2000: The Fiesta Bowl Win
By Kip Carlson
When the thousands of Oregon State fans in the Phoenix area arose on Monday, January 1, 2001 and found a copy of the morning newspaper, they were able to read – many through bleary eyes after attending the New Year's Eve Block Party in downtown Tempe – plenty on the coming night's Fiesta Bowl between No. 5 OSU and No. 10 Notre Dame.
In the lead story in the sports section of the Arizona Republic, reporter Paul Coro began, "Tonight's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl game could be all about Oregon State's speed against Notre Dame's size, two storybook quarterback tales or the hottest Fiesta ticket in 15 years. But there's no breaking the tackle of the real allure to tonight's 6:30 p.m. match at Sun Devil Stadium.
"It's Touchdown Jesus against the Bronze Beaver, campus symbols whose disparity in Q-ratings parallels the contrast of Notre Dame and Oregon State football."
After almost two weeks in the Valley of the Sun, much of it spent answering how it would feel to be on the same field as the storied Fighting Irish, the Beavers would get their chance to perform before a national audience.
Notre Dame's plan was simple: straight-ahead football. The bigger Fighting Irish, with true freshman Matt LoVecchio at quarterback and three strong tailbacks, would try to run directly at the smaller, speedier Beavers.
"They're going to try to play smash-mouth football," OSU linebacker Richard Seigler said. "They're going to try to beat us by running, running down our throat like coach says. We've just got to come out and execute in all areas of the game and we'll win."
The South Bend Tribune contacted Eastern Washington head coach Paul Wulff, whose team OSU had edged 21-19 in the season-opener, and got his take on how the Beavers might be beaten.
"Oregon State has tremendous defensive team speed but we felt we could run between the tackles on them and we did," Wulff said. "It's not that they're weak, but their tackles are a little undersized and their linebackers are a little small … if Notre Dame can gain yards between the tackles, Oregon State's going to have a problem. But if it spills out onto the perimeter, OSU will do well because of their speed."
Notre Dame was among the nation's leaders in fewest turnovers during the season and the Irish wanted to hang onto the ball to keep it away from the Beavers' explosive offense. When Oregon State had the ball, the key would be to establish at least some ground game with an experienced offensive line and running back Ken Simonton, who had already become the first player in Pacific-10 history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.
"They play the run very well, so we've got to create some problems for them," OSU head coach Dennis Erickson said. "If we do, we can do some things with our passing game."
OSU offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said Notre Dame could be vulnerable in the secondary, but its corners played the run as well as any the Beavers had seen, "their safeties like to get involved in the run, too, which really plays into our hands."
In game-day stories evaluating the matchup, the Corvallis Gazette-Times gave OSU the edge at quarterback, running back and receivers and Notre Dame the advantage on the offensive line; on defense, the G-T rated an edge for Oregon State in the secondary and defensive line, with the linebackers even. The special teams nod went to Notre Dame, the coaching advantage to Oregon State.
The South Bend Tribune, meanwhile, gave Notre Dame the advantage for offense, special teams and intangibles and Oregon State the edge in defense and coaching.
Hours before kickoff, fans were attending what was billed as "the world's biggest pregame party" across the street from Sun Devil Stadium; an observer estimated the ratio of Oregon State fans to Notre Dame fans at somewhere from two-to-one to three-to-one. Inside, about three-quarters of the early-arriving crowd was wearing orange; when the Beavers jogged out to warm up over an hour before game time they got a hearty ovation.
ABC-TV, which had earlier shown Washington's 34-24 win over Purdue in the Rose Bowl, began its broadcast with a montage of Notre Dame icons – the Four Horsemen, Knute Rockne, the Golden Dome – and then play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough said, "Now, with the birth of a new century, today's Irish are waking up the echoes."
OSU's introduction began with McDonough saying, "Oregon State is new to the national scene, but its coach is not, and he's put together a terrific machine." Simonton was described as "a 5-foot-7 wrecking ball," the running back was then shown telling the camera, "We're used to being the have-nots and underdogs. Yeah, we're fortunate to be playing Notre Dame, but Notre Dame is fortunate to be playing us."
