After beating UCLA, coach Mike Riley takes his hungry players to In-N-Out Burger for 200 double-doubles, 100 orders of fries.
A third of the way through the Pac-12 football season, there are several undisputed truths: Oregon is, well, Oregon. USC has some warts. There are more salty teams in the league than we anticipated.
And: You don’t just pull a bus full of football players up to a fast-food chain and say, “Gimme 200 burgers.”
The story begins early last week in the football offices at Oregon State, where Mike Riley, the coach, fretted over how to give players from Los Angeles some precious time with their families, yet maintain their focus on the UCLA Bruins?
“I see guys leave,” Riley said to his staff, “and they come back in with an In-N-Out burger.
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“I’m going to keep guys at the hotel. I might just tell ’em, if we win the game, I’ll take ’em to In-N-Out.”
Indeed, addressing the Beavers, Riley promised them a postgame trip to In-N-Out, the iconic Cali-based burger joint, if they won.
“That’s when it clicked,” Riley’s football-operations director, Dan Van De Riet, told me Monday, “that I’d better figure this out.”
When Van De Riet called In-N-Out, he discovered that the place wouldn’t start cooking until it had payment. Then there was the major contingency: It was all based on winning the game. Fortunately, Van De Riet had a friend at OSU’s air-charter company who ran reconnaissance for him, stopping by the restaurant during the week to work out details.
It was a big night at the Burbank In-N-Out. Also on hand was the California band, which had already placed an order before its trip back to the Bay Area from the LA Coliseum (apparently winning wasn’t a requirement for the Straw Hat musicians; the Bears dropped their ninth straight to USC).
Bottom line for the Beavers: It went like clockwork, much as their 2-0 season. They controlled UCLA, 27-20, and four buses full of famished players pulled up to In-N-Out, met by 200 double-doubles and 100 orders of fries. The stop lasted a mere 15 minutes.
Riley is out more than $700, but no doubt happy for the trouble.
The win gives him No. 74, tying him with Lon Stiner (1933-48) for No. 1 at OSU, and in combination with the upset of Wisconsin in the Beavers’ opener, signals that the two-year, 8-16 dip was the exception, not the rule, in Corvallis.
“Both fronts,” Riley said on this week’s Pac-12 coaches conference call, as to where OSU has improved most over 2011.
Last year, the Beavers had a gaping, 110-yard deficit per game in rushing offense to run defense. This year, they’re 46 yards to the good in that metric, and have quelled Heisman talk around Montee Ball and Johnathan Franklin.
Defensive tackle Castro Masaniai is a 354-pound beast — “bigger than he’s ever been, but probably in the best shape of his life,” Riley says — a problematic offensive line has improved to a man, and the Seumalo brothers, Andrew and Isaac, are forces on opposite sides of the ball.
“I was not only impressed with their defense, which I knew I would be going into the game, but their offense,” said UCLA coach Jim Mora. “They’re just a very fundamentally sound, well-coached, hard-playing football team that I think’s going to win a lot of games this year.”
The next challenge for OSU is Saturday night at Arizona. And yes, In-N-Out has franchises in Tucson.
And what’s more …
• By my count, Arizona State has faced 14 snaps of the opposition’s first-team quarterback in four games. The Sun Devils, allowing a league-best 12.8 points per game, have escaped Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase, Missouri’s James Franklin and Utah’s Jordan Wynn due to injuries.
• Cal is 1-3, and only one 1-3 team in school history has made it to a bowl game. That was in 2003, when the Bears had Aaron Rodgers.
• Andrew Luck is gone, but some things don’t change at Stanford, which visits Seattle Thursday night. Josh Nunes been sacked twice, making it a mere 19 times in 29 games for Cardinal quarterbacks.
• There was a single question for USC coach Lane Kiffin on Tuesday’s call, which reminded him of last week’s brusque, 29-second press availability he cut short when asked an injury-related question after practice. “I like it,” Kiffin said. “It’s the second-quickest press conference I’ve ever been a part of.”
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org