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December 3, 2012

Riley and Beavers Excited for Trip to Texas

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Oregon State and the Lone Star State are hardly strangers.

For the fourth time since 2006, the Beavers will play a football game within the borders of the state of Texas when they square off with the Texas Longhorns, by far the most celebrated and acclaimed program there, in the Valero Alamo Bowl on December 29 in San Antonio.

Kickoff from the Alamodome is set for 3:35 p.m. PT.

The Alamo Bowl payout is approximately $3 million per team.

Because of the high visibility of the opponent, the Alamo Bowl represents an important opportunity for Oregon State (9-3) to impress analysts and recruits nationally. It will be OSU’s first bowl appearance since the 2009 MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas.

“I think it’s awesome,” Riley told reporters during a teleconference Sunday night. “It’s a great place. It’s a great bowl game, and getting to play the University of Texas is a great opportunity for the Beavers to play another first class program.”

After Stanford (Rose Bowl) and Oregon (Fiesta Bowl) were slotted into BCS bowls, the Alamo Bowl had first choice of the remaining Pac-12 bowl eligible teams. The decision boiled down to Oregon State or UCLA (9-4), the Pac-12 South division champion.

Alamo Bowl officials picked the Beavers over the Bruins for their initial bowl trip to San Antonio.

“That’s a great feeling,” Riley said. “I explained that to our team. They had choices and they selected us. We feel honored to be selected. But we also feel like we deserved it. We beat UCLA. We were going to be excited regardless. Turning things around from 3-9 to 9-3 has taken a lot of good, hard work.”

Since falling short to Alabama in the 2009 national championship game, Texas has struggled with a 21-16 record over the past three seasons and head coach Mack Brown’s future in Austin is often questioned.

Nonetheless, Texas is still Texas and a win over the Longhorns would accomplish much for the Beavers from a number of standpoints.

“It’s a great football school with great tradition,” Riley said. “I know Mack real well. I have a ton of respect for him and his program. Mack Brown does it right.”

Riley said he learned Oregon State’s bowl destination about 4:30 p.m. PT on Sunday, about an hour before ESPN televised their Bowl Selection special. When he walked into the meeting room to tell the players where the Beavers were headed for the holidays, he could sense the buzz around in the room.

“They were real excited. The room when I walked in was electric. These guys are fired up,” Riley said. “They’ve accomplished a lot this year and they know it. They’re excited about their next opportunity.”

Since Austin, the capital of Texas, is situated just 80 miles away from San Antonio, Riley acknowledged the Longhorns should enjoy a distinct home field advantage inside the Alamo Dome on December 29.

“It will probably feel like a home game for Texas, but that’s understandable. The Beavers will travel well,” Riley said. “We’ll bring a nice contingent of people down there, for sure. We’ll try to balance it out even though it will be impossible to do that. It creates the opportunity to have a big crowd and a great atmosphere.”

The current Beaver roster has four players from the state of Texas: safety Peter Ashton (Keller), defensive end Rudolf Fifita (Euless), safety Kendall Hill (La Marque) and running back Storm Woods (Pflugerville). In addition, second-year running backs coach Chris Brasfield is a native of San Antonio and was a wide receiver and return specialist at TCU (1994-95) and UTEP (1991-93).

The seating capacity of the Alamodome, which opened in 1993 and has hosted four Final Fours in men’s basketball, is approximately 65,000 for football.

Despite losing the Civil War on November 24, Oregon State was able to conclude the regular season with a rousing 77-3 victory on Saturday over hapless Nicholls State, a Division I-AA program from Louisiana. The game was rescheduled from early September due to Hurricane Isaac.

As a result, Oregon State has the chance to finish a season with two or more consecutive victories for the first time since 2007, and just the fourth time since the magical Fiesta Bowl season in 2000.

The Beavers are 6-2 in bowl games since the 2000 season, including 5-1 with Riley at the helm of the program. OSU will be the sixth different team from the current Pac-12 Conference to play in the Alamo Bowl.

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“In our world, the feeling you have after your last game lasts a long time,” Riley said. “It’s all exciting right now about getting selected and being a bowl team and everything we’ve been through. When it all comes down to it, you really want to win the game. The same things will apply to try to win that we’ve always tried to apply, which is preparation for the game.”

Oregon State will start bowl practice on December 10 after final exams are completed, Riley said. The assistant coaches, including the head coach, will hit the recruiting trail hard this week in an effort to grab as much momentum from the Alamo Bowl berth as possible.

“Everybody can step away for a minute and I think that will be real good for everybody,” Riley said. “Then it will really be fun when we start preparing for Texas because we all know it’s going to be a tough, tough game. But it will be fun to start that preparation.”

Jordan Jenkins, though, won’t participate in bowl workouts. The senior running back and special teams standout from Salem broke his ankle in Saturday’s lopsided win over Nicholls State and will miss the final game of his career. He had nine tackles and three receptions in 12 games.

“We’ll miss him and I’m real sorry about that,” Riley said. “But he definitely won’t play. Everybody else is in pretty good shape.”

Wide receiver Brandin Cooks (64 receptions for 1,120 yards and five touchdowns), slowed recently by a knee injury, should be operating at full speed when the Beavers return to the practice fields next week, Riley added. Jordan Poyer (knee) should be 100 percent healthy as well by the time bowl practice begins, while Markus Wheaton played just a half in the rout of Nicholls.

“One of our jobs will be to make sure those three guys get to the game healthy and ready to play,” Riley said.

Riley sidestepped the question on the minds of many Beaver fans – who will start at quarterback in the bowl game? Sean Mannion concluded an up-and-down regular season on a high note by completing 20-of-23 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns against Nicholls. Cody Vaz mopped up by connecting on 14-of-17 passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns.

Mannion started the final three regular season games and completed 70.8 percent of his passes during that span (75-of-106) for seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Since kickoff of the Alamo Bowl is still 26 days away, Riley will leave the thorny starting quarterback issue alone for now.

Better to keep the Texas coaches guessing as they watch game film of the Beavers.

“We don’t need to decide that at all right now,” Riley said. “I don’t think we’ll decide for a while how that is going to go. We’ll get back to practicing a week from tomorrow. I don’t know what I will have thought about during this week. They both played very well (Saturday) and they’re both very capable. We’ll figure out how we’re going to do this thing later.”

While bowl travel plans haven’t been finalized, Riley said he wants the Beavers to depart Corvallis for San Antonio on December 23, two days before Christmas. That would give OSU six days in San Antonio leading up to the game on December 29.

The bowl falls on a Saturday, allowing the Beavers to approach it like an ordinary game as far as game week preparation is concerned.

“I would like to get down there and have our regular week of preparation in front of us,” Riley said. “That would be a normal final week of preparation up until the game. I hope we can do that way, so I hope we arrive on the 23rd.”



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