Coach's Corner - 'We have to finish'

The postseason is on the line this weekend in Reser Stadium. The Stanford Cardinal sit at 4-4 overall and are in a four way tie, that includes Oregon State, at 3-3 in conference play for fourth place. The Cardinal need to win two of their last three games to go bowling while OSU needs to snag a win in one of their final two games. 

Stanford hasn't defeated the Beavers in its last four tries, including the last two in the Mid Valley.  But crimson and white have been tough on the road posting a 3-1 record with their only defeat at the hands of No. 1 USC.

"Well we’ve got an obviously big game coming up with Stanford," said Riley who is 28-28 at OSU.  "When you start the year, a bowl game is one of the things that everybody hopes they will look back on. Getting over that next hump is huge for this team. It’s a tangible thing, we’re in position to do it. We have to finish."

The Beavers will have to finish against the mobile Trent Edwards who has thrown just five interceptions the entire year.  Edward's favorite target is receiver Mark Bradford who has caught 29 passes for 431 yards and five touchdowns but missed last week's game due to an injury.  Stanford head coach Walt Harris won't say weather Bradford will play or not.  In Bradford's abscence senior Justin McCullum tallied career highs in receptions (9) and yards (138).

Three of Edward's five interceptions were caused by USC's relentless pressure on the pocket.  Linebackers Trent Bray and Keith Ellison including defensive tackles Alvin Smith and Sir Henry Anderson will all be playing in their final home game and are sure to bring the heat.

"Bray’s so instinctive, and is just one of those guys, one of those true middle linebackers, that really wants to make all the plays, likes to make plays, studies very hard, prepares himself like a real pro does," Riley said.  "Ellison just makes plays, when he sees it, he goes, reacts quickly and a quality person, a very fitting captain for this team.

"I think the interior, Alvin [Smith] and Sir Henry [Anderson], have grown a ton as players from a year ago. They’re playing very good football."

The Beaver offense will probably have to turn in a better offensive performance then they did at Husky Stadium.  The unit did score on all four opportunities in the redzone, but failed to score a touchdown.  All season long the offense has had no problems moving the ball in between the twenties, but once inside the redzone the machine stalls.

"I think we’re just not clicking." Riley said.  "It’s tight windows, it’s detailed execution. You saw us the other night, we had a great shot, and then we make mistakes and turn the ball over.  I don’t think we’re too far away, but we’re not quite there."

Stanford lines up an athletic defense that features three defensive linemen and four linebackers.  Riley loves the versatility of the defense and mentioned that containing big, nose tackle Babatunde Oshinowo will be key to moving the ball on the ground and through the air.

"They’re a 3-4 defense.  They can drop off on coverage or they can rush the passer," Riley said.  "I like the versatility of that defense. It makes it difficult to play against.  They have a great nose tackle that has given everybody fits. So we’ve got to be able to handle him for sure, and that won’t be easy."

Thirteen seniors and one junior will be playing in their last home.  With the postseason on the line and possibly an epic Civil War on the horizon, the players, fans, dads and coaches will surely be energized.

"Well it’s not a very big class, but it’s quality," Riley said of his graduating players.  "There’s some tremendous young men here that have made a major impact on the school and the program, and have had great football careers.

"We’re proud of all of them and appreciate the work they’ve done. And we want to send them out with the best possible end we can."


Additional news and notes:

  • PK Alexis Serna was named the Pac-10's Special Teams Player of the Week.  RB Yvenson Bernard was nominated for offensive POW.

  • DT Alvin Smith will play in the All-American Classic on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2006.

  • WR Anthony Wheat-Brown is expected to play this Saturday.
    "His status at this time, I think everything is headed for him being able to play. But when you have a concussion, it’s about a five-day process before they say you’re clear. So they take steps everyday, and they’ll do that right until I think tomorrow or Thursday before they say ‘okay, this is all right.’ So he’ll be limited on what he does today and maybe tomorrow. And hopefully we’ll be given the okay to go full speed on Thursday.

  • Stanford coach Walt Harris on Oregon State's run defense.
    "Their defense is really stout and not many people have been able to run the football. I'm very impressed with their front seven and the way they play their scheme. They make it impossible for a lot of teams to run the ball."

  • Stanford coach Walt Harris on Oregon State overall.
    "We have a tough challenge this week. We're striving hard to come back from this last ballgame [versus USC]. I know we have good leadership out of our seniors, and I know our football players realize the importance of this game. We're going to go up there and play like we have to play in order to give ourselves a chance to win the game."

Read more: Check out the news and notes article for more on Oregon State and Stanford.

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