CORVALLIS, Ore. — Pete Carroll did not want to acknowledge it. Nor did Lane Kiffin.
But they usually avoided mention of another factor for fear of distracting their players.
Ed Orgeron, USC's interim coach, praised Riley this week — "When the Trojans get up there, he seems to always have his team ready," he said — but he also cited an environment at Reser Stadium that will make it tough once again when the Trojans play Oregon State on Friday night.
A top-ranked USC team escaped from the fog-shrouded stadium with a victory in 2004, but since then Trojans teams ranked No. 3, No. 1 and No. 20, respectively, were cut down by Riley, unintimidated Beavers players and some of the loudest, most engaged fans in the Pac-12 Conference.
"Pretty insane," USC offensive lineman John Martinez said, describing the noise the last time the Trojans visited Reser Stadium in 2010.
Thanks to Pac-12 scheduling, USC did not play Oregon State the previous two seasons, allowing the Trojans to skip a trip to Corvallis.
But here they are again, an unranked 5-3 team hoping to improve its bowl-game prospects and keep alive interim Orgeron's drive to become the full-time coach.
Riley, of course, has been mentioned as a candidate, though he has said he is not interested. USC wanted to hire Riley in 2000, but the former Trojans assistant could not get out of his contract with the San Diego Chargers. In 2010, he also declined overtures from USC.
This season, Riley and longtime offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf are overseeing the top passing team in major-college football, which features quarterback Sean Mannion and receiver Brandin Cooks.
On Friday, the Beavers will debut orange uniforms and helmets before a crowd that has been called to create an "Orange Out."
During this week's Pac-12 coaches' teleconference, Riley said "the only real explanation" for the Beavers' success against USC at Reser Stadium was "we maximize our playing when we've played them in the past. That's what it's always taken, they've been so good."
• In 2006, unbeaten, third-ranked USC fell behind, 33-10, early in the third quarter.
Co-offensive coordinators Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian abandoned the game plan and had quarterback John David Booty wing the ball all over the field. The Trojans came back and pulled to within 33-31 on Booty's touchdown pass to Steve Smith. But a two-point conversion pass to Dwayne Jarrett was batted away by an Oregon State lineman, and the Beavers recovered the ensuing onside kick.
"It was David and Goliath and we just kept saying, 'Chop off their head,'" Oregon State receiver Sammie Stroughter said after the Beavers ended USC's 27-game conference winning streak.
• In 2008, top-ranked USC was coming off a victory over Ohio State.
But unranked Oregon State, a 25-point underdog, got big performances from running back Jacquizz Rodgers and his brother James, a multitalented receiver, to upset the Trojans, 27-21.
USC trailed 21-0 at halftime before pulling to within 21-14 on touchdown passes by quarterback Mark Sanchez to Ronald Johnson and Damian Williams.
But Oregon State intercepted a pass and Jacquizz Rodgers scored a touchdown. Sanchez's late touchdown pass to Patrick Turner pulled the Trojans to within six points, but Oregon State recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock.