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."