In the booth before kickoff, McDonough, flanked by color commentator Ed Cunningham, told viewers, "Happy New Year, It's great to have you with us for the first-ever meeting between Oregon State and Notre Dame, and really there's little reason why these two programs should have gotten together prior to tonight, as for most of their histories they've had virtually nothing in common.
"Notre Dame, perhaps the greatest program in the history of college football, the winningest program of all time by percentage. Eight national championships and seven Heisman Trophy winners. Meanwhile, Oregon State, arguably the worst major college football program of the last three decades. They had a 28-straight losing season streak snapped last year; now they're 10-1 and tonight they'll play the biggest game in the history of their program, according to coach Dennis Erickson."
Similar to the broadcast opening, it was a Rockne video on the stadium screen that preceded the Fighting Irish taking the field, while Oregon State was introduced to the Men in Black video used for entrances at home games. By now, the sellout crowd of 75,428 included an estimated 38,000 OSU fans – about 2,000 more folks than were able to wedge into Reser Stadium for the Civil War win over Oregon.
"I've never seen so much orange in my life," Erickson would say later. In the stands, Frank DeLong of Phoenix told the Gazette-Times: "I am shocked by the number of people in orange. We've been very shocked by that. It's the number one thing we've been talking about."
On a pleasant 63-degree evening, Oregon State won the coin toss and deferred its choice to the second half. After taking the opening kickoff, Notre Dame's first play saw tailback Tony Fisher rumble for nine yards; the next two plays went for a loss of one and a gain of one. The Irish punt saw the Beavers flagged or an illegal block in the back, so OSU started its first possession on its own 26-yard line.
Four Simonton runs, six passes and a sack of Beaver quarterback Jonathan Smith put the ball to the Notre Dame 15.The drive included an eight-yard pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh to convert a third-and-five and a 15-yard pass to running back Patrick McCall, setting up Ryan Cesca's 32-yard field goal that gave OSU a 3-0 lead with 7:27 left in the first quarter.
The Irish's next possession was brief as well. After a pass interference penalty against the Beavers on the first play, linebacker James Allen made three straight tackles for a net one-yard loss and Notre Dame punted again.
By the end of the first quarter, Oregon State had used a 22-yard pass to tight end Marty Maurer to march from its own 15 to the Notre Dame 12; by then the Beavers already had a 110-8 edge in total offense. On the first play of the second period, Cesca booted a 29-yard field goal to make it 6-0.
Notre Dame did manage a first down before its third punt of the night. Said Irish tailback Julius Jones: "Early in the game, they knew what we were running. They knew which way we were going every time."
OSU's ensuing possession included a pair of 30-yard passes to Maurer as the Beavers reached the Notre Dame 1 and had fourth-and-goal. McCall was hauled down for a four-yard loss, though, to keep it a one-score game.
After a fourth straight Irish punt to start the game, the Beavers were backed up to their own 10-yard line. A 14-yard pass to Houshmandzadeh and a two-yard run by Simonton took the ball to the 26; from there, Smith found Chad Johnson on an out pattern near the left sideline at the Beaver 38; he caught the ball, stepped outside the Irish cornerback and was gone.
Johnson cruised into the end zone – but without the ball, having started his celebration early and letting the ball slip from his grasp a yard or two before reaching the end zone. The ball bounced into the end zone, no one on the field seemed to notice the lapse, and Oregon State led 12-0 with 4:18 remaining in the half after OSU's two-point conversion try failed.
"I wasn't focused on crossing the line," said Johnson, who was greeted at the sideline by an upset Erickson. "He told me to focus. That, and act like I had been there before."
The Irish finally managed a drive as the first half drew to a close, going 65 yards in 15 plays and cutting the gap to 12-3 on Nick Setta's 29-yard field goal on the final play before intermission. Notre Dame had faced a third-and-31 from its own 2-yard line early in the possession and threw an incomplete pass but Oregon State committed a personal foul on the play to hand the Irish a first down.
At the break, that 12-3 score didn't reflect the Beavers' dominance over the first 30 minutes. Oregon State had a 278-98 advantage in total offense, including 246-79 passing and 32-19 rushing. OSU had 12 first downs and Notre Dame nine, five of those coming on the Irish's final drive. Smith was 12-for-17 passing for 246 yards and a touchdown.
