July 16, 2008
(12-28) 22:54 PST San Francisco -- Maybe modern medicine deserves a bit of the credit for Oregon State's 21-14 Emerald Bowl victory over Maryland, but the result was more of a testament to Yvenson Bernard's toughness.
Just 38 days after having knee surgery, the 5-foot-9 Bernard carried the ball 38 times and rushed for 177 yards at misty, chilly AT&T Park on Friday night. It's not hard to see why coach Mike Riley called him the toughest player he's ever had. The Oregon State defense was instrumental as well, limiting the Terps to 19 rushing yards, by far Maryland's lowest total of the season, and quarterback Sean Canfield did just enough positive things in relief of injured starter Lyle Moevao to bring the Beavers (9-4) their seventh win in their final eight games. It also raised Riley's bowl record as a head coach to 4-0.
"It was kind of a strange game in a lot of ways," Riley said. "Our defense got stronger and stronger, and offensively, I can't describe what the formula was." The winning formula turned out to be a game-clinching 91-yard drive that started at the Oregon State 1-yard line with 6:24 left and ended at the Maryland 8 with no time left on the clock.
Bernard ran the ball on seven of 14 plays on the drive to eat away Maryland's fading hopes and drop the Terps to 6-7.
Bernard had arthroscopic knee surgery Nov. 20, causing him to miss the regular-season finale against Oregon, and it was not until a week ago that it became certain Bernard would play in the sixth Emerald Bowl. The only thing that bothered Bernard on Friday was his lack of activity early in the game.
"He got a little mad when we were not giving him the ball enough," Riley said. "He just gets warmed up after 25 carries." James Rodgers added a career-high 115 rushing yards for the Beavers, but the workhorse was Bernard, who had just 51 yards with two minutes left in the first half.
"I was rusty," Bernard said. "I guess that's what being off for five weeks will do to you."
It was clear the Beavers would have to rely on the ground game after Moevao was knocked out early in the second quarter with a sprained ankle. He was replaced by Canfield, who was the starter at the beginning of the season but did not seem to be completely healed from a shoulder problem that opened the door for Moevao four games ago.
Canfield was 8-for-14 for 68 yards and struggled throughout, although his 9-yard completion at the start of the final drive may have been his biggest contribution. Although Oregon State dominated things on the final drive, Maryland was the sharper offensive team at the start.
The Terrapins drove 80 yards on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead, then drove 80 yards again on their third possession, taking a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter on Chris Turner's 63-yard touchdown pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey. Oregon State shut out the Terps the rest of the way as the Beavers ground it out behind Bernard.
The senior back's yardage in his final college game gave him 3,862 for his career, the sixth-best total in Pac-10 history, and he showed his value late in the second quarter and into the second half.
He carried five times for 34 yards in the Beavers' drive late in the first half that tied the score 14-14, and Bernard was instrumental in the only scoring drive of the second half as well. A 26-yard punt return by Taylor Kavanaugh set Oregon State up at the Maryland 36-yard line, and Bernard ripped off 29 yards on the first play after that.
The score came on a Bernard mistake, as he was stripped of the ball at the 2-yard line but Rodgers recovered in the end zone for a 21-14 Oregon State lead with 10 seconds left in third quarter. Maryland could do nothing substantial offensively, and Bernard ended up carrying the ball 21 times in the second half for 90 yards. Asked if his knee ever bothered him, Bernard said, "Nah" and then winked.