December 29, 2008

Bowl Bites: Gundy, Bellotti talk about matchup

SAN DIEGO - Inside of a conference room across the street from PetCo Park, a man with a head full of silver stat alongside a man with a styled-up 'do.

The two - Oregon's Mike Bellotti and Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy sat down and chatted next to the podium before getting up to speak before the media covering the 2008 Holiday Bowl.

Then, each one stood before the cameras and fielded questions from the media concerning tomorrow's big game at Qualcomm Stadium. Then the other got up and took his turn. It's been called one of the best bowl matchups of the season and both coaches touched on that this morning.

Below are some of the high points from the press conference.

The Qualcomm Stadium grass has seen a lot of action in the past week. A few days ago, Boise State and Texas Christian played there for the Poinsettia Bowl. On Sunday evening, the San Diego Chargers won the AFC West title there by beating the Denver Broncos. And tomorrow, the Cowboys and Ducks will go at it. That's a lot of action for one field in such a short amount of time. Is this something that concerns Gundy?

"Not really, just because if there were concerns we couldn't do anything about it anyway," he said. "I think that both teams have to play on the same surface and I'm sure that their grounds crew will do a terrific job and they'll have the field in the best playing condition as possible. I think the approach to take as a team is that no matter what the surface is, you go and play and have fun and compete."

OSU comes into the Holiday Bowl with a 9-3 mark. A win over the Ducks would mean the first 10-win season at State since the Cowboys won the Holiday Bowl back in 1988. Posting a double-digit winning season isn't something most programs can boast of in a given year. And in OSU's case, it's been 20 years since the last one. So just how important is it to get a win in San Diego to reach that mark?

"I think the important thing is the preparation and the way the players approach it," Gundy said. "We'd certainly like to get to 10 wins. Our goal is to put a team on the field that is prepared and has an opportunity to win every game we play - I don't care who we play or where we play. We fell short one time this year at Texas Tech; we didn't give ourselves a chance. But it's important that we go play well and the players enjoy themselves and have fun and we'd certainly like to get to 10 wins and we'd certainly like to win the game."

Bellotti had one of the better lines at the press conference, referencing UO's last opponent in relation to the Cowboys.

"It doesn't hurt our preparation that they're OSU and that they're orange and black," Bellotti said with a sly grin and a bit of a laugh. "That gets the Ducks' dander up just a little bit."

Both coaches spoke about how their teams appeared to be pretty equal to one another. But Bellotti took things a step further, calling Dez Bryant the potential difference-maker of the game in a matchup of two very similar teams.

"Dez Bryant to me is the difference-maker on the team when you compare the two teams," Bellotti said. "We've got to find a way to contain him. As I said, it's one of those things where you pick your poison. If you double-cover him now you're singling the other side or you're losing a man in the box in terms of the running game and they run the ball very well."

His returning abilities haven't been overlooked by the Ducks, either.

"But they've got Dez Bryant in position to handle the football and we don't want him to handle the football," Bellotti said. "My punter kicks the ball 35 yards out of bounds I'm going to be really happy in this game."

Most coaches figure out what works early on and stick with it. That's certainly true for bowl week routines and it's definitely true for Gundy. He said the routine the team went through in San Diego is very similar to what they did in preparation for the Insight and Independence bowls.

"Our routine has stayed the same the last three years for bowl practice," he said. "We had an opportunity to practice anywhere from 14 to 16 times depending on the weather back home and we were able to practice 15 times this year. We didn't change much. Our routine has been the same. And at times as coaches you kind of get into that routine and you like it and you're comfortable with it and we think it's worked. Hopefully you keep your players fresh and tuned into what's going on."

A media member from Oregon asked Gundy about coaches and coordinators and if they lose sleep before big games like this. Basically, the writer wanted to know if Gundy thought his offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator lost more sleep at this point. Ever the quick wit, Gundy paused for a brief moment and responded with a dry and witty response.

"Well our defensive coordinator has lost a lot of sleep because he's now a head coach at Toledo," Gundy cracked. "He has to deal with all the off-the-field issues, so I'm sure he's not getting a lot of sleep right now."

Much has been written and talked up about the big four of OSU's offense. But this morning, Gundy was asked to talk up some key players not named Bryant, Zac Robinson, Kendall Hunter or Brandon Pettigrew.

"We have a combined over 150 starts on the offensive line and we're very proud of those guys," Gundy said. "Our left tackle is a guy that's going to have an opportunity to go on and play in the NFL someday. The other guys that we have are tough guys that enjoy playing college football and they've worked together and have accomplished a lot. DeMarcus Conner is a receiver that hasn't had the opportunity to have as many catches as some of the other guys, but he's been a great role player for us. When we throw the ball to him he's caught it, but he's been a great blocker for us. We believe in blocking downfield. One of those four guys that has touched the ball that gets a lot of the praise in the press, they're only as good as the other 10 guys that are blocking for them on that play. We believe very strongly in that, so we're proud of all those guys on that side of the ball."

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