Wednesday, December 22, 1999
that of UH
The Beavers will makeAloha/Oahu Bowl Notebook
their first postseason
appearance since 1965
By Paul Arnett
It's not often that two Cinderellas show up at the ball, but that's what will happen in this Saturday afternoon's Oahu Bowl matchup between Hawaii and Oregon State.
Granted, folks around here know all about the glass slippers of the Rainbows, but what they may not be aware of is the Beavers have a pair of their own.
OSU head coach Dennis Erickson led the Beavers to their first postseason appearance since the 1965 Rose Bowl and their first winning season since 1970. Which sets up what Erickson feels is one of the more intriguing bowl matchups.
"Other than the national championship game, this is the best bowl game going," Erickson said during a recent press conference. "Where else are you going to find two teams like these playing against one another?
"What June Jones has done for Hawaii is the best story of the year. But ours isn't too bad, either. There are a lot of happy people in Corvallis who haven't had a lot to cheer about the past three decades. We gave them a year they'll never forget."
Not that Erickson wants the turnaround to end here. He is looking at the Oahu Bowl as an opportunity to establish Oregon State as a viable Pac-10 alternative to the marquee programs of Southern California, UCLA and the University of Washington.
Current San Diego Chargers head coach Mike Riley helped set the wheels in motion for Erickson, who was fired last year by the Seattle Seahawks. Riley recruited sophomore sensations Jonathan Smith at quarterback and Ken Simonton at running back. He brought the Beavers to the brink of being bowl-eligible in 1998, only to fall one game shy at 5-6.
"I was very excited when I heard Coach Erickson took the job because of his reputation," Smith said. "Any time you can be around a coach who won a national championship and who worked in the NFL, you'll take it."
Smith took Erickson's one-back, three-wide philosophies and made them his own this season. He passed for a school-record 469 yards against Washington, including a 90-yard scoring strike to Roddy Tompkins.
At 5-foot-10, the Pasadena, Calif., resident isn't a prototype quarterback. But he threw for 2,784 yards and 15 touchdowns to give the Beavers a balanced attack.
Simonton complements this aerial show with a dangerous running game. Like Smith, Simonton isn't intimidating at 5-7, 175. But give him a lane and the Pittsburg, Calif., resident will make good use of it.
He rushed for 1,329 yards this season and a school-record 17 touchdowns. It's when teams are thinking pass that Simonton is most dangerous. He also has 18 receptions for 194 yards.
"This has been a great year for us, but we're not through yet," Simonton said. "We want to get a win to prove that we are for real. A lot of people around the country don't know that much about our program, so this is a chance on national TV to change all that."
Smith and Simonton aren't the only two young guns in the program. Freshman cornerback Dennis Weathersby is also a rising star who may become a household word in the future.
"It took me only a few minutes of watching their defense on film to notice this guy," Jones said of the Duarte, Calif., resident who was named second team All-Pac-10. "He is a true cover-corner who could give us some problems."
Weathersby didn't have an interception this season, but did manage 17 pass breakups, two shy of the school record.
The Beavers do lose 16 seniors, including leading tackler Jonathan Jackson. This turnaround is particularly pleasing for them. They began their careers with only one win and 10 losses.
"We probably appreciate this season a little more than the younger guys because of where we've been," said Jackson, who had a team-high 84 tackles. "The best way to end this for us would be with a win this Saturday."
You won't get any argument from athletic director Mitch Barnhart. Like Erickson, he got a raise last month that could earn him around $200,000 a year. He was instrumental in not only landing Erickson, but getting a new indoor practice facility in place to the tune of $8 million.
"The donations have been up this year because of our success, so we want to take advantage of it," Barnhart said.
Barnhart also secured more money for Erickson's staff.
"We have a good situation here and I think our assistants realize that fact," Erickson said. "This has been a wonderful season. But we want to have a long-term plan in place to help make us even more competitive in the future."
Aloha BowlWho: Arizona State vs. Wake Forest
When: Saturday, 10:30 a.m.
Oahu BowlWho: Hawaii vs. Oregon State
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Aloha Stadium
Gates: Parking lot opens at 7:30 a.m., stadium turnstiles at 9 a.m.
Tickets: $45 sidelines, $30 end zone.
Oregon State cornerback Dennis Weathersby plans to get to know Hawaii wideout Dwight Carter very well during his stay in the islands.
Aloha/Oahu Bowl Notebook
Weathersby draws Carter
The freshman said yesterday that he will be covering Carter all over the field in Saturday's Oahu Bowl matchup with the Rainbows. And while the 6-foot-1, 201-pounder doesn't like to brag, he is confident he can stay with Carter wherever he goes.
"I don't want to sound cocky, but I believe I can cover any wide receiver in the country,'' Weathersby said. "He's one of the top five receivers in the country. I don't know if his speed is that good, but he looks like he runs really good routes.''
As good a cover-corner as Weathersby may be, he has yet to have an interception this season. He led the team with 17 pass breakups and has covered the likes of Stanford's Troy Walters, Arizona's Dennis Northcutt and USC's R.J Soward. In Weathersby's mind, if he can stay with those guys, he can match up with Carter.
"We're not overconfident about this game,'' Weathersby said. "But we believe we can win it because we face a similar offense every day in practice.''
Carter said that he is used to having the top cornerback cover him. To him, it's no big thing.
"I know some players don't think I'm that fast, but I'm still able to get by them,'' Carter said. "I respect their defense, but I don't fear it. If they give me a lot of extra respect, there are three other receivers on the field who will have a chance to hurt them.''
Sellout unlikelyTicket sales for Saturday's Christmas Day doubleheader remain sluggish, according to Bowl Games Hawaii officials.
As of this morning, there were still about 6,000 tickets available, making it unlikely there will be a sellout before noon today. That means the games will be blacked out locally.
Bowl Games Hawaii chief executive officer Lenny Klompus said he was surprised that tickets hadn't sold faster, but was still pleased there would be more than 40,000 in the house for the two games.
"In 1989, when Hawaii played Michigan State, we had about 2,000 tickets remaining at this point,'' Klompus said. "It's important for Hawaii to have a sellout because bowl people on the mainland will be watching how much local support this game produces.''
Klompus said it was difficult to say how many Hawaii fans had bought tickets, but he estimated that it was in the neighborhood of 10,000. That's below expectations of bowl and university officials.
"We can't extend the deadline from beyond noon because that's a television network deal,'' Klompus said. "We think a lot of people are waiting to see if it is a sellout. But quite frankly, we don't expect to see the 6,000 tickets sold by tomorrow.''
Moving on upWake Forest offensive coordinator George Belu is coaching his last game for the Demon Deacons. After Saturday's Aloha Bowl with Arizona State, Belu is moving on to be the offensive line coach at Ohio State.
"Right now, I'm totally committed to this bowl game,'' Belu said. "I told our head coach (Jim Caldwell) I wanted to stay through the game because I felt I owed it to our kids who worked so hard to get here.''
Belu has worked at Wake Forest for three seasons. Prior to that, he was the offensive line coach and coordinator at Indiana for 13 seasons.
Settling on a starterArizona State offensive coordinator Dan Cozzetto said the Sun Devils were hoping to settle on a starting quarterback after yesterday morning's practice.
The two players battling for the starting spot that came open due to starter Ryan Kealy's injury in the win over Arizona are John Leonard and Griffin Goodman. Leonard completed 24 of 64 passes for 312 yards and one touchdown. Goodman hit 16 of 30 for 234 yards and three scores.
"We may end up using both guys during the game, Cozzetto said. "But we have to settle on somebody to run the first few series. Both of those guys helped us during the regular season."
By Paul Arnett