BEAVERS NOTES: Riley says Stoops did 'great job' at Arizona; OSU gets its run game in order for BYU
- Kerry Eggers
- Portland Tribune - Sports
CORVALLIS - From Tuesday's media day at Valley Football Center as Oregon State (1-4 overall, 1-2 Pac-12) prepares for its Saturday 1 p.m. game against Brigham Young (4-2) at Reser Stadium ...
• The shock of Mike Stoops' midseason firing at Arizona on Monday hit OSU coach Mike Riley, who beat Stoops six of eight meetings between the schools but maintains a healthy respect for the volatile former Wildcats coach.
'I've gotten to know him through the years,' Riley said of Stoops, with whom he has held a friendly relationship. 'I've watched the program grow. I know the body of work they've done at Arizona during the time Mike's been there. He has improved the program dramatically. I think he did a great job there.'
Arizona is 1-5 this season and has lost 10 straight games against Division I-A opponents dating to last season. But the first four foes this season were Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon and Southern Cal.
'They played four teams that anybody in the country would have trouble beating,' Riley said. 'Who else is going to beat those teams? What could they get done the rest of the year?
'It's a team that was playing hard enough to come back in every game, and that says a ton about leadership. They never quit. It says a lot about what that coaching staff was doing.'
Why did Athletic Director Greg Byrne let Stoops go at midseason - an unprecedented move, by the way, in the Pac-10/12? One Phoenix-area media pundit suggested it was because the fiery coach had lost his passion and wasn't coaching as hard.
A better guess would be a response to the feeling among Arizona supporters for Stoops' coaching style and his general disregard for connecting with the community. Byrne didn't hire Stoops, and though he has said he likes the coach personally, he knew the program needed to go in another direction.
With the second half of the Arizona schedule easing and the potential there for some victories - perhaps making it more difficult for the AD to make a firing - Byrne figured now was a good time to make a change.
Offensive coordinator Tim Kish, the interim coach, is probably not a candidate to replace Stoops. Mike Bellotti, Mississippi State's Dan Mullen - Byrne was AD there before taking the Arizona job - and perhaps Boise State's Chris Petersen all make some sense.
• Brigham Young head coach Bronco Mendenhall - a safety/linebacker at Oregon State and once a defensive coordinator under Jerry Pettibone at OSU - fired D-coordinator Jaime Hill at midseason in 2010 (taking over the defense himself) and overhauled his staff after a 7-6 campaign. Three of his current nine assistants are in their first season.
BYU has yielded only 343.2 yards total offense and 23.5 points per game despite a 54-10 pounding to Utah at home on Sept. 17. Through Mendenhall's 6 1/2 years as head coach, the Cougars have employed a 3-4 defense.
Riley has always used a 4-3 system at OSU, but he is familiar with the 3-4. When Riley was an assistant at Linfield and as defensive coordinator with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, the 3-4 was the base defense.
Variety in the pass rush is the spice of Mendenhall's 3-4, Riley said.
'They could rush three, but more often than not they'll bring a linebacker to make it a standard four-man rush,' the OSU coach said. 'You can even add another linebacker (on a blitz), and they run a lot of corner(back) blitzes. So you add that and it's a different problem' for the opposing offense.
• Receiver Jordan Bishop's sore ankle is bothering him again. He will get an MRI on it Wednesday. The junior, who underwent surgery on the ankle in the offseason, has been experiencing discomfort since the Arizona game.
• There are a number of variables to Oregon State's running back for Saturday.
Malcolm Agnew, who has been out with a hamstring injury since rushing for 223 yards and three touchdowns in the opener against Sacramento State, returned to practice Tuesday, and his availability will be determined as the week of practice ensues.
Jovan Stevenson, who carried 16 times for 99 yards and a TD before leaving early in the fourth quarter after taking a helmet-to-helmet shot from Arizona's Adam Hall on a screen pass, expects to return to full practice duties Wednesday.
'It was a clean hit, but a good one, and I was feeling a little dizzy,' Stevenson said. 'I went back in and played a few plays after that. But the last drive, I knew I wasn't quite right, and I told (trainer Ariko Iso) that I probably shouldn't go back in. I didn't didn't want to risk it.'
Stevenson said he was told after the game he had suffered a 'mild concussion.'
'But I'm feeling good now,' he said Tuesday. 'I'm ready to go. If it were up to me, I'd practice (Tuesday), but the doctor wanted me to take one more day off. I'm listening to the doctor, but I'm expecting to be able to play Saturday.'
