OSU hopes to rebound after its painful loss in Civil War
CORVALLIS Ñ There's not a lot for anyone associated with the Oregon State football team to say in the aftermath of its Civil War loss to Oregon except, 'Let's move on.'
That means a Dec. 6 date in Los Angeles against No. 2-ranked Southern Cal, then a probable bowl appearance.
The likely scenario is USC in either the Sugar or Rose Bowl, Washington State in the Holiday Bowl and Oregon in the Sun Bowl. California seems destined for the Insight.com Bowl, even if Oregon State upsets USC and ties Cal for fourth in the Pacific-10 Conference because the Beavers played in the Insight.com Bowl a year ago.
The fifth-place team is contracted to play in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 24. If the Trojans close with a win, it would leave OSU, UCLA and Washington tied for fifth at 4-4 in conference play. Las Vegas Bowl officials would be free to choose among the three schools, and OSU officials believe there's a very good chance they would get the nod.
'The conference isn't ready to do anything official until we know Washington State is out of BCS contention,' OSU Athletic Director Bob De Carolis says. 'The wild card for us is what the Insight Bowl will do if we beat SC.
I still think they would take Cal, but we don't know that for sure. Vegas is the strong hunch, but there's nothing official yet.'
De Carolis and the ADs from other bowl-eligible teams met with officials from the various Pac-10-affiliated bowls in Los Angeles on Nov. 12. The meeting with representatives of the Las Vegas Bowl went well.
'I think they liked us and wanted to get us last year, in part because we have so many kids (seven) from Las Vegas, including high-profile players in Steven Jackson and Richard Seigler,' De Carolis says.
One of the criteria for selection would be the number of fans expected to travel. Some of those fans Ñ family and friends of the OSU players from Las
Vegas ÑÊwouldn't have to travel far. Oregon State sold 5,500 tickets to last year's Insight Bowl in Phoenix, and De Carolis estimates that between 9,000 and 10,000 OSU fans attended the game.
'I would hope we will travel better this year than last year, even with the game being on Christmas Eve,' he says. 'The 4:30 p.m. start time will help.'
The sixth-place Pac-10 team is affiliated with the Dec. 30 Silicon Valley Bowl in San Jose, so that would be a possibility for the Beavers (7-4) if Vegas were to choose UCLA or Washington, both 6-6.
OSU coach Mike Riley would be amenable to a berth in the Las Vegas Bowl.
'That's great,' Riley says. 'We have so many kids from Vegas, it's a good recruiting area, and I have heard they do a nice job putting on the bowl game.'
The Beavers held hopes of playing in the Holiday Bowl, but their 34-20 defeat in Eugene took care of that.
'I wanted the best place we could get in the conference standings,' Riley says. 'We won't get as high as we wanted, but I feel great about being in a bowl game. It's good for your program. You get 10 to 15 more practices. It's good for exposure, for recruiting, as a reward for the players on your team.'
Riley now is focusing his attention on a victory at USC. A win would be of similar proportions to OSU's 3-0 victory over the top-ranked Trojans in Corvallis in 1967.
'They are awfully good in all areas of the game,' Riley says. 'Matt Leinert looks like a real efficient quarterback who runs their offensive system well. They look fast on defense. You have to be able to handle their front line, which is a difficult task. They will be the best team we have played this year, no doubt about that.'
This is the third bye on Oregon State's schedule. The first two times, Riley didn't like it. This time, he does. 'We have a lot of players dinged up,' he says. 'I'm glad we have a bye to kind of refresh and regroup. We are bitterly disappointed to have lost the Civil War, but there's a lot of football left and a lot for us to play for.'
Special teams were a major problem against Oregon. Cole Clasen fumbled a punt, holder Carl Tobey dropped a good snap on a field-goal attempt and Oregon's Kenny Washington returned a kickoff 47 yards, among other blunders. Part of the problem with kick coverage in recent weeks has been injuries to OSU linebackers Seth Lacey, Jonathan Pollard and Chaz Scott and cornerback Jamaal Jackson, all key members of those units. 'Those linebackers are some of our best big athletes, and it forces us to use players who are not accustomed to playing special teams,' Riley says. É Pollard suffered a high ankle sprain in the first quarter of the Oregon game but is expected to be ready for USC. Scott (stinger) is back, but Lacey (neck) could be lost for the season. É Backup kicker John Dailey was used for a third-quarter extra point and kickoff, but regular Kirk Yliniemi didn't suffer a badly sprained ankle as reported by several publications. 'I just had a muscle cramp in my calf,' Yliniemi says. 'I'm fine.' É Safety Harvey Whiten, who suffered a concussion on a kickoff return against Oregon, 'has a headache, but I think he is going to be fine,' Riley says.
Riley says Oregon's defensive front, which limited the Beavers to 24 yards rushing, 'might be the best we have faced this year.' He was particularly impressed with Igor Olshansky, who had nine tackles and three sacks, and Junior Siavii. É Riley lamented dropped passes by Steven Jackson and Tim Euhus that could have ended up as touchdowns. 'We didn't get the points we needed in the Red Zone,' he says. 'But I thought Derek (Anderson) was outstanding. What he's doing now with progressions and going through the pass routes and looking off the first option and finding the open receiver Ñ he has come a long way since the start of the season. That is poise and confidence, and I'm real excited about it.' É OSU had nine penalties for 86 yards against Oregon, and the Ducks got first downs on six of the flags.