Ducks Get Bowl News

Eugene, Ore. -- The BCS Bowl selections were made on Sunday and even though the Oregon Ducks (10-1) ended up No. 5 in the BCS rankings, wedged between Ohio State (4) and Notre Dame (6), the Ducks will fly south the San Diego on December 28th for the Holiday Bowl. Ohio State (9-2) and Notre Dame (9-2) will face each other in the Fiesta Bowl on January 2nd at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, and Oregon will face Oklahoma (7-4) in the Holiday Bowl.

(PHOTO) Oregon sophomore Brady Leaf responds to questions from the media after the BCS selections were made on Sunday, December 4, 2005. (Photo Steve Summers, eDuck Sports)

It might be hard to explain how a team with a better record is going to a less prestigious bowl than two other teams with worse records. But never mind the new math of the BCS, the bottom line for the Ducks is that they have a chance to finish the season off with an 11-1 record. That would be the same record as the 2001 team that did play in the Fiesta Bowl and finished No. 2 in the country.

The Ducks practiced on Sunday for two hours inside Autzen Stadium and essentially the session was more similar to the early days of fall camp than what practice was like just a couple of weeks ago preparing for Oregon State. There was little contact, a lot of passing and running drills -- essentially shaking off the early rust of winter. Practice started at noon and ended just in time for the BCS Bowl announcements at 2 p.m. Time was such a factor that Bellotti could only respond to one question as he walked out of the stadium. The only thing he really had time for was to say that tight end Ryan Keeling had injured his ankle in an intramural-type event, unrelated to football. Keeling's status for the upcoming bowl is unknown.

Bellotti was quoted in a release from the Athletic Department that the Ducks were happy to be going back to the Holiday Bowl, the site of a 35-30 win over Texas in 2000.

"The Holiday Bowl is a tremendous bowl. Our players loved it the last time we were there. We had a very successful outing beating a tremendous University of Texas team," Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti said in the release posted on www.goducks.com. "We look forward to playing the University of Oklahoma. Our team is very focused in the fact that we have evolved as a program that is no longer just happy to go to bowl games; we want to win bowl games. We feel that is part of our job.

When the team left the stadium, the plan was for the players to watch the announcement in the locker room. However, due to logistical considerations, they moved to the Pitman Room in the Casanova Center to view the announcement. While it could be expected that the announcement would have been met with disappointment, the reaction was quite different.

"Obviously we had set out goals high, but we're excited about going to the Holiday Bowl and we're excited about playing a good quality, physical Oklahoma team," said sophomore offensive lineman Josh Tschirgi. "Definitely, it is not a letdown to go to the Holiday Bowl."

Tschirgi's fellow starting sophomore lineman Geoff Schwartz agreed and added that the team did all they could do to ensure a good season.

"We did what we had to do this year but it's what happened," said offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz about the Fiesta Bowl selection. "We're excited to still play in the Holiday Bowl against Oklahoma and we'll be ready for that game for sure."

Last season, the Ducks met the Sooners in Norman, at a time when Oklahoma was the defending National Champions and looked like they were more than ready to repeat the performance. The Ducks were flattened in the Oklahoma heat 31-7 and of course the obvious question of revenge for the whipping popped up.

"I don't think so," responded Schwartz to the question regarding getting even with the Sooners. "Oklahoma is a different team than last year. I think we should be prepared and ready to go, it should be a good game."

So how is practice going anyway? The last time the Ducks were preparing for a game it was against Oregon State and that preparation must have gone well as the Ducks smashed their rivals 56-14 just before the Thanksgiving Holiday.

"It's going fine right now," said Schwartz of practice. "We didn't know who are opponent was going to be, it was almost like going back to camp, relearning stuff and getting the rust out. Next week since we know who we are playing we can start game planning a little bit."

The Ducks knew all about the selection process and were well aware of the discussions going on about the Fiesta Bowl process, so the mood around the Casanova Center after the selections were announced was not one of resentment or bitterness. Save that for the fans. The team is more concerned about going to a bowl game and finishing the season off with 11 wins, and enjoying what the Holiday Bowl experience has to offer. Considering a year ago the Ducks were packing away the gear and trying to get over the sick feeling of finishing 5-6 for the 2004 season, this trip to San Diego later this month is pretty good medicine.

"The Fiesta Bowl would have been nice, a BCS Bowl, one of the higher bowls, but the Holiday Bowl is a great bowl," said quarterback Brady Leaf of the bowl selection. "I think the team is just excited to go to a bowl this year given last year we weren't even one."

As far as Leaf is concerned the Ducks did all they could do by finishing the season 10-1 and the No. 5 ranked BCS team. The media and fans may have been thinking and talking about the BCS bowl match ups, but players like Dante Rosario really haven't spent much time and effort stewing over who the Ducks were going to face in post-season play.

"I haven't really been thinking about it a whole lot," said Rasario about post season play. "Obviously there has been a whole lot of talk about it going on around here (by the media) I'm trying to practice as hard as I can to get ready for whoever we're playing, whether its a BCS game or the lowest bowl game.

Rosario indicated he is not upset about the bowl selection and simply wants to play another game this season.

While the news about playing Oklahoma in the Holiday Bowl is exactly earth shattering to the Ducks, the team hadn't yet totally focused on the Sooners, but that will change within the next 24 hours. Quarterback Dennis Dixon expects that he and his fellow signal callers, Leaf and the injured Kellen Clemens will be doing a fair amount of homework preparing for Oklahoma.

"Starting tomorrow we will get into the game film," said Dennis Dixon of preparing for Oklahoma. "I will get into the game film with Brady (Leaf) and Kellen (Clemens). Oklahoma's defense is real tough and we have to exploit some things."

Clemens will be unable to perform in the Holiday Bowl and is now acting in the role of a special coach to his teammates and very much part of the preparation process.

Now the Ducks are off to work and if things go their way, Oregon will complete this season 11-1 and a chance to go up even higher in the final standings, even if they don't go to a BCS Bowl to do so.

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