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OSU `passes' its first test under Riley

AP photo

CORVALLIS ­ The Mike Riley era officially got under way on a warm,sunny Saturday at Parker Stadium and 30,818 win-starved fans went home happy.

Tim Alexander amassed 287 yards in total offense as the Beavers openedtheir season with an impressive 33-7 victory over North Texas.

It was a near-perfect beginning for Riley, a former Corvallis High Schoolstandout who has come full circle to lead the college team in his hometown.

The first game is so important for a team that hasn't won in sucha long time, a smiling, relaxed Riley said as he addressed the mediaafter the game. It's only one game, but it's a start and we're goingto take it.

Riley, the offensive coordinator at Southern Cal for the past four seasons,not only delivered a win in his first game at OSU but he also reintroducedthe forward pass into the Beaver playbook.

Alexander put the ball skyward 37 times, completing 21 for 207 yardsand a touchdown, and backup Tyler Tomich was 3-for-4 for 66 yards as theBeavers totaled more yards passing (273) than rushing (198) for the firsttime in seven years.

And yet the win didn't come easily. OSU trailed 7-3 at halftime and werestill staring at a 7-6 deficit after three periods before blowing the gameopen.

It was a good way for us to win a game, said Riley, who isattempting to revive a program that hasn't posted a winning season since1970, the year he was leading Corvallis High to a state championship. Thingsdidn't go our way for a long time, but we kept fighting and making playsand eventually the momentum swung our way. That's a good sign for a groupof guys who haven't had a lot of success in the past.

The game began to swing in OSU's favor early in the second half whendefensive end Inoke Breckterfield intercepted a shovel pass and rambled52 yards, setting up a 27-yard field goal by Jose Cortez that trimmed NorthTexas' lead to 7-6.

The Beavers finally took the lead with 12:19 to play when Alexander hitsplit end Roddy Tompkins with a 12-yard screen pass for a touchdown.

I was rushing the passer (North Texas quarterback Jason Mills),but when I saw a running back coming across the middle, I knew somethingwas up, said Breckterfield, a 5-foot-11, 242-pound junior from Kaneohe,Hawaii. So I stopped and looked up. And then he (Mills) threw theball right to me.

Breckterfield's interception brought the crowd alive and fired up theOSU defense, which forced three more turnovers in the fourth period, leadingto the rout.

The other impact play by the OSU defense came with 8:10 remaining whenJamil Braithwaite blasted Mills from the blind side deep in North Texasterritory. The ball squirted loose and rolled to the 1-yard line, whereMicah Moore scooped it up and stepped into the end zone. OSU's other TDscame on an 8-yard run up the middle by DeShawn Williams and a 6-yard runby freshman Ricky Walker.

On offense, though, the day belonged to Alexander. The soft-spoken juniorfrom Sarasota, Fla., who was recruited to OSU as a wishbone quarterbackby former coach Jerry Pettibone, made the transition to Riley's wide-openattack look easy.

It was a fun day, said Alexander, the triggerman of an attackthat produced 41 running plays, 41 passing plays ­ how's that for balance?­ and 471 yards of total offense. I threw an early interceptionbut I didn't let it get me down.

A lot of people think that because I came here as an option quarterbackthat I can't pass the ball, but I've got confidence in my ability to throw.

Alexander also ran for 80 yards on 10 carries.

Tim is truly a gifted athlete, Riley said. And whatyou saw out there today is just the beginning. Wait until he understandsour offense totally.

Oregon State tailback Ricky Walker breaks loose from North Texas' Jason Kitchens (56).