Room Packed for Holiday Bowl Press Conference

San Diego, Calif. -- The two opposing head coaches of the teams that will face off on Thursday night in the 28th Pacific Life Holiday Bowl met the media in a joint session on Wednesday morning at the San Diego Convention Center. Both Mike Bellotti of Oregon and Bob Stoops of Oklahoman thanked the organizers of the Holiday Bowl, but one thing that may have stood out about the media conference was the large number of media in attendance.

(PHOTO) Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti responds to questions from the media at a conference on Dec. 28, 2005, at the San Diego Convention Center in preparation for the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. (Photo by Steve Summers)

The room was packed as would be expected for a BCS Bowl game, but the Holiday Bowl traditionally has never had the kind of attention that this game has already shown. Granted, the Ducks are the No. 5 team in the country and have a 10-1 record for the year. In many peoples' mind that should have been good enough to be a candidate for a BCS Bowl, but obviously the Ducks were not selected. The question of course from many people in the media was the fact the Ducks were passed over, would that cause them to take the Holiday Bowl less seriously? Mike Bellotti was quick to respond to that question that while his team felt that they were worthy of a BCS Bowl, playing a team with the stature of Oklahoma helped the Ducks get over not being selected very quickly.

"When you play a quality opponent with name recognition and has been in the national championship three of the last five years, that gets your player's attention," said Bellotti of playing Oklahoma in the Holiday Bowl.

Bellotti thinks the Sooners have done a tremendous job considering the adversity they have overcome because of injuries to key players such as running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson, the super running back was a Heisman Trophy candidate after his freshman season, but was slowed by an ankle injury this year. However, he should be completely healthy on Thursday night against the Ducks.

"Oklahoma has done a great job this year," observed Bellotti of Oklahoma. "I say that because you judge teams not by if you win or lose, but what happens when you start off and have some bumps in the road and finish and win five of six."

As far as the actual game, Oregon's headman thought the one of the keys to the game would be how Oregon is able to adjust to Oklahoma's team speed on defense. Bellotti recognized that the Sooners would present a serious challenge to his team's offensive line because of the size and speed of the Oklahoma defense.

"Speed on defense," Bellotti cited. "It is amazing, they are very well coached. They present a lot of problems offensively (to Oregon's offense) because of the myriad of zone blitzes and man blitzes that they run, and that will be one of the key's to the game is our ability to handle that. Handle the speed, handle the zone blitzes and it starts at the line of scrimmage."

While Oklahoma will obviously use Peterson's enormous talents against the Ducks defense, Bellotti may have hinted that the Ducks may also want to run the ball as well.

"Running the football will set the tempo of the game," said Bellotti. "If you control the line of scrimmage, you control the football game."

A factor that will also come into play in Bellotti's view is turnovers particularly because a turnover may cause a sudden change in momentum and also be a factor of what he called "hidden yards." Those yards either gained or lost because of the turnover.

Bellotti also thinks that controlling the downs and distance of drives will be important to the outcome, meaning what is distances that the offense will have to go for a first down, and winning the total number of first downs in the game.

Early on in the session, Stoops was asked what stood out in his mind about the Ducks and he responded that it was the play of the seniors. Stoops particularly mentioned the cornerbacks (Justin Phinisee and Aaron Gipson) and also the job done by wide receiver Demetrius Williams and running back Terrence Whitehead. Belletti echoed Stoops comments regarding the senior's contribution to the team.

"Each and every one of them in their own right contributed to this season," said Bellotti of his team's seniors.

Bellotti went on to say that the team's success this season, particularly after the injury to senior quarterback Kellen Clemens during the California game, was that everyone on the team picked up their contribution to the good of the team.

"There was certainly a pall in the locker room afterwards -- you lose Kellen Clemens, he's the leader in this offense the designed with him in mind," Bellotti recalled of the atmosphere after Clemens broke his ankle. "Everybody had to pick up the slack, not just the quarterbacks, the offense, defense and special teams and this team in my mind responded to that challenge."

When Bellotti looks at Oklahoma he sees a very potent team that may have some new wrinkles thanks to their new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. Wilson comes was just hired by Oklahoma at the end of the regular season and comes from Northwestern, a team the Ducks borrowed part of their offense from. Bellotti believes the Sooners may show some aspects of the spread offense in the game.

The media conference was scheduled for 45 minutes, but because of the number of reporters wanting to ask each coach questions, the session lasted twice as long. Bellotti even pointed out that his team really could go out into the lobby now because of all the media attention.

It would certainly be understandable and the beneficiary to all this is the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl and the City of San Diego. Considering the attention that the two coaches were receiving that maybe this game is going to turn out to be something very special. Perhaps it might turnout that if the BCS didn't invite the Ducks, then the Ducks have found their own bowl game to have a BCS game at.

Kickoff for the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl is scheduled for 5 p.m. (Pacific) and will be carried on ESPN.

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