Fiesta Bowl Preview

Dec. 28, 2000

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - No one ever thought Oregon State would be mentioned in the same sentence asNotre Dame, but thanks to coach Dennis Erickson, the Beavers are ready to takeon the Irish in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day.

'When I first took this job at Oregon State, to be in a great, prestigiousbowl was a goal of ours, but we thought it was probably a long way away,' saidErickson, in his second season at OSU. 'Now we're able to play against one ofthe great, historic programs in the country, and we're very excited about it.'

The fifth-ranked Beavers (10-1) endured an NCAA-record 28 consecutive losingseasons until they hired Erickson in 1999. His first team went 7-5, including aloss in the Oahu Bowl. Now the Beavers are playing in a bowl in back-to-backseasons for the first time in school history.

It has been a season of many firsts for Oregon State, which won a share ofthe Pac-10 title for the first time. The No. 5 ranking in the AP Top 25 is thehighest in Beavers history.

Still, there was talk that no BCS bowl would invite the Beavers, who areriding a six-game winning streak. Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen thenthreatened to pull out of the BCS if the Beavers were ignored.

'Ten and one speaks for itself,' said OSU tailback Ken Simonton, who leadsthe Beavers attack with 1,474 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. 'We earnedgreat respect. We took respect. We went and took that position.'

Reaching the Fiesta Bowl was also a surprise achievement for No. 10 NotreDame (9-2), which like Oregon State, was not ranked in the preseason poll.

It is the first postseason appearance for the Irish since the 1998 GatorBowl, and it comes in the wake of an NCAA probation period last season whenNotre Dame was cited for a major violation involving booster money being usedto purchase gifts and trips for players.

Irish coach Bob Davie takes the most pride in winning with a talent poolthat overachieved.

'We don't have to have a Heisman Trophy winner. We don't have to have afirst team All-American every year,' said Davie, who recently signed afive-year contract extension. 'We don't have a guy on the cover of TheSporting News or Sports Illustrated. We can win here with a bunch of unselfishguys who play as a team.'

One of those players is freshman quarterback Matt LoVecchio. After starterArnaz Battle broke his wrist in the second game of the season, Davie went withGary Godsey for two games, but the offense lacked consistency. So Davie gambledon the freshman, and all LoVecchio has done is win seven straight games sincebeing named the starter.

LoVecchio put up strong but unspectacular numbers, going 73-of-125 for 980yards with 11 touchdowns and one interception for a sparkling quarterbackrating of 109.4. The offense definitely produced with LoVecchio at the helm,averaging 36.0 points during the win streak.

The Irish have lost four straight bowl games, so simply getting back to thepostseason isn't enough to restore the reputation of Notre Dame.

'We didn't come here to be 9-2,' defensive end Anthony Weaver said. 'Wedefinitely didn't come here to be 5-7 like last year. You come to Notre Dame towin championships.'

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