The Oregon St. campus looked more like Christmas than the start of finals week this weekend, and perhaps it was fitting, given that the Beavers got an early Christmas present with their selection to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.
Especially after a 5 game losing streak that ended the regular season, and an unprecedented record 9 teams from the Pac-12 qualifying for a bowl.
So when the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl folks, the Diamond Head Classic, and ESPN were able to collaborate on a scenario that worked out beautifully for Oregon St., it was almost too good to be true. It prompted probably an unprecedented number of "check and recheck to verify" calls and texts too. But sure enough, though expensive (much moreso to get there than for the game itself), the specter of an extended Hawaiian vacation for Beaver Nation is a reality.
It's a present in more than one ways than one for the coaching staff, which has come in for considerable warranted criticism for a variety of episodes this season, and a better than could be expected bowl experience will help.
Hawaii is and has been a critical recruiting front for the Beavers too, with several Hawaiians on the current roster, as well as in their incoming recruits. An appearance in the islands will help cement those commitments, and pave the way for some more in the future.
The Oregon St. men's basketball team was already scheduled to participate in the Diamond Head Classic, starting on Sunday, Dec. 22, with a game against Akron. The Beavers will also play on Monday, and were taking Tuesday off, before their final tournament game on Christmas Day. Some folks planning to make the trip already had tickets for the Hawaii Bowl, as something to do on the open date. Now, they get to see their team play.
It works similarly for Boise St., as the Broncos are also on the other side of the bracket. Oregon St. and Boise St. could meed again on Christmas Day, if they can match wins or losses in the first two dates.
Finding time for the beach might be a challenge, though one local businesses hope prompt Beaver and Bronco fans to extend their stay for.
But what about the game, and the matchup, one ESPN rates as the 14th best (not bad for an "at large berth" for the Beavers) bowl this season?
With Chris Peterson having accepted the head coaching position at the University of Washington, Boise St. will be in transition, with current linebackers coach Bob Gregory will be the acting head coach.
Despite the turnover, as a result of Oregon St.'s 5 game losing streak, Boise St. opens as a 3 point favorite.
It will be the first time in 13 years Peterson hasn't been on hand for the Broncos, including the last 8 as head coach, during which time he posted a 92-12 record.
The Broncos come in 8-4, and after a 6-2 campaign in the Mt. West Conference, which resulted in a second place finish in the Mountain Division.
Boise St. dropped their opener at Washington 38-6, impressing Peterson in the process, but bounced back with a pair of wins, 63-14 over Tennessee-Martin, and 42-20 against Air Force.
Eventual Mt. West Champion Fresno St. edged the Broncos 41-40, but then the Broncos bounced back for 3 straight wins, 60-7 over Southern Mississippi, 43-23 at Utah St. the eventual champions of the Mt. Division., and 34-17 over Nevada. It was an expensive win, as starting quarterback Joe Southwick broke his ankle on his first play of the game.
BYU took a non-conference 37-20 win over the Broncos in Provo, but again Boise St. bounced back, with a 42-30 win at New Mexico Bowl bound Colorado St., and a 48-7 win over Wyoming.
San Diego St., whom the Beavers beat 34-30, then upset the visiting Broncos 34-31 in overtime, which ultimately cost Boise St. the Mountain Division championship.
The Broncos closed out their season with a 45-17 win over New Mexico.
The 8 wins are the fewest in the regular season in Boise since their 8-4 campaign 2001 (which did NOT result in a bowl game), Peterson's first year with the Broncos, as the Offensive Coordinator, after 6 years as the wide receiver coach at Oregon.
If Boise St. wins the Bowl, they will match the 2005 season, which ended 9-4 after a 27-21 loss to Boston College in the (then) MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, for their worst since then, as Peterson has posted double digit wins as a head coach until this year.
The last non-winning season in Boise, for reference, was 1997, when the Broncos went 4-7, and 3-2 in the Big West Conference, which has long since gone out of the football business.
Southwick returned to action for the Broncos against the Lobos, completing both of his attempts in relief of Grant Hedrick, who has started since Southwick went down. Hedrick is a local connection for Oregon St. fans, being from nearby Monmouth, OR.
Hedrick, a 6' junior with better mobility, has been an effective replacement for Southwick, a 6'1" senior. Hedrick has completed 135 of 198 passes, for 1,443 yards, whereas Southwick has completed 151 of 208 throws, for 1,654 yards. Hedrick's completion percentage is 68.2&, an average of 7.29 yards per attempt, whereas Southwick's numbers are 72.6%, and 7.95 ypa, but Hedrick threw for 15 touchdowns, against 5 interceptions, with 10 sacks, while Southwick threw for 12 tds, against 5 sacks, and was sacked 11 times.
Hedrick has also run for 257 yards and 6 touchdowns, on 57 carries.
Both will probably play against Oregon St.
Boise St.'s ground game revolves around Jay Ajayi, a 6' 215 lb. sophomore, who has run for 1,328 yards and 17 touchdowns on 226 carries.
Boise St. has won 3 of their 5 meetings since 2003, with Oregon St., including the last 2, the most recent of which was a 37-24 Bronco win in Boise on Sept. 25, 2010.
We'll have much more in the next 2 weeks, but on a frigid Monday, the prospect of the Hawaii Bowl is the brightest thing in Oregon St.'s outlook lately.