Stanford's Toby Gerhart and Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers figure to make Saturday's game between the two teams a ground-based affair.
PORTLAND — Stanford's Toby Gerhart and Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers figure to make Saturday's game between the two teams a ground-based affair.
Of the two high-profile running backs, Gerhart is the seasoned veteran finally getting national attention — in the form of increasing Heisman buzz. He anchors the Cardinal (4-1, 3-0), who sit atop the Pacific-10 Conference.
Gerhart ranks fourth in the nation with an average of 130 rushing yards a game. The solid 6-foot-1, 235-pound back rushed for 134 yards and three touchdowns in Stanford's 24-16 victory over UCLA last weekend.
The week before, he ran for a career-high 200 yards in a victory against Washington. He has rushed for 100 or more yards in four of Stanford's five games this season, and he has eight touchdown runs so far.
Overall, Stanford's rushing offense is averaging nearly 222 yards a game.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley calls Gerhart a "prototype athletic running back."
"He's got the combination of speed and power. He's also got a niftiness about him — quick feet that allow him to get out of tight spaces and make very good cuts, he's downhill with his shoulders all the time and he carries a punch. He has all that stuff," Riley said. "He's as good an all-around back as we've seen."
Rodgers, or Quizz as is he is known, is a 5-foot-7 sophomore tailback for Oregon State (3-2, 1-1). He's not that far behind Gerhart with an average of nearly 102 yards rushing a game.
Last season, Rodgers was the first freshman named the Pac-10's offensive player of the year and earned a reputation for hiding behind the taller offensive line and popping out for long runs.
He's done Gerhart one better with nine rushing touchdowns this season.
Part of Rodgers' early acclaim is how he is complemented by his older brother, James, a flanker.
James Rodgers leads the conference with 93.2 receiving yards per game and an average of 187 all-purpose yards. He was named a Pac-10 player of the week after making 10 catches for 114 yards, including a 25-yard TD reception, in the Beavers' 38-17 victory at Arizona State last Saturday.
Quizz averages 139 all-purpose yards.
The elder Rodgers is adept with Oregon State's trademark fly sweep — a play that appeared to give Stanford trouble in its lone loss of the season, 24-17 at Wake Forest.
"They're both unique talents," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. "The ability that both of those players give Oregon State's offense to spread the field, put pressure on every single gap, really makes you conscious of being gap-sound."
Also in Oregon State's favor is their rush defense, which is allowing just 87.4 yards a game.
But despite the Rodgers brothers' efforts, the Beavers are off to an inconsistent start — which has been something of a trademark of the past few years. They lost twice at home this season, to Cincinnati and Arizona.
Last season, the Cardinal and Gerhart won the showdown between the two running backs in the season opener at Stanford Stadium.
Gerhart ran for 152 yards and two touchdowns in the 36-28 victory.
Quizz, playing in his first-ever college game, ran for 54 yards and brother James was playing behind Oregon State senior receiver Sammie Stroughter.