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BEAVERS NOTES: Mike Riley in demand; coach takes a closer look at the win over UCLA; Arizona offense cause for Oregon State concern

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Oregon State coach Mike Riley is getting lots of national attention after the Beavers' back-to-back wins over ranked opponents.Notes, observations and quotes from Oregon State coach Mike Riley, after reviewing video of Oregon State’s 27-20 victory at 19th-ranked UCLA Saturday at the Rose Bowl ...

• The 18th-ranked Beavers (2-0) visit Arizona (3-1) Saturday night after their second straight win over a ranked team — the first time an Oregon State team has beaten top-25 teams in consecutive games in a regular season. OSU opened its 2012 season beating 13th-ranked Wisconsin 10-7.

Even Oregon State’s Giant Killers didn’t beat ranked teams back-to-back. The 1967 OSU team toppled second-ranked Purdue on Oct. 21. Two weeks later, the Beavers tied No. 2-ranked UCLA 16-16. The following week, the Beavers knocked off top-ranked Southern Cal 3-0.

This is Oregon State’s first national ranking since the Beavers were 24th going into their 35-34 overtime loss at Washington in October 2010. National pundits have taken notice. Sports information director Steve Fenk fielded a barrage of interview requests for Riley on Sunday. Riley will be on ESPN’s College Football Live TV show Monday at 12:30 p.m. and on the Jim Rome radio show Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

“This is the biggest crush of (interview) requests since 2009, when we were playing for the Rose Bowl,” Fenk said.

• The victory over UCLA was of particular importance because it was Oregon State’s Pac-12 opener, and it was on the road.

“There were a lot of residual reasons,” Riley said. “But whether or not it’s against a ranked team or conference opponents, (the Bruins) were hot and almost unstoppable offensively in their first three games. To beat them on the road was a confidence-booster for our guys.”

• Oregon State’s defense won’t know what to do against pass-oriented Arizona with no tailback to knock out of the Heisman Trophy race.

In the opener, OSU held Wisconsin’s Montee Ball to 61 yards on 15 carries. Then the Beavers limited UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin to 45 yards on 12 attempts.

Oregon State ranks second nationally in run defense at 53.5 yards per game, behind only Stanford at 41.7.

OSU also is No. 1 in opponents’ third-down conversion rate.

Is the OSU defensive front to be considered in the same class as the one that ranked No. 1 in run defense at the end of the 2007 campaign?

“Only time will tell,” Riley said. “The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding takes awhile to cook. We’ve done well to this point. I like our group. If they continue to improve, they have a chance.

“Our defense is going to have to reprove itself every week. We’ve had two big challenges and two different styles (in Wisconsin and UCLA) — a pro style and a spread team, both with a great back — and did an outstanding job. Now we’re going to play another really good spread team. We’re going to have to duplicate our performance.”

• Oregon State amassed 25 first downs and 501 yards offense against a UCLA team that blitzed more and more as the game wore on, especially in third-down situations. The Beavers answered with a nice mixture of run and pass, screens and bubble screens, slants and deep balls — more often than not guessing right and catching the Bruins out of position.

UCLA got to Sean Mannion twice for sacks, but that wasn’t enough to keep the sophomore quarterback from throwing for 379 yards and a pair of TDs.

“I tried our best to keep them from sacking Sean,” Riley said, “whether by bootlegging or throwing screens or turning the protection back and throwing it into the boundary.”

The Beavers could have had even more yardage and more points. A second-quarter screen pass to Storm Woods that went for 50 yards and a touchdown was negated by a tripping penalty on guard Grant Enger that Riley termed “ticky-tack. He threw a block at the defender and rolled and the guy ran into his legs. There was no overt attempt to trip him.”

Mannion’s final pass, a screen pass to Terron Ward, was tipped by the Wildcats at the line of scrimmage and fell incomplete.

“We had it lined up perfect, but (Ward) was too tight in there,” Riley said. “If we get the ball to him, he’s still running.”

• Mannion ranks first in the Pac-12 and sixth nationally in passing yardage at 327.5 per game.

OSU sophomore Brandin Cooks ranks third nationally in receiving yardage per game (127.5) and first in yardage per catch (21.3). Senior Markus Wheaton is fifth in receiving yardage per game (118.5) and seventh in receptions per game (8.5).

• Oregon State’s defense has diversified not only to nickel and dime packages in pass situations, but with personnel groups. Ends Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn both served time at nose guard in a three-man front in the first two games.

“We started doing that in (training) camp,” Riley said. “It’s a better way of matching up. Sometimes you can get your good rushers on a guard. We have some other guys with speed we can put on the outside. You’re adding athletes to a situation where you want that.”

• Riley watched video of Arizona’s 49-0 thumping at Oregon, taking special note of the Wildcats’ six trips into the red zone with no points — including four times inside the Ducks’ 10-yard line in the first half.

“That was the tale of that game,” Riley said. “They played a lot of good defense early but couldn’t capitalize. You can’t let that happen. It’s only a matter of time before the Ducks cut it loose.”

Riley compares the Wildcats’ offense with UCLA’s.

“Their productivity, the number of plays, the number of yards they are getting — very similar,” the OSU coach said. “Oklahoma State is a pretty good team, and they scored 59 on them (in a 59-38 win).

“(Quarterback) Matt Scott is a perfect fit for a Rich Rodriguez offense. He has been terrific. He’s a good athlete, can run and throw. He’s a prototype for what you need.”

NOTES

•Â Riley can pass Lon Stiner (74-49 from 1933-48) to become the winningest coach in school history with a triumph at Arizona on Saturday. Riley is 74-63 in his dozen seasons. •Â Wheaton and Cooks combined for 15 catches and 325 receiving yards against the Bruins. USC has Robert Woods and Marquese Lee, but OSU’s prize pair stacks up well. “I wouldn’t trade our guys for anybody’s in the country,” Riley said. “Big-play capabilities, they’re versatile and they block for each other.”

•Â After a suspect debut against Wisconsin, walk-on sophomore Keith Kostol had “a great day” against UCLA, Riley said. The Tigard High grad had seven punts for a 43.9-yard average, including one 61-yard bomb. “All of our specialists and special teams played well,” the OSU coach said. “That was a big part of our win.”

•Â Safety Ryan Murphy was late getting over with help coverage on a 65-yard TD reception by UCLA’s Shaquell Evans with OSU ahead 17-3. “A minute to go in the half and you have a good lead — you can’t let that happen,” Riley said. “That was a big, bad play for us.”

•Â The Beavers had to settle for an 18-yard Trevor Romaine field goal after Cooks’ 46-yard reception gave them first down at the UCLA 1-yard line in the fourth quarter. Three running plays gained zero yards. “Very disappointing,” Riley said. “We didn’t get a lot of push (in the offensive line), and we failed on some blocks on the backside. (The Bruins) penetrated and got us early.”

•Â Oregon State has had two weeks to prepare for its first two opponents. “We have our first normal week of preparation this week,” Riley said. “Plus, our kids start school on Monday. There’s a lot of new stuff to deal with. We have to get the kids plugged in and get them ready to play.”