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Finally, wait is lifted for Beavers, Tigers.

Byline: Bob Rodman The Register-Guard

EL PASO, Texas - Bowl teams always seem to play two games, the waiting one and the real one.

For today's Sun Bowl football bash along the banks of the Rio Grande involving Oregon State and Missouri, the waiting game is over.

It has been 27 days since 24th-ranked OSU finished its regular season with a win at Hawaii to forge a 9-4 record.

The Tigers have been in a preparation mode for almost five weeks - since a win over Kansas on Nov. 25 to complete their regular season at 8-4.

"Seems like it's time to play," understated OSU coach Mike Riley during Thursday's final media gathering before the 73rd Sun Bowl game that is scheduled for a CBS telecast, beginning at 11 a.m. Pacific. The 50,426-seat Sun Bowl Stadium is not expected to be sold out.

The Beavers, favored by a field goal, are in El Paso for the first time, the Tigers for the second but first in 33 years. The two teams have played once, an OSU win in 1956 - when Riley was 3 years old and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel just 4.

The Beavers, shooting for a 10th win in a season for just the second time in their 109-year-old program, have won seven of the last eight games after a 2-3 start that included beatings by Boise State and California.

Missouri is gunning for a ninth win in a season for the fourth time in team history, which seemed like a lock after a 6-0 start (a first since 1973) but landed on unsteady footing after losing four of its last six games.

Riley and Pinkel have the same six-year records - 37-34. Both programs have made three postseason appearances in the last four years but OSU has played in six bowls in the last eight years, Missouri just five since 1983.

Both teams are armed with successful placekickers - OSU's Alexis Serna and Missouri's Jeff Wolfert. Both are walk-ons, Serna looking for a job and Wolfert opting out of being a scholarship diver on the Tiger swim team.

Both kickers are loving the El Paso thin air (elevation 4,000 feet) and can kick the long ball, anyway - Serna with a career-long and OSU-record-tying 58-yarder and Wolfert with a personal best of 54 yards.

Oregon State has a savvy, hardened-by-adversity quarterback in Matt Moore, a senior who weathered a 19-interception season in 2005 and fan disfavor with the team's slow start this year to guide OSU to a third-place finish in the Pac-10 Conference, tied for the Beavers' second-best league standing since 1978.

Chase Daniel is Missouri's strong-armed sophomore quarterback with a school-record 3,197 yards and 26 touchdowns passing. He also ranks No. 2 on the Tigers' rush list with nearly 400 yards.

"If we contain him, we should be OK," OSU defensive tackle Ben Siegert said. "We need to get a lot of hits on him, make him make bad choices."

After weeks of work for a day in the Sun, "we are ready to go against somebody else," said Adam Koets, an offensive left tackle and one of seven starting seniors playing their last game for Oregon State.

"They've got a record-breaking quarterback who can run and pass," OSU junior defensive tackle Curtis Coker said, "but I'm pretty confident we've figured all of that out."

What exactly awaits the Beavers? A prolific Missouri offense that averaged nearly 30 points and 415 yards a game and a stingy Tiger defense that allowed less than 18 points and 309 yards a game.

"Missouri is so versatile on offense," Riley said. "Daniel is a great quarterback who can run. Defensively, that is as sound a football team as I've seen.

"We our going to have to play our best game."

So, it seems, will the Tigers, a Big 12 Conference outfit that was 4-4 in the league's North Division

"We have focused on playing our best and that's what we are going to have to do against Oregon State," Pinkel said.

Defensively, "they put a lot of pressure on the quarterback," said Pinkel, aware of OSU's Pac-10-leading 44 sacks. "On offense, they can control the football, and they run it well with (tailback Yvenson) Bernard."

And usually as Bernard goes, so goes Oregon State. With back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, the junior tailback has fully healed from an ailing ankle and when he ran for 100 or more yards in a game this season, the Beavers were 6-0.

Establishing the run will be "really big for us," Riley said. "We've got to find way to get them out of their pass-rush mode or pass-coverage mode. If they stop our run in that pass-coverage mode, we won't be in very good shape."

Moore, with a nation-best streak of 161 passes thrown without an interception, said OSU "just needs to play its game."

If it comes down to the last second, the edge might go to Oregon State, which won four games this season at or near the end - an interception on the final play to seal a 17-10 victory over Arizona, a two-point conversion pass deflection with seven seconds left to defeat USC 33-31, a blocked field goal with 20 seconds remaing to beat Oregon 30-28 and taking a safety and successfully covering the ensuing kickoff in the final nine seconds to preserve a 35-32 win over Hawaii.

If it comes down to overtime, the Tigers will trot out the facts that they have played the most extra-session games (11) and have the most OT victories (eight) in NCAA history.

Matchup: OSU vs. Missouri When and where: 11 a.m. today at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas TV: CBS Radio: KKNX-AM (840), KNND-AM (1400). In Spanish on KXOR-AM (660)
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Title Annotation:Sports; The Sun Bowl participants hit the field after weeks off
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 29, 2006
Words:960
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