Dallas Colleges: Jacquizz Rodgers
VALERO ALAMO BOWL
Texas (8-4) vs. Oregon State (9-3)
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
When: Saturday, Dec. 29, 6:45 p.m. ET
About Texas: No team in the Big 12 has been on a wilder ride this season than Texas. The Longhorns looked like they were back with a 4-0 start and hanging around the top 10. Then came a two-game losing streak capped by a beatdown in Red River. Everybody gave up on the Horns and more than a few fans were ready to be rid of Mack Brown. Then Texas won four consecutive games and revived its BCS and Big 12 title hopes. Then it got solidly beaten on its home field and nobody believed in Texas anymore. This wasn't the 10-win season or BCS bid Texas hoped for when the year began, but this team is built to win big next year if it gets more consistent play at quarterback. Can it start with a bowl win against a top-15 opponent?
About Oregon State: The Beavers feel Texas' pain when it comes to quarterback issues. A midseason injury sent Sean Mannion to the bench, but even when he returned, a four-interception outing against Washington had OSU turning back to Cody Vaz. The loss to Stanford, though, opened the door back for Mannion, who took back the starting spot after an ankle injury to Vaz and kept the job through a rout of Nicholls State in the season finale, rescheduled from earlier in the season. OSU began the season 6-0 and ascended to No. 7 in the polls, but the Beavers were brought back to earth with three losses in their final six games.
Longhorns to watch: Texas' defense was disappointing, but showed promise at times late in the season. When you're not watching the theatrics between Case McCoy and David Ash, keep an eye on defensive end Alex Okafor and safety Kenny Vaccaro. Vaccaro can lower the boom on anybody, and Okafor's remained productive, despite losing his partner in crime, Jackson Jeffcoat, for the season with a pectoral injury. Johnathan Gray led the Longhorns in rushing this season, but fellow backs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron should both be back healthy.
Beavers to watch: No, Jacquizz Rodgers is not still there. The spectacularly named running back Storm Woods is, though. The freshman rushed for more than 800 yards, but the biggest threat Texas will have to stop is receiver Markus Wheaton. Despite the revolving door of injuries and benchings at QB, he racked up 1,207 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Only USC's Marqise Lee, the Biletnikoff Award winner, had more of either this season in the Pac-12.
Did you know? Oregon State's only played a Big 12 team in a bowl game once, but it was a memorable one for the Corvallis Woodchuckers, and one the Big 12 would like to forget. Missouri held a two-touchdown lead with just over six minutes to go, but Oregon State rallied and appeared to tie the game in the final seconds. However, coach Mike Riley went for two and the win, and the Beavers got it to take home the Sun Bowl trophy back in 2006.
But, neither of those outfits compare with the downhill rushing attack of the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers-- tied with TCU as the fourth-highest scoring offense in the land (43.3) -- will bring to the 97th Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. This will be Patterson's greatest challenge of his career.
The Wisconsin offensive line far outweighs TCU's excellent defensive line, and a trio of running backs -- James White, John Clay and Montee Ball -- have at least 800 yards each, combining for nearly 3,000 yards and 44 touchdowns.
"You know what they’re going to do and they do a great job of running the football; they do a great of play-action," Patterson said. "They’re not one of those teams that are going to try to fool you. They come after you and say, 'Are you better than us?' And, for us we’ve got to go out and get ready to play and we’re going to have to tackle and tackle some more and tackle some more, and get ready to go."
The TCU defense, statistically No. 1 in total defense for a record third consecutive season, has been particularly stingy against the run this season, ranking third in the nation, surrendering less than 90 yards a game. The Frogs haven't allowed a team to rush for 100 yards since Oct. 23 and only the option attack of Air Force (184 rushing yards) and SMU (190) have topped 100 yards on the ground all season.
However, No offense the Frogs have faced, not Oregon State with Jacquizz Rodgers, not Air Force and not San Diego State with Mountain West Conference leading rusher Ronnie Hillman can compare to what Patterson's defense will see from the big, bad Badgers, the nation's 12th-ranked rushing offense.
"I don't know if we've played anybody specifically just like Wisconsin where they just keep coming at you with the power running game and then they try to stretch you on the edge," Patterson said. "It will be a great challenge for us because you find out as a football team what is the highest level you can play at, and that's why you play in the Rose Bowl. "
There is interesting film for Patterson to study, which he said he started breaking down last week. In its three games against Top 25 opponents, all within Big Ten play -- wins over Ohio State (31-18) and Iowa (31-30), and a loss to Michigan State (34-24) -- Wisconsin has rushed for an average of 163.7 yards, well below its season average of 247.3 yards.
"Obviously they come downhill and they come at you all day long," Patterson said. "As a football team, the best way to keep them off is for us to do well on offense. That’s one of the ways that you stop them. We have to tackle well. It’s one of the reasons why two weeks ago once we got done with the season, we got back in the weight room. We got back to running, getting ourselves back into beginning-of-the-season shape and getting our shoulders and our legs stronger.
"Good tackling teams tackle because you’re healthy and we’re going to need to be a healthy football team going into that ballgame."
Wesley is one of just two sophomores on the list, joining Oregon's LaMichael James.
Wesley tops TCU with 988 yards rushing. He needs 12 yards to become the third-ranked Horned Frogs’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Robert Merrill (1,107) in 2003. Wesley is averaging 6.6 yards per carry with a team-high 11 touchdowns, finding the end zone in eight of third-ranked TCU's 10 games.
An Irving, Texas, native, Wesley is on pace for 1,284 yards. It would mark TCU's highest single-season rushing total since LaDainian Tomlinson won the 2000 Doak Walker Award with a nation’s best 2,158 yards.
