NCF Nation: Army Black Knights

3-point stance: Confusing end for Mack

December, 16, 2013
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1. Mack Brown conducted his retirement press conference at the University of Texas on Sunday with the same charm and straightforwardness that he conducted so many of his big-stage moments. Brown said he began this season convinced that the Longhorns would return to national prominence. So did a lot of writers. It doesn’t surprise me that the writers had no inkling that the Longhorns wouldn’t be able to stop anyone. But Brown sounded just as surprised as the rest of us that his team stumbled. That’s a head-scratcher.

2. Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher, trying to explain what sets apart his Heisman trophy winner, quarterback Jameis Winston, from other redshirt freshmen. “He throws a touchdown, he has to understand why he did it so he can repeat it. … He always wanted to know why he had success, or why he had failure, so he could repeat it or fix it. And that’s very rare in a young player.”

3. Will Texas thrive under a new head coach? The cautionary tale is Tennessee, which forced out Phillip Fulmer, a future Hall of Famer, five years ago. Since then, the Volunteers have floundered under three head coaches (cumulative record: 28-34. Then there’s Army, which fired Rich Ellerson on Sunday after a 12th consecutive loss to archrival Navy. Ellerson is the third Black Knights head coach to be relieved of his duty without beating the Midshipmen. Army never should have run off Bob Sutton, now the Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator.

Video: Honoring JFK's memory

November, 23, 2013
11/23/13
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Fifty years after JFK's assassination, members of the 1963 Navy football team remember playing and winning the 1963 Army-Navy game in his honor.

Video: Boston College 48, Army 27

October, 5, 2013
10/05/13
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Andre Williams ran for 263 yards and five touchdowns as Boston College beat Army 48-27.

Video: Outside The Hashmarks

October, 2, 2013
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ESPN's Mark Schlabach on how the government shutdown could impact the service academies.
1. Never mind that when the federal government was shut down on Nov. 18, 1995, Army, Navy and Air Force all played. They all happened to be at home on that Saturday. Since Air Force is traveling to Navy, and Army is scheduled to play at Boston College, there are travel costs involved. But how is it that the Dept. of Defense didn’t have an answer Tuesday as to whether the three athletic departments used appropriated funds to travel? Shouldn’t someone have looked into this? It’s not as if the shutdown snuck up on anyone.

2. No. 3 Clemson goes to Syracuse on Saturday, where the Orange have beaten a ranked team in each of the last four seasons. “Teddy Bridgewater [Louisville last year] has been in there and gotten beat with a top-10 team,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said at his press conference. “Geno Smith [West Virginia in 2011] has been there with a top-10 team and gotten beat.” The Mountaineers were No. 15, but let us not quibble. As to the Carrier Dome, Swinney pointed out that Clemson went 2-0 in the Georgia Dome in 2012.

3. Eleven teams move into October without a victory, and the good news is that Conference USA’s oh-fers play one another Saturday. FIU (0-4) plays at Southern Mississippi (0-4), which hasn’t won in two years. Both teams are winless because they have played teams they should have lost to, and that even may include FIU’s 34-13 loss to FCS Bethune-Cookman on Sept. 14. The Golden Eagles should end their 16-game losing streak by beating the Golden Panthers. Hey, no remarks re: the mascots. You know what silence is.

3-point stance: Protests bound to spread

September, 26, 2013
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1. The fact that the players at Northwestern, Georgia and Georgia Tech who participated in the silent protest called All Players United did so without any ramifications is a measure of the dissatisfaction with the status quo of the NCAA. In the era of social media, APU is likely to spread. The NCAA statement that supported open and civil debate all but gave the players a green light to continue to speak out. Some coaches won’t allow it -- coaches tend to be dictatorial -- but I don’t think the protest will peter out.

2. It’s been quite a week at Florida. Starting quarterback Jeff Driskel broke his leg in the victory Saturday over Tennessee. Preseason All-SEC defensive lineman Dominique Easley tore his ACL and meniscus at practice Tuesday. Three days apart, the Gators lose their offensive leader and their best pass rusher. Florida has games against four teams in the top 12, and only one of them is in Gainesville. And the Gators have lost their two best players. That’s a serious blow.

3. Paul Dietzel became the LSU head coach at age 30 in 1955 and led the Tigers to the 1958 national championship. Here’s what kind of iconoclastic thinker he was, and how different college football was a half-century ago, Dietzel left LSU after the 1961 season -- for Army. Dietzel wanted to restore the Cadets to their former greatness. He couldn’t. He left for South Carolina and led the Gamecocks to their only conference championship, the 1969 ACC title. Dietzel stopped coaching at age 50. For a guy who barely won more than he lost (109-95-5), he made a big imprint. Dietzel died Tuesday at age 89.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

November, 14, 2011
11/14/11
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Here are the non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference.

