What's my motivation?
After coming off of a huge win against their instate rivals, locking up third place in the Pac-10 and accepting an invitation to the Sun Bowl motivation could be running low Saturday when Oregon State squares off against Hawaii at Aloha Stadium. But head coach Mike Riley and his players say there is plenty to play for, especially pride.
"My first thought is every time you put on a uniform you build on who you are," Riley said. "We have built a lot in a six, seven week period. You don't want to leave anything behind or waste a week or prepare not as well as you can prepare."
After back to back losses against California and Washington State, the Beavers dipped below .500, and the critics came out in force. But the team battled back, starting with the Cougar game, and won six of their last seven conference games and received a Sun Bowl birth. The players have taken a great amount of pride in the way they ignored the critics and fought through the adversity. A win at Hawaii would be a memorable way to end a memorable (regular season) year.
"I think it's another great opportunity for this team to improve and play better," Riley said. "It will be tough, but it will be a great challenge for us and a very good thing for us to play."
Team pride is not the only thing on the line. A win would bump the Beavers into the Top 25 for the first time since October of 2003 and possibly increase their ranking in the BCS top 25. Plus, a victory would give OSU a shot at 10 wins for just the second time in the program's history.
Another motivating factor comes from the players on the roster who played their high school football in Hawaii. Starters Al Afalava and Jeremy Perry grew up watching Rainbow Warrior football, but that doesn't mean they want to play nice come Saturday.
"I have heard a couple of Hawaii players say, ‘I don't want to go home if we don't win this game,'" safety Sabby Piscitelli said. "That is a good enough reason for me (to stay motivated)."
Senior Matt Moore also realizes the unique situation that the players from Hawaii will be in and he doesn't want to let them down.
"They are going to have tons of family members there and they are going to want to show something," Moore said. "You want to play your best and let them prove to whomever that Oregon State football is legit and that is why they came to play here."
On the verge of something great
A victory over Hawaii Saturday would give Oregon State the opportunity to win 10 games this season, which would be the second-highest total ever for the program. Head coach Mike Riley, who normally focuses on one game at a time, even acknowledged the significance of winning 10 games.
"We have an opportunity to do what very few teams in this country are doing and that is winning in double digits," Riley said.
Strong safety Sabby Piscitelli says that if they do win 10 games it would be "a season to remember" but they must not look past Saturdays opponent.
"It would be a tremendous accomplishment for Oregon State, but we've got to win nine before we win 10," Piscitelli said. "We can't look ahead to that 10 win thing because this Saturday we have a big challenge for us."
The only other time the Beavers won 10 or more games was in 2000 when OSU went 11-1. Defensive tackle Ben Siegert summed it up best.
"You can't win 10 if you don't win nine," Siegert said. "When we get this ninth win and go on and get the opportunity to get a 10-win season, that's great. It's huge."
The quarterback is usually a large part of a team's success and failures. So it is no surprise that when quarterback Matt Moore is playing well, the team is playing well, and when Moore is not playing well, the team struggles.
"I made a point a week ago that Matt's story is a microcosm of our teams," head coach Mike Riley said. "The efficiency with which he has played and the preparation he has made week to week and day to day, is something for him and our team to be proud of."
Over the last seven games Moore has completed 116 of 184 (63%) passes with seven touchdowns. He has 1,639 yards passing during that stretch and just three interceptions. The senior has gone 144 consecutive pass attempts without an interception – the longest active streak in the nation.
After overcoming his frustration at UCLA and his struggles earlier this year at OSU and finally finding success in his final year of college football he was asked if he has become the quarterback that he always thought he could be.
"Yes. As a kid you wanted to be somebody good that (fans and opponents) know and respect. I have accomplished a lot of that," said Moore who has started 22 games at OSU. "I am satisfied and at the same time still hungry."
And while Moore has been a large part of the Beavers success he is just one piece of the orange and black puzzle.
"The reason we have had success is because everyone has found their way to contribute," Riley said. "People like Brandon Powers has worked their way into production. Sammie Stroughter stepped up at Washington. We ended up making plays and that ended up with who we were."