The last time Mike Riley’s Oregon State Beavers visited El Paso, Texas in December, it all came down to a last-second 2-point conversion by running back Yvenson Bernard to pull off a stunning victory against the Missouri Tigers.
How fitting that it may very well come down to a hand-off this New Year’s Eve as well.
The Beavers placed high hopes on the shoulders of true-freshman and Pac-10 sensation Jacquizz Rodgers. A common slow start for Riley’s squad erupted into seven wins in eight games after upsetting then No.1 USC.
Brother James Rodgers, a 185lb. sophomore from Richmond, Texas had hoped to capture the spotlight against then No. 1 USC that evening. Instead, little brother Jacquizz tore through the nation’s top run defense even though he stood at 5’7. Seemingly pulling together a highlight reel with every carry, and tallying 186 yards on 37 carries and two touchdowns, Oregon State’s secret weapon was officially out.
The Trojans’ only loss of the season had the Beavers positioned to capture a Pac-10 title and their first Rose Bowl appearance in over 40 years with a win over in-state rival Oregon. Injured the previous week against Arizona, Rodgers could only watch helplessly from the sideline as the Ducks stunned the Beavers with a 65-38 defeat, holding the Beavers to a meager 89 yards rushing.
Despite missing his final game of conference play, Rodgers put together a Pac-10 freshman rushing record with 1,253 yards and 12 touchdowns, and was unanimously selected as the first freshman Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year in conference history.
The 75th annual Brut Sun Bowl is where Rodgers hopes to gain more ground in the national spotlight against No.23 Pittsburgh. However, the Panthers have a highlight reel of their own in sophomore running back LeSean McCoy.
Pittsburgh’s first nine-win regular season since 1982 can be credited large-in-part to the feet of McCoy, which have covered over 1,400 yards and led to an outstanding 21 touchdowns on the season.
Amassing more than 100 yards in six of his final nine games, McCoy was a unanimous selection for Big East all-conference team. He looks to continue the trend against an Oregon State defense that allowed 385 yards on the ground in its final conference match-up.
Whatever the outcome, fans have no reason to expect anything less than entertaining performances from two sensational power-runners.