Florida, Oregon State players here for football, fun
Head coaches Billy Napier and Jonathan Smith, and player representatives from Florida and No. 17 Oregon State, were on hand Tuesday for the Las Vegas Bowl’s first press conference.
Somewhat surprisingly, this isn’t Florida defensive lineman Gervon Dexter Sr.’s first trip to Las Vegas. Originally hailing from Lake Wales, Florida, he first visited the city for a basketball tournament as an eighth grader.
Dexter can still recall experiencing the city, though he was too young to take full advantage of his time in Las Vegas.
“I’d never seen a cactus before. I’d never seen that before,” Dexter said. “That was my first time getting to see a mountain.”
Players and coaches representing Florida and Oregon State, ranked No. 17 in the AP poll, gathered at The Parlor in Virgin Hotels Las Vegas Tuesday for the 2022 Las Vegas Bowl’s introductory press conference.
Dexter, wide receiver Ricky Pearsall and coach Billy Napier represented the Gators, while linebacker Omar Speights, offensive lineman Brandon Kipper and coach Jonathan Smith attended for the Beavers.
“Bowl games are rewarding, and certainly a bowl game in Vegas is rewarding,” Napier said. “I’m excited for our players. I think it’s important that, when it’s time to work we do the work the right way, and then obviously we get an opportunity to enjoy Las Vegas so we’re going to do that as well.”
Saturday is going to be a historic meeting between Oregon State and Florida. Theprograms have never played each other, and the Gators (6-6) will become the first Southeastern Conference team to appear in the Las Vegas Bowl since Arkansas in 2000.
It’s also the only scheduled bowl game between the SEC and the Pac-12 this season.
While Dexter has actually traveled to Las Vegas before, Napier doesn’t expect many of his players to have been this far west. The Gators won’t be the only team adjusting to new surroundings.
Despite Corvallis, Oregon, being around 1,292 miles closer to Las Vegas than Gainesville, Florida, Kipper and Speights both said this is their first trip to the city.
The Beavers (9-3) have been in Las Vegas since late Monday. Speights and Kipper both said they were most looking forward to eating some good food.
Speights, the junior linebacker, said he’d saved a few recommendations he’d seen on TikTok to try, while Kipper, a fifth-year offensive lineman from Caldwell, Idaho, had already found a Mexican restaurant he highly recommended.
However, what the duo is most looking forward to is the chance to play at Allegiant Stadium. Oregon State played at the newly-constructed SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles during the 2021 LA Bowl against Mountain West opponents Utah State, but are extremely excited to play at the Raiders’ home Saturday, something Smith reiterated.
“It’s a big-time place, an NFL stadium that’s very new,” Smith said. “I know our guys are looking forward to that, and the opponent, too. In a big-time facility, to play a big-time opponent, our guys are fired up.”
Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.