C-USA

Offense: Charles Sims, RB, Houston. Sims rushed for a career-high 207 yards on only 10 carries with two touchdowns to lead Houston to a 73-17 win at Tulane. He had 252 all-purpose yards in the game.

Defense: Shawn Jackson, LB, Tulsa. Jackson had nine total tackles, including eight solos and three tackles for loss, and added one pass breakup in a 59-17 win against Marshall.

Special Teams: Danny Hrapmann, K, Southern Miss. Hrapmann tied his own school and Conference USA records by making five field goals in a 30-29 win against UCF.

Independent

Offense: Tommy Rees, QB, Notre Dame. Rees set a season high for completions with 30 in a 45-21 win against Maryland. Rees completed 30-of-38 pass attempts for 296 yards and two touchdowns, his 18th and 19th passing touchdowns of the season.

Co-Defense: Thomas Holloway, DB, Army. Jabaree Tuani, DE, Navy. Holloway set a career high with 14 tackles in a 27-12 loss to Rutgers. He also got his first career interception. Tuani had four tackles and a sack in a win against SMU.

Special teams: David Ruffer, PK, Notre Dame. Ruffer made a career-long 52-yard field goal against Maryland.

MAC

East Division

Offense: Matt Brown, RB, Temple. Brown made his first start of the season and rushed 24 times for 123 yards and a touchdown in a 24-21 win against Miami (Ohio).

Defense: Roosevelt Nix, DT, Kent State. Nix tied a career-high with six tackles in a 35-3 win against Akron. Nix helped his defense hold Akron to just 58 yards rushing on 27 attempts.

Special Teams: Paul Hershey, P, Ohio. Hershey had five punts for 205 yards, including a 51-yard punt in a win over Central Michigan. He had four go inside the 20.

West Division

Co-Offense: Alex Carder, QB, Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan. Carder threw for a program record 548 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for another in a 66-63 loss at Toledo. The yardage total ranks second all-time in MAC history and his passing TD total is tied for the most in conference history. White had 238 yards receiving and became the school leader in career receiving yards leader (3,678), single-season receptions (111) and single-season receiving yards (1,402).

Defense: Brad Ohrman, DL, Eastern Michigan. Ohrman had eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack in a 30-17 victory over Buffalo.

Special Teams: John Potter, K, Western Michigan. Potter made a career high nine extra points at Toledo. Potter became the MAC's record holder for consecutive PATs made with 114.

Mountain West

Offense: Casey Pachall, QB, TCU. Pachall went 24-of-37 for a career-high 473 yards and five touchdowns in a 36-35 win at Boise State. The five touchdown passes tied a TCU single-game record, while his 473 yards marked the second-highest single-game total in school history.

Co-Defense: Carmen Messina, LB, New Mexico. Nat Berhe, DB, San Diego State. Messina had his fifth straight double-digit tackle performance with 14 stops in a 21-14 victory against UNLV -- the first of the season for the Lobos. He also forced a fumble. Berhe tied a team-high with six tackles, forced a fumble and also had an interception in San Diego State’s 18-15 win at Colorado State.

Special teams: Anson Kelton, P, TCU. Kelton averaged 45.8 yards on four punts in a 36-35 win at Boise State.

Sun Belt

Offense: Derek Thompson, QB, North Texas. Thompson set a North Texas single-game record by completing 82 percent of his passes – going 31-of-38 -- to lead North Texas to its first win ever at Troy. He completed 17 consecutive passes in the game and threw for 331 yards.

Defense: Brandon Joiner, DL, Arkansas State. Joiner tied a school and conference record with four sacks, and he also tied his career high with a team-best eight tackles in a 30-21 victory against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Special teams: T.Y. Hilton, KR, FIU. Hilton returned a punt 97 yards for touchdown in a win over FAU. The punt return is the longest in FIU history.

WAC

Offense: Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada. Fajardo accounted for 371 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-28 win against Hawaii. He completed 25-of-36 passes for 290 yards and a career-high three touchdowns with no interceptions. He also rushed 19 times for 81 yards including a 25-yard touchdown run in the second half.

Defense: IK Enemkpali, DE, Louisiana Tech. Had six tackles, including 3.5 for a loss of 18 yards, in the 27-7 win at Mississippi. Enemkpali had a sack for a loss of seven yards and also forced a fumble.

