Fair Game
by: DINO VOURNAS, Cal quarterback Kevin Riley’s mistake at the end of the Oregon State game could have soured his whole season. Instead, the Bears turned to Riley in their bowl game, and the redshirt freshman was impressive in leading them to victory.

The Armed Forces Bowl game was vindication for Kevin Riley. 'It was a relief to get a chance to play again and show people I can do well,' says Riley, California's redshirt freshman quarterback. 'I didn't want that last play against Oregon State to be my last play of the year.'

You remember the situation: Oregon State leading No. 2-ranked Cal 31-28, but the Bears at the OSU 12-yard line with 14 seconds remaining and no timeouts. Rather than go for a 30-yard field goal, coach Jeff Tedford called a pass play, with instructions to throw into the end zone or throw the ball away. Riley - in his first collegiate start in place of injured Nate Longshore - scrambled and was tackled on the 12. Time ran out before the Bears could attempt a field goal that would have sent the game into overtime.

'I knew better,' Riley says. 'I just screwed up.'

But Riley played the hero's role in the Dec. 31 bowl game. After Air Force had jumped to a 21-0 lead, Riley replaced an ineffective Longshore and completed 16 of 19 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Bears to a 42-36 victory.

'It was a lot of fun,' says Riley, son of Beaverton High offensive coordinator Faustin Riley. 'I was told by the coaches in pregame I was going to get some series in the first half. Then I went in and everything was clicking. I felt comfortable, was seeing the field real well, and my O-line did a great job. I think I got hit once the whole game. It was easy.'

The 6-2, 220-pound Riley hasn't been told anything by Tedford, but he expects to go into spring practice with an opportunity to battle Longshore, a senior-to-be, for the starting job.

'The way I understand it, it will be an open competition,' Riley says. 'Nate's an experienced quarterback who has done some great things at Cal, but I think I've proved I can play, too.'

• According to the Los Angeles Times, the NCAA has sent a letter of inquiry to UCLA, requiring the school to investigate the possibility of illegal recruiting contact between ex-Bruin basketball coach John Wooden and freshman Kevin Love out of Lake Oswego.

The newspaper reports that before the season, the NCAA cited the possibility of illegal contact between a recruit and a person representing the interest of the school. Rich Herczog, UCLA's guidance of compliance director, reported back to the NCAA that the 97-year-old Wooden, as a paid consultant to the school, is permitted to meet with recruits.

The Bruins have not received a reply from the NCAA. 'It's a situation in limbo,' the Times reports.

• A suggestion: Would it be too much to ask if, after the Blazers lose a game, a player submits to a short interview on a postgame TV or radio show? The current policy is, if the Blazers win, a player is provided for both TV and radio. If they lose, no interviews.

With interest in the team on the rise, it would make sense to make players available, win or lose. The team is a quality group, and the players are being paid a whole lot of money. An interview shouldn't be too much of an imposition.

• Coaches don't have to be referee-baiters to be successful. Bart Valentine is living proof. The longtime coach at Warner Pacific has never had a technical foul in 33 years in the business.

'It's just the right way to be,' says Valentine, whose Knights have won the Cascade Conference championship the past two seasons. 'My attention is not on (the officials). I have too much work to do on the bench, working with my players. I don't see any value in trying to incite my team that way. That's not being a good role model.'

• Speculation in Miami is that Pat Riley may be preparing to concentrate on his president's role with the flailing Heat and hand the coaching reins over to assistant Erik Spoelstra, the former Jesuit High and University of Portland point guard. Spoelstra, 37, is in his 13th year on the Miami staff, the past 11 under Riley.

• The 24 suites at PGE Park are being renamed to honor many who have performed there since its inception in 1926, including Elvis Presley, Jack Dempsey, Willie Stargell, Pele, Satchel Paige and Norm Van Brocklin.

• Portland screenwriter Mike Rich's career is on hold because of the writers' strike in Hollywood.

'I have some ideas,' says Rich, who has made a good living pounding out screenplays, most of them sports-related, for films such as 'Radio,' 'The Rookie,' 'Miracle' and 'Invincible.' 'But they won't see fruition until after the strike is settled.'

• Maybe Rich's next project could be on Isaiah 'J.R.' Rider, the former Blazer who has entertained drama his entire adult life.

Rider, 36, was recently jailed in Berkeley, Calif., after police responded to a report of a disturbance between a taxi driver and a passenger. Rider was arrested on a no-bail warrant by Oakland police for unlawful possession and another warrant for grand theft.

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