Civil War highlights swift RBs
| December 3, 2010 8:00 PM
CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) - As Oregon and Oregon State have gone this season, so have running backs LaMichael James and Jacquizz Rodgers.
While James is a leading Heisman candidate for the top-ranked Ducks, Rodgers admits he's not been at his best for the inconsistent Beavers.
Both will have a national audience on the same field Saturday when Oregon vies to go to the national championship by claiming one more regular-season challenge, the annual Civil War rivalry game against Oregon State.
There are many similarities between the two speedy backs. Both are from Texas. Both are relatively small - Rodgers is 5-foot-7, 191 pounds and James is 5-foot-9, 185 pounds - and both have been compared to former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL great Barry Sanders.
"When you're talking about great runners these are two of the finest runners in America," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "They're both fast and quick and they're good athletes. They can catch the ball and they're good blockers, and I just think they're all-around really good players.
"Whatever the 'it' factor is for running backs, they both have it."
James is among an elite group of Heisman hopefuls, joining Auburn's Cam Newton, Stanford's Andrew Luck and Boise State's Kellen Moore. He is also one of three finalists for both the Doak Walker Award honoring the nation's top running back and the Walter Camp player of the year award.
James is averaging a BCS-level best 154.8 yards rushing a game for the Ducks (11-0, 8-0 Pac-10). He is also leading the nation in scoring with an average of 12 points a game.
The sophomore has rushed for 1,548 yards and 19 touchdowns this season, even though he sat out the opener under a one-game suspension. Coach Chip Kelly imposed the penalty after James pleaded guilty to harassment in connection with an offseason altercation with his ex-girlfriend.
James is 108 yards off the Pac-10's sophomore rushing record set by Oregon State's Steven Jackson in 2002. He needs 174 yards rushing to match Jonathan Stewart's single-season school record of 1,722 set in 2007.
For Civil War week he wasn't pondering the postseason accolades. That will come later, he said, after the Ducks reach their collective goal.
"I kind of dread it. I don't really care about going to all these award ceremonies," James said, apologizing in advance for being truthful. "I mean, it would be cool to get out of Eugene and see some of that stuff. But none of that matters if we don't win this game. If we win this game, then I'll be happy."
Quizz, as Rodgers is universally known, has run for 1,162 yards this season, off last season's 1,502 yards. He's averaging just under 99.7 yards a game, again off last season's average of nearly 111 yards.
But the junior is now ranked eighth in the Pac-10 for career rushing yards with 3,793 yards.
Quizz has seen his numbers dip as the Beavers (5-6, 4-4) have struggled this season. They lost to ranked teams in TCU and Boise State early on, but beat ranked Pac-10 opponents Arizona and USC.
Going into the Civil War they've lost three of their last four games, including a 31-14 upset by lowly Washington State, and a 38-0 blanking by No. 4 Stanford last Saturday.
Quizz takes responsibility for those recent losses, saying, "Me personally? I haven't been doing my job."
Oregon State must win the Civil War to become bowl eligible and to avoid the team's first losing season since 2005.
The Beavers were stung this season by the loss of receiver James Rodgers, Quizz's older brother, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in Oregon State's 29-27 victory over Arizona on Oct. 9.
James Rodgers was averaging 176.8 yards in total offense a game before he was injured.
James said he's pals with the Rodgers brothers and even comes up to Corvallis on occasion to go bowling with them. He's especially close to James Rodgers, whom he met at a track meet last spring.
"Those guys can't bowl," he taunted. "At all."
But beyond bowling, James and Rodgers have nothing but respect for each other.
"He's a fast guy," Quizz said of his pal. "He can hit that home run at any point of the game."