The Cougars have just one more win than OSU sitting at 3-2, but instead of the doom in gloom that permeates Corvallis, optimism abounds in Pullman. WSU is coming off a narrow 28-22 loss to No. 3 USC. The most disturbing statistics from last week’s game is that fact that receiver Michael Bumps caught a career high 11 catches for 112 yards and the offensive line gave up zero sacks. Getting pressure on the opposing quarterback and stopping big play receivers are two areas where OSU has struggled mightily.
"I really liked how they played against USC,” head coach Mike Riley said. “Brink is doing a good job throwing it and they have good receivers.”
While Bumpus had the big game and leads the team in receptions with 35 grabs, it is senior Jason Hill who receives most of the press. Hill is on pace to break all of WSU’s receiving records. He is second on the team in receptions with 23 catches for 279 yards and four touchdowns.
Last year in Corvallis both Hill and Bumpus had huge days. Hill caught eight passes for a game high 190 yards while Bumpus chipped in nine receptions for 132 yards. Hill had one touchdown, and would have had another if safety Al Afalava hadn’t poked the ball out inside the OSU 10 yard line. Stopping, or at least, slowing down Hill and Bumpus will be a focus this week, but the passing game is not the only part of the Cougar offense that concerns the Beavers.
“Washington State pays a lot of attention to running the ball,” Riley said. “They are truly balanced. Overall you have to play a diversified game. You can't think that if you stop Hill or Bumpus that that is going to be it for you. You've got to play a diversified game against them."
With both of his top receivers back, a talented offensive line that has allowed just two sacks in four games and a year of experience under his belt quarterback Alex Brink is excited to play in Reser Stadium again. Last year, Brink broke several stadium records as he completed 31 of 59 for 531 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions.
"Brink is tremendously productive and now he is another year older playing with confidence and competitively,” said Riley who is 2-1 versus Washington State.
And as for the low sack total, give credit to both to offensive line and to Brink.
“A lot of the credit goes to the offensive line, but also credit Brink,” Riley said. “He is responsible for getting rid of the ball. He throws on time and the receivers are getting."
While the Cougar offense looks to be a formidable threat to the Beaver defense, the WSU defense also looks to be challenging test for the OSU offense. The strength of the crimson defense lies with the defensive line where they are lead by the nation’s sack leader in defensive end Mkristo Bruce.
“Their defense presents problems, particularly up front,” Riley said. “We have got to be able to handle that front, particularly Bruce, their defensive end. He is a real factor. You always have to pay close attention to him, as far as protecting and running the ball. He is a good all around player.”
With boosters and fans calling for the heads of several coaching staff members and three websites devoted to the removal of Riley as the head coach, there are plenty of distractions. But Riley and his staff see this week as a great challenge and an opportunity to learn from their mistakes.
“Everybody that coaches for a long time goes through hard times, so it is just like I told our staff, this is a great professional challenge for us,” Riley said. “I really want to learn from the Cal game and never forget how those things feel. And at the same time find a way for them to play with passion and be smart about it to.
“Building for confidence and building for execution - those are big jobs. That's an added burden for getting ready for a game. That is a big deal, absolutely a factor, and its got to be two-fold, it can't be one."
- RT Josh Linehan is tentatively scheduled to be back for the USC game on
- Riley said he is close to implementing a predetermined rotation between
Canfield and Moore: "Like I said before, I am thinking about a predetermined
rotation, but have not made a final decision on that. I don't mean this as
a knock to Matt or that his job is in jeopardy at all. That's not the factor.
I think Sean Canfield is getting close to the point, like another runner or
receiver goes into the game, he can play and be a factor for us. And help
the whole picture down the road."
- Riley said part of the Beavers lack of success on the offensive side of
the ball has to do with a lack of big plays which results in the offense having
to execute longer, lowering the chances of a score. He also said the team
needs to stretch the field and be better on third down conversions.
- When asked if the coaching staff has looked at implementing a nickel defense,
it sounded like they do not believe they have the personnel to run it. "We
have talked about the best way to improve. All those things are part of our
discussion. We will look at that week to week, year to year. And what's the
best thing to do for us and if we think we have the personnel to do it and
if we think we have a good reason to do it, we will do it."
- For the full transcript of Riley's press conference see the premium
message board. Also, full transcripts of Joe Newton, Sabby Piscitelli,
Joe Lemma and Sammie Stroughter can be found there as well.