PRACTICE: Beavs crisp, questions remain

CORVALLIS - Still no decision from Mike Riley on who will get the go ahead as starting QB for the Alamo Bowl. Questions also still loom regarding the health of WR Brandin Cooks, who has been on and off the sideline the last few days with ankle trouble. The Beavs, however, looked crisp as they ran through various drills and plays on Tuesday.

"He looks good," Mike Riley said when asked about Brandin Cooks after practice. "I thought he had a good entry back into it."

Riley indicated that while Cooks appears healthier, the ultimate decision to let him start working at full speed at practice is up to the trainers and staff doctors.

Off the field, the fate of the three suspended defenders (Rudolf Fifita, Dyllon Mafi and Mana Rosa) is still unclear.

"Nothing has changed yet (regarding the suspensions)," Riley said. "I'm still trying to gather information, but for right now it's status quo."

Living in the past won't help the Beavers conquer Texas in San Antonio on December 29, and Riley makes this clear at every opportunity. The focus has been and will be on the here and now – in other words further preparation for Texas.

"We have just been dividing the days into different situations," Riley said. "Yesterday was a lot of first and ten, ‘normal stuff' – today was mostly third down. Tomorrow will be mostly redzone work then we will give the varsity Thursday off and – Friday and Saturday will be a mixture of all that stuff together."

The weather was snowy and frigid on Tuesday. Even inside of the Truax Center, one could feel the cold down to their bones. But mal-tempered weather did not deter the orange and black from a crisp session where they looked to be firing on all cylinders.

Much of practice was dedicated to third down scenarios for both sides of the ball.

The Beavs look about ready to head to Texas and take on the Longhorns.

Many are saying the Texas Longhorns are bigger, stronger, and faster than most teams that OSU squared off against during the regular season. So what are the keys to running the ball against the Texas defenders?

"We've got to stay on blocks," Riley said. "They (Texas) are very athletic. There is a simple formula for running the ball – if you are blocking a guy - you have to try to at least get the ball past your block - you have to maintain your block long enough for the ball to get by you. And that is called finishing."

On the flipside, Texas is known for putting out running backs that can navigate Texas style defenses. In other words, everything is bigger in Texas and that does not exclude the running backs. Are Oregon State defenders ready for the challenge?

"I've got a lot of confidence in our defense," Riley said. "But I know the challenge that we are up against. We are going to face a physical offensive line and great runners. These are talented players, so it is another big chore for us."

Oregon State faced no shortage of great running backs during the regular season (Montee Ball, Jonathon Franklin, Ka'Deem Carey, Kenjon Barner to name a few), and Riley hopes that those experiences will equate to solid defensive production from his run blitzers and down linemen.

"All of your experiences against good players will help you play against more good players," Riley said.

That may seem simplistic. But football is not always as difficult when the whistle blows. Riley broke it down a bit further…

"We have seen good players, and we are going to see more (in Texas)," Riley said. "Now it will be all about playing. Being in the right place at the right time and making a play, tackling."

Sometimes simple is best. Riley talks about the Alamo Bowl like a man with a secret – every question is answered with a smile that tells me "I know something you don't know, and we can win."

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