"I think this team has been resilient as far as coming back on Tuesday and beginning the week kind of fresh," said head coach Mike Riley who is 2-2 versus Oregon. "I feel good about the older guys, and I feel good about the resiliency of our youth. And I think theyll be excited and mentally and physically ready to go."
Part of getting mentally and physically ready for the 109th Civil War will be blocking the outside distractions. Riley has closed practices to bystanders and media members. There are even security guards patrolling the area for people trying to catch a glimpse of practice.
Quarterback Ryan Gunderson will be making his first collegiate start against the Ducks after playing just over two quarters against Stanford. The native Oregonian grew up a Duck fan, but wants nothing more then to go into Autzen and bring home a victory for the seniors. If the Beavers are too pull off an upset Gunderson must play mistake free ball and stay poised in front of 50,000 hostile fans.
"I think he's got to have a very efficient game," Riley said. "He has to make the right reads, get the ball out of his hands, handle the management of the game, noise will be a factor, poise, efficiency; those will be big words as we head into this game for him."
The home team has won the last eight meetings in the Civil War with Oregon winning the last five in Autzen. Oregon State's last victory on the road against Oregon was in 1993. Oregon is riding a six game winning streak but OSU has won their last five of seven on the road against Pac-10 foes.
Oregon is playing musical quarterbacks with Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf at quarterback. The combo has combined to complete over sixty percent of their passes while leading the team to back to back victories. Dixon and Leaf have two different styles and the Beaver defense faces the daunting task of preparing for both.
"Their quarterbacks have done a very good job coming after Kellen Clemens
was having such a good year," said Riley who has never won at Autzen. "Theyve
been able to win ball games, which is the key. They are different in what they
do, and I think you have to be aware of that and prepare accordingly. So were
going to have to be very versatile and solid on defense."
On the defensive side of the ball a physical front four, anchored by future NFLer Haloti Ngata, will try and make Gunderson's job as difficult as possible. The Beaver offensive line struggled against Stanford's front four, which featured one of the top tackles in the conference, as the unit yielded six sacks. The ground game was stifled as well netting just 63 total yards.
"That whole front, but him (Ngata) in particular, hes very impressive," Riley said. "and they are a pretty relentless group; they stay after it. Stanford had some big guys, that nose tackle last week was similar. So I hope that our preparation through this league play has been good for what well look at for the preparation for this game."
Bragging rights and post season play are on the line this weekend in Eugene. The fans, statistics and history are against the Beavers, but the Men in Black have a shot.
"Weve obviously got our work cut out for us," Riley said. "Oregons having an outstanding year, theyve played really well. Home field advantage has been significant over the last ten years or whatever, but thats got to change someday. And this is our opportunity to change that. Were going to have to play a good all-around football game, theres no doubt about that."
Additional news and notes:
- Moore's knee does not require surgery and should be up and running in
Riley says - "Well its good and bad news. The bad news is he wont be able to play in the game. The good news I dont think he will have to have surgery. So he should be running around here in January, and thats good to know. Hell just have to go through rehab, and that will take some time and some hard work, but Im glad he doesnt have to go through any surgery."
- Riley's thoughts on Gunderson.
Riley says - "As you guys know, hes my right hand man on the sideline. He is a tremendous young man, smart, very capable. Im looking forward to this opportunity for him because I know that he will know what to do, and be as well prepared as a guy can be."
- Riley's earliest Civil War memory.
Riley says - " I remember going to Hayward Field and watching the game down there. And what I remember about that is Thurman Bell, the coach at Roseburg, making a tremendous interception like a one-handed deal they had on the front page of the paper the next day. And I also remember playing against Ahmad Rashad, Bobby Moore down at Autzen Stadium. Thats a vivid memory and was a great game for the Beavers. We didnt ever miss any of those things so they were all big, but those are two kind of vivid things I remember about that early stages of me being involved in a peripheral way. But it was good."
- Riley says OSU won't need to play the underdog card for motivation.
Riley says - "I think theyll look at it as a game; theyll look at it as some nuts and bolts of what the other team does and then theyll get into the passion of playing the game and going from there. I think that the rivalry is what it is."
- Thinking about the "what ifs" from this season.
Riley says - "Well look back, and thats the hard thing about sports. I can remember big games in my life that were last games that were hard to wake up to for a month or two months. Well look back at some of those things, but nows not the time to reflect on that because weve got so much in front of us, so much at stake. So we have got to put those things behind us, and focus on getting this team ready to play and doing all the things that we think that surround this game that will get this team ready to play."