A lot of football firsts will be in the offing when Stanford takes on Oklahoma State in the annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl next Monday in Glendale, Ariz.
For Cardinal head coach David Shaw, the game marks his first bowl as a head coach. The contest is also Stanford's first appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. The matchup between the Cardinal and Cowboys also will be their first head-to-head meeting ever.
"We are really excited to be here," said Shaw, upon arriving at Sky Harbor Airport on Monday. "The Tostitos people have been phenomenal with all the preparation and getting ready for us to come down here. We are so excited to be here at the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
"There's a lot of work to be done this week, as our players know, but at the same time we want to enjoy this process. There's been a lot of hard work by our players, staff and administrators for us to be here. We are going to take advantage of this situation, enjoy the entire week and enjoy all that you guys have to offer and hopefully give you one heck of a game in a week."
Nationally No. 4-ranked Stanford (11-1) will have an opportunity to event its all-time bowl record when it takes on No. 3 Oklahoma State (11-1) on ESPN at 5:30 p.m. The Cardinal is 10-11-1, having gone 4-6 in its past 10 bowl games.
"I know a lot of our alumni were very excited about being a little closer to home," Shaw said of playing in Arizona. "The best thing about it is last year they traveled across the country (to Miami). Our fans are excited. This team has had an outstanding year and we've had a lot of support and hopefully we will have a lot of support at the stadium and it sounds like we will."
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy echoes those sentiments.
"On behalf of Oklahoma State University, our coaching staff, our players, our fans and everybody involved, we want to say thank you for the opportunity to be in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. I want to congratulate Stanford and Coach Shaw for their accomplishment and their great season.
"It's great to see the yellow (Fiesta Bowl) coats. They are so familiar across the country and when we were out here before. We are so excited about being here. I don't know if there is a better bowl location in the country. The weather is beautiful and we are looking forward to a great week, all the festivities and being around the people in this community. We know how special it was when we were out here before. We are very, very excited and we appreciate all the hospitality."
On how practice went over the past week, Gundy said:
"We had really good practices. When you win and have as much success as we have, win the conference championship and finish in a big game, the players were excited. We gave them a couple of weeks off and they came back and practiced very well. We let them go home on the 23rd and spend some time with their families, so the majority of them will meet us out here at the hotel later on today. A very good attitude, excited about practice. We've had longer practices than we would have had during the season because we gave them a few weeks off and wanted to get them back into it. We were able to condition them some. I thought it went very well and the players finished strong before we let them go home."
On what it means to take his alma mater to the Fiesta Bowl?
"Personally I am excited for the Oklahoma State family. I have been involved with Oklahoma State football for almost 25 years, off and on, obviously growing up in a suburb of Oklahoma City and then playing there and graduating there. My wife is a graduate of Oklahoma State. It means a lot for us to have success for all the Oklahoma State people. Oklahoma State is a special place. On game day we put 60,000 people in our stadium and the majority of them are second- and third-generation graduates, their sons, their grandsons, their great grandchildren have gone to school there. Because of that, I am very excited about what we have been able to accomplish."
Gundy said facing Stanford's high-powered offense will be a challenge.
"I think that this is the best football team that we've played," he said. "They are very good and we are all aware of what Andrew Luck brings to the table and their offense. I mentioned this early after we heard who our opponent would be in the bowl game, but their defense is very good. Statistically they are 25th in the country, they are in the Top 10 in sack opportunities, they force a lot of negative yard plays. They play very intelligent. I think they are very well-coached and are always in the right place at the right team on defense.
"Offensively, they are going to run the ball. They like to run downhill, they're going to play with the tight ends and fullbacks. They're going to run power, they're going to run counter, they run play-pass. Andrew does a great job of getting the ball in the flat to his fullbacks and dropping the ball off to underneath coverage. He's obviously very efficient.
"There's a number of their players who are really good players that don't get as much notoriety because of Luck. It's the same thing that we have with our team. We have several players on both sides of the ball that people across the country don't know about because of (QB Brandon) Weeden and (WR Justin) Blackmon. They are a very good football team and they won 11 games last year and they won 11 games this year. You don't win 22 games in two years without being a pretty good football team."
And Stanford has won 23.