Friday, Sept. 11, 2009 | 2:30 a.m.
Ryan Greene and Rob Miech discuss Saturday's showdown between UNLV and Oregon State. Both are coming off of sound victories over FCS foes. The Rebels' biggest challenge will be shutting down OSU sophomore running back Jacquizz Rodgers, while the Beavers are trying to combat a shaky past against non-conference opponents away from home. Plus, the fellas offer up some predictions — Vegas style.
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- Opponent: Oregon State
- Date: Sept. 12, 8 p.m.
- Where: Sam Boyd Stadium
- TV: CBS College Sports
- Radio: ESPN Radio 1100 AM
- The Line: Oregon State by 7
- Series History: UNLV leads 3-1
- Last Meeting: Oct. 14, 2002 — Oregon State won, 47-17
While the UNLV defense looked healthier and faster last Saturday than it did during most of the 2008 season, one nagging problem from last fall's 5-7 campaign still stood out in the game film.
Missed tackles. Lots of 'em.
"It was mainly wrapping up," sophomore safety Chris Jones said. "Everybody was getting to the ball. We've just got to wrap them up and get them on the floor so we can get to the next play. I'm not gonna say it was a good thing that we had that weak point, but I think it'll really help us out for this week."
The Rebels need it to help them in the worst way come Saturday night, when they face off with No. 24 Oregon State at Sam Boyd Stadium. Especially because the Beavers have two shifty skill players who can exploit those fundamental lapses better than just about anyone in the country.
And they happen to be brothers.
Junior receiver James Rodgers and sophomore running back Jacquizz Rodgers have made even the best of defenses pay for overlooking them or not being as sharp as humanly possible.
The best example of this came last fall against Southern Cal.
In the season's fourth week, those who weren't familiar with the shifty pair were introduced in a big way, as the Beavers picked the Trojans apart, 27-21, in Corvallis, Ore. It was one of college football's biggest upsets in 2008.
In that game, Jacquizz rushed for a career-high 186 yards and two scores, while James caught six passes for 36 yards and OSU's other two touchdowns.
"They have national acknowledgment, I guess you could say," UNLV senior linebacker/defensive end Jason Beauchamp said. "I'm sure the whole world was watching that USC game.
"We definitely know about them, we've definitely talked about them, about the Rodgers brothers and what they have to offer. I'm not gonna say we're star struck, but they're definitely nationally recognized, and we recognize them."
The 129 yards on the ground UNLV allowed to Sacramento State weren't necessarily alarming, but the performance definitely warranted attention, considering how many of those yards came after first contact.
In essence, the Hornets actually took control of the game's tempo by running the ball so successfully.
After the Rebels came out firing on their first two offensive possessions, Sacramento State and tailback Terrance Dailey sucked the life out of the crowd and stomped all over UNLV's momentum by running the ball for chunks of yards here and there, controlling the clock and slowing the pace significantly.
It wasn't until UNLV was able to shut down the run game in the late third and early fourth quarter when the defense was able to give its offense something to build off of.
Being able to do that earlier in the game against a nationally-ranked foe means quieting the Rodgers brothers right off the bat.
"As far as the defensive line goes, we've been talking about squeezing off the tackles, because they try to get to the linebackers and the next level, because that makes it easier (for them)," Beauchamp said. "All (Jacquizz) needs is his space, a tiny gap, and he'll do something with it.
"What (defensive line coach Andre Patterson) is stressing is placing guys in your gap. Instead of making a tackle yourself, making it to where he has one option and one option only. Just closing things off, making it easier for linebackers to run over the top."
When junior linebackers Ronnie Paulo and Starr Fuimaono were able to run over the top late in the game against Sacramento State, they made huge plays which stuffed possessions short and fueled the offense.
It gets a bit trickier against Oregon State, since both Rodgers brothers can do a bit of everything.
While Jacquizz gets the brunt of the touches, the Beavers' staff is creative in getting the ball into James's hands, giving him opportunities to both run the ball and catch it on short underneath routes, where he can shift around in tiny pockets of space.
"All they need is one little crease, and they're gone," Paulo said. "I think a smaller, more agile running back is tougher to defend."
Truth is, no one ever really figured Jacquizz Rodgers out during his freshman season.
He missed the regular season finale against Oregon and the Sun Bowl victory over Pittsburgh with a shoulder injury, but in 11 games prior, Rodgers amassed 1,291 yards on the ground with 11 touchdowns, and caught 29 passes for 247 yards and another TD.
In his first two years as a Beaver, James totaled 1,036 yards on the ground on just 96 attempts and caught 70 passes for 815 yards. He had 13 TDs in all.
And it looks like more of the same for the duo so far in 2009.
Despite playing basically just one half of football against Portland State last week — a 34-7 Beavers triumph — Jacquizz had 16 carries for 103 yards and three scores, while James had two catches for 95 yards, including an 87-yard first quarter TD catch.
"They're big players on that team," Jones said. "All your weak points, you've got to focus on them way more than you ever have."