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Oregon State players are eager to play in front of nearly 8,000 more fans at revamped Reser Stadium

The dark ages for Oregon State football are a thing of the past.

Finally.

The Beavers, who have made steady progress with their on-field product and with training facilities adjacent to the stadium they play in, will soon unveil the : expanded Reser Stadium, a beautification project that appears to have surpassed expectations.

Mike Hass, OSU's all-star receiver who was in the fold well before talk of updating the 52-year-old arena was broached, can't wait for the Sept. — home opener against Portland State.

It's going to be like playing in a road stadium, but with everyone on your side, he said as OSU began practice this week. It's going to be different, but I'm definitely looking forward to it. You have 7,000 more people rooting for you. There's no way you can't be excited about that.

— Teammate Yvenson Bernard was asked his thoughts about the impressive upgrade, an &

36;80 million undertaking that expands seating from 35,362 to about 43,000.

Dang, he said, this is beautiful. I can't wait to see everybody up in the stands and get that first win on this field. It's going to be great.

The new double-decker grandstand on the east side of the stadium features 200 loge seats, 3,600 club seats and 20 luxury suites. Spacious concourses house modern restrooms and concessions, and escalators and elevators will carry fans to and from their seating areas.

Among the best parts is the student section, which remains at field level. Some 3,500 students can gather on bleachers, end line to end line, and stand and cheer without obstructing view.

Coach Mike Riley, who was raised in Corvallis and played high school football on the site, when it was known as Parker Stadium, can appreciate the refinished luster more than most.

This is one of the biggest things that has happened here, he said. And, it's the result of what I think, over the last eight years, is one of the great stories in college football, the revival of this program.

Expectations have climbed for a team that has gone to bowl games five of the past six years and enters each season believing it can contend for the Pac-10 Conference championship.

The stadium is an indicator of all that, said Riley. That wouldn't have happened if there hadn't been something going on here for a while.

A YEAR AGO, Oregon State was preparing to play at third-ranked LSU to open the season.

Portland State, which visits the Beavers Sept. — to kick off this season, doesn't quite stack up, but OSU coaches and players say they aren't having trouble focusing on the NCAA Division I-AA Vikings.

Backup quarterback Ryan Gunderson, who prepped at Central Catholic in Portland, is eager to face them.

A lot of the guys, especially from Oregon, have played against a lot of these guys and have a lot of buddies on that team, he said.

The Beavers have 23 Oregonians on their roster, the Vikings 39.

A lot of the guys, I've worked out with, thrown to, gone to camps with, he said, so there's a lot of emphasis on going out and seeing them in a game situation and being able to play against them again.

Mike Riley, the OSU coach, downplayed the disparity in talent level between this year's opening foe and last season's.

Regardless of the opponent, he said, fall camp is about the season. We will run as many plays in fall camp as we do the entire season. I mean, that to me is a phenomenal stat. We have to be very productive in camp establishing our own identity, then you draw from that all year.

The Beavers won't game plan for the Vikings for a couple of weeks, he said.

OSU WAS HIT hard by graduation and defection in the secondary, leaving strong safety Sabby Piscitelli as the lone returner.

That area was the Beavers' strong suit last season, but the two cornerbacks, Aric Williams and Brandon Browner, graduated and entered the NFL draft, respectively, and school career interception leader Mitch Meeuwsen, the free safety, graduated.

The leading cornerbacks now are redshirt freshman Keenan Lewis and sophomore Gerard Lawson, and the other safety is sophomore Lamar Herron.

When asked if he could fully trust the newcomers to fulfill their assignments, the 6-foot-3, 224-pound Piscitelli didn't balk.

Plays, coverage, it's going to have to improve, the junior said. Through camp, I think that's something we have to work on. Trust is a big thing in the secondary. I need to trust the corners that they're going to hear me adjust the coverages to other formations. We need to emphasize building trust within each other.

They won't have much of a grace period. After the opener against Portland State, OSU faces Boise State and Louisville, who finished second and first in the nation in scoring last season, respectively.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail Home, sweet home"ttrower@mailtribune.com.

The double-decker grandstand on the east side of Reser Stadium, shown in this recent photo, is the centerpiece of an $80-million upgrade. Oregon State opens the season in its refurbished arena on Sept. 3 against Portland State.