Dec. 31, 2000
TEMPE, Ariz. - You've heard of Woodstock? This was Beaverstock.
About 11,000 Oregon State fans held a love-fest Sunday afternoon, nearly filling Arizona State's basketball arena to salute their fifth-ranked football team. The prep rally gave the Beavers a loud, emotional lift going into Monday's long-awaited Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against 10th-ranked Notre Dame.
The OSU marching band and rally squad were on hand. Fireworks heralded the eve of Oregon State's first New Year's Day bowl game in 36 years, and the Beaver fans armed with inflatable orange ThunderStix turned up the volume frequently.
'I tell you what,' OSU head coach Dennis Erickson said. 'You're very special ... thank you for your support this year, and thank you to the people who supported OSU football through all the tough years.
'As well as this team, these fans deserve this week.'
That drew a round of applause from the Beaver players standing behind him on the arena floor. They had been announced by OSU radio play-by-play man Mike Parker, who brought them on the floor with the greeting, 'Beaver Nation: here they are, the 2000 Pac-10 champion OSU Beavers.'
If the large gathering clad in all forms of OSU gear wasn't enough to make the Beavers feel at home, the team also entered Wells Fargo Arena through the same inflatable helmet, to the same 'Men In Black' video that surrounds their arrival at Reser Stadium.
The crowd and players were treated to a video of highlights from OSU's 10-1 regular season. Drawing deafening cheers were the first Beaver win over Southern California since 1967, a win at Arizona the week Oregon State broke into the top 10 in the national polls, the victory over Oregon in the first Civil War between top-10 teams, and the players' reaction to the announcement OSU had been invited to the Fiesta Bowl.
OSU athletic director Mitch Barnhart recalled some of the Beavers' accomplishments from earlier years.
'We've had Terry Baker with the Heisman Trophy, Jess Lewis on the team beating USC (when the Trojans were ranked No. 1 in 1967), Rose Bowls,' Barnhart said. 'To get more of those memories is very special, and we're looking forward to more fun on Monday night.'
Barnhart, Erickson and OSU President Dr. Paul Risser all credited each other for their parts in the Beavers' amazing rise from a 2-9 record in 1996 to this season's surge to national prominence. Risser's introduction to the crowd produced a prolonged standing ovation.
'I want to say to the fans: Congratulations, you've been absolutely spectacular,' Risser said. 'Tomorrow, let's make more noise than any other football crowd has ever made.'
OSU could have up to 30,000 fans - only about 5,000 short of a sellout for a home game at Reser Stadium - on hand for its first-ever meeting with Notre Dame's storied program.
'It's going to be a hell of a game,' Erickson said. 'But I can guarantee this: These players are going to play their hearts out for themselves, for each other - and for the fans.'
Barnhart said earlier this week, he was asked by a reporter about arch-rival Oregon's win over Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Barnhart replied that it was a good victory for the Pacific-10, 'but I reminded him who was the first team in the state ever to have 10 wins in a season.
'Now we want to be the first one to get 11 wins.'
NOTES: In addition to the pep rally, the Beavers also appeared at the Fiesta Bowl Youth Football Clinic on Sunday afternoon.
'It's been a fun year for the OSU Beavers,' Oregon State head coach Dennis Erickson told several hundred young players and their coaches. 'As you go through your lives and sports and academics, it's amazing what you can accomplish when you set your mind to it.'
Erickson reviewed the Beavers' progress over the last several seasons for the youngsters and detailed the work it involved.
'This team made its mind up that they wanted to be the best team it could be,' Erickson said. 'Now they're 10-1 and they'll be playing Monday in the Fiesta Bowl.'
OSU's final workout of its Fiesta Bowl trip was a brief walkthrough practice at Sun Devil Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Then, after the pep rally, it was to be a quiet New Year's Eve for the Beavers.
'There is no New Year's Eve when you play on New Year's Day,' Erickson said. 'It's just another day. We'll have our New Year's Eve when we get back to Corvallis.'