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Chance to play Texas excites Oregon State's Mike Riley

There are many reasons why Mike Riley is excited that Oregon State will face Texas in the Alamo Bowl Dec. 29 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

One of them is his relationship with Mack Brown, the veteran Longhorns coach, with whom he became acquainted through their association on committees with the American Football Coaches Association.

“And we’ve gone on Nike trips with Mack and his wife, Sally, for the last five years or so,” Riley said Sunday night after learning of the Beavers’ selection to the Alamo Bowl. “They are great people and Mack is a great example for our profession. He’s a class guy, a heck of a coach, and he has run a great program through the years.”

Oregon State was ticketed to play in either the Alamo Bowl, as the Pac-12’s representative behind BCS bowlers Oregon and Stanford, or in the Holiday Bowl, the game next in line.

“It was a win-win for us, but I’m glad the upper-echelon bowl picked us,” the OSU coach said.

Riley has had seven winning seasons and played in seven bowl games during the 10 years since he returned to Oregon State for his second tour of duty in 2003. Twice — in 2008 and ‘09 — the Beavers went into the Civil War with a Rose Bowl berth on the line.

But never has a Riley OSU team made it to a bowl as prestigious as the Alamo Bowl.

“It’s a heck of a game, a great opportunity for us against a big opponent — one of the best programs in college football history,” Riley said. “It’s a tremendous reward for this team. I’m so happy for the players, that their hard work has paid off. I love all of that.”

Riley said the chance for the third 10-win season in Oregon State’s 117-year football history “is a big thing for our program and for this team.”

Oregon State, which finished the regular season 9-3, including 6-3 in Pac-12 action, is ranked 13th in the BCS, 14th in the USA Today poll and 15th by Associated Press. Texas, which is unranked in the polls and 23rd in the BCS, goes into the Alamo Bowl 8-4, including 5-4 in Big 12 play.

During his tenure as offensive coordinator at Southern Cal and as head coach at Oregon State, Riley is 8-1 in bowl games. How important is it to win a bowl game?

“It’s big,” Riley said. “There’s the initial excitement about just getting to the bowl game. After that, you want to win. The taste of the last game stays with you for a long time, and it’s a great kickoff for the next year. A win sends the seniors off on the best possible note. It becomes the big issue once you get beyond just getting there.”

The only bad news Sunday was that senior Jordan Jenkins — named last week to the all-Pac-12 first team as a special teams player — suffered a broken ankle in Saturday’s 77-3 win over Nicholls State and will not be available for the Alamo Bowl.

“It’s a shame for Jordan and very disappointing for me,” Riley said.

Riley said he will put off a decision for awhile about whether to start Sean Mannion or Cody Vaz at quarterback against the Longhorns.

“I’m going to think about that,” the OSU coach said. “The good news is, both were as efficient as possible against Nicholls State. They operated very well together. Our players believe in both guys. It gives us some options and really good depth at the position.”

Riley is giving his players this week off while they concentrate on studies during finals week. They’ll begin workouts again on Dec. 10 and have 15 practice sessions prior to the Alamo Bowl.

“We’ll get our work done with the guys playing in the game, but we’ll also use it as development time for our young players who will be big pieces of next year’s team,” Riley said. “That’s the great advantage of playing in a bowl game.”

The Beavers will fly to San Antonio on Dec. 23, and Riley said he will stay at the team hotel and not at his vacation home in nearby Spring Branch, 30 miles up Highway 281.

“But we’ll visit there, for sure, to make sure the place is doing OK,” he said with a laugh.

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Twitter: @kerryeggers



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