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MailTribune.com
  • Applause for Riley, Beavers after big win

  • TUCSON, Ariz. — The applause for Oregon State coach Mike Riley started about five years ago, and it has been going ever since.
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  • TUCSON, Ariz. — The applause for Oregon State coach Mike Riley started about five years ago, and it has been going ever since.
    That's when former OSU linebacker Joey LaRocque thought it would be funny to clap for the head coach in a team meeting. In every meeting since, players have given Riley a round of applause.
    "We're just proud of what he does, and we love him,'' said receiver Markus Wheaton. "It's been like this ever since I've been here.''
    On Saturday night at Arizona Stadium, the cheers grew louder. The Beavers' wild 38-35 win over the Wildcats not only moved them to 3-0 but it also was Riley's 75th as OSU coach.
    The victory broke Lon Stiner's school record that stood for 64 years.
    "The main thing is having been some place for a while,'' Riley said after the game. "That's the biggest thing to me, because when I came back, that's what I set my mind to do because I gave that up when I left. I'm just thankful I had this kind of time to get a chance at a record like this.''
    Of all those 75 wins, this was one of the craziest. The Beavers built a 10-point halftime lead only to give it away as Arizona scored 21 points in the third quarter — the only third-quarter points OSU has given up this season.
    It wasn't until the final minute, after Sean Mannion hit Connor Hamlett with a 9-yard touchdown pass and Rashaad Reynolds made a game-saving interception, that Riley could exhale.
    It is fitting that the record would come this way. After Riley's rock-bottom year of 2011, when the Beavers went 3-9, they have come out in 2012 and matched that total in three tries — the last two coming on the road.
    Mannion was 29 of 45 for 433 yards and no interceptions. It was the fifth-highest passing total in OSU history and worthy of a standing ovation in itself.
    On Saturday night, the OSU contingent included some 60 family members and friends of Wheaton, the Arizona native who caught 10 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
    The orange-wearing throng stood and cheered well after the game ended, and the applause finally stopped as the buses pulled away.
    But for Riley, it has not. Not even in 2011. It remained consistent, a reflection of the 12-year Riley era that began in 1997, with a four-year break (1999-2002) while he coached in the NFL.
    "His consistency has really helped,'' offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. "We've stayed pretty even-keeled through the good and the bad.''
    Saturday night's win also was the 48th league victory for Riley, tying him with California coach Jeff Tedford for 17th place all-time. He trails only Tedford (80) in overall wins by a current Pac-12 coach.
    Riley is also the only OSU coach to have won more than one bowl game (he has won five) and the first to lead the Beavers to more than one winning season in conference (also five) since 1969.
    When he began his OSU coaching career in 1997, the Beavers were mired in a 28-year streak of losing seasons. If 75 seems a modest number for an all-time victory leader, it's because Riley's native Corvallis has not been a hotbed of college football success through the years.
    "This is a tough job, and it's a place we have to go the extra mile to win,'' Langsdorf said.
    And that's part of the appreciation Riley receives in every single team meeting.
    "I've always laughed at that,'' Langsdorf said. "It's neat. It's a pretty unique thing. It's a sign of respect for him.''
    According to the players, the applause is well-deserved — even before the record.
    "He's the dad of us,'' tackle Colin Kelly said. "He deserves our respect.''
    And, Riley says, his staff deserves the record, too.
    "It's not my record,'' Riley said. "(Defensive coordinator) Mark Banker's been with me every game here. (Special teams coach) Bruce Read has been here for most of them, Danny Langsdorf, we have a great group of guys.
    "That's why I do this thing. I love the camaraderie of the staff. We all have one vision: We try to build these kids up and coach them like crazy, and we've been able to do that at Oregon State, and we're proud of that.''
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