good, but I made some great friends,' Sperbeck says. 'Ed was my roommate. We stay in touch. Steve Coury and I have stayed in touch over the years. I still communicate with Dave White. I'm blessed to have had some lifelong relationships with my teammates there.'

After a 1-10 season in '79 - a 33-31 win over Stanford was the sole victory - Fertig was fired and Joe Avezzano hired.

'I met with Avezzano and he said he was going to run the veer offense,' Sperbeck says. 'I wasn't a veer-type quarterback, so I transferred.'

Sperbeck wound up at Nevada, where he started his last two seasons. Then it was on to a coaching career that included 15 years at Foothill College at Los Altos Hills, Calif., where he amassed a 109-53 record.

Then it was on to Sacramento State, a graveyard for a lot of coaches and a losing program for seven straight years prior to his hiring. In five years, Sperbeck has built it to the point of respectability. Last season, the Hornets were 6-5, with four of their losses by four points or fewer.

'We were in some games we could have won, but we didn't finish,' Sperbeck says. 'We were close, but no cigar. But last year was my best team (at Sac State). We were much closer to being a good team.'

Sperbeck runs an offense similar to Mike Riley's at Oregon State, with multiple personnel sets, a zone-read running game and a horizontal passing attack.

The relationship between Riley and Sperbeck goes back to the '90s, when Riley was offensive coordinator at Southern Cal and recruiting Foothill for the Trojans.

'What a class act,' Sperbeck says of Riley. "He's a great guy. We still talk maybe a couple of times a year.'

'Marshall is a really good coach who has done a great job at Sac State,' Riley says. 'He's a very solid individual. It's fun to have him with ties to Oregon State.'

Sperbeck would love to pull of a monumental upset Saturday at his old school. He won't be making any proclamations about the possibilities, even with the wave of injuries that have felled a number of key Beavers.

'I can't comment on that,' Sperbeck says. 'They're a Pac-12 team, and a very good program at that. I'm sure they are pretty deep at most positions. They'll have guys anxious and willing to step up and take on the challenge.

'Our goal is to go up there and play our best. That's what I've stressed to our kids. We need to do the things we're capable of doing. We don't want to beat ourselves. If we can do that and walk out of there with a great effort, I will be very satisfied.'