Dec. 12, 2003
Las Vegas, Nev. - At a media conference yesterday at the ESPN Zone located inside the New York-New York Hotel & Casino on the famed Las Vegas "Strip," the Las Vegas Bowl officially welcomed the University of New Mexico (8-4/5-2) and Oregon State (7-5/4-4). The event marked the official start of activities for the Christmas Eve showdown between the Lobos and Beavers at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
Representatives from the Las Vegas Bowl and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority gathered on the Strip to welcome the head coaches and athletic directors from the University of New Mexico and Oregon State in true Las Vegas fashion. The press conference also featured appearances by a pair of all-conference rushers - DonTrell Moore of New Mexico and Steven Jackson of Oregon State.
Moore, a sophomore, led the Mountain West Conference (MWC) in rushing and finished the regular season ranked 11th nationally with 1,438 yards, an average of 119.8 yards a game. Jackson, who attended Eldorado High School in Las Vegas, finished 12th nationally and led the Pac-10 Conference in rushing with 1,396 yards, an average of 116.3 yards per game.
"We're honored today to welcome these two fine institutions to Las Vegas for the start of preparations for Bowl Week," said Tina Kunzer-Murphy, Las Vegas Bowl executive director. "These two teams have outstanding players, and this game offers one of the best match-ups we've ever had in Las Vegas. We look forward to hosting the coaches, administrators, players and fans from the University of New Mexico and Oregon State for the exciting activities that make this such a unique bowl experience."
The 12th edition of the Las Vegas Bowl features only the third-ever meeting between the Lobos and Beavers. The teams last met on the gridiron during the 2000 campaign when the Beavers edged the Lobos 28-20 in Albuquerque.
The Lobos, led by Rocky Long, finished the year with seven victories in their last eight games. New Mexico culminated the season with a convincing 26-3 victory over Wyoming. The Lobos will make their eighth bowl appearance, including their third in the last seven seasons. In its previous seven bowl games, New Mexico has a record of 2-4-1.
"The bowl experience was pretty new to most of us last year," said New Mexico Head Coach Rocky Long. "While we certainly wanted to win the game, I expect our focus and preparation to be a little different this year. We are going to Las Vegas to enjoy the wonderful experience provided, but we are also going to end this special season on a positive note. We have 24 seniors that want to see this through. I know we are facing a very good Oregon State team, so the challenge will be a formidable one. It should be a tremendous game in Las Vegas on Christmas Eve."
Oregon State will look to rebound after dropping its final two games to Oregon and USC. Oregon State will make its tenth bowl appearance, including its fourth in the last five seasons. In its previous nine bowl games, Oregon State has compiled a record of 5-4.
"It's great to be in a bowl game, and I've heard a lot of great things about the Las Vegas Bowl and how teams are treated down there," said Oregon State Head Coach Mike Riley. "I think it's really good for the program. We're going to play a very good opponent in New Mexico, we're going to get a number of extra practices for our program and opportunities for young guys to work as we go through this deal, so I'm very excited about it and we'll be looking forward to that."
Players, coaches, administrators and fans from New Mexico and Oregon State will enjoy a complete bowl experience combined with the unmatched entertainment and attractions of Las Vegas, a world-renowned event and resort destination that attracted more than 35 million visitors in 2002. As part of Bowl Week, the Las Vegas Bowl will host events at some of the city's most exciting venues. The event line-up includes a Welcome Reception at the ESPN Zone; Show Night in Las Vegas at Blue Man Group at Luxor Las Vegas; the Pep Rally and Outback Buffet Bowl at the Golden Nugget/Fremont Street Experience; and the Kickoff Luncheon at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The Las Vegas Bowl will be televised live on ESPN, beginning at 4:30 p.m. (PT) on Dec. 24.
Quotes from New Mexico Representatives
Rudy Davalos, University of New Mexico Director of Athletics
Las Vegas is the number one travel destination for New Mexico, and our fans are excited to visit. We aren't a spoiled team and we enjoy the bowl opportunities when we get them.
Oregon State is a blue collar team just like us. This should be one outstanding matchup on December 24th.
