Irish arrive in Arizona following week of indoor practice
PHOENIX (AP) -- Notre Dame has something Oregon State does not -- an indoor practice facility. Which explains why the Irish took four more days to travel to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl. Even in the blizzard-struck Midwest, Notre Dame was able to practice in comfort for the Jan. 1 contest.
"We put all of our game plan in back in South Bend," coach Bob Davie said Monday night after the arrival. "We spent an unbelievable amount of time as a coaching staff preparing for this game, and our players prepared well, so everything is in."
Oregon State, whose indoor training center will be completed by next season, arrived Thursday.
The Beavers' building will cost $13 million, by coincidence just about what Notre Dame will keep as its share from its third trip to the Fiesta Bowl. Oregon State must divide its share with the other Pac-10 schools.
"We didn't come close to being able to practice outside," Notre Dame sports information director John Heisler said. "We've had that building since 1987. The way we dealt with it in the old days was we just had to come out the same time as Oregon State did."
Neither team was ranked in the preseason, and -- at 2-2 after an overtime loss to Nebraska and a loss in the final seconds to Michigan State -- the Irish didn't look much like a bowl team.
That's when Davie decided to make a move at quarterback.
He promoted freshman Matt LoVecchio ahead of Gary Godsey, and the gamble worked -- LoVecchio threw 11 touchdown passes and led the Irish (9-2) to seven straight victories.
Godsey finished as a tight end, and Arnaz Battle, the starter until he broke his wrist in the second game, is now listed as a flanker.
The surge got the Irish into the college elite at No. 10 and helped them secure 11th place in the Bowl Championship Series. The Fiesta could have taken Virginia Tech, which had a higher BCS standing, but preferred the Irish as proven attraction with a rich tradition.
Notre Dame won the 1988 national championship by beating West Virginia 34-21 in the Fiesta Bowl, and finished the 1994 season with a 41-24 loss to Colorado in the bowl in suburban Tempe.
Notre Dame will practice at Phoenix Pinnacle, a new high school in the posh Paradise Valley section of the city. Although a partially finished freeway overlooks the school, Davie said practices would be closed.
"We're not trying to hide everything," he said. "It's just our normal routine that we have at South Bend, and what we want to try and do for our players is to make it as normal as possible."
Oregon State (10-1), the BCS's No. 6 team, received positive reaction from coach Dennis Erickson's decision to open his team's practices to the public, but fan attendance has been light.
Davie plans to treat the rest of the week as a normal game week, with a light practice Tuesday, corresponding to the Sunday off that Irish players usually receive.