Friday, Nov. 5, 1999 | 9:41 a.m.
Steve Guiremand's college football columns appears Friday. Reach him at 259-2324 or [email protected]
With a win over Cal on Saturday, the Oregon State Beavers (5-3) can celebrate their first winning season since 1970.
And a major part of the Beavers' success can be traced to middle linebacker Jonathan Jackson, a product of Bonanza High School.
The 6-3, 252-pound Jackson, who finished second in the Pac-10 Conference in tackles last season with 114, leads Oregon State in tackles again this season with 58.
Not bad for someone who wasn't even offered a scholarship by his hometown team, UNLV, after his senior year.
"Nobody there ever called me," Jackson said when asked how the Rebels let him get away. "They sent me a letter once that they send to about 3,000 other prospects. But they didn't call me or offer me a scholarship or anything."
Nevada-Reno, Utah State, Wyoming and Oregon State did recruit Jackson, whose fraternal twin, Jason, went on to play basketball at Hampton University in Virginia. A sister, Jennifer, 23, recently graduated from Xavier (Ohio) University.
"Oregon State was a good academic school and it was in the Pac-10," Jackson, a finance major, said of his decision to go to Corvallis. "Things here have changed a lot in my five years here. When I first got here (under then-coach Jerry Pettibone), there wasn't a lot of positive things going on. But now it seems like more and more people are behind us."
Jackson credited the low-key approach of former Beavers coach Mike Riley, now the head coach of the San Diego Chargers, with helping turn the program around.
"He was a good guy that everybody liked," Jackson said. "People here began to get more into it when he arrived."
UNLV defensive coordinator Jeff McInerney was a defensive line coach on Riley's staff and watched Jackson practice every day.
"He was a guy who had all the fundamentals and came into his own last year," McInerney said. "He was a very quiet spokesman who never missed a practice. He's a solid tackler. He does a lot of things for them like James Sunia does for us."
McInerney remembers one Jackson play that stands out.
"We were playing at USC and we blitzed him," McInerney said. "(Jackson) just jumped right over the top of the blockers. The whole place kind of went 'Whoa!' "
McInerney believes Jackson has a good shot at playing in the NFL next year.
"I see him making it," McInerney said. "No doubt."
Jackson, whose parents Alex (retired from the Air Force) and Jacqueline (nurse) still live in Las Vegas, said he's more concerned about helping the Beavers to their first winning season in almost 30 years than the NFL.
After this week, Oregon State hosts Arizona and then ends the season with its annual Cival War battle at Oregon.
"We've got to get this win," he said of Saturday's game against Cal. "And we may need to get up to seven wins to get to a bowl game. And that's one of our big goals."
Once around the MWC
* AIR FORCE: Saturday's game with Army in Colorado Springs pits the nation's two top rushing offenses. Cadets are No. 1 (320.03 yards per game) while Falcons are No. 2 (281.3).
* BYU: Surprise! Safety Jared Lee, not Butkus nominee Rob Morris, leads the Cougs in tackles with 66, including 22 last week against Air Force.
* COLORADO STATE: November is Sonny Lubick's month in Fort Collins. Since taking over the Rams in 1993, Lubick has amassed a 14-2 record in November.
* UNLV: After eight games, Rebels are still searching for first field goal of 1999. Senior Tim O'Reilly is 0-for-3 so far.
* NEW MEXICO: The last time a Lobo ran for 100 yards in a game? That would be backup quarterback Eric Jaworsky (104 yards) against Colorado State in the 1997 WAC title game at Sam Boyd Stadium. Twenty-eight games later, the teams finally meet again on Saturday in Albuquerque.
* SAN DIEGO STATE: Aztecs could have fewer fans in Qualcomm Stadium stands on Saturday night than visiting BYU. The 13th-ranked Cougs will be making their first apperance in San Diego since 1993 and Southern California has a large Mormon population that is expected to make its presence felt.
* UTAH: Starting right tackle Josh Cochran was suspended earlier this week for violating team rules and could miss the rest of the season. Freshman Jordan Gross takes Cochran's spot in the starting lineup Saturday against Wyoming.
* WYOMING: Cowboys have allowed 31 sacks in just seven games this year.
Once around the nation
* ACC: Talk about consistency. This is the fifth time this decade that Florida State has been 9-0 and ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation. No. 1-rated Seminoles have a bye this week before hosting surprising Maryland.
* BIG EAST: West Virginia's Avon Cobourne needs 36 yards Saturday against No. 3 Virginia Tech to move into second place on the school's freshman rushing list behind Amos Zereoue.
* BIG TEN: Wisconsin's Ron Dayne needs 123 yards on Saturday at Purdue to move past Pitt's Tony Dorsett (6,082 yards) into second place on the NCAA's all-time rushing list. Dayne needs 321 yards in his final two games against the Boilermakers and Iowa to break Ricky Williams' NCAA record.
* BIG 12: Baylor is on the verge of setting several futility marks. The Bears are allowing 46.2 points per game in conference, 11 points higher than their current worst of 35.1 set in 1996. On offense, the Bears are averaging just 7.4 points per game. The team record is 7.0 set in 1971.
* BIG WEST: Nevada-Reno's Trevor Insley needs just 113 yards in his final three games to break the NCAA's all-time receiving yards record of 4,518 set by Wyoming's Marcus Harris from 1993-96.
* CONFERENCE USA: Memphis (3-5, 2-1) could move into a tie for first place with an upset of No. 25 Southern Miss on Saturday. Four of the Tigers' five losses have been by a combined eight points, including a last-second loss at Tennessee.
* MAC: Marshall (8-0, 5-0 MAC East), which travels to lowly Kent (2-7, 2-4) on Saturday, has 109 victories in the 1990s, the most in the nation.
* PAC-10: USC (3-5), which hosts Arizona State in its homecoming game on Saturday at the Coliseum, needs to win its final four games to even qualify for a bowl game. The Trojans, who also play at Washington State and host UCLA and Louisiana Tech, cannot go with a 6-6 record because of NCAA bowl rules mandating a winning record. USC played Hawaii in a 12th game earlier this year.
* SEC: Rumors have Oregon State coach Dennis Erickson as the frontrunner for the LSU job if/when Garry DiNardo gets the axe.
* WAC: Saturday's game between Rice (5-1, 4-1) and host Fresno State (6-3, 3-1) will likely determine who will win the WAC and get an invitation to the Las Vegas Bowl.