After a dominating victory in Vegas, Jackson sets his sights on the pros
LAS VEGAS Ñ Oregon State sought to end its season on a high note with a victory over New Mexico in Wednesday's Las Vegas Bowl.
But in their wildest dreams, the Beavers couldn't have concocted their 55-14 undressing of the Lobos.
Maybe there have been more one-sided contests in bowl history. Maybe there haven't been.
Consider these numbers:
• Oregon State's advantage in first downs (29-7) and total offense (540 yards to 127) were watered down in garbage time. Through three quarters, the Beavers led in first downs 23-1 and in total offense 421-21. The 55 points were the most scored by a team in the Las Vegas Bowl's 12-year history.
• New Mexico totaled six yards rushing. Tailback DonTrell Moore, who led the Mountain West Conference in rushing with 1,438 yards and 19 TDs during the regular season, finished with five yards on 11 carries.
• OSU's Steven Jackson made the final collegiate game one of the best of his three-year career. The junior tailback, who announced after the game that he will enter the NFL draft next April, set a school record and tied an all-time bowl record by scoring five touchdowns.
• Quarterback Derek Anderson, maligned by Beaver followers and detractors alike through this season, completed 21 of 32 passes for 322 yards and two TDs with one interception. The junior from Scappoose became the second player in Pac-10 history to surpass the 4,000-yard barrier, finishing with 4,058 yards through the air. Washington's Cody Pickett set the record with 4,458 yards in 2002.
'Unbelievable,' said Anderson, and it was. Oregon State, a 2 1/2-point favorite going into the game and dogged by subpar performances in big games this season, came through in this one to finish the year with an 8-5 record for the second straight year.
'I had no clue it would be like this,' Anderson said. 'I was nervous as heck coming in. We just kind of put it together in every facet.'
Oregon State punished New Mexico (8-5), plain and simple. The Beavers laid the wood from the opening kickoff, crushing the Mountain West Conference runners-up in a show of dominance that validated Pac-10 superiority and ended the Beavers' season on an emphatic note.
'Pac-10 against Mountain West Ñ we had something to say about that,' said receiver Mike Hass, who became the third receiver in OSU history to post a 1,000-yard season. 'They were something like No. 8 defensively in the country playing against Mountain West teams, and they thought they could handle us. Well, it's a whole different level. The Pac-10 is a big-time conference, and we showed that tonight.'
Rocky Long, the New Mexico coach who was once a respected defensive coordinator at Oregon State under former head coach Jerry Pettibone, paid homage to the victors.
'When you get beat that bad, it can't be any more disappointing,' Long said. 'Steven Jackson is no doubt the best running back we have played against this year.'
And Oregon State, obviously, was the best opponent the Lobos have faced in 2003.
Long's gambling, blitzing defense stacked the middle in an attempt to stop Jackson. Anticipating that, OSU Coach Mike Riley set up a game plan in which the pass would open up the run game.
It worked splendidly. Anderson connected with a variety of receivers, but none more often than tight end Tim Euhus, who ended his career with a bang, hauling in seven passes for 121 yards.
'We knew they couldn't handle some of the stuff down the middle,' Euhus said. 'Derek went to it and got us started early.'
Jackson had only 11 yards on seven carries in the first quarter, but as the game wore on Ñ and as the New Mexico defense wore down Ñ the junior from Las Vegas began to put on a show. He finished with 149 yards and four TDs on 28 carries, and gave OSU its first score after rambling 34 yards on a first-quarter screen pass from Anderson.
'I wanted to come out with a big performance in front of the hometown folks,' Jackson said. 'It was a great way to go out.'
It was Oregon State's most well-rounded game of the season. From start to finish, the Beavers dominated.
'We had them going backward most of the game,' said OSU defensive end Bill Swancutt, who had 1 1/2 sacks to add to his school career record. 'We were flying around, and they weren't able to do anything to us.'
Riley was beaming after his first bowl game as a head coach.
'All the ingredients happened tonight,' he said. 'The offensive line handled their blitz and Derek put them on their heels right off the bat. Steven was able to get his 'A' rushing game going. And on defense, we were all over the place.'
NOTES: Jackson said he didn't make a decision on whether to return for his senior season until the night before the game, 'and it was difficult, more difficult than you could imagine.' The deciding factors, he said, were watching Ken Simonton struggle as a senior after a sensational junior year, as well as the life span of an NFL running back Ñ 'you only have so many carries in your body.' Jackson also expressed a desire to allow backup Dwight Wright a chance to start as a senior. É Jackson tied an all-time bowl record of five TDs held previously by Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders (1988 Holiday Bowl) and San Jose State's Sheldon Canley (1990 California Bowl). 'When I saw that on the big screen, I was overwhelmed with joy,' Jackson said. 'I had tears of happiness. Doing that in my hometown is something I will never forget.' É New Mexico QB Casey Kelly, a senior from Beaverton's Westview High, had a night to forget. He was only 4-of-12 passing for 32 yards and was sacked six times. É New Mexico's players had a little trouble identifying their opponent before the game. During a pep rally on Monday night, safety Terrell Golden told the crowd, 'we are going to have some roast Duck on Christmas Eve.' During a Tuesday news conference, linebacker Daniel Gawronski reflected on some words exchanged at the pep rally. 'Oregon was a little hyped up,' Gawronski said. 'It adds a little fuel to the fire for us.' É Oregon State had fewer than 3,000 in pre-game sales of the 4,000 game tickets required by the Las Vegas Bowl. The Beavers must cover the cost of the remainder of the tickets, which would be about $50,000. Bowl payout for each team is $800,000.
The Beavers have commitments from a pair of California JC players Ñ Chris Miller, an offensive tackle from Butte and Keith Ellerson, a linebacker from El Camino. Wide receiver Todd Watkins of Grossmont (Calif.) JC has narrowed his choices to OSU and Kansas State. É Four Beavers will play in post-season All-Star games. Linebacker Richard Seigler and tight end Tim Euhus are set for the East-West Shrine Game Jan. 10 at San Francisco. É Athletic director Bob De Carolis says there is the possibility of a schedule change for next season. It would involve moving Temple off the schedule to a future year and adding an opponent. De Carolis won't identify the potential opponent or whether it would mean a home or road game for the Beavers, but says a decision will be reached by Feb. 1. É Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards and receiver James Newson will play in the Senior Bowl Jan. 24 at Mobile, Ala. É New Mexico will have a chance for revenge when the Lobos visit Corvallis for a regular-season date next Sept. 18. É It was the eighth time Oregon State has had at least eight wins in a season, including three of the last four. É OSU's 31-point first half tied a Las Vegas Bowl record originally set by Nevada-Las Vegas in 1994. The Beavers' 17 first-quarter points set a record for the game. É It was the 19th 100-yard rushing day for Jackson, including nine this season, which ties the school record. Jackson set school single-season records in scoring (126) and all-purpose yardage (2,015). He finished with 1,535 yards rushing this season. É Kirk Yliniemi became the school record-holder in career field goals with 37. He is 19 for 23 this season.