Oregon State football coach Mike Riley had no intention to be on the defensive Tuesday during his weekly press conference to preview the upcoming game.
Being a 35-year veteran coach of the NFL, CFL and college, he was ready with a preemptive strike.
Riley stood up for his players and coaches, but admitted the Beavers have not played well during a two-game losing streak. He vowed to keep working to improve the team.
Southern California comes to Corvallis for a Pacific-10 Conference game at 5 p.m. on Saturday. But that's the least of the Beavers' problems with a lack of execution across the board.
Criticism of the team has come from the media and fans through Internet message boards. Reader comments on the Gazette-Times OSU football blog have asked for the removal of offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and defensive coordinator Mark Banker.
"As you know I'm not totally aware of what you (the media) are saying, but I'm aware of what's going on out there," Riley said. "We don't live in the world of trying to defend or make a statement. We just work. We know it's not going good as a coaching staff."
Riley has a stable group of assistants and enjoys working them. This is the first year at OSU there was no turnover.
All of them have been part of winning seasons at OSU with big wins over highly ranked opponents. They were successful in previous jobs.
"I don't think any of them have gotten dumb or stopped working," Riley said. "I've got a real sense of confidence in how they do their job and how they feel about things. When you commit as much as we do, it's going to hurt badly. No matter how bad everyone else feels out there, there's no one who feels worse about it. We have a job to do, so the preparation has to overcome the feelings. Who cares (about our feelings). We have to go to work."
Riley believes the coaches come up with the best plan they can each week. Improvement for the team comes from the work in practice, and if the players can take the preparation to the game.
"We will do our best to get our team to fight out of this," Riley said. "We've been through this a long time. If you are in coaching very long, and I've been in it 35 years, it's not the first time you go through hard times. There's a recipe for getting out of it and that's preparing your team and winning the game."
The coaches reviewed how they approach practice this week and they plan to re-emphasize what they've been doing, and to do it better. They are not trying to change in the middle of the season.
Riley has left it up to the players to get better in the past when extended slumps occur. He's not doing that this time.
"It's up to them and our staff," Riley said. "Our staff has to be the adults here. They must set the tone for preparation and not go crazy. We are not in a blame game here. We are not going to go to a player or a coach and say ‘It's your fault.' That's stupid. It's everybody's fault. We are in this together."
Cornerback James Dockery, on the contrary, came to the defense of the coaches. He says it's up to the players to change what's happening.
"Our coaches do a great job of preparing us for football games," Dockery said. "Every offseason I read coach Riley is the most underrated coach in the nation and our coaches do the most with the least. Coaches can only prepare you, but it's up to the players to do it. We haven't executed."