If Agnew gets through practice unscathed this week, chances are he will start. If not, and if Stevenson gets the green light, he seems likely to start.
If neither is ready, true freshman Terron Ward will probably start, with junior Jordan Jenkins - and possibly senior Ryan McCants - in reserve.
• Stevenson, a Tucson native, admits it felt sweet to defeat Arizona.
'It's always great to beat your hometown team,' Stevenson said.
Did the Wildcats recruit him?
'No,' Stevenson said.
Did that make the win ever sweeter?
'Yeah, he said with a smile. 'I wasn't going to say, but yeah.'
• Stevenson, who turns 22 on Wednesday, has a different running style than most backs. He is adept at being patient and seeing what develops in terms of a gap to run through.
'The idea is, 'Be slow seeing the hole, fast when you hit it,' " the 5-11, 195-pound back said. 'And it's trusting my line and making sure they pick up the block.
'I always tell (the O-linemen), it's easy to run. They do the hard part.'
• Quarterback Sean Mannion seems to have a sixth sense about avoiding pass rushers and preventing the sack.
'It's something you can always work on,' Mannion said. 'But if you can just move a couple of feet, you can extend the play a half-second longer. And that can make the difference.'
• Mannion smiled when asked if the Beavers have 'arrived' after the Arizona victory.
'You can't think like that,' the redshirt freshman said. 'You can't stop because you get one win. That's not who we want to be. You have to keep working to get a bunch more. We can't let up at all. We have to keep working even harder. That's our focus.'
• Pettibone, OSU's coach from 1991-96, will be at Saturday's game for a reunion of his players and will be the game-ball presenter. Pettibone played the pivotal role in getting the Valley Center built - and was fired months before it was completed.
'It's what happens in coaching sometimes,' Riley said. 'It's just too bad. Jerry worked his tail off to get this building done. He raised money all over the state, probably all over the West Coast, then never got to reap the benefits of a very nice facility - at that time, the only one of its kind in the conference.
'(Riley's first OSU staff) moved into a brand new building the first summer we were here. We'll always remember the work Jerry did to get it done. He left a great legacy.'
• Jordan Poyer was the defender on Arizona's Dan Buckner when quarterback Nick Foles' last-minute, fourth-quarter pass in the end zone went incomplete, sealing the Wildcats' doom.
'I got my right hand on (Buckner's) right arm,' OSU's junior cornerback said. 'It may or may not have caused him to drop it. I think it did.'
BYU is expected to start junior left-hander Riley Nelson at quarterback. Nelson took over for sophomore Jake Heaps two weeks ago during the Cougars' 27-24 win over Utah State and threw three TD passes in last Saturday's 29-16 win over San Jose State.
'They're both good quarterbacks,' Poyer said. 'Nelson is going to run a little harder than (Heaps). He scrambles, lowers his shoulder. Coach (Mark Banker, Oregon State D-coordinator) said he's expecting to see both of them play Saturday.'
Oregon State would have to finish 6-2 after its 0-4 start, but the Beavers have hopes they can still finish bowl-eligible.
'I told the guys, 'We can still do this. We can make a bowl game,' " Poyer said. 'But we have to take it one game at a time. We have to treat every game like Super Bowl week.'
NOTES: Guard Josh Andrews, who has missed the last three games with a knee injury, returned to practice Tuesday and is expected to be used Saturday in a backup role. ... Safety Lance Mitchell (defense) and Clayton York (special teams) were honored as Pac-12 players of the week for their performance in last Saturday's 37-27 win over Arizona. ... Oregon State's third-down efficiency on defense has been good the past two games. Arizona State was 1 for 10 on third-down conversions, Arizona 3 for 10. 'Those are good numbers,' Riley said. ... Asked in what aspect of the game the Beavers have improved most from the start of the season, Riley said pass defense. 'Whether it's the rush or coverage or intercepting balls, we've been much better there,' he said. 'We're getting more heat (on the opposing QB) as a group, and we're playing sounder down the field.' ... After a slow start on the ground, the Cougars have rushed for more than 200 yards in each of their last two games. 'That's who they are,' Riley said. 'Together with the play-action, how they put it all together - it's pretty dynamic.' ... The Beavers are working to improve their line blocking screen passes. 'On three or four plays (against Arizona), we had great opportunities in the screen game to make big plays and just blew it,' Riley said.