SAN ANTONIO — Appearing calm, cool and collected in his final Alamo Bowl pregame press conference, Oregon State football coach Mike Riley seemed ready for his Beavers to face Texas.
Riley’s demeanor was a stark contrast to his counterpart Mack Brown, who came across as more tense than usual.
Brown spent a portion of the press conference avoiding questions about two players he suspended Friday when it was reported they were being investigated for a sexual assault.
Meanwhile, Riley enjoyed going over a variety topics about the Beavers. He talked about his team with pride for what they accomplished this year after two straight losing seasons.
Here are a few highlights from Riley’s final interview before Saturday’s 3:45 p.m. kickoff:
What makes you happy to be playing in this game?
“Our team has had a good year. For me it was a special story from where we came from a year ago. You can go down the tubes or fight back. These kids made the decision to fight back. And really, they were easy to coach. I’ve appreciated that from the moment we started our offseason in January.”
What have seniors Jordan Poyer and Markus Wheaton meant to the program?
“Jordan Poyer and Markus Wheaton are two really good stories. From the moment we recruited those guys they set a standard. If we didn’t have Jordan Poyer we would need five guys to replace him. Him and Markus where instrumental in the leadership of this team.”
Did you think you would be here at the start of the season?
“When coming off a 3-9, you don’t look at the big picture down the road when you begin. So this team has done a good job staying in the moment. This team likes football and practice, and likes the process. For coaches, that’s a good world to be in.”
What would it mean to beat Texas?
“There haven’t been too many double-digit win seasons in the history of our school. I think two others. So if we can do that, then we make another place in our football history at Oregon State.”
What did the coaches do to turn around the season?
“We took a good hard look at the evaluation with what we need to do football-wise and other areas. You have to be willing to make changes. We had to look at our team real hard. These guys are the play-makers and how we get them the ball.”
What about changes defensively?
“We were good defensively and dropped off badly. We looked at what’s missing. We are more multiple on defense with the nickel and dime. That’s given us more curveballs defensively. But mostly it was development. Our coaches enjoy teaching. After 3-9, it was our biggest teaching job. Teaching players and developing players are what we are supposed to do.”
Why have you praised your seniors so much?
“It’s difficult to have a turnaround or make progress unless you have the older guys in the program setting the example. It can be done, but it’s difficult. What Andrew Seumalo, Jordan Poyer and Markus Wheaton did was good as senior players. It’s a great sign. I had a pretty good vibe about this group before the season. But we had to play.”
How important was it for quarterback Cody Vaz to have a successful first start at BYU this season?
“It was a great day for the Beavers and Cody. I’ve always respected Cody as a young man and quarterback. I’ve always wondered about him playing. We don’t alternate quarterbacks so he didn’t get a chance to play (before then). I was totally impressed with his poise. And it was neat to see the team’s reaction. They responded to his ability and who he was.”
You been saying the Pac-12 is the second-best conference in the country. Do you mean it’s behind the SEC or Big 12?
“That’s why I said maybe (second best). Our conference has really grown. I’ve seen it for a long time back to the Pac-8, back in the day. I’ve seen a lot of change and good football over the years. The addition of Utah and Colorado and going to the Pac-12, the football has improved.”
Is there pressure on you after what Baylor did to UCLA beating the Bruins in the Holiday Bowl?
“Bowl games are interesting, and it all comes out. I think the picture clarifies, and that was very interesting.”