Reflections after a Saturday morning conversation with Oregon State coach Mike Riley following the Beavers' 36-35 loss to Oregon Friday night
Like me, Riley doesn't necessarily buy the theory that players bouncing or dancing on the sidelines means they are ready to play a football game. But the 22-point-underdog Beavers were dancing before and during the Civil War game, and they also played as if they were emotionally and physically prepared to win -- more so, I would offer, than the 13th-ranked Ducks.
The comments Riley made to his players about their performance in the Washington game during practice last week are chronicled in my Civil War column. In addition, Riley told the players he wanted every one of them up and standing and into the game on the sidelines.
"I told them, 'We're going to be in a stadium that is all pro-Oregon. We have to bring our own energy,' " Riley said. "And they did. I was proud of them for that."
Even so, Riley didn't know if the Beavers would show up after the Washington debacle.
"I wasn't sure," he said. "That game put some doubt in everybody's mind about, 'Who are we?' "
Oregon State's normal protocol is to defer if it wins the pregame coin toss. The Beavers won and took the ball. When was the last time they did that?
"It was a long time ago," Riley said. "I just kind of finalized it in my mind that morning. I thought, 'What the heck, we've got to go for this. Let's take the ball and see what we can do with it right away.' "
The Beavers marched from their 26 to the Oregon 27, when on fourth-and-1, Sean Mannion's pass for Brandin Cooks into double coverage was intercepted in the end zone.
Even so, it wasn't a three-and-out, and "it built some confidence that we were going to be able to move the ball OK," Riley said.
Oregon's defense entered the game ranked fifth in the Pac-12 in rushing defense at 158.3 yards per game. The Beavers' 231 yards against the Ducks were the most they've had since rushing for 266 against Sacramento State in the 2011 opener.
OSU's season high was 120 yards versus Colorado.
Stanford and Arizona used a ball-control, run-oriented offense to beat Oregon, leading pundits to theorize the Ducks' run defense has gone sour the second half of the season.
"They are not a poor run defense team," Riley said. "Stats mean something this time of year, and they've been good. Our kids just executed. The interior five had an outstanding game and the tight ends did a good job, too, which is something we'd been missing."
Oregon State's defense had an odd stat. The Beavers had no sacks on UO quarterback Marcus Mariota but piled up nine tackles for loss, their most since getting 13 at San Diego State.
"That was big," Riley said. "(The Ducks) are so good offensively, as everyone knows. We made a lot of good plays behind the line of scrimmage that put them in tougher positions. It was good to see."
My view was that Mannion had his best game since OSU's last win -- against California on Oct. 19. The junior quarterback was 29-for-47 passing for 314 yards and two touchdowns with one interception -- the one in the end zone on the game's first possession. He was sacked twice but moved effectively in the pocket and did a solid job with decision-making.
"I agree," Riley said. "Sean was good. He hung in there against pressure, and more often than not, he had some time to move around and make some plays. I was happy with the way he played."
Terron Ward rambled for 145 yards on just 17 carries, one yard shy of his career high set against Arizona State last season. The 5-7, 200-pound junior -- offered a scholarship by only Oregon State out of De La Salle High in Concord, Calif. -- had 322 yards rushing this season going into the Civil War.
"Terron loves to play football," Riley said. "He a good special-teams guy and a good football player. You can put him just about anywhere and know he's going to do his job."
On fourth-and-goal from the Oregon 1 with the Ducks ahead 17-7 in the second quarter, Riley chose to allow Trevor Romaine kick an 18-yard field goal. Romaine's first attempt from 36 yards had missed, but the Beaver were given new life on a running-into-the-kicker penalty.
I theorized at the time that part of Riley's decision was to give Romaine a chance to build some confidence.
"There's some truth to that," the OSU coach said. "First of all, it brought us within one score. That was the main reason. But I also thought we were probably going to kick some more through the course of the day. Trevor needed to find a rhythm."
Romaine finished 3 for 3, later booting 3-pointers from 47 and 37 yards. And it appeared as if he was going to get a shot at a game-winner as Oregon State, trailing 30-29, moved toward the red zone late in the game.
"I had just told Sean, 'Don't say anything to anybody else, but use every bit of clock the rest of this drive,' " Riley said. "I was pointing toward an opportunity to kick a field goal with no time left."
Then true freshman Victor Bolden rambled 25 yards for a touchdown on a fly sweep with 1:39 to play.
Twitter and message boards have been rife with suggestions Riley blew it by not having Bolden kneel at the Oregon 1 to delay scoring while running more clock.
"You're not going to turn a touchdown down at that point," Riley said.
Oregon had all three timeouts left. There was no guarantee, incidentally, that the Beavers score a touchdown from the 1 in that situation. Yes, they had been running effectively in that game, but there is the possibility of mistakes (false starts, anyone?) or getting stuffed. And no field goal was a gimme, either.
The 5-9, 165-pound Bolden, who had a 98-yard kickoff return against Washington, is beginning to show his tremendous potential as an open-field threat along the lines of Cooks.
"I'm proud of Victor," Riley said. "He's a mature young man. He did a lot of stuff for us as a true freshman when we really didn't expect him to play. If Micah (Hatfield) doesn't get hurt in fall camp, I'm not sure Victor even plays this year.
"I'm excited about his potential. He has gotten some good experience this season. If he can do what Brandin did -- add 10 good pounds to that frame -- he could be a force to be reckoned with."
Tight end Connor Hamlett (knee), guard Josh Andrews (calf) and receiver Richard Mullaney (leg) were hurt in the Oregon game, but Riley is hopeful to have all available for a bowl game.
Hamlett's injury is a meniscus tear to the other knee than the one he had surgery on Oct. 17. He'll have an MRI to determine whether surgery is required.
"If our bowl game is later, it would give him a better chance to play," Riley said.
The Pac-12 has nine bowl-eligible teams and seven bowl slots.
"I don't think we'll get in a conference bowl game -- probably an at-large deal," Riley said.
Oregon State officials could learn in a few days, or it might take a couple of weeks.
Whatever, there is no doubt the Beavers want to be in a bowl game for the 11th time in 15 years.
"It's good for our players, for recruiting and for getting in extra practices with your younger kids," Riley said. "It's like another spring ball. And it becomes part of your resume."
Riley and his assistant coaches will spend all next week on the road recruiting. The OSU players won't practice during that time until they learn what bowl game has chosen them.