USC, Oklahoma Get First Look At Orange Bowl Site

Jan. 2, 2005

AP Sports Writer

MIAMI (AP) - The Orange Bowl logo was freshly painted at midfield, teamlogos adorned the sidelines and the end zones were painted in Oklahoma andSouthern California colors.

Players got their first look Sunday at the field on which they'll decide thenational championship Tuesday night and suddenly, the magnitude of the BowlChampionship Series title game began hitting home.

'It just kind of signified getting this whole process started, with the biggame coming up and everything,' USC star Reggie Bush said. 'Seeing thestadium and seeing that atmosphere that we're going to be playing in ... I'vebeen visualizing all this.'

Being in Pro Player Stadium, the home of the Florida Marlins and MiamiDolphins, had added significance to Oklahoma offensive lineman Davin Joseph. Hegrew up a short drive away in nearby Hallandale, Fla.

Joseph said he'd been to the stadium only a handful of times in the past.

'It's something out of a dream, almost it's something you really neverexpect to happen,' Joseph said. 'And for it to happen to me feels unreal.'

Perhaps the biggest highlight wasn't seeing the logos and the signage. Manyplayers made a beeline to the spot where the BCS championship trophy - aWaterford crystal football worth an estimated $30,000 - was set up on a smalltable.

With security guards keeping a watchful eye, players posed near the trophyfor photos - but no one dared touch the prize.

Oklahoma running back Kejuan Jones opted to keep his distance. Much in thesame manner that some hockey players avoid the Stanley Cup until they can winit on the ice, Jones didn't want to jinx his chances.

'I'm ready to kiss it,' Jones said. 'I can't kiss it right now, so I'mgoing to have to wait until after the game. I'll definitely have my hands on itafter the game.'


FRESHMAN CONFIDENCE:@ Many people believe the Oklahoma-USC matchup will bea classic, one that may be decided in the final moments.

If that's the case, Sooners coach Bob Stoops won't be concerned about usinghis untried kicker.

Freshman Garrett Hartley replaced Trey DiCarlo in Oklahoma's regular-seasonfinale against Baylor, and already has Stoops' complete confidence - eventhough he's never tried a collegiate field goal.

'I'm not asking him to go catch a touchdown pass or go run over theirtackle,' Stoops said. 'He's going to do something he does every single dayand has been for I don't know how many years. And he's awfully good at it.'

Hartley seemed set to keep his redshirt until Stoops put him in againstBaylor. Hartley kicked four extra points.

DiCarlo was a Lou Groza Award finalist last season. But he was only 8-for-16on field-goal tries this season, did not make any from beyond 35 yards andmissed six of his last eight kicks.

Linebacker Lance Mitchell said Hartley's big-game inexperience comes withone advantage.

'That guy's loose all day,' Mitchell said. 'I don't even think he's awareof what's going on.'


ANSWERS, PLEASE:@ After answering a lot of questions Sunday, some of theUSC and Oklahoma players took a more active role at Media Day. Theycommandeered microphones and cameras and conducted interviews with leeryteammates and coaches.

Trojans lineman Sam Baker spotted offensive coordinator Norm Chow anddemanded to know why coaches call pregame workouts 'walkthroughs' whenrunning takes place.

Chow told him they should be called 'crawlthroughs' when offensive linemenare involved.

'We're trying to do what we feel needs to be done,' Baker said. 'We'reasking the hard questions.'

Baker's crew later got USC coach Pete Carroll to answer a few questions,which he lightheartedly did. Asked if he thought the players had a future assportscasters, Carroll said, 'they haven't got a chance.'

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