LAS VEGAS BOWL: Eyeing the Vegas weathervane

WHEN OREGON STATE hits the field at Sam Boyd Stadium on Tuesday night, it will have been exactly 100 days since OSU's 23-21 come from behind win out at UNLV in September. And while the familiarity of playing in Las Vegas is a plus, head man Mike Riley is more concerned about what the weather might be doing on Dec. 22 -- specifically, the wind. Meanwhile, with an early bowl game, he continues to..

..look for ways to squeeze every last bit of work the young players can get in -- bowl practices are also much about players who will take on greater responsibilities next year, in some cases starting spots. More on that in a moment. First though, thinking about those desert winds and wins..

Back in September when the Beavs met up with UNLV, the temperature at kickoff was a sweltering 96 degrees.  Fortunately that won't be the case this time around.

"It has got a chance to be comfortable," said Riley who is 5-0 in bowl games as a head coach.  "When I was down there the other day it was 50ish and calm."

In last year's Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, swirling winds wreaked havoc on Oregon State's and Pittsburgh's ability to move the ball through the air. 

With early Las Vegas Bowl forecasts putting the temperature in the mid to late 50's and wind at 8 mph, the Beavers should hopefully face no such malady in getting its air attack on track. But weather in Las Vegas can change in a hurry -- plunging temperatures and howling winds are always possible at this time of year out in the desert.

"It all depends on the wind this time of the year," Riley said.  "When we practiced down there before I remember it being really windy.  It is a different environment that way. 

"But it is nice to have some familiarity."

THAT FAMILIARITY WITH the stadium and area should help a team facing a short preparation period.  Bowl practice kicked off just a few days ago for the Beavs, and the 18th Las Vegas Bowl is now just four days away.

"This game is different in that it is sooner than any of the other bowls we have played in," Riley said.  "It is a fast turnaround for a game, it is not much more than a regular week of preparation."

How limited is the time to prepare on an early bowl like the Las Vegas Bowl? The Beavs just began their practices on BYU Monday, (last week was finals week at OSU). 

"We usually start bowl practice just playing football, Beavers against Beavers, ones against ones, but we elected to start our game prep - our scout teams got going and we treated Monday like a Tuesday before a game," Riley said.

Usually, the first several days of bowl practice are also dedicated to getting the redshirt and true freshman, and others expected to play key roles next year, as many repetitions as possible.  Riley estimates the additional 15 bowl practice sessions in the past have equaled 500 extra plays for the underclassmen.

But even with the team on a tighter schedule this year, Riley says the freshman will still get work, just not as much as in the past.

"We are still going to work the young guys, but it will not be as extensive as before," Riley said.  "Last year our young guys in our skelly session got around 500 extra plays."

Because Tuesday's bowl game doesn't allow for a team to get in all 15 practice sessions, Riley has been looking for ways to maximize the work the younger players are able get in. He's been meeting regularly with the freshman before practice each week.

"I have been working with them before practice every day, all year before the rest of the guys get out there," Riley said.  "If practice is at 3 (p.m.), I am out there at 2:30 with the young guys - the quarterbacks and receivers. 

"We have done more of that then we have ever done before. 

"I am pleased."

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