As scheduled, the charter aircraft carrying a smaller contingent of the No. 10 Oregon Ducks landed in San Antonio on Wednesday afternoon.
Just after 4 pm, coaches, staff, family members and those players who didn’t travel home for the Christmas holiday deplaned at the San Antonio International Airport and boarded their four buses to the team hotel located on the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio.
For those players who took advantage of the holiday and traveled home, they arrived into the home city of the Valero Alamo Bowl on scattered flights throughout the morning and afternoon.
Officially though, a throng of media, fans, Alamo Bowl staff and a mariachi band greeted the Ducks when their private motor coaches arrived into the breezeway of the downtown Marriott Riverwalk about an hour after the team landed.
” This is a great city,… a great area” said Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich when he spoke briefly with the media after getting off the team bus.
“I’ve actually got some relatives in the area as well. It’s going to be fun for everybody, but it will be a lot more fun if we win the game.”
After the arrival ceremony and fanfare however, Helfrich and his staff went to work immediately holding a team meeting and brief workout to begin to dust off some of the rust that may have accumulated over the short holiday break.
The primary message at the team meeting?
The Ducks are in San Antonio to play a football game and not vacation.
“We’re going to try to ingrain that in their mind right off the bat, that we’re here to win a football game,” Helfrich said.
“We’re not here to participate in this great bowl experience — which is a great bowl experience. We want to win the game.”
Of course, that same sentiment was also discussed by Oregon center Hroniss Grasu and safety Brian Jackson in the first media session of the week shortly after the team arrived.
“Well you can nitpick reasons for motivation on anything” said Jackson when asked if their might be a slight lack of excitement to play in a lower tier bowl.
“You can say that our motivation to win is that it is our coach’s first season. You can go that route if you want to talk coaches. I think it will come down to who comes in ready to play, who comes in more prepared and who really thinks more of this football game. This is a lot of people’s last football game. I think it boils down to what is going to happen between the lines. It’s all about the X’s and O’s.”
Even though the ( 10-2 ) Ducks find themselves outside of the BCS, they’re constantly reminded by Helfrich there’s still a lot to play for, and facing a talented Longhorn team is certainly going to be a challenge.
“Our guys are excited to play,” explained Helfrich.
“I think if there were any evidence ( to the contrary ) it would have shown up already in our preparation. … We want to finish right,… they want to finish right,… there’s the added motivation with coach Brown retiring and that will add a little juice of motivation but our guys will be excited to play.”
And the fact Texas is as talented as they are and was one game away from winning the Big 12 Conference title, that wasn’t lost on Jackson as he assessed the Longhorns.
“They are a talented team” explained Jackson.
“They struggled early on but they got everything together. You can tell when this team starts to click. They are a physical team and they play hard. These guys have a passion for the sport of football. I think that’s great because it matches well with us. We all love the sport of football. Oregon vs. Texas…it’s going to be a great college football game.”
For both Grasu and Jackson, they’ve have enjoyed the bowl experience every season of their Oregon careers.
With that experience comes valuable wisdom for the younger players who’ve yet to participate in the bowl environment.
When asked about his guidance for the younger guys, Grasu spoke like the seasoned veteran he is.
“Just stay focused” said Grasu.
“When I was a young guy I had Jordan Holmes take me under his wing and I followed him everywhere. I tell the young guys to pick the guy they look up to and stick to him. Don’t walk around by yourself. Stick with older guys you look up to.”
As for the schedule in the coming days, it’s not all business. The Ducks will visit Sea World on Friday and have the opportunity to swim with Beluga Whales and interact with a Walrus.
Before that however, the Ducks will practice each of the next four days at a local high school before taking the Alamo Dome field next Monday.
On Thursday, the media will be allowed briefly into Oregon’s morning practice to shoot video of the team warming up and working through drills.
After that 20 minute ( bowl mandated ) media session, the Ducks will go back to their normal closed practice session to continue working on their game plan.
ODFN will have a video report from Thursday’s practice, as well as a report from inside of the Alamo Dome where Alamo Bowl staff will be putting the finishing touches on the field.
ALAMO BOWL SCHEDULE – THURSDAY DECEMBER 26th
10:00 a.m. – Oregon pre-practice media availability for photographers
for first 10 minutes at Alamo Heights High School (6900 Broadway, San
Antonio Texas, 78209)
Noon – 3:00 p.m: Media Headquarters/Credential Pick-up (Marriott
Riverwalk, Second Floor, Bonham Room)
1:00 p.m. – Select Oregon team members visit to the Center for the
Intrepid. There will be no media availability at this event.
No practice availability for Texas scheduled.
1:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Field painting of team names in the end zones
and installation of Valero Alamo Bowl signage in the Alamodome.