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Bowl win completes OSU’s dream season

Oregon State stomps No. 10 Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl yesterday.


Citizen Sportswriter

TEMPE – If speed kills, cyanide should be packaged in orange and black.

Oregon State, a program that just two years ago endured its NCAA-record 28th consecutive losing season, completed its storybook season last night in the Fiesta Bowl, running over Notre Dame 41-9 with a high-octane attack built around its sleek receivers and swarming defense.

The fifth-ranked Beavers (11-1), laughable losers for decades, ran up 446 yards and had 15 tackles for 82 yards in losses to win their 11th game for the first time.

“Just a great win for the program,” said coach Dennis Erickson, who is 18-6 in two seasons at OSU. “To think where we were a couple of years ago to now, all of a sudden, play in the Fiesta Bowl and become 11-1 is just kind of an unrealistic story, a real story.”

Playing in its first New Year’s Day bowl since the 1965 Rose Bowl, OSU took the fight out of the No. 10 Fighting Irish (9-3) in front of a crowd of 75,428 – the second-largest in Fiesta Bowl history.

All week, players from both sides boasted of their quickness. But when the Sun Devil Stadium lights flickered on, the Beavers were the ones in the track spikes.

“They’re as quick a football team as we’ve played,” Notre Dame coach Bob Davie said. “It’s pretty obvious we got whipped. We got outcoached; we got outplayed.”

The Beavers turned a 12-3 lead into a 41-3 blowout with 29 third-quarter points, tying a Fiesta Bowl record set by Nebraska in the Cornhuskers’ 62-24 win over Florida in 1996.

Two second-half touchdowns were set up by the defense deep in Irish territory, one on a fumble after a sack and the other on an interception.

OSU quarterback Jonathan Smith completed 16 of 24 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns, earning offensive MVP honors.

“Our receivers were running wide open half the time,” Smith said. “I just tried to put guys into position to make plays, and they did tonight.”

Ken Simonton, who became Oregon State’s single-season rushing leader in the first half, carried 18 times for 85 yards and a TD. The junior running back finished the year with 1,559 yards and capped the third-quarter flurry with a 4-yard scoring run, his 51st career TD, also an OSU record.

OSU’s T.J. Houshmandzadeh led all pass catchers with six for 74 yards, while Beavers’ receiver Chad Johnson had 93 yards on four catches, two for touchdowns.

Oregon State joined Washington as the second Pacific-10 Conference school to win on New Year’s Day 2001. The Pac-10 ended up 3-2 in the postseason, after winning just two bowls the past two years.

Notre Dame has not won a bowl game in seven years.

“Like I told our football team, obviously I’m embarrassed by the way we played, but I’ll never be embarrassed when it comes to this football team,” Davie added.

Erickson built his two championship clubs at Miami on speed. The Hurricanes, like these Beavers, also had the swagger. The Beavers shattered the Fiesta record with 18 penalties for 174 yards.

“I’m the one that’s responsible for that,” Erickson said of the penalties.

“The bottom line is, there’s a fine line with aggression and how you play, about doing the right things. We’re a very aggressive football team. That’s just how we play. That’s just how we are.”

OSU built a 6-0 lead, on field goals of 32 and 29 yards from Ryan Cesca, before making it 12-0 on Smith’s 74-yard catch-and-run pass to Johnson – the longest pass play against Notre Dame this year. Television replays clearly showed that Johnson dropped the ball at the 2-yard line, thinking he had already crossed the goal line. The try for two failed for a 12-0 OSU lead.

OSU then turned up the defensive heat in the third quarter.

A fumble led to a 23-yard TD pass from Smith to Houshmandzadeh, and one possession later, Smith found Johnson open for a 22-yard scoring pass after Darnell Robinson picked off Notre Dame freshman quarterback Matt LoVecchio.

Sandwiched between was a 45-yard fumbled punt return for a TD.

Houshmandzadeh fumbled after a 28-yard punt return. but Terrell Roberts then scooped up the ball and ran it in.

Again, replays revealed the Big East officiating crew blew the call, because Houshmandzadeh appeared to be down.

Simonton then sent most of the Irish faithful packing with 4:54 remaining in the third, walking in from the 4 to cap a 55-yard drive.

Notre Dame’s lone points came on Nick Setta’s 29-yard field goal as time expired in the first half and Tony Fisher’s 1-yard TD run with 6:07 remaining.

PHOTO CAPTION: The Associated Press

Oregon State’s Ken Simonton (left) scores on a 4-yard run in the third quarter. He had 85 yards on 15 carries.

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