Beavers, Cougars ready for Vegas matchup
Oregon State coach Mike Riley's message to his players has been straight forward: The Beavers can't let the disappointment of the recent past creep into the Las Vegas Bowl.
Oregon State was one win away from playing in the Rose Bowl, but lost to rival Oregon in a Civil War game that decided the Pac-10 title. Now the Ducks are headed to Pasadena on New Year's Day.
"You can be defeated by your last loss. The same team can beat you twice based on your attitude. It almost becomes like a built-in excuse," Riley said. "Like I told the team: We do not make excuses at Oregon State. So if we don't win this game it won't be about that, it will be about that game, that day.
"Basically, there's no room for babies here. This is a men's game and you've got to step up and do what you have done, every game, all year."
The No. 16 Beavers (8-4) will play No. 15 BYU (10-2) at Sam Boyd Stadium on Dec. 22. It is the Oregon State's fourth consecutive bowl appearance, a school record.
The Cougars are playing in the Las Vegas Bowl for the fifth straight year. Last year BYU lost 31-21 to Arizona.
It will be the first time that two ranked teams have played in the bowl game, which is sponsored by Maaco.
It also will be the first postseason meeting between the Cougars and Beavers, who have played eight times in the regular season. The Beavers lead the series 5-3 lead.
Oregon State beat BYU 10-7 the last time the two teams met in 1986, when current coach Bronco Mendenhall was a starting safety and made four tackles against the Cougars.
Mendenhall was a graduate assistant at Oregon State in 1989, then returned as defensive line coach in 1995 and defensive coordinator in 1996. Riley joked that he should have grabbed Mendenhall for his own staff.
"I actually had a mini interview with him and obviously made a big mistake in not hiring him," Riley said. "He is at, what I look at now, the perfect place; a great fit, and has a program and has basically established the values in his program that he wants and then you see the results of that success."
Besides Mendenhall, the Cougars were sort of a mystery to the Beavers earlier this week before they started game-planning.
"I haven't looked at their roster, but I know that the team is one of the oldest teams in the nation," running back Jacquizz Rodgers said. "As a team I know that they play physical and put forth a good effort. I know they're going to come out and play their hardest."
Max Hall has 31 career victories, the most ever for a BYU quarterback in school history. Tight end Dennis Pitta, Hall's brother-in-law, has 57 receptions for 784 yards and seven touchdowns.
Harvey Unga, BYU's best career rusher with 3,384 yards, ran for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
The Cougars finished second in the Mountain West Conference to unbeaten TCU. The team's only losses were to TCU and Florida State.
The Beavers, who finished in a three-way tie with Arizona and Stanford behind Oregon in the Pac-10, are led by the Rodgers brothers, sophomore Jacquizz and his older brother James.
Jacquizz, or Quizz, as he is known, ran for 1,377 yards and a school-record 20 TDs. He was ninth in the nation with 119.36 rushing yards a game. Quizz also caught a touchdown pass and threw another.
James Rodgers led Oregon State with 87 receptions, 1,007 yards and nine TDs this season.
Quarterback Sean Canfield led the conference with 3,103 passing yards, throwing for 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions.
Just as the Cougars were somewhat unfamiliar to the Beavers, the opposite was also true.
"I think it makes it more fun. There is certainly a level of uncertainty in what their personnel is like, how it will match up against our personnel. We know their coaches and we know how well they have done and how well their team will be prepared," Mendenhall said. "Any time you play a team with no history in recent years, there is a little bit more of an edge that comes to the game, and a little bit more uncertainty."
The Cougars haven't defeated the Beavers since 1978, when they won 10-6 in Corvallis.
Oregon State is on a five-game postseason win streak that started with a victory over New Mexico in the 2003 Las Vegas Bowl.