Here are the other nine semifinalists:
John Clay, Wisconsin
Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
Mark Ingram, Alabama
LaMichael James, Oregon
DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma
Bilal Powell, Louisville
Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State
Vai Taua, Nevada
Daniel Thomas, Kansas State
These days, the Horned Frogs simply re-load.
After three games, TCU is ranked No. 4 in the nation in total defense, allowing 222.7 yards a game. They've yet to give up 200 yards passing in a game or 100 yards rushing.
"Their defense is the best defense I've looked at in 10 years I've been in college football," said SMU coach June Jones, whose Mustangs take on the fourth-ranked Frogs Friday night at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. "They know what they’re doing. They’re well-coached, they know their schemes, they know how to play football. They play fast and do they do what they do, like all great teams do, and make you adjust."
Jones called this season's unit better than last year's that led the nation in total defense (239.7 ypg).
They limited pro-style Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz to 159 yards passing and dangerous tailback Jacquizz Rodgers to 75 yards on 18 carries. Elusive Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III was held to 164 yards passing and 21 yards rushing on 14 carries.
About the only thing the Frogs defense hasn't done much of yet is make picks. They have just one, from junior cornerback Jason Teague, on 70 pass attempts.
They'll get plenty of opportunities to make plays Friday night against Jones' spread offense led by impressive sophomore quarterback Kyle Padron. The Mustangs are averaging 35.3 pass attempts and a less-than-expected 224.0 yards a game through the air. Padron has thrown three interceptions. Surprisingly, they've been quite effective running the ball, averaging 165.3 yards a game. Sophomore Zach Line is averaging 7.7 yards a carry and 92.0 yards a game.
Jones knows his still-evolving offense has its hands full against the fast and physically imposing Frogs defense.
"That's a statement they make every game they go play. They play very physical and they play hard," Jones said. "That’s what they’re going to try to do against us or they’re going to try to do it against Ohio State."
Gary Patterson got the perfect motivational material last weekend when little ole Jacksonville State went into Oxford and beat Ole Miss. Jacksonville State hails from the Ohio Valley Conference, the same league that will send Tennessee Tech to Fort Worth on Saturday to face No. 4 TCU.
"We're trying to make sure we're not one of the people they're talking about in upsets," Patterson said. "I told them in the Sunday meeting that we didn't need to be the next Ole Miss."
It would make for the ultimate let-down after TCU defeated then-No. 24 Oregon State in a nationally televised game at Cowboys Stadium to put the highly anticipated season-opener behind them with an important 'W.'
"I'll be honest with you, I'm concerned about this ballgame," Patterson said. "Historically here, we have not played our best football the second game of the season, especially when it's at home. We got beat by Northwest Louisiana, which was our first home game back in my first year here. If you think that I'm taking any of these games; and if you want to know about memories, I still remember how I felt about that one. I thought I was going to be cleaning my office out that Sunday."
Last year, Texas State came to Amon G. Carter Stadium and put up 21 points in a loss, but it was the most points scored on the Frogs until Utah scored 28 in a late-season loss to TCU.
Patterson has additional motivation as well. His coaching career got started at Tennessee Tech, back in the mid-1980s with another coach named Dennis Franchione under head coach Gary Darnell.
And then there's the story of Tennessee Tech junior running back Jocques Crawford.
"He committed here. He de-committed, then went to KU [Kansas], now he's there," Patterson said. "They keep saying he's a junior. I don't know how he's a junior. He played two years of junior college at Cisco, then he played at Kansas. It's something I'll ask a question about since he left us without a running back. Most things I leave alone."
The Tennessee Tech website does list Crawford as a junior, but also says he has one year of eligibility remaining.
Whatever the case, the TCU defense, which allowed 73 total rushing yards in the opener, will be prepared for Crawford after limiting Oregon State star Jacquizz Rodgers to 75 yards on 18 carries. Crawford will try to become just the 21st running back in what will be Patterson's 115th game as head coach to gain 100 yards on the Frogs.
Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers and TCU quarterback Andy Dalton are both hoping to contend for the Heisman trophy this year, and both Texas-bred standouts will have to overcome a major obstacle in the Cowboys Classic on Sept. 4.
For Rodgers, it's TCU's rangy linebacking corps. For Dalton, it's disruptive Beavers' defensive tackle Stephen Paea. But the veterans will be ready for whatever according to their coaches.
"Young quarterbacks ask people to do things, and old quarterbacks demand people do things," Patterson said. "Finally we've gotten to the point in the last two years that [Dalton] demands."
Meanwhile, Riley said Rodgers, who was born in Richmond, Texas, near Houston was proud of his Texan background and excited for a homecoming.
"It is an important game, in a lot of ways," Riley said. "But as far as what [Jacquizz] will do, he'll do the same as he always does, which is get as ready as he can to play."
The coach went on to say Rodgers "takes great pride in what he does."
Jacquizz Rodgers, along with older brother and Beavers receiver James, attended Lamar Consolidated High School. The brothers are the top offensive threats for the Beavers, which will be led by a new quarterback, sophomore Ryan Katz.
Oregon State's young signal caller might have Riley more nervous than usual entering a season-opener. The Beavers coach said "there was nothing like having a quarterback who has been there," like the Horned Frogs' Dalton.
"You're talking about a guy that first of all, has the production and the resume to stand out," Riley said. "He has... leadership quailities, and is also the product of a program that Gary [Patterson] has worked hard at, and I admire the work that he's done."
Patterson said the Katy product's intangibles and how he handles himself off the field set Dalton apart.
"The team comes first [with Dalton,]" said Patterson. "And all the personal accolades will come with winning, and I think he understands that."
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