Special teams: Taveon Rogers, KR, New Mexico State. Rogers returned eight kickoffs for a career-best 246 yards -- including a 99-yard return for a touchdown -- in a 48-45 win against Fresno State. He had a school-record 412 all-purpose yards in the game.
After an eight-year drought, the Air Force Academy is poised to hoist the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy for the second straight season.

Well, hoist may not exactly be the right word.

It was in the middle of a practice last season -- shortly after the Falcons clinched their first CIC Trophy since 2002 -- that a golf cart rolled onto the field.

"Practice stopped," Asher Clark recalled in a phone interview. "It was one of the biggest trophies I had ever seen in my life."

Indeed the prestigious trophy, which goes to the winner of the series between the service academies, is 2.5 feet high and weighs 170 pounds. Clark said it was an incredibly special moment when they were able to see and hold the Trophy for the first time. But what would make winning the Trophy again this season much more special is the trip to the White House that goes with being a senior.

Air Force has the edge to win again after a wild 35-34 overtime win over Navy earlier in the season. Navy erased an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit and then scored first in overtime. But Navy quarterback Kriss Proctor was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct following his 1-yard touchdown run, and the 35-yard extra-point attempt was blocked by Alex Means. Tim Jefferson scored a touchdown on the next possession and Air Force made its extra point, giving it the advantage in the race for the CIC Trophy.

The Falcons have won five straight over Army, including a 47-22 win last season. Army has only won twice in the past 21 meetings between the service academies.

One big key to watch this season is whether both starting quarterbacks are able to play. Jefferson got hurt last week in an Air Force win over New Mexico, while Army starter Trent Steelman sat out a win over Fordham last week with a high ankle sprain. Army coach Rich Ellerson said Steelman was questionable for the game Saturday. Max Jenkins and Angel Santiago would play if Steelman is out again.

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said of Jefferson: "It will be pretty tough to keep him out, and yet we've just got to make sure physically that he's sound." Connor Dietz would start if Jefferson cannot go, and he has got the full backing of his coach and teammates. He had 87 yards and a touchdown run last week in the 42-0 win over the Lobos.

While this game may not carry the prestige of Army vs. Navy, it still is an important rivalry game, one with a weighty trophy on the line.

"Obviously, that's part of the drama, but that won't impact the outcome," Ellerson said. "That's something that's part of our culture here. It's part of everybody's sensibilities. They know that's on the line. We'll have a great week of practice. This is a relatively easy week from a head coaching perspective. You have to make some good decisions along the way, personnel-wise and style of play-wise, but in terms of getting guys excited to practice, excited to play, just get out of the way. They're really looking forward to playing."

Navy, Army looking for answers

October, 26, 2011
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Consider the way Navy has lost this season and you will understand why coach Ken Niumatalolo says he has never been through a season quite so excruciating.
  • Navy could not hold on to a 21-17 third-quarter lead on South Carolina and lost 24-21.
  • A missed extra point in overtime against Air Force cost Navy, as the Falcons won 35-34.
  • Navy had a 34-yard field goal blocked in the fourth quarter against Rutgers that would have given Navy the lead. Instead, Rutgers won 21-20.
  • What appeared to be a touchdown was called an incomplete pass when the ball came loose on the goal line in a 38-35 loss to East Carolina. Navy missed a field goal with no time remaining.

"Fortunately we have resilient kids, but the manner in which we’ve lost all our games -- it’s tough," Niumatalolo said in a phone interview. "I feel like we could easily be 6-1 right now but we’re not. When you lose by a total of eight points, it’s hard to swallow.

"We know we're going to be in close games. We’re not Alabama or LSU. We’re not going to blow people out. We’ve been on the other end of the stick in some of those games, but the ball hasn’t been dropping for us. In every way it matters, we lose. We’ve been a team that’s prided ourselves in not beating ourselves, and we’re just not doing that."

The Midshipmen (2-5) have lost five straight headed into their game at Notre Dame on Saturday and are in danger of missing a bowl game for the first time in nine seasons. After a year in which all the service academies made a bowl game for the first time in history, Army (2-5) also is in danger of missing a postseason game.

Navy is hoping for its third straight win over the Irish, but will have to do it without starting quarterback Kriss Proctor, who has an elbow injury. Trey Miller would make his first career start.

For Navy, the performance this season has been downright surprising. This is a team that generally wins nine games a season and has had incredible success for a service academy.

As Niumatalolo mentioned, Navy usually is involved in it share of