PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The whispers about job security aren't an issue for Oregon State coach Mike Riley any more.
The amiable Beavers coach has led his team to a 3-0 start and the No. 14 spot in the AP rankings. It's a dramatic turnaround for a team that won only three games last season.
After consecutive wins over ranked teams, Oregon State is coming off a 38-35 victory over Arizona in Tucson last Saturday. It was Riley's 75th victory in his two stints — he's in his 12th season overall — as coach of the Beavers, making him the winningest coach in school history.
Oregon State hasn't opened with a three-game winning streak since 2002. The Beavers host 2-3 Washington State on Saturday.
"Mike and his staff have done a great job," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "You can see those guys are playing with a lot of confidence and a sense of maturity as well."
Even Riley is a bit surprised.
"Actually, the seasons are always a bit of a mystery, but coming off a 3-9 you really didn't know what to expect. The only thing I'll say is that this team has worked hard. It was a good offseason and right through the summer and we had a really good fall camp with very few distractions. All the signs were good, you just had to start playing and see what came out of it."
Stanford coach David Shaw said he told people in the offseason that Oregon State would be a contender.
"I got a couple chuckles when I said, 'You got to watch out for Mike Riley.' Those players love Mike Riley. They will go to battle for him every single week," Shaw said. "I got a couple chuckles. Nobody's chuckling now. They look as good as anybody in the nation right now the way they're playing."
When the Beavers won just three games last year, there were some disgruntled fans calling for Riley's dismissal. The vitriol, however, was tempered a bit by the respect Riley enjoys both in college football overall and in the Corvallis community.
Riley's father, Bud, who passed away in August at age 86, was an assistant coach at Oregon State from 1965-72 and again in 1979.
Mike was a quarterback at Corvallis High School, leading the team to the state title in 1970 before deciding to play at Alabama under coach Bear Bryant. He was a reserve defensive back on the 1973 Tide team that went 11-1, losing to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.
Riley returned to Oregon State as head coach in 1997 after serving as an assistant at USC for several years under John Robinson. He coached the Beavers for two seasons before taking the job as head coach of the San Diego Chargers, then returned to Oregon State in 2003 after Dennis Erickson became head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.