Oregon deals to land spot in Seattle Bowl against Wake Forest
Phoenix was Oregon State's kind of town two years ago. Coach Dennis Erickson hopes for the same result in another postseason game in the Arizona city, the Insight Bowl on Dec. 26 at Bank One Ballpark.
'It's an ideal situation for us,' says Erickson, whose Beavers will play another 8-4 team, Pittsburgh of the Big East Conference, in their third bowl game in four years.
'The weather will be excellent, and we had a pretty good time the last time we played a bowl in that city.'
Indeed, the Beavers' Fiesta Bowl thumping of Notre Dame in January 2000 surely will be fresh in their minds when they play the Panthers.
The Holiday Bowl passed on Oregon State, despite the school's push to sell tickets and generate enough excitement to persuade bowl officials to invite them. Instead, Arizona State will go to San Diego.
Meanwhile, Oregon (7-5) will travel north to play Wake Forest (6-6) in the Seattle Bowl on Dec. 30 in Seahawks Stadium.
Athletic Director Bill Moos successfully negotiated the appearance, although the Ducks had been slotted to attend the Silicon Valley Classic. Fickle fans might be willing to drive to Seattle, and Moos also felt assured that the Seattle Bowl's credit would be approved Ñ and the $1 million payout issued to the Ducks.
Wake Forest seems to be an ideal fit for Oregon. It doesn't pass the ball remotely as well as Pacific 10 Conference teams. And, for UO, it sure beats playing Fresno State for the second time.
Pittsburgh vs. Oregon State
Pittsburgh looks legit. The Panthers lost four games Ñ by a total of 24 points. 'The fact that Pittsburgh played such a close game with Miami has certainly grabbed the attention of our players,' Erickson says. Miami beat Pittsburgh 28-21.
Pittsburgh features two big receivers in 6-3 freshman Larry Fitzgerald, who led the team with 64 catches for 917 yards and 11 touchdowns, and 6-4 Lamar Slade, who had 45 for 613 yards and four scores. One will be defended by Dennis Weathersby, the other will be the responsibility of the shorter Terrell Roberts.
Quarterback Rod Rutherford throws for 216 yards a game and has 21 TD passes. The Panthers run for 145 yards a game, led by Brandon Miree (830 yards).
'I've known coach (Walt Harris) for a long time; he's an offensive-minded coach,' Erickson says. 'Pittsburgh does a lot of the same things we do on offense.'
Except Rutherford runs, and Derek Anderson does not. Rutherford has rushed 170 times for 412 net yards and five scores Ñ after subtracting 300 yards of losses.
Defensively, Pitt allowed only seven passing touchdowns all year and ranked second in the Big East in total defense and scoring defense. The rush defense Ñ which will have to stop Steven Jackson, who rushed for 1,656 yards Ñ ranked fourth in the league, giving up 126 yards per game.
The game will be televised live on ESPN at 5 p.m. Dec. 26. Pitt, best known as the college that produced NFL great Tony Dorsett, will be appearing in its third consecutive bowl game under Harris.
The Beavers are healthy, except for the loss of offensive linemen David Lose, who broke his leg in the Civil War game. Brian Kilkenny has returned to left tackle, with Mike Kuykendall moving back to left guard. Safety Mitch Meeuwsen will move back into the starting lineup for the bowl game.
Wake Forest vs. Oregon
Demon Deacons coach Jim Grobe, whose team beat Purdue and Georgia Tech on the road, described his offense Sunday as no-huddle with mostly spread sets. Hearing this, UO coach Mike Bellotti grabs his chest and says, 'Oh, that hurt.'
Grobe was fibbing, of course. The statistics show that his team mostly runs the ball, averaging 240 yards a game, passing only 21 times a game for an average of 160 yards. Grobe spent 10 years under Forrest DeBerry at Air Force, an option and wishbone team.
Tailback Tarence Williams has rushed for 799 yards and Chris Barclay 621. They've combined for 13 touchdowns, but fullback Ovie Mughelli has been the big scorer with 11 TDs. Quarterback James McPherson sat out part of the season-ending game because of an injury.
Injuries? Wake Forest's best player, defensive end Calvin Pace, may miss the game after suffering a broken fibula Nov. 23. Two linebackers also were injured late in the year.
All-purpose receiver/kick returner Fabian Davis and offensive guard Blake Henry also are standout players.
The game will be televised at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 30 on ESPN. It'll be Wake Forest's sixth bowl game ever, while Oregon will be making its sixth consecutive postseason appearance and 11th in 14 years. Wake Forest beat Oregon 39-35 in the 1992 Independence Bowl after rallying from 29-10 down.
It isn't Phoenix, Los Angeles or Las Vegas, but Seattle Bowl officials promise nice weather. They claim that the 30th is usually the driest day in December; besides, 70 percent of Seahawks Stadium seats are under cover.
Moos guesses that up to 20,000 Oregon fans will attend the game. The athletic department has an allotment of 12,500 tickets to sell, mostly at $53 in the upper level, but Moos says UO has been negotiating to get 100-level seats made available.
Bellotti says his players, except maybe linebacker Garret Graham, should be healthy for the game. Running back Onterrio Smith practiced Saturday. His knee was not swollen, and he deemed himself healthy the next day.
An interesting thing to watch: Bellotti says quarterbacks Jason Fife and Kellen Clemens both will play in the game, and the starter will be determined by performance in practice and by what Wake Forest's defense does.