"I don't know that we've seen a quarterback as hot as he was," Notre Dame head coach Bob Davie said. "I kept telling our players that eventually he would cool down, but he never did."
The third quarter began with the Beavers picking up a first down on a 15-yard run by Simonton, stalling as Smith was sacked, and punting. Notre Dame took over on its own 36; on the Irish's second play, Oregon State linebacker Darnell Robinson sacked LoVecchio and defensive tackle Eric Manning recovered at the 26. It took OSU just two plays to score, Smith hitting Houshmandzadeh for 23 yards to make it 19-3 just under three minutes into the second half.
"If there was one big series in the game, it was our first possession of the second half," Davie said. "It was 12-3 and we'd finally stopped them, but we tried to run at them and got stoned, then started turning the ball over."
Notre Dame's ensuing series turned into a third-and-22 when LoVecchio fumbled on a pitchout but the Irish recovered for a 17-yard loss. After a seven-yard pass, Notre Dame punted yet again.
Next came the play proving the luck on this night didn't belong to the Irish.
Houshmandzadeh fielded the punt at the OSU 27 and returned it to the 50, then had the ball jarred loose by ND's Rocky Boiman. The ball skipped ahead to the Irish 48, where Oregon State's Terrell Roberts grabbed it on the run and raced the remaining distance for a touchdown.
"So many uncharacteristic aspects now for Notre Dame," McDonough told his audience. "The turnover, and now a major catastrophe on special teams."
Smith found wide receiver Robert Prescott for the two-point conversion and it was suddenly 27-3 with 9:08 left in the third quarter.
"You know things are going good – you return the punt, fumble, pick it up and go into the end zone," Erickson said. Added Roberts: "Right after that touchdown, I didn't know what to feel. We were up 27-3. We couldn't believe it. It was like, 'Man, here we are up on a traditional powerhouse, Notre Dame, and we have a lopsided win going.'"
Notre Dame's next series included an Irish penalty that created a second-and-16; LoVecchio's pass was intercepted by Robinson at the ND 22. McCall had runs of 12 and six yards, then Smith connected with Johnson slanting into the right side of the end zone.
"And the route is on: 33-3," McDonough intoned on ABC. "And you wonder how ugly this score might be right now if Oregon State had taken advantage of the opportunities it the first half."
Cesca's conversion made it 22 Beaver points in just under eight minutes. With Oregon State leading 34-3 and 7:02 left in the third quarter, the Notre Dame fans began heading for the exits.
OSU wasn't done. After another punt, the Beavers got the ball at their own 45. After a penalty and a 25-yard pass to Prescott, Simonton carried three times to cover the rest of the distance and it was 41-3 with 4:54 still to play in the third period.
In just over 10 minutes, Oregon State had scored 29 straight points, gained 106 yards, come up with a fumble recovery and an interception and scored a special teams touchdown. By this point, the Beavers had scored on seven of their nine possessions.
"Notre Dame, one of those schools people either love them or they can't stand them," McDonough told viewers. "And the Notre Dame haters have to be enjoying this one."
Notre Dame's next possession reached the Beaver 28, but Keith Heyward-Johnson picked off LoVecchio at the OSU 6 to end the threat as the third quarter wound down.
With just over 12 minutes left in the game, Nick Stremick took over at quarterback for OSU; by now, the Beavers were getting everyone a chance to play. Notre Dame finally found the Oregon State end zone with 6:07 to go on Fisher's one-yard touchdown run, capping a 12-play, 57-yard drive. LoVecchio's run on the point-after try failed, and it was 41-9 with 6:07 to go.
At that point, Beaver Nation was celebrating in a Sun Devil Stadium by then largely without Notre Dame fans.
"I feel unbelievable pleasure for those people up there," OSU athletic director Mitch Barnhart said of the Oregon State fans. "They've been away from this for 35 years."
Oregon State's final possession consisted of backup tailback Antonio Battle carrying seven times for 34 yards before the drive fizzled. As the Beavers doused Erickson with the beverage bucket and distributed Fiesta Bowl Champions t-shirts on their sideline, Notre Dame was able to run three plays before the clock hit 0:00.
"It was just a great win for the program," Erickson said. "Think where we were a couple of years ago to now, all of a sudden, play in the Fiesta Bowl and become 11-1 is just kind of an unrealistic story, a real story."
The Beavers had outgained the Irish 446-155; Notre Dame had just 91 yards at the end of the third quarter. The bigger Irish had been limited to 17 yards rushing while the Beavers had 127 and OSU had a 319-138 edge in the air.
"We have played a lot more physical people," OSU guard Jared Cornell said. "Up front, we handled them. It was kind of like playing Arizona."
The 41 points matched the most ever allowed by Notre Dame in a bowl game and the 32-point margin was the second-worst bowl defeat ever for the Irish.
"It's pretty obvious we got whipped," Davie said. "We got outcoached. We got outplayed. I give Oregon State a lot of credit – that football team out there tonight impressed me."
Given the Beavers' futility from the early 1970s into the late 1990s, some notable accomplishments were of the long-time variety. The victory gave OSU its first seven-game winning streak since a nine-gamer in 1966-67 and the first seven-game winning streak in one season since 1964.
Maurer took in the sight of all that orange in Sun Devil Stadium and expressed appreciation for what many of those folks had gone through.
"The hardest thing in the world would be to donate $1,000 a year to a university that's had a 28-year losing streak in its football program," Maurer said. "Those guys, now that's loyalty. It's a loyalty a lot of Americans can't have. It's easy to donate and jump on the bandwagon when you win, but it's the people who kept with it who are the greatest, the people who kept the program going through the 1980s and 1990s.
"It's been a good year this year that they could go to their Christmas parties and their New Year's parties and talk a little trash with their friends. It's great that they're getting to dish it back. That makes me feel good."
Smith was named the Offensive Player of the Game, completing 16 of 24 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.
"They were just running wide-open half the time," Smith said of his receivers. "I just try to put guys into position to make plays and they did that tonight."
Robinson was Defensive Player of the Game; he had seven tackles – two for lost yardage, including one sack – to go with his interception and a forced fumble.
"When you step on the field, you respect Notre Dame," Robinson said. "But when you're on the field, it's not about tradition, it's about making plays. We wanted to go out and play our game, execute, run to the ball and play fast."
Simonton rushed 18 times for 85 yards and a touchdown and McCall 10 times for 25 yards. Houshmandzadeh had six catches for 74 yards and a touchdown, Johnson four catches for 93 yards and two scores and Maurer three catches for 82 yards.
Terrance Howard was Notre Dame's leading rusher with 28 yards on eight carries and Jones added 18 yards on 13 carries. LoVecchio was 13-for-33 passing for 138 yards and was intercepted twice.
The Beavers sacked LoVecchio five times, with defensive end LaDairis Jackson getting two of those; there was also one each for defensive ends DeLawrence Grant and Ryan Atkinson and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards. OSU was credited with 15 tackles for lost yardage. Allen and safety Terrence Carroll matched Robinson with seven tackles each.
"Our defense totally dominated, and we made plays on offense," Erickson said. "I wasn't real happy with our first half, but the great thing was we were playing great defense and we knew we'd get the ball back. This has been a real confident team all year, and tonight they showed a lot of confidence in themselves."
The downside for the Beavers? Eighteen penalties for 174 yards, both numbers being school and Fiesta Bowl records.
"We had some dumb penalties," Erickson said. "I'm not going to give any excuses for that, because I'm the one responsible for that. The bottom line is, there's a fine line with aggression and how you play and not doing the right things, and a couple times we didn't. But we're a very aggressive team. That's just how we play, and that's how we are."
Said Houshmandzadeh: "It was being on the national stage. Basically, this was a Monday night football game. We didn't want to get penalties. There was just so much adrenaline."
The reviews the next morning made note of the penalties and the Beavers demonstrative celebrations throughout the game, but also how thoroughly Oregon State had dominated college football's most-storied program.
Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times: "Cry, cry for Old Notre Dame. The only thunder being shaken down here Monday, on a cool, clear night in the Fiesta Bowl, was by a lightning-fast Oregon State football team that not only killed the Irish in a 41-9 whipping, but also danced on Notre Dame's grave throughout."
