TEMPE, Ariz., Dec. 31 -- Sixth-ranked Oregon State, which has not played in a major bowl game in 36 years, takes on 10th-ranked Notre Dame Monday in the Fiesta Bowl.
Oregon State (10-1) had an NCAA record 28 straight losing seasons before Dennis Erickson broke the streak with a 6-5 mark last year. Erickson, who won two national titles at Miami, continued the turnaround in 2000, winning 10 games for the first time in school history and putting the Beavers in their first New Year's Day game since the Rose Bowl following the 1964 season.
The Beavers won a share of the Pac-10 Conference title for the first time since 1957.
Notre Dame is no stranger to January bowls but the Fighting Irish have endured a string of mediocre seasons that put the job of coach Bob Davie in jeopardy. After the Fighting Irish struggled to a 5-7 record in 1999, Davie and Notre Dame rebounded with a 9-2 mark this season and its first trip to a major bowl since a loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl on January 1, 1996.
Each team will receive between $12 million to $13 million to appear in the game, and Notre Dame showed its gratitude by rewarding Davie with a five-year contract extension.
Notre Dame opened its season by splitting four games against ranked teams. Freshman Matt LoVecchio was installed at quarterback and the Irish rallied to win their final seven games. The Fighting lost star defensive end Grant Irons in the second game of the season, but have not missed a beat. Defensive end Anthony Weaver has taken over the leadership role with eight sacks.
Davie has built a disciplined team that turned the ball over a mere eight times this season to tie an NCAA record held by Clemson (1940) and Miami, Ohio (1966). The Beavers forced 32 turnovers this season.
Oregon State suffered its only loss to Washington in early October and closed the season with six straight wins.
The Beavers are at their best when running the ball. Ken Simonton led the Pac-10 in rushing with 1,474 yards. Michigan transfer Patrick McCall added 633 yards in relief.
Oregon State's gameplan will likely call for speedy defensive ends DeLawrence Grant and LaDairis Jackson to try to rattle LoVecchio.
Notre Dame is playing in the Fiesta Bowl for the third time. It defeated West Virginia, 31-24, following the 1988 season to win the national title and lost to Colorado, 41-24, after the 1994 campaign. Notre Dame has lost its last four bowl games to fall to 13-9 in the postseason.
Oregon State makes its first trip to the Fiesta Bowl and is 4-2 in bowl games. It lost to Hawaii in the Oahu Bowl last December.
The Fiesta Bowl is the first-ever meeting between the schools.NEWLN: