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Oregon Stae's Rodgers brothers work in tandem

The siblings are both small but powerful, and are each in the top 15 in the nation in all-purpose yards per game. They hope to again be part of a USC upset.

October 23, 2009|David Wharton

As time ran down, right there on the field, James Rodgers could not hold back the tears.

"I wanted to win so badly," he says. "However many minutes were left, I was going to give it my all."

From across the huddle, Jacquizz Rodgers could see his brother getting emotional.

"Man," he says, "that touched me a little bit."

All game long, the Rodgers had taken turns making big plays -- James at receiver, Jacquizz at tailback -- nudging Oregon State into the lead against top-ranked USC.

Now they made a pact, no words spoken, just a glance. As Jacquizz explains: "I was going to give it my all too."

The memory of that night remains vivid a year later as Oregon State arrives in Los Angeles for a rematch against fourth-ranked USC. Just like before, the underdog Beavers will pin their hopes on the Rodgers brothers.

You might call them by another name: The best fraternal combo in college football.

"They're amazing athletes," USC Coach Pete Carroll says. "An amazing one-two punch."

Check the numbers.

Jacquizz is the ninth-best running back in the nation, averaging 116 rushing yards a game. James ranks 14th among receivers with an average of 7.17 catches.

Even more impressive, James ranks eighth in the nation with 180 all-purpose yards per game, including fly sweeps and kick returns. Jacquizz ranks 15th with an average of 161.

They account for more than 70% of the yardage and 80% of the scoring on a team that is 4-2 and very much in the hunt for the Rose Bowl.

"The Rodgers brothers are probably worth more than what everybody says they are," says Portland State Coach Jerry Glanville, whose team lost to Oregon State this season.

A year apart in age, James and Jacquizz have been playing football together since childhood, though it wasn't always by choice.

Growing up near Houston, James recalls, "we couldn't play on different teams because we were real competitive and it might end up in a fight."

"We always used to fight," Jacquizz says. "Then we made up."

They became stars at Lamar Consolidated High -- Jacquizz setting a Texas state record with 136 career touchdowns -- but at 5 feet 7 were overlooked by most college recruiters.

Oregon State Coach Mike Riley got a tip about James, sent an assistant coach to see, and ended up chasing two prospects.

The brothers are built similarly, low to the ground, fast and strong. James can be a little more talkative, though both are known for a humility that borders on stoicism, especially when they talk to reporters.

James arrived in Corvallis in 2007, making his mark as a freshman by scoring a game-winning touchdown against rival Oregon, then rushing for 115 yards in an Emerald Bowl victory over Maryland.

The next summer, when his little brother showed up, he tried not to boast. Didn't need to.

Jacquizz quickly proved himself as a tailback who can hide behind blockers, flying under the radar, then burst through the hole and wriggle from the grasp of tacklers.

After a couple of long runs in their first training camp together, James recalls, "there were some oohs and aaahs. That made me feel so proud."

As if it were fate, James and Jacquizz had reunited on a team that includes no less than five pairs of brothers.

They share an apartment where much of their time is spent watching television or playing games on the computer. Two of the best college players in the nation and they don't own a PlayStation or an Xbox between them.

"I know, I know," James says. "We plan on buying one."

Each is supposed to tidy up after himself, saving the big jobs for when guests pay a visit.

"I do most of the cleaning," James says.

Jacquizz retorts: "That's because most of the time he invites people over."

On the practice field, they are usually last to leave, running extra sprints or playing a game of catch they call "21." You get a point for zipping the ball at the other guy's chest, two points for the face.

"I beat him last time," Jacquizz says. "He plays with the equipment man now."

Riley doesn't mind seeing his two best players constantly challenge each other, hoping it rubs off on the rest of the team. He also likes that they seem to be having fun.

"I think the football part of it they're enjoying more and more together," he says.

Not that everything has gone perfectly.

Last season, Jacquizz had gained more than 1,200 yards in 10 games when he was sidelined by a shoulder injury. Soon after, James was approaching 2,000 all-purpose yards but suffered a broken collarbone.

With their offensive stars on the sideline, the Beavers squeaked out a 3-0 victory over Pittsburgh in what should have been a Texas homecoming at the Sun Bowl.

"Sitting and watching," Jacquizz says, "that hurt."

They have bounced back this season.

James had 100-yard receiving games against Arizona and Arizona State and once again leads the team in returns.

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