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December 21, 2014

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MAACO Bowl Las Vegas:

Motivation runs high for both BYU and Oregon State

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Steve Marcus

Oregon State head coach Mike Riley speaks to the team at the end of practice at UNLV Sunday, December 20, 2009. The Beavers take on BYU Cougars in the Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium Tuesday.

Las Vegas Bowl Presser

Initial thoughts on the selection of BYU and Oregon State to play in this year's Maaco Bowl Las Vegas from the programs' head coaches and players.

Oregon State Practice

Oregon State linemen practice at UNLV Sunday, December 20, 2009. The Beavers take on BYU Cougars in the Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium Tuesday. Launch slideshow »

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For BYU, tonight's MAACO Las Vegas Bowl is a chance to gain more national prominence and prove last year's loss in the same bowl was a fluke.

For Oregon State, it's an opportunity to make amends for its devastating regular season-ending defeat to rival Oregon.

Both the Cougars and the Beavers feel like they still have much to prove heading into tonight's 5 p.m. game Sam Boyd Stadium.

"It's a really important game to define the identity of this 2009 team," Oregon State senior linebacker Keaton Kristick said. "This is our last opportunity together and we've got to make the most of it."

No. 16 Oregon State (8-4) will have to do it against a tough opponent in No. 15 BYU (10-2). It's the first time in the 18-year history of the Las Vegas Bowl that both teams are ranked.

Both teams enter with a bad taste in their mouths. The Beavers were one game away from winning the Pac-10 Conference and advancing to the Rose Bowl, but lost to the Oregon Ducks, 37-33, in their regular-season finale.

"There's no room for babies in this deal," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "We lost a game, and now we've got to win the next one."

BYU's motivation is a bit more complex. The Cougars, who are in the Las Vegas Bowl for the fifth straight year, came into last year's game against Arizona with a lack of excitement and lost, 31-21.

But BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and his players said they learned from last year's disappointment. This time around, the Cougars are excited to be in Las Vegas.

"Quite bluntly: I'm not sure I could say that a year ago," Mendenhall said. "I preached to our team last year — and incorrectly on my part as a young naïve head coach after being 11-2 two years in a row without losing a conference game — that it was undefeated or bust. That was a mistake."

The Cougars have already clinched their fourth-straight 10-win season. With that kind of success, BYU players say they feel slighted when the program isn't considered a national powerhouse.

"I think we're trying to continually get traction and ground in moving toward national prominence and gaining the recognition we feel our team is worthy of," BYU senior linebacker Matt Bauman said.

Senior quarterbacks with storied careers will be appearing in their final game for both teams. Oregon State's Sean Canfield earned first-team All Pac-10 honors this season after passing for more than 3,000 yards.

BYU's Max Hall is the school's all-time leader in wins with 31.

"We want to win this game obviously for the seniors, who want to end on the right foot," BYU senior tight end Dennis Pitta said. "But also for the future of this program in getting momentum and gaining more respect."

While BYU will be fighting for national notoriety, Oregon State just wants to forget about its last game.

"The stakes were so high and we were very disappointed for a few days after the game," Canfield said. "But with that said, we've moved on and we're more than excited to play a great opponent like BYU."

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