It was enough to be facing the nation's hottest team only one
week after being upset by Cal. It was enough to be one catch away
from matching an NCAA receiving record. But going into last
Saturday's game against Notre Dame, Michigan State junior wideout
Charles Rogers was also coping with the death six days earlier of
Benjamin Rogers, the grandfather who had raised him in Saginaw,
Mich. "There were a lot of things running through my mind as I
stepped on the field," Charles said two days after his team fell
to the Irish, "but Notre Dame was a must-win, and my team was
calling on me."
Even without these burdens Rogers couldn't have done much better.
With his 38-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter
he tied the NCAA record for consecutive games with a scoring
catch (12), shared by Marshall's Randy Moss, Michigan's Desmond
Howard and Pacific's Aaron Turner. Then, with 1:45 left and the
Spartans down by four, Rogers had his final catch of the game, a
breathtaking 21-yard snag in the back of the end zone. He somehow
brought his left foot down inbounds as he crashed on a pair of
Irish defenders. "I don't know if you'll ever see another catch
like that," said Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham.
Michigan State's title hopes may be cooling faster than East
Lansing in October, but talk about Rogers's Heisman candidacy and
draft potential is heating up. Last season, when the 6'4",
205-pound Moss look-alike set school records for receptions (67)
and receiving yards (1,470), NFL scouts were already lauding him.
After Saturday's performance--seven catches for 175 yards, a 25.0
average--one pro scout cited the receiver's big build and
field-stretching ability and called him "first-round material."
As his family and team struggled to look ahead, Rogers politely
deflected questions about his own bright future. He said, "I just
hope my grandfather knew that I have a chance to do O.K. for
myself down the road."
COLOR PHOTO: CARLOS OSORIO/AP HEELING POWER Rogers nearly beat the Irish single-footedly.