Riley on Dawgs, Ducks, Agnew, Katz and more
Hitting a number of subjects with coach Mike Riley after Oregon State's 38-21 victory over Washington leading into Saturday's Civil War matchup with ninth-ranked Oregon at Autzen Stadium:
TRIB: Your assessment of the win over the Huskies?
RILEY: I was very happy with most aspects of that game. The guys came to play. We played well in all three aspects of the game. The guys wanted to win, and they played like it. Our record hasn't shown it, but we've improved in a number of areas. That showed up in our performance (against Washington).
TRIB: You used the nickel package (five defensive backs, with safety Ryan Murphy replacing middle linebacker Feti Unga) almost the entire second half against the Huskies. Why?
RILEY: Because of his (calf) injury, Feti is not ready to play a whole game yet, though he is getting better and may be able to do it (against Oregon). With Rueben Robinson (concussion) out, we felt we were better off with Ryan in the nickel. And it worked pretty well.
TRIB: Your secondary has been a strength in recent weeks, and sophomore cornerback Rashaad Reynolds has not only been making a lot of crisp tackles but has been better in coverage. Would you agree?
RILEY: I would. Rashaad is a solid player, and he has been getting progressively better through the season. To say he is one of our most improved players this season is not a stretch.
TRIB: Terron Ward and Jovan Stevenson shared tailback duties, and Malcolm Agnew didn't get off the bench. Why?
RILEY: We have three guys we've been using at that position, guys we have gone around the horn with. At this point, Terron and Jovan have been more versatile and more reliable. Malcolm is still working on all parts of his game - pass protection, receiving, hanging onto the ball. He is a great kid and has a great deal of potential. In the spring, he will be a tremendous competitor for the starting position.
TRIB: Cody Vaz has been getting No. 2 turns at quarterback the past three weeks behind Sean Mannion. Why is he ahead of Ryan Katz? One report said that Katz skipped out on a practice last week.
RILEY: Ryan always misses most of our Wednesday practice because of extra work he has had to do in a class. That was the case last Wednesday, but Ryan was excused and there was no problem there at all. Cody is No. 2 right now. We're not going to make any comments on Ryan's status until next week.
TRIB: Has any decision been made regarding an appeal with the NCAA for a medical redshirt year for cornerback Brandon Hardin, who has missed the entire season after shoulder surgery?
RILEY: We are in the process of putting together an appeal for Brandon at his request. He wants to come back and play for us next season. We probably won't hear from the NCAA about it until after the first of the year.
TRIB: Are you recruiting out of the high school or JC ranks a long snapper to replace senior Marcus Perry?
RILEY: Not right now. We have two walk-ons (Michael Morovick and Troy Whalen) on the squad, and one of them could win the job. We'll continue to look.
TRIB: What is the outlook for your injured players' availability for the Oregon game?
RILEY: James Rodgers (sprained ankle) is day-to-day. He has great intentions to play, but we'll have to see. Robinson is questionable. Obum Gwachum (shoulder sprain) and Kevin Cummings (sore ribs) both should be able to play.
TRIB: A victory Saturday would knock the Ducks out of the Pac-12 championship game. Is that extra incentive for the Beavers?
RILEY: We just want to win. We know how hard it's going to be. They're a very good team - lots of speed, and well-coached. For us, it's a great opportunity. We'll have to play above our best game so far to be competive.
TRIB: Saturday's matchup will also decide the Northwest championship, since Oregon and Oregon State have both beaten Washington and Washington State. Will that provide extra motivation for your players?
RILEY: I doubt it. It's big enough for what it is - the Civil War game, and playing against a great team. That makes it about as big as it gets.
TRIB: Do you think the Ducks are as good as they were last season?
RILEY: I do. Their two losses (Louisiana State and Southern Cal) have been to really quality opponents with a lot of athletes. l would say the athletic talent at LSU and USC is as good as any team in the country.
TRIB: Can Oregon State win Saturday?
RILEY: Yeah, we can. We're going to have to play great and take advantage of every opportunity. I think it's fair to say that everybody in our program is looking forward to the challenge.