Above: Oregon State and former Muir star Lance Mitchell, right, answers questions as head coach Mike Riley smiles during the Pac-12 Football Media Day at the Fox studios in Los Angeles.
(Staff Photo/Keith Birmingham)
By Steve Ramirez, Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES – Oregon State’s Lance Mitchell’s main goal for the upcoming football season is to come home for the holidays.
He wants to play his final collegiate game at home, in Pasadena, which means the Beavers would be in the Rose Bowl for the first time in nearly 50 years.
“I still want to play in the Rose Bowl again and (win) the Pac-12 championship,” said the senior last month at Fox Studios during Pac-12 Media Day. “Hopefully, I can get that done.”
The former Muir High School star has already accomplished a lot during his time in Corvallis, Ore., but Mitchell, considered one of the top safeties in the Pac-12, is seeking more, especially after the Beavers went from being one win away from the Rose Bowl in 2009 to finishing 5-7 and losing four of their final five games last season. Oregon State, which has experienced a revival under coach Mike Riley, hasn’t played in the Rose Bowl Game since 1965.
CLICK ON THREAD TO CONTINUE READING
“I think if there is anything positive of not going to a bowl game last year and not doing as good as we wanted, we felt it and it hurt,” said Mitchell, whose Beavers open their season Saturday with a home game against Sacramento State. “We worked hard this offseason as if we felt that pain. I think it will help us in the end, and it’s going to show in this coming season.
“I remember being a part of those teams of shutting people out on the defensive side and winning games. I just want to be part of that again. Whatever I can, whether that’s being a leader, or making plays, I just want to win, and being part of a winning program when I leave here.”
Mitchell, who has 157 tackles while starting the past 21 games at safety for Oregon State, is a key figure in the Beavers defense, not just for his athleticism and his ability to make big plays, but also as a senior in a defensive unit that’s quite youthful.
“Lance is one of our captains and has really grown a lot in a lot of ways since he’s gotten here,” Riley said. “He’s made a lot of big plays. He’s got good ball skills and is a tough tackler.
“He’s also a very experienced player, with a lot of games under his belt. I think he’s a very solid person in our program, a well- respected guy who plays hard, plays well and is a good leader, both by playing by example and bringing guys along on the field.”
The senior, who came to Oregon State as one of the top defensive back recruits in the country, believes he’s grown up while in Corvallis, and also felt like he arrived during Pac-12 Media Day, when he completed a journey going from the streets of Pasadena to the tinsel of Hollywood.
“It’s fun to be part of this, represent your team and your school,” Mitchell said. “It’s a big deal, and I’m proud to say I did it. And it gives me a chance to go home and see my family, so a chance to do this at the same time is a wonderful feeling.
“It’s like when you win a game, reaching a goal. It’s accomplishing something that you planned on doing. It feels good.”
Mitchell would like to add to that feeling this season. He believes he can, if the Beavers are as good as he thinks they can be, but it won’t be easy. Oregon State is in the Pac-12 North, considered by many to be the more competitive portion of the conference’s North-South split.
The consensus pick for the Beavers is a fourth-place finish behind favorites Oregon and Stanford and rising Washington, but Mitchell misses the old Pac-10 for another reason besides competitive balance.
“It’s tough,” Mitchell said. “It makes sense to have a North-South split, but me coming from the South and Southern California, I just wish we all can go to each region.
“I want to play in front of my family and friends. I love being in a competitive division, but I want to play in front of my fans.”
He hopes to on New Year’s Day.
“The goal is to win a Pac-12 title,” Mitchell said. “It’s going to be hard. I think we have to be ready each week to make that goal a reality.”