Oregon State, BYU seek redemption in Las Vegas Bowl
LAS VEGAS — No. 15 BYU and No. 16 Oregon State enter the Las Vegas Bowl with a chance to erase disappointing memories, one much more recent than the other.
The Beavers (8-4) were a victory away from the Rose Bowl earlier this month, but a loss to rival Oregon left them relegated to one of the first bowl games of the postseason.
The Cougars (10-2) will make their fifth consecutive the Las Vegas Bowl appearance tonight, hoping they can atone for their last.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley said Monday that players enjoy second chances.
"It starts with pride," Riley said. "When football players start talking about redemption and they talk about the next opportunity, it's because they've invested so much."
Oregon State started the season trying to replace seven players who were drafted off last year's team. Riley said these Beavers created a new identity.
"Players — these older players in particular — understand what an identity of a team is," he said.
A loss to Oregon kept the Beavers out of the BCS, so Oregon State will try to extend its five-game bowl winning streak against BYU.
Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall can sympathize with his opponent's position.
"I understand very clearly what Oregon State's going through," he said.
After finishing their regular season last year with a 48-24 loss at Utah, the Cougars went on to lose 31-21 to Arizona in their fourth straight trip to Sin City.
"That's difficult to get over," he said. "I think I would handle it better if that were to happen again."
Mendenhall says his team takes a better attitude into the Las Vegas Bowl this season. A win against Oregon State could perhaps boost BYU to a top-10 finish.
Mendenhall said the motivation of redemption is universal.
"It's just for people living on this planet," he said. "You go through ups and downs — I don't think anyone's satisfied when you're down to stay down."
Both teams rank in the top-30 in the country in total offense, featuring balanced attacks guided by senior quarterbacks.
For a school that has a tradition of great passers, Max Hall will leave BYU as one of its most prolific passers. Hall ranks third in the country in passer efficiency rating (160.9), with 3,368 yards and 30 touchdown passes.
Oregon State's Sean Canfield has had an outstanding final season with little fanfare. He leads the Pac-10 in passer rating (148.3) and has thrown for 3,103 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Hall's top weapons are tight end Dennis Pitt, a second-team All-American, and tailback Harvey Unga, who ran for 1,016 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Rodgers brothers handle much of the Beavers' offense. Tailback Jacquizz Rodgers was third in the Pac-10 with 1,377 yards rushing. Flanker James Rodgers led the Pac-10 in yards receiving (1,004) and receptions (87).
Expect plenty of points and two teams looking for redemption.
"In this case for Oregon State, and for us a year ago, you would like to have another chance to play better and celebrate and feel good about yourself and your team," Mendenhall said. "When things don't go well, it hurts."