Rocky Long, University of New Mexico Head Coach
When you've been in a bowl drought for as long as New Mexico has, the bowls become exciting. The two teams match well against each other with two great running backs.
On the match-up with Oregon State:
I spent five years as an assistant at Oregon State so I know about the great fans and support up there.
I've also had a chance to match up against Mike Riley on several occasions. Mike is a great coach, and I know he'll have his team ready to play. His team plays like we do, mean, tough and full speed.
The fans at both schools love their teams and are extremely partisan. Last year our band and fans won the pep rally at Fremont Street, and we look forward to another great showing this year. Our fans can't wait to arrive in Las Vegas to support the Lobos.
DonTrell Moore, University of New Mexico RB
How important is the offensive line?
They're big! Any running back can get behind those guys and be successful. They are big and tough. They enjoy piling up the rushing yards.
What do you anticipate from the Oregon State squad?
All Pac-10 opponents are good. The Beavers have a tough defense that likes to fly around. They are big and fast, so we will have to be prepared for a tough, physical game.
How do you and the team feel about playing in the Las Vegas Bowl for a second straight year?
We're all very excited about the opportunity. This year we want to win. Any time you get to play on the national stage it's exciting. Last year we enjoyed it, but this year we hope to take advantage of it.
What do you think about all of the other bowl activities now that you've been through them once already?
My favorite event last year was the BlueMan Group. I never expected to be able to meet them. But last year I was having my picture taken with them after the show. This year we can't focus on all the outside events. We need to prepare for the game.
Quotes from Oregon State Representatives
Bob De Carolis, Oregon State University Director of Athletics
It's going to be a tough game on December 24. We've actually wanted to make the trip to Las Vegas in years past. Everything worked out this year so we could spend the bowl season in Las Vegas.
Eight players on our squad are from the Las Vegas area, so this town is special to many of us.
Overall, it's been a challenging season with three byes on the schedule. But I know our team will be ready for the challenge. This is a great reward for our team, and it's a good excuse for our fans to spend some time in Las Vegas, where it might not rain as much!
Mike Riley, Oregon State University Head Coach
We are proud for the opportunity to bring Beaver Nation to Las Vegas. We've heard nothing but great things about the Las Vegas Bowl, so our team is excited to arrive next week.
There are two outstanding running backs represented here today. There are also numerous other impact players that will have a chance to shine in Las Vegas.
On the match-up with New Mexico:
Rocky Long is one of the finest coaches around. It's not often you have a defense named after you. You might discuss the 3-4 defense or the 4-3, but you're often asked 'do you know Rocky's defense.' They are as well coached as anyone in the nation. We have had a lot of ups and downs this year, but our team loves to play football and we are excited to be here. We'll have to be prepared for this New Mexico team. We're certainly excited for December 24th.
Steven Jackson, Oregon State RB
How do you feel about coming home to Las Vegas?
There's no place like home. My family always wanted me to play a game at Sam Boyd Stadium, they just didn't expect it to be for Oregon State. Now I will have a chance to play in front of my family in Las Vegas.
What about the other Las Vegas players? Why do you think so many go to Oregon State?
The Pac-10 is very competitive. Oregon State was the first team to strike gold in this area. The coaches have heavily recruited this area, so it really has been a benefit for our team.
What do you expect from New Mexico?
I'm a marked man week in and week out. New Mexico swarms to the ball and they are great tacklers. I just hope I have a chance to break a big play on them. I expect them to give us a lot of new looks. It will be a big challenge for our offense.
What are some of the highlights of your Oregon State career?
There have been so many memorable things about my time at Oregon State. I've set a lot of records at school. I enjoy playing football for the Beavers. I hope the Las Vegas community has a chance to be at the game to see us in action.
What are your plans for the future?
After this season, who knows. The NFL is in my future. A degree is something I treasure, but the money is enticing. Right now I'm leaning toward returning to school. I plan to take it slow, wait for this game to be over and make a decision later.
What's the attraction to Oregon State in Las Vegas?
Oregon State gives local players a chance to play in the Pac-10 if they don't want to stay home. We have 8 players on the team now, and it's been a great experience.