Fiesta Fine For Scarlet And Gray

Fiesta fatigue among Ohio State football fans has been documented by a malaise in ticket sales, but that feeling doesn't extend to the team itself. Despite making their fifth trip to the Phoenix area in seven years, the Buckeyes are looking forward to everything their second home has to offer.

When Fiesta Bowl chairman John Junker discussed his bowl's selection of Ohio State, bringing it to the greater Phoenix area for the fifth time in five years, he mentioned that he talked to head coach Jim Tressel and his players to gauge their excitement.

The Buckeyes will be traveling to the Valley of the Sun, so it's safe to say that he received a positive response, but any doubt that remained was erased when the team met with members of the media for its Columbus media day.

"We are tremendously excited about this honor and privilege we have coming up to have our young people head out to the Valley of the Sun on the 29th and reconvene our training and enjoy the tremendous treatment," head coach Jim Tressel said.

"One thing we've talked a lot about to our guys who maybe have experienced a little less is that there is no place in America that treats you like these folks do, no bowl that takes care of you like this one does."

Fiesta Bowl chairman of the board Dave Tilson confirmed that fact to BSB in late November when he was in town to watch the Buckeyes take on Michigan during its season-ending contest.

"We were always the Avis of bowl games," Tilson said. "The other three guys in the BCS, two of them juts did their 75th anniversary and the other one has 100 years in the bowl business. We're playing our 38th game, but that's always made us work harder."

The Ohio State players have no argument with that fact, if what Tilson meant by work harder means providing the team with the best of accommodations.

"It is such a special bowl game to be a part of," kicker Ryan Pretorius said. "It feels like a second home to us. It's one of the finest resorts or hotels we've ever stayed at, and it's just a special occasion.

For the fifth time in as many trips, Ohio State will be staying at the five-star Fairmont Scottsdale on Princess Drive, a favorite of many of the players for years. When asked what he liked about it so much, Brian Robiskie replied with a simple answer.

"Everything," he said. "It's more of a resort than a hotel with three or four pools, and it sits right there on a golf course. It's a real pretty place and I know that we're real fortunate to have a chance to go back there again."

The usual perks as far as food should be plentiful, as well. Buckeye players rave about Drinkwater's City Hall Steakhouse and Bar, another traditional stop. Fiesta Bowl officials set up a yearly trip to the restaurant for each of the teams involved.

And then there's the famed In-N-Out Burger, a West Coast chain that has not yet become the bad word among the team as it has with the fans.

Two years ago, the Buckeyes spoke openly about their love affair with the burger chain – which has a franchise up the street from the Fairmont hotel – before looking sluggish during a blowout loss to Florida for the national championship. While it would be hard to imagine a constant steam of Buckeyes will make their way to the restaurant that is a cult favorite, a few seasoned veterans expect to return.

"It's the place to go," said tight end Rory Nicol, who pointed to the burger joint as the highlight of the trip. "It's good. It's real good."

The key for Ohio State will be to balance the pleasure portion with the business end. One could argue that they failed in that regard during the last two bowl games.

The Buckeyes appeared too casual before facing Florida, a theme that continued into the game, while last year, the OSU players talked of how they would do very little but think about the game even while stationed up the way from the New Orleans nightlife and Bourbon Street.

Ohio State still played one of its most mistake-prone games of the year on the way to a 38-24 loss to LSU for the national title.

"Hope the third time is the charm. You learn from your mistakes, from going both ways you learn what's good and what doesn't work for you," safety Kurt Coleman said. "We're going out there for about six or seven days, which I think is the perfect time to get your mind right and get ready for this game."

The one thing Ohio State won't have to worry about is being taken care of, which will allow them to handle the trip in any way they see fit. That's one reason the team is happy for another ticket to the desert.

"Their hospitality is awesome," Nicol said. "They are so good to us. The way we get treated out there is great. It's an exciting bowl. I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart I was thrilled to know we are going back out there."


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