LV bowl attracts ranked twosome

Brigham Young playing a bowl in Las Vegas is old hat, but this year’s game has a new name and will break fresh ground from a competitive standpoint.

For the first time, the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas will pair two ranked teams when No. 15 BYU plays No. 16 Oregon State on Dec. 22 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

BYU, making its fifth straight trip to the Las Vegas bowl, sports the highest ranking in the game’s 18-year history. Last year the Cougars were No. 16 when they were beaten by Arizona 31-21 before a Sam Boyd sellout of 40,047. The first Las Vegas bowl was in 1992.

"BYU won their way into the game," bowl executive director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said. "Oregon State was four points away from going to the Rose Bowl. Our committee is excited about this matchup. We think this could be one of the best."

Brigham Young (10-2, 7-1 Mountain West Conference) is 2-2 in the last four Las Vegas bowls, losing to Cal in 2005 and beating Oregon and UCLA the next two years. Coach Bronco Mendenhall will be facing his alma mater. He started at safety and linebacker for Oregon State in 1986 and 1987, and was on its coaching staff in 1995 and 1996.

BYU is led by quarterback Max Hall, who has completed 67.5 percent of his passes for 3,368 yards and 30 touchdowns. Harvey Unga has rushed for 1,016 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Tight end Dennis Pitta, with 57 catches for 784 yards and seven TDs, was named to the American Football Coaches Association All-America Team.

"I’m proud of what our seniors and our team have accomplished this year," Mendenhall said in a statement.

Oregon State (8-4, 6-3 Pacific-10 Conference) makes its second trip to Las Vegas this season. The Beavers rallied late to beat UNLV 23-21 on Sept. 12.

They would have gone to the Rose Bowl by beating rival Oregon on Thursday, but lost a 37-33 thriller in Eugene.

Oregon State is led by brothers Jacquizz and James Rodgers. Jacquizz has 1,377 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns, and James has 87 receptions for 1,004 yards and nine TDs.

Sean Canfield has completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,103 yards and 21 touchdowns.

"I think this is one of the more intriguing bowl games of this year," Beavers coach Mike Riley said in a statement.

Oregon State played in the 2003 Las Vegas Bowl, routing New Mexico 55-14 in 2003.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.

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