Sunny Skies Greet Beavers

Dec. 22, 2000

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Any questions as to why Oregon State's football team arrived in Arizona a full 11 days ahead of its Jan. 1 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl date with Notre Dame were answered late Friday morning. When the Beavers trotted onto their practice field at Scottsdale Community College, they were greeted by sunny skies and temperatures close to 70 degrees.

'You can get going a lot faster, you're not having to try to work up a sweat - it's nice,' OSU quarterback Jonathan Smith said after the Beavers went through a two-hour workout in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets. 'Since we've got all the time for meetings and we've got good weather, this really quality (practice) time.'

OSU head coach Dennis Erickson was asked if the change from cold, wet practices to Friday's warmth gave him any problems.

'I don't have any, but our players are sweating a little bit,' Erickson said. 'It's great to get down here and be able to throw and catch it. The week we were up there, we had some bad weather and we don't have our indoor facility yet, next year will be quite a bit different. But it's nice to get down here and be able to practice.'

Oregon State's practice facility includes a full-size field plus two 60-yard fields. The Fiesta Bowl committee's attention to detail extended all the way down to the numerals marking the yard-line numbers - they are at the National Football League distance from the sideline with hash marks denoting where the numbers are usually placed on college fields, because that's the way Sun Devil Stadium will be laid out on game night.

All the Beavers' practices will be open to the public, and a few dozen fans watched Friday's workout. Among those on hand were Charles Byford of Chandler, Ariz., and his son Cohen, 11, Byford is the brother-in-law of OSU tight end Mark Walsh.

'It's been a fun season,' said Byford, who is originally from Roseburg. 'We've gotten a lot of games on TV down here, and it's been fun to watch them and see them come up with some big wins. They've really turned the program around.'

A number of reporters were also on hand for OSU's first practice in Arizona, and their questions for Erickson were ones he's heard often during the Beavers' dramatic rise from doormat to Pacific-10 champion.

On OSU's turnaround: 'To think that three years ago Oregon State was 5-6, and now we're 10-1 and playing in a BCS bowl is remarkable, and that's what makes it special right now,' Erickson said. 'When you can take a program that's been down for so long, and now all of a sudden be on TV playing against a great program like Notre Dame and be featured ... it's really an amazing story, and I'm proud of them.'

And on his decision to sign a new seven-year contract with OSU: 'I've moved and I just couldn't do it again,' Erickson said. 'I just felt I owed it to these fans and these players - particularly those guys, they're more important than anybody - to stay here and try to build a solid program with a little bit of a legacy in the next seven or eight years.'

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