June Jones and Dennis Erickson coached against each other last season in a meaningless NFL game. They meet again tonight, coaching two of the most surprising teams in college football.
Erickson's Seattle Seahawks beat Jones' San Diego Chargers, 27-20, last season. Erickson tries for another win over Jones in the Oahu Bowl when Oregon State plays Hawaii (8:30 p.m., ESPN).
Don't look to that 1998 meeting -- which preceded Erickson's firing and Jones' resignation -- for clues as to how the Beavers and Rainbow Warriors will fare in the Christmas Day bowl game.
"We're totally different," Erickson said. "He doesn't have Junior Seau and I don't have Joey Galloway."
What they do have are the feel-good stories of the 1999 college season. Under Erickson, Oregon State (7-4) had its first winning season season since 1970, and is making its first bowl appearance since 1965.
Under Jones, Hawaii (8-4) tied the college record for best single-season turnaround after an 0-12 record last season.
The ties between the schools and the coaches run deep.
"I grew up there," said Jones, a Portland native. "I used to take that drive to Corvallis with my dad and watch games and I remember the cars backing up on the two-lane highway to get into the stadium all the way from I-5. I'm excited for the whole state of Oregon."
Both teams run the spread offense, with Hawaii emphasizing the pass in a four-receiver attack averaging 418 yards and 29 points a game. Quarterback Dan Robinson passed for 3,853 yards and 28 touchdowns and Dwight Carter had 77 catches for 1,253 yards.
Oregon State uses a more balanced spread attack featuring Ken Simonton, who rushed for 1,329 yards and 17 touchdowns, and Jonathan Smith, who passed for 2,784 yards and 15 touchdowns. The Beavers average 434 yards and 30 points a game.
"They are both offensive geniuses," said Hawaii defensive coordinator Greg McMackin, who was Erickson's defensive coordinator at Seattle last season.
"As far as the great turnarounds and the great coaching jobs that have been done, it's a reflection of June Jones and Dennis Erickson, what's happened at both universities."
Road to Hawaii not easy
HONOLULU -- Wake Forest and Arizona State made it to the Aloha Bowl the hard way.
Having to win their final regular-season games to gain bowl bids, both did to earn a place in today's game (3:30 p.m., Ch. 7).
For the Demon Deacons (6-5), getting to their first bowl game in seven seasons followed a 26-23 victory over then-No. 14 Georgia Tech.
For the 23 fifth-year seniors on the team, that meant redemption after years of struggle and a rewarding trip for remaining faithful to the program.
"A lot of people take the easy way out and go to big-name schools," defensive back DaLawn Parrish said. "We chose to come here to make a difference."
Arizona State (6-5) had to beat rival Arizona to get the bowl bid, overcoming a poor start that included losses to New Mexico State and California.
"We earned it. We did it the hard way," coach Bruce Snyder said, recalling victories at Washington, and over UCLA, Southern Cal and rival Arizona. "This team has gone through a lot of struggle and stress."
Auburn player caps career
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- A losing record won't stop Auburn senior defensive tackle Jimmy Brumbaugh from ending his career in a bowl game -- today's Blue-Gray Classic (noon, Ch. 7).
His Tigers went 5-6 but Brumbaugh's year was quite a success. Consider:
He returned from a devastating knee injury that sidelined him for over a year and ruined what could have been a promising professional career.
His 18-year-old brother, Jordan, was arrested with Auburn receiver Robert Baker on cocaine trafficking charges. Jordan Brumbaugh was recently released from prison and will be just one of the many family members present for the game. So will Brumbaugh's wife, and their two sons, 7-year-old Nash and 16-month-old Legend.
Legend has recently recovered from pertussis, a condition that hampers breathing and causes extreme wheezing and choking.
"Jimmy is a young man who has had to go through more than anyone should have to," said Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, who will also coach Brumbaugh on the Gray squad. "Still, he was one of our great leaders. He really persevered."