Taking Some Time Off

Dec. 27, 2000

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Major League Baseball doesn't wrap up the schedule in mid-September and wait until mid-October to start the playoffs. High school basketball teams aren't completing their league games in early February and then beginning their state tournaments in March.

It's a situation that makes major college football unique among team sports - taking a month or more off between the end of the regular season and the playing of the postseason. And that's meant some adjustments for fifth-ranked Oregon State, which had only occasional practices for much of December while waiting for the Jan. 1 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against 10th-ranked Notre Dame.

'You play the last game of the season, the Civil War, and then it gets slowed down,' OSU tight end Marty Maurer said Wednesday. 'All of a sudden, you have some time off. As for me, I went hunting. You let your body heal, your mind kind of refreshes.'

But, Maurer said, it throws you out of the weekly routine of the regular season. Spending a Sunday watching film and analyzing your mistakes, then taking the next five days to fine-tune your game for the next opponent.

'By Saturday, the adrenaline is running and you're ready to go,' Maurer said. 'When you get time off, you kind of miss that. I like competition. (OSU center) Chris Gibson and I went hunting, and we're playing cribbage at hunting camp, and we're intense. We're yelling at each other: `You cheated, man, that's seven, not six.' It was funny, we kind of had to smile at each other because you know we're used to that competition all the time. You kind of crave it.'

That's made OSU's early arrival in Arizona, and a full week of practice leading up to the Fiesta Bowl, something of a relief to the Beavers.

'Most definitely,' running back Patrick McCall said. I'm sure every guy loves putting on his helmet and playing football. It's a great experience, and to have it gone for a few weeks ... rest is fun, but we also miss the game while we're resting. So being back here preparing to play in the BCS is fun, it's great.'

Added Maurer: 'Now we have practice every single day up until we play, and that feels more like a normal week and a normal schedule than practice two days, take this one off, three days, have a media day,' Maurer said. 'All the distractions - there are some this week, but it seems that's behind us now with all this time off and the holiday season and seeing our family. Now we're focused strictly on the game.'

The NCAA restricts the number of practices a team can hold in preparation for a bowl game, which kept the Beavers from practicing on a daily basis. Still, that didn't mean the game went away when workouts did.

'Football is still in us,' McCall said. 'We're still watching film. We didn't shut it off, we just stopped having games. Everything is still going as far as plays in our heads, the game itself, just the feeling of it - knowing we're going to play in a BCS game, you can't stop thinking about it. Football just doesn't stop until Jan. 1.'

But having six weeks between games means taking at least a bit of a break.

'Yeah, you have to,' wide receiver Chad Johnson said. 'You don't want football, football, football to be on your mind 24/7. But when it gets close to time, or maybe two or three weeks, you start focusing on the job at hand and that's what we've been doing. We're all about business now, as far as practices go. No more playing around, no more joking around. It's strictly business.'

Maurer picked up some lessons on dealing with the break in last year's O'ahu Bowl loss to Hawaii.

'I learned a couple things conditioning-wise,' Maurer said. 'I never get winded, not so bad you have to come out of a football game. I had to come out like one time at Hawaii and get a drink to go back in. I learned a little more about how to practice to get my body ready. Doing what everybody else does, the coaches are going to push us, but whether it gets me ready or not, it really doesn't help. So I do a couple things different year to make sure, conditioning-wise and physically, I'm ready for the game Monday.'

NOTES: Oregon State practiced in full pads for two hours in warm, sunny conditions Wednesday at Scottsdale Community College.

'It was good,' OSU head coach Dennis Erickson said of the workout. 'I thought we were better than we were yesterday, getting back into it after a day off. We're making progress. The biggest thing now is, we'll go one more day in full pads and then start cutting it down and try to get our legs back under us. We've been practicing and doing the same things for a long time, so now it's trying to get ourselves mentally and physically ready to play.'

The Beavers have been in Arizona since Dec. 21, and Erickson is extremely pleased with how the early arrival has affected OSU's performance in practice.

'I think it's been a real plus for us coming down early,' Erickson said. 'We were able to get a lot of things out of the way, things that maybe we'd be going through right now. I really think it's made a huge difference, because now we've been here for six days, they've seen the sights and done all those kinds of things, so now we can really focus in on what we have to do.'

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