Ducks and Cougars Have Lunch

Las Vegas, Nev. – The Oregon Ducks (7-5) and the 19th ranked BYU Cougars (10-2) will meet on Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m. (Pacific) but on Wednesday the two teams met for lunch courtesy of Pioneer PureVision. Former Notre Dame Head Coach and current ESPN College Football Analyst Lou Holtz was the featured speaker.

Holtz gave a lively 20-minute motivational talk to both teams that were gathered at the Las Vegas Convention Center with fans of each program also in attendance. After brief introductions and remarks by the opposing head coaches, Mike Bellotti from Oregon and Bronco Mendenhall of BYU followed by some comments by Jordan Kent (Oregon) and John Beck (BYU) the podium was turned over to Holtz. Holtz delivers a very interesting message that is punctuated by anecdotes from his many years as a head coach including 10 New Year's Day Bowl appearances.

Earlier in the day a joint media conference was held. Mendenhall indicated that he was thrilled to playing in the Las Vegas Bowl for the second straight year and looked at the Oregon game as an opportunity to take another step in reviving BYU's football tradition. However he looked at the Ducks with some awe and was not swayed by the Ducks' last three losses in the regular season as an indicator of the type of team the Cougars would face on Thursday.

"Speed, athleticism and the way the way they are coached," cited BYU's headman of the things that concerned him about Oregon.

Bellotti was equally liberal in his praise for BYU saying the Cougars are very good in the passing game and that the Ducks must take care of the ball in order for Oregon to have a chance at a win. Bellotti felt that turnovers particularly on special teams would be the key to the game.

The Ducks suffered major headaches this year when the turnover bug bit. Bellotti would not offer who would be the starting quarterback but would only say that both Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf will play. The only admission Bellotti would make about the quarterback situation is that the coaching staff has scripted plays for both signal callers and will actually decide by game time who will be the starter.

Bellotti also indicated that the running back tandem of Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson will split time and feels that when the two challenge each other during the game.

"We are better off when they both play," said Bellotti of his two star backs. "They play better."

Mendenhall was not too concerned which Duck quarterback his team will face and said that both Dixon and Leaf have their strengths with one an effective scrambler and the other more of a drop back quarterback.

Bellotti thought that Beck is a very good, accurate passer and good decision-maker.

Bellotti mentioned that Matt Toeaina would start working out during the Ducks closed practice on Wednesday afternoon and is available for the game on Thursday.

Several questions were asked about an incident at the pep rally last night in downtown Las Vegas where some words were exchanged between players of the two teams. Apparently BYU players were performing a Haka war dance and some Oregon players responded by shouting back. Dante Rosario indicated he didn't think anything of the incident as he has seen Polynesian members of the team doing the dance before. Rosario thought that the dance is part of the Polynesian culture and he could understand if bystander who do not know about the dance might think there was something more going on in the exchange that took place. Bellotti mentioned that Beck, BYU's team captain had called him and apologized on behalf of the Cougars if there had been any misunderstanding over the incident.

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