Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- No. 15 BYU is returning to familiar territory in the Las Vegas Bowl, but coach Bronco Mendenhall says his players are happy with the trip this time around because of their opponent, No. 16 Oregon State.
Mendenhall said Thursday that his Cougars believe the matchup elevates the status of the bowl his team has been a part of for five straight years.
"No question, they're anxious to play," Mendenhall said. "That just comes with the chance to prove and improve our program."
Mendenhall said at a welcoming reception for the teams on the Las Vegas Strip that he thinks the profile of the Las Vegas Bowl has risen the past few years along with his team's visibility. This year, the BYU-Oregon State matchup is the bowl's first of two Top 25 opponents in its 18-year history.
BYU (10-2) was upset 31-21 by Arizona at Sam Boyd Stadium last year, ending a season BYU hoped it would reach a more prestigious bowl.
Tight end Dennis Pitta said his team has a different attitude this year.
"If you can't get up for a game like this you probably shouldn't be playing," he said. "Our mindset going into that (Arizona) game wasn't right."
Oregon State (8-4) is shaking off its own disappointment after losing to rival Oregon with a Rose Bowl berth at stake. It was the first time a win in the rivalry game directly meant a trip to Pasadena.
The Las Vegas Bowl is Dec. 22, and Beavers coach Mike Riley said he doesn't think lingering feeling will distract his team from BYU. The Beavers have won five straight bowl games.
"People are worried about a hangover of that game, but I'm not worried," said Riley, whose Beavers last played in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2003.
"Wins or loses never leave you, they become part of your experience," he said. "That's all part of growing up."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)