PULLMAN – If, as the old saying goes, dynamite comes in small packages, then Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers is nitroglycerine.
The 5-foot-7, 191-pound junior is not the biggest back on the West Coast and he may not lead the Pac-10 Conference in rushing this season – his 800 yards in eight games puts him second to Oregon’s LaMichael James – but he is the spark that ignites the Beavers’ offense.
“He’s so valuable to that team,” Washington State coach Paul Wulff said this week. “That’s why I think he’s the most valuable player … in this league.”
Wulff’s Cougars (1-9 overall, 0-7 and losers of 16 consecutive Pac-10 games) will try to contain the Texas native Saturday afternoon in Reser Stadium because, how goes Rodgers, so goes Oregon State.
In the four games Quizz, as he’s known, has been held to less than 100 yards, the Beavers are 1-3.
The four times he’s exceeded the century mark, they are 3-1, with the only loss coming in Washington, when quarterback Ryan Katz tossed three interceptions, 75 percent of OSU’s turnovers this season.
Which makes last week’s 17-14 loss at UCLA even more inexplicable, in that Rodgers rushed just 14 times – a season-low – for 63 yards.
“He means a tremendous amount to that football team,” Wulff said. “Obviously, the running game, but it’s also what they get out of the passing game because everybody has to respect what he could potentially do in the running game.”
Rodgers, who has 3,493 career rushing yards, just 26 yards behind WSU great Reuben Mayes for 12th all-time in the conference, is also a big part of that passing game, with 131 catches for 930 yards in his career and 2-for-2 passing for two touchdowns.
In last year’s 42-10 OSU win in Pullman, Rodgers was nearly unstoppable, rushing for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
That was part of an 8-5, Las Vegas Bowl season, the fourth consecutive year OSU has gone bowling. But, after the loss last week, the Beavers must win two of their last four – USC, Stanford and Oregon remain – to earn a fifth consecutive bid.
“I know they feel they are in a position where they’ve got to win, at a minimum, two or three of their games to get to a bowl, so I don’t think they will hold anything back,” Wulff said. “I’m sure they won’t.”
Which may mean a lot of the explosive Quizz.
“I would venture to think we’ll see a lot of him this week,” Wulff said. “When they get the ball into his hands, they do better.
“If he’s got to carry it 30 times for them to win the game, then I betcha he’ll carry it 30 times.”