Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Sports NewsMayfield's Mutterings: An Illini basketball primer: Illinois looks to 'rise up' in 2009-2010

Young RBs will highlight War for the Roses

Send a link to a friend

[December 02, 2009]  EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -- Both are young and wily, undersized and underestimated.

Two of the Pac-10's best running backs, Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers and Oregon's LaMichael James, face off on the field for the first time Thursday in the Civil War.

Both the No. 7 Ducks (9-2, 7-1) and the No. 13 Beavers (8-3, 6-2) are vying for a trip to the Rose Bowl and the Pac-10 title in their annual rivalry game.

The winner will face Ohio State in Pasadena on New Year's Day. Oregon has not been to the Rose Bowl since 1995, while the Beavers haven't been since 1965.

If James was excited for the game, he wasn't letting on earlier this week.

"Everything is really relaxed right now," he said. "Not trying to think about the game too much."

James, much like Rodgers last year, was one of the Pac-10's biggest surprises this season. He even surprised the Ducks.


Known as LaMike to his teammates, James was pressed into a more prominent role this season when LeGarrette Blount was suspended. Blount punched Boise State defensive end Byron Hout following Oregon's 19-8 loss to the Broncos in the season opener on Sept. 3.

At first it looked as though the Ducks would be hurt by the loss of Blount, who rushed for 1,002 yards the previous season.

But James broke out in Oregon's third game, a 31-24 victory over then-No. 18 Utah, with 152 yards rushing and a touchdown. He has started ever since.

James has rushed for 1,310 yards, setting a new Pac-10 and school record for a freshman. He surpassed Rodgers, who ran for 1,253 yards last season and was named the league's Player of the Year.

James, who is listed at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, has run for 119.1 yards a game this season, ranking him 10th in the nation and third in the Pac-10, behind Stanford's Toby Gerhart, who has 144.7 yards on average, and Quizz, who has 119.4.

Even LaMike himself didn't foresee his role this season.

"Not this much," he said. "But I felt I would contribute anyway I can, like playing the slot like I was at the beginning of the season, cheering on my teammates, or whatever it takes to win."

Like James, Rodgers has been compared to Barry Sanders.

Rodgers has run for 1,313 total yards and 19 touchdowns this season. He's also caught 67 passes for 436 yards and a score. And he's even thrown a touchdown pass.

Quizz accounts for an average of 159 all-purpose yards per game. His brother, James, leads the Pac-10 with 173.6.

Rodgers is 5-foot-7 and weighs 191 pounds, a fact that had Southern California coach Pete Carroll lamenting last year that his diminutive stature kept him well hidden behind his offensive line.

Like James, Rodgers' size belies his strength -- both have been known to plow through much bigger players into the end zone.

[to top of second column]

But the similarities don't stop there. They are fellow Texans: Quizz was known as Mr. Touchdown at Lamar Consolidated High School, where he had a state record of 136 scores and more than 8,000 yards.

James rushed for 2,043 yards and 26 touchdowns his senior season at Texarkana Liberty-Eylau High School. His junior year, he won a state track title in the 100 meters.

The two are even Facebook friends and have chatted about the "rivalry" between the two of them to be played out on Thursday.

"We talked about how people make me and him into a personal battle," Rodgers told reporters last week. "It's just a love for the game, and helping our teams win that's important."

LaMike, likewise, has nothing but praise for Quizz.

"Personally, I think he's a great, phenomenal player," James said. "I can't take anything from him or say anything negative because I think he's a great player. It's not really a personal battle."

Last season Rodgers missed the Civil War because of a shoulder injury. The Beavers, who had defeated USC earlier in the season, were looking to make the Rose Bowl in that game, too. But the Ducks came to Reser Stadium and romped to a 65-38 victory.

Quizz said he couldn't help but dream about what it would mean to play on New Year's Day.

"Yes, I think about it. But we have to stay focused to beat Oregon," he said. "The Rose Bowl doesn't exist if you don't beat Oregon."

[Associated Press; By ANNE M. PETERSON]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Nursing Homes

< Sports index

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law & Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health & Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor