Mike Riley addresses the crowd at Tuesday's press conference. The Beavers will travel to Arlington, Texas to play sixth-ranked TCU on Saturday. (Photo via OSU Athletics)
"It feels like it should be that time."
Oregon State coach Mike Riley (l., OSU photo) kicked off the first weekly media day of the season with that assessment as he looked forward to the season opener Saturday in Dallas against sixth ranked TCU.
"We are excited to get started," Riley said on Tuesday. "I think our camp has been good, and it is just about time to play to see where we are for the season."
For the first time in 49 years-- since opening with Syracuse in 1961-- Oregon State is opening the season as a ranked team, facing a ranked team. They are doing it on the most spectacular football stage around, Cowboys Stadium, which features the largest video screen in football along with an indoor capacity of over 100,000. A setting that could be a distraction to a bunch of 18-22 year olds. Riley explained his plan for that Tuesday:
"I have a former coach friend that played there last year, he said to go do a practice the day before the game to get the `wow' factor out of the way. We are going to go down there, instead of practicing here, we are going to get up a little bit earlier (to get to Texas early enough) and get a 5:15 practice in. I think it will go well, go see the stadium, and do our regular pre-game walk through down there."
The question of the game will be how sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz handles the combination of one of the nations' top defenses in the Horned Frogs, and the setting, either of which could 'wow' even a seasoned veteran.
Riley expressed confidence in his protege signal caller though:
"Ryan is well prepared, and that is the best thing for him as far as the confidence and being able to handle it. There will still be some butterflies now, it's his first start, and he has been looking forward to this for a long time. As soon as (players) decide where they're going to college, they start thinking about that time when they are going to get to play. He has been here for over two years and he's well prepared. With that preparation, comes a natural excitement, which is a lot of different emotions."
Katz likes the idea of the Friday walk-thru to deal with the 'wow' factor:
"I think we will get all of that out of our system on Friday when we are down there. It should be good for the guys to get the wow factor out and enjoy the stadium. Come game time, we are ready to play."
How offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and Riley construct the game plan, and call plays, could influence how Katz handles being on the big stage, and in front of a national television audience, given that the game is ESPN's prime time featured game.
"Everyone has been talking about if we are going to scale everything back for him, and I think we have tried a new approach in the installation of our plays to make it a better learning for everybody. We have had a big package for him during fall camp. Our volume is just about all in at this stage, and he has it all right there in front of him. How we start out (the game) will be according to what we think we need to do to win the game. We expect him to execute whatever is (called). I don't think a major part of the thought process will be about holding stuff back. We always realize the importance of getting the quarterback started."
One of the primary reasons Oregon St. is in this game, of course, is to give the Rodgers brothers a chance to play in their home state.
"It's probably exciting for them, but I do think they are thinking about the bigger picture, and winning the football game. James made the comment to a teammate that they are going down there to win. If there is a concern there somewhere, it's never been one for me. It's exciting to go back there and play, if anything, it is an added attraction for them. All of our guys see the bigger picture, going back there to win."
James Rodgers confirmed that he is focused:
"When I found out about the game, I thought it would be a great thing for my family and friends to be able to watch me in person. It's going to be a great experience, but it still is going to be a business trip, and that cannot distract me from anything that I do."
Jacquizz Rodgers also touched on the issues surrounding the substantial opener:
"I am team first. Instead of worrying about my individual accomplishments, I say if you win as a team, and all of that success will come at the end of the season. Right now, you have to stay on track and try to improve on games week in and week out. I love opening up on this stage because you get an understanding of where the game is at. If you play a Division 1AA team, the coaches don't even open up the playbook. So we can just let it all go. We will gain something from it, whether we win or lose."
Riley addressed the challenges of facing the Horned Frogs' senior quarterback Andy Dalton:
"You're talking about a veteran quarterback that has won a lot of games and has executed their offense really well. That is a major factor going into the game, they are a very versatile offensive football team. Their quarterback has been successful, won games, and is a major part of their 2010 team. They will be a hard team to defend. There are a whole bunch of ways we need to be great in the details of assignments. We're going to have to be great with our open field tackling and just be sound throughout to make the play"
TCU is a complete package in Riley's estimation:
"This is a really good team, maybe as a fast of a team that we have seen overall. I don't think it's hard for our players to watch the film and see the quality of this opponent. These guys not only have talent, but they have a program where they have had time to build a system. It is very easy to see that this is a good team on film, there is already a ton of respect by our team for the quality of their opponent."
Cornerback James Dockery added his observations:
"Their receivers are very athletic and fast and they do a good job at going after the catch. Dalton is good at making quick decisions and he has a strong arm, which makes the ball get out fast."
Katz added his observations on the TCU defense:
"They are a really quick defense and stop the run. I think they fly around and make plays, but I also think that there are some big plays out there to be made."
The Beavers' new quarterback is looking forward to the challenge, though:
"It's getting closer, which makes it more exciting. Being only four days away, I think we are ready to go. I have been watching them all summer as well. I have been watching their tendencies, some of their personnel. They have most of their guys coming back minus the two that were drafted last year."
"Right now I am just trying to get prepared for the game. It is a big stage and a big opportunity. We are comfortable right now, with having a lot of the guys around during the summer, I threw to all of them. Our timing is down, and it's where we're at the point of feeling comfortable."
TCU is currently a 13.5 point favorite, but Dockery discounted that;
"We aren't worried about that kind of stuff at Oregon State. Our motto is also to take one game at a time, and that is what we are standing by this year. We're not worried about the opponent's ranking or how much we are supposed to win or lose by. Our main focus is to show up and play very hard to try to bring back a win to Beaver Nation."
A win that would be most appreciated by the OSU fans.