Oregon State Coach Mike Riley had a number of observations at today's media conference at the Valley Football Center, but the most humorous one has to be that "It could be Vegas, or it could be Philomath. The weather's different, but that's about it."
Riley was dismissing the risk of distractions to the team during this week's business trip to Las Vegas, but it is hard to say if the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce will be upset by coaches' remarks, or if the Philomath CofC will be flattered.
Riley was reiterating the same message that was received regarding the volleyball team, which will also be in Las Vegas this weekend, for matches Friday night and Saturday afternoon (the 3 o'clock start will allow plenty of time to get over to the football stadium), that this weekend will be a no-nonsense venture.
"We go down Friday, we have a routine, and we play Saturday. The only thing that changes is the time we play."
Guard Greg Peat also discounted the impact of the road trip, noting "There are lines and goal posts every place we play."
Riley and Peat did both acknowledge the one thing that will be a factor, the heat. With a daytime forecast for 100 degree temperatures, and a prediction that it will still be above 80 at kickoff time (9:07 locally, 8:07 PDT), it is the one thing the Beavers will have to deal with differently. As Peat noted, "We have to stay hydrated. We saw the Miami-Florida St. game last night, and guys were cramping up. We can't have that."
Riley explained "One's ability to negate the problems with travel and conditions will generally determine your season's success."
Riley also noted that Lyle Moevao could see action in Vegas (the on-the field kind), observing "We have a chance for Lyle to be in the rotation. I'm thinking a third (#3, behind Sean Canfield and Ryan Katz)." Riley reiterated that Peter Lalich will travel, and continue to dress, and be available if needed, but "We would really like to redshirt Peter, so it will be nice to get to where we have three healthy QBs besides him."
Riley also noted that redshirt freshman cornerback Keenan Parker will "Travel and play", having recovered from a shoulder injury suffered in fall camp. "We will know in a day or so about (defensive tackle) Brennan Olander."
Darrell Catchings is apparently still out of the picture, as Riley explained "Darrell is at the doctor right not. I don't think there is any way he can play (this week), but I'd like to get him back for Cincinnati."
Riley is hoping for more dividends from the Las Vegas trip than just a win, noting "We haven't gotten anyone from Vegas lately. We'd like to go back and get some, there were some fine guys that came from there."
Riley and quarterback Sean Canfield also addressed the spectacular opening touchdown pass to James Rodgers Saturday against Portland St. "I've never had that, though I've had it against me twice," Riley said. "The coaching staff decided Tuesday night on that play, when we set the first plays for each of several different situations. It was (offensive coordinator) Danny (Langsdorf)'s idea. I generally like to take the credit for touchdowns, but that one was Danny's."
Canfield acknowledged "We knew the play Friday. When we practiced it, I threw to Casey (Kjos), but in the game, it opened up for James." Canfield also conceded "It wasn't even that great of a play-fake."
As to whether Beaver fans will see more deep plays, and more of Marcus Wheaton, Riley said "Yes. We would like good balance, but that (includes deep) stuff. I'm really excited about what looks like an outstanding receiver corp, if they ever can be a corp. If they can get together and stay together (referring to the injuries, eligibility issues, and position changes that have disrupted things). It's a good looking picture that has never been complete. We don't care who scores the touchdown, as long as we score."
Regarding how long it will take to get Wheaton up to speed specifically, Riley said "I don't know, it is day by day. We will force feed him into what we are doing. And make him a viable backup for James (Rodgers) in case we want to bring him out for a play, or a series."
Riley also praised the progress of the fullback group, noting "Will Darkens played well Saturday, and Clayton York doing well (is important). You can't run a personnel group unless you have a backup for each position."
In addition to the heat, UNLV does present some challenges, both offensively and defensively. According to Riley, the Las Vegas spread offense, which gained 463 yards last year against BYU (whose' defense recently handled Oklahoma pretty well), "Will produce lots of one on one situations. Our ability to make open field plays will be the key."
The Rebels' defense concerns Riley as well. "They have two 300+ pound run stoppers, and last year (when UNLV defeated Arizona St.) they got after Rudy (Carpenter) pretty well too. We're going into a hornet's nest. I expect a heck of a game."
A game where an extra field goal might be handy, such as an encore of Justin Kahut's career best 50 yard effort aganstPortland State. Riley noted "I thought it was great!"
Riley's remarks and more, including interviews with Stephne Paea, Peat, Canfield, and tight ends coach Robin Ross, who discussed the process of having his program at Western Washington eliminated, after a 100 year tradition, are all available on the podcast of today's Joe Beaver show as well.