Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Following a Legend

Note: This is the 4th part of a multi-post look at the current state of Oregon State football. Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here, and Part 3 is here.

In previous posts, I have discussed the state of Beaver Nation, taken a game-by-game look at Mike Riley's coaching, and talked about the process by which Riley was hired. In writing these posts I came to a conclusion about Mike Riley that I didn't think that I would make. The conclusion is this: at the time of writing, based solely on win/loss record Mike Riley has done nothing to warrant his removal from his job of head football coach at Oregon State University.

If somebody from the future had come to me after the 1998 Civil War and told me that during the next 3 seasons OSU would go 8-5, 7-5, and then 5-6 (Riley's records in his first 3 seasons); I, as well as everyone in Beaver Nation, (which didn't really exist yet either) would have ecstatic. What is interesting is that those records are very similar to what actually happened, with the lone difference being the magical Fiesta Bowl run.

We all know that it is difficult to follow at legend. I think that Riley's biggest failure as a coach is that he isn't Dennis Erickson. Because Erickson is a legend and Riley is not, we have come down more harshly on the bad losses of Riley than we did on Erickson. Let's look at the losses in Erickson's final season in Corvallis:
  • USC (L 22-0) - The last time OSU had shutout was during Riley's first tenure at OSU, also against USC
  • UCLA (L 43-35) - OSU led this game 14-0 after 5 minutes had expired. Sound familiar?
  • Arizona State (L 13-9) - After this game, with OSU 4-3, Steven Jackson went into Erickson's office and asked for the ball more. Erickson gave him the ball more and OSU responded winning 4 of the next 5. The lone loss in that strech was:
  • Washington (L 41-29) - OSU would have won this game if not for Derek Anderson throwing 5 INTs leading to 17 Washington points. Sound familiar?
  • Pittsburgh (L 38-13) - Loss in a bowl game.
Also Erickson's record in bowl games at OSU was 1-2, while Riley is 2-0.

I think that we need to just cut Riley some slack, which Erickson himself more or less said in a recent interview.
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