A day of ships and practice

San Diego, Calif. -- The Oregon Ducks and Oklahoma Sooners spent Tuesday at the Navy and Marine Corps Luncheon aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in an annual Holiday Bowl event. The ship's skipper, Captain Captain Ted M. Branch welcomed the two teams and many dignitaries associated with the Holiday Bowl sponsored by Pacific Life Insurance Company.

(PHOTO ABOVE) Senior Dememtrius Williams poses for a photo prior to the Navy and Marine Corps Luncheon, held aboard the USS Nimitz on Dec. 27, 2005. (Photo by Steve Summers, eDuck Sports)

The festivities started off at 1100 hours (11 a.m.) with a "battle of the bands" between the marching bands of both schools. The luncheon was held in the hanger deck, a massive space that extends for most of the ship's length. It is used for major repair and shelters the aircraft not needed for that day's flight schedule. The vessel is nearly 1,100 feet long and over 250 feet wide. Several speakers from the San Diego community thanked the two teams for playing in the game and also took the opportunity to pay homage to the men and women of the armed forces serving the nation around the world.

(PHOTO RIGHT)The Oregon and Oklahoma Marching bands perform prior to the Navy and Marine Luncheon held at the USS Nimitz, in Coronado, California on Dec. 27, 2005. (Photo by Steve Summers)

Both coaches, Mike Bellotti, Oregon's head coach and Bob Stoops, Bellotti's counterpart at Oklahoma also thanked the Holiday Bowl and expressed gratitude to the organizers for the opportunity to play in the game.

"We're excited to be here in San Diego at the Holiday Bowl, said Bellotti of the game. "It is a great bowl game. It was a great springboard to us that last time we were here."

Bellotti went on to thank the seniors on the team and the staff and their families for the time and extraordinary effort that each puts out in order for the success the Ducks have accomplished this year.

Oregon won the 23rd version of the Holiday Bowl by beating Texas 38-34 on Dec. 29, 2000.

(PHOTO LEFT) A view of the San Diego Bay from the flight deck of the USS Nimitz, on Dec. 27, 2005. The Oregon Ducks and Oklahoma Sooners were on the ship to attend the Navy and Marine Luncheon, an event that is part of the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. (Photo by Steve Summers)

University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer was also on hand and thanked the Holiday Bowl and its sponsors as well as the officers and crew of the Nimitz for the hospitality shown to the teams during the luncheon on Tuesday. Frohnmayer predicted a large turnout of Oregon fans at the game on Thursday night.

"We bought 10,000 tickets even before we knew you were going to invite us, Frohnmeyer said. "That shows the degree to which we believe this venue is challenging and exciting. We believe there will be 15 to 20,000 Duck fans here."

(PHOTO RIGHT)Members of the Oregon football team move to board the USS Nimitz on Dec. 27, 2005 docked at its pier in Coronado, Calif. (Photo by Steve Summers)

After the luncheon concluded everyone had a chance to go atop the fight deck and enjoy the scenery of San Diego Bay. Several aircraft were on static display in a unique opportunity for the athletes. While it was a welcome relief for the Ducks to be in the warm sunshine of Southern California, the purpose of the trip has not been lost.

"The guys seem real focused on what has to get done and we're taking it more like a business trip, not a vacation," said senior wide receiver Demetrius Williams of the Ducks trip to the Holiday Bowl. "We know when to have fun and when to strap it on and get to business."

However, the day was not over as the teams boarded their charter buses and headed off to the practice field. The Ducks are holding practice at the University of California, San Diego, located in La Jolla (Calif.) just a few miles north of downtown San Diego. Practice was only open to media for the first 15 minutes and while the team went through the stretches and basic drills, an annual prank was pulled on the media representatives. Players wore different numbered jerseys. Haloti Ngata for example, wore Aaron Gipson's No. 5 jersey, stretching it to a conceivable maximum limit.

Bellotti mentioned that the luncheon today was the first time the two teams had a chance to intermingle during the Holiday events and he found the Sooners to be a classy, well-mannered group during the trip to the Nimitz.

The two teams will face off for real on Thursday night in a game televised on ESPN with kickoff scheduled for 5 p.m. Pacific Time.

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