Riley can thank Huskies for Job Security

There is irony involved when looking back to last October's match-up between Oregon State and Washington. The 1-3 Beavers were coming to town, led by their embattled Coach Mike Riley. At that time, Oregon State fans and alumni were largely calling for Riley's firing.

His quarterback, Matt Moore, was being mercilessly booed at home games, and had even gotten into a shouting match with his own student section in the previous week's debacle against Washington State. It didn't seem to matter that the Beavs had waxed Washington at Husky Stadium the past two seasons. For Riley and his players, it was a dreary period that called for a gut-check. OSU exited Corvallis and headed for Seattle, tabbed by odds-makers as 10.5 point underdogs.

During a pre-game interview, Riley was assailed further by the question of replacing Moore with heralded backup Sean Canfield.

"I understand that," said Riley of the backup's popularity. "I have pretty good confidence where I think Sean is. I want him ready for success. And I believe Matt is our best opportunity to win. The place we have no controversy is within our own house."

"You normally want your home crowd," said Moore to a reporter. "But the past two weeks haven't gone so well. So I think going to somebody else's stadium might get us fired up a little bit. It's a change, so it could be good for us."

What happened subsequent at Husky Stadium that afternoon defined each team's season. OSU came out attacking and motivated, consistently hammering away at the Huskies at the line of scrimmage. Beaver running back Yvenson Bernard pounded out 144 impressive yards on 29 carries. His teammate Sammie Stroughter amassed 227 yards receiving on just 7 catches. And Matt Moore lit up the Dawg defense with 308 yards passing. The end of the game featured a surreal scene in the east end zone. Moore was pumping his fist in celebration, as he glorified in the newfound adulation heaped upon him from Beaver fans populating the cheap seats.

Meanwhile, the sluggish Huskies had lost their leader when quarterback Isaiah Stanback was lost for the season with a severe foot injury. Washington would finish out the year at 1-5. The Beavers stormed their way to a 10-win campaign, which included an upset of #3 USC in Corvallis. The contrast between the two teams and their 2006 seasons was night and day.

Just last week, Oregon State athletic director Bob De Carolis held a press conference announcing the extension of Mike Riley's contract through 2012. Just six months ago, Riley was perilously close to getting kicked to the curb with the rest of the garbage. Now he will enter the 2007 season commanding as much as $1.245 million-- and brandishing as much job security as a coach can expect to possess.

"We are thrilled to have Coach Riley under contract for the foreseeable future," said De Carolis. "The program has made tremendous strides on and off the field, and having stability at the top is a proven plan for future success. Coach Riley is a well-respected person and is a great ambassador for Oregon State University."

Then Riley leaned forward and spoke. "We've done some very good things at Oregon State over the last few years and this is another sign of the commitment this university has to not only the football program, but the entire Athletics Department," he said. "I want to stress that this contract is as much about rewarding our talented group of assistant coaches as it is me. We are all very grateful to Oregon State University."

From Washington's perspective, last October's loss to the Beavs was bleakness personified. But if there was a silver lining in that heavy gray cloud, it was this; things turn around fast in this game. Sometimes great seasons can emerge when all looks lost.

This test will likely be put to the 2007 Huskies, given the brutal early schedule (think Ohio State, Boise State, USC, UCLA). For UW fans and players alike, it will be important to keep the 2006 Beavers in mind, should the Huskies bumble and stumble through September.

Sometimes slow and steady does win the race.

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