Linebacker Jonathan Pollard is among the Beavers playing at home

LAS VEGAS Ñ When Jonathan Pollard went down with a high ankle sprain early in the Oregon game, his spirits sank like a submarine in high pursuit.

'As I came to the sideline, I was crying,' Oregon State's junior linebacker says. 'I knew how much the team needed me at that point. It was the Civil War game. I was so hurt.' His ankle É and his feelings.

Now, Pollard is doing much better in both departments. And he will be in the game for the Beavers, probably as a starter, when they face New Mexico on Wednesday in the Las Vegas Bowl.

'It won't be 100 percent, but I will be out there,' says Pollard, one of eight Las Vegas natives on the OSU squad. 'I'm not going to miss this one.'

Pollard has been an unsung player in his first year as a starter for Oregon State. The 6-1, 235-pound junior ranks fifth on the team in tackles and has combined with Richard Seigler and Trent Bray to give the Beavers a rock-solid trio at linebacker.

'Jonathan has been a very important piece for us, and we missed him a lot against Oregon,' OSU coach Mike Riley says. 'He's a striker, and he's a smart player who studies the game and knows what he's supposed to do on the field. I'm glad he's going to be back, even if not at full strength.'

Pollard, 22, is thrilled to be playing in a bowl game in his hometown. It provided motivation for him to rehabilitate his ankle quickly.

'I'm really excited,' Pollard says. 'Everybody (in Las Vegas) has seen me play on TV, but this is a chance for everyone to watch me play in person. Getting to play in front of my home people feels nice.'

Seigler, another Las Vegas product who came to OSU a year before Pollard, had something to do with his teammate's recruitment.

'I felt comfortable having Richard already in school at Oregon State,' Pollard says. 'We go back a long way, back to playing together in Pop Warner. I played defensive tackle and he played linebacker. Richard is my boy. He told me, 'I am going to weigh 240, you are going to weigh 240, and we are going to bring havoc to opponents.' I liked that idea.'

Pollard says he holds a good deal of respect for the offensive unit of New Mexico (8-4), which won seven of its final eight games and finished second in the Mountain West Conference.

'They have good size and a nice running back (DonTrell Moore),' Pollard says. 'They are a physical, run-it-down-your-throat type of team. I like to play against those teams. They probably think we think they're nothing, coming from the little Mountain West, but we know it's not like that. It's going to be a tough game.'

Pollard hopes that the Beavers' Las Vegas connection will help create a little enthusiasm in the stands at Sam Boyd Stadium.

'My family is all Beaver fans,' he says. 'My friends are Beaver fans. Their friends are Beaver fans. There are going to be a lot of Beaver fans just from Vegas there. Hopefully, that will help give us a little homefield advantage.'

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