Brooks Hatch of the Corvallis Gazette-Times: "The Beavers readily acknowledged their genuine respect for the Irish, their formidable defense and the 9-2 record they compiled by winning their final seven games against a solid schedule. But they rolled their eyes and looked insulted when asked if they'd be intimidated by Notre Dame's legacy of national championships, Heisman Trophy winners and legends like the Four Horsemen, Knute Rockne, Joe Theismann and George Gipp. Not on your life. Not these Beavers. By the time the clock struck midnight on the East Coast, any remaining doubters – and there were many, especially in northern Indiana and other Irish conclaves from Maine to Hawaii – needed only to look at the Sun Devil Stadium scoreboard or their televisions to be ultimately convinced. Beavers 41, Irish 9. Total domination."
David Haugh of the South Bend Tribune: "Critics of this matchup were right about two things: It actually was a Siesta Bowl, and one team didn't belong here. But that team turned out to be Notre Dame, all lead feet and gold helmets. If the Irish stood on one side of the Grand Canyon and the Beavers stood on the other, that distance might come close to the chasm between the skill and speed level of those two teams."
Paul Coro, the Arizona Republic: "Even that $13.5 million payout can't buy a big enough Band-Aid for the lick Oregon State laid on Notre Dame in Monday's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The Irish talked – a lot – about how Oregon State was too brash, how their hits would shock the Beavers, and how they were positioning themselves for the only thing good enough for Notre Dame – a national championship. Instead, they got a 41-9 thrashing at the hands of the Beavers. Oregon State could have done a lot more talking, because a program that was once in tatters in Corvallis deserved a better opponent Monday."
Chuck Culpepper of The Oregonian: "The football sages speak of an awe phase. You're supposed to turn up at your first mega-million dollar bowl game resembling a beleaguered trout, eyes darting east and west simultaneously. Even opposite a phony Notre Dame 'contender' led to slaughter for bowl money, being out there with the words 'Notre' and 'Dame' supposedly births a case of the rattles. Well, Oregon State never had an awe phase. It's as if coach Dennis Erickson put the powder in the glass, added water and - boom! - instant juggernaut. It's as if one day Beaver Nation was misty-eyed over just getting to six wins for the first time in 28 years and the next day it was making the legendary Fighting Irish look like a stuffed animal in a dog's teeth."
Selena Roberts, the New York Times, after describing Johnson letting go of the ball before crossing the goal line: "But no matter, the officials signaled touchdown, and the second-quarter display was only another example of how an unabashed Oregon State team mocked the mystique of Notre Dame at the Fiesta Bowl. On their way to an unthinkable 41-9 victory tonight, the Beavers' speed, savvy and personality was vaguely familiar. On this night, it appeared as if Oregon State Coach Dennis Erickson had recreated his brash championship teams from the days he coached at the University of Miami."
Tuesday, January 2, some of the Beavers caught flights home directly from Phoenix to spend a few days with their families before classes resumed. The ones returning to Gill Coliseum that afternoon were greeted by a crowd of about 100 that had driven from as far away as Portland, along with reporters and news crews. Erickson, Allen and Maurer were among those spending almost a half-hour talking with media members and signing autographs for fans before departing.
After Oklahoma beat Florida State 13-2 in the Orange Bowl to claim the national championship on January 3, the final rankings for the season were compiled and Oregon State was No. 4 in the Associated Press media poll and No. 5 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll.
There were some choppy waters in the wake of the win, much having to do with how some media and fans reacted to the Beavers' demeanor during the victory. OSU's penalties had included four for unsportsmanlike conduct; two of the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were for excessive celebration and two were for shoves after plays had been blown dead.
One letter to the sports editor of The Oregonian said the writer had turned off the game at halftime because off the Beavers "showboating, taunting and macho behavior." A headline over Tim Martinez's column in the Salem Statesman-Journal read "Respect not so easy after penalty-laden Beavers' victory" and one above a story by Abby Haight in The Oregonian was "Best (and worst) of OSU on national stage."
"The thing you don't want is for your players to lose their enthusiasm," Erickson told Roy Gault of the Statesman-Journal. "It's a fine line, and we have to understand that line. The line is when you start getting penalized for things like that. For me, that's where the line is.
"I'm not a fan of trash talking and all that; I'd rather just go out and play football, but it's probably part of the game anymore. People start jawing back and forth, and when you're competitive in the heat of battle, that stuff happens."
Meanwhile, Beaver Nation took umbrage at remarks McDonough made during the ABC-TV broadcast.
With 13:40 left, Oregon State punted and violated the two-yard "halo rule" around the Notre Dame returner. Away from the ball, there was a shoving match between the Beavers and Irish and a penalty flag flew.
McDonough remarked, "Well, if you're going to be breaking the penalty record, you might as well break it in style. They actually had not broken the yardage record, Ed – they needed one yard to set the penalty yardage mark. They had the number of penalties covered but not the yardage, and now they'll have the yardage, too."
Cunningham suggested checking the all-time NCAA record book "because they may be headed for that one, too, with 13:33 left in the quarter."
Cunningham continued: "Dennis Erickson has this attitude – I mean, who can forget his Miami teams? They weren't afraid to get in people's face and tell them how good they were. Remember Randall Hill, his wide receiver in the Cotton Bowl, running up the tunnel after a touchdown. They had crazy penalties in that game and Dennis Erickson lets these guys fly around."
After the official announced the penalties, McDonough said, "Well, Ed, you mentioned the formula at Miami, sometimes let the fellas be the fellas. And here at Oregon State, a big part of this turnaround, they have a lot of transfers: junior college transfers, transfers from other Division I-A programs. And sometimes when you go that route, you're going to get players with troubled pasts, players who might not be great students, and sometimes you accept that stuff at the cost of improving your football program."
That appeared to infer the OSU players who had transferred from junior colleges were intellectually or morally suspect without offering any specifics related to the individuals playing that night.
"I wasn't happy with the ABC announcer," OSU President Paul Risser told the Statesman-Journal. "I think he was neglectful in doing his homework."
OSU professor Robert Frank, the school's institutional representative to the NCAA, hoped the head of the National Junior College Athletic Association would respond to McDonough's comments.
"I was troubled by the remark about junior college players being a bunch of gangsters and wild guys, and if I were the president of the junior college organization I'd write a blistering letter," Frank told the S-J. "It was implied that people who go to junior college are different. The fact is that community colleges and junior colleges are the first choice of lots of students for all kinds of reasons, many of whom are outstanding students. I don't know what he was talking about."
On January 9, the OSU Daily Barometer editorialized on the subject, concluding: "Late in the game, McDonough made comments critical of Oregon State University's 16 students on the football team who have transferred from a junior college. He noted that Notre Dame had not a single JC transfer, and further implied that those from the community college ranks had academic problems and/or shady backgrounds.
"In effect, the ABC commentator insulted every student at this institution – or any major university, for that matter – that did not have the privilege to begin here as a freshman, whether it was for academic or financial reasons.
"But the biggest irony related to McDonough's shortsightedness was that he forgot to mention that the esteemed, JC-free Fighting Irish once had maybe the most famous junior college football player of all time.
"Ever heard of a guy named Rudy?"
In the coming weeks the controversy faded. Simonton, Grant and center Chris Gibson were named to various All-America teams, including Simonton as a first-team selection by the American Football Coaches Association, and Siegler was named Freshman All-America first team with cornerback Dennis Weathersby earning honorable mention. In the all-star games for seniors, Carroll, Grant and Houshmandzadeh played in the East-West Shrine Game and Heyward-Johnson in the Hula Bowl.
The event wrapping up the season came Sunday, January 21, which was proclaimed Beaver Day in Corvallis by Mayor Helen Berg. A parade saluting the team wound through downtown Corvallis; it ended at Gill Coliseum, where a pep rally was held.
The gathering filled the arena, and OSU broadcaster Mike Parker told the crowd, "Contrary to what a few folks think, there's nothing wrong with celebrating. We're going to celebrate loud and we're not going to see any of those ridiculous yellow flags."
The Beavers filed into their seats on the floor to an enormous ovation. Erickson thanked the thousands of fans who attended the game and said the best part of the trip was the pregame rally at Arizona State's basketball arena with the team seeing "15,000 crazy people in orange."
"If you didn't think that influenced the football team, then you didn't see the game," Erickson said.
After a video of season highlights was shown and addresses were made by Risser and Barnhart, the event concluded with the presentation of the Beavers' Pacific-10 and Fiesta Bowl championship trophies.
As Erickson hoisted the Pac-10 trophy high in the air, he exclaimed, "What can I say? Pac-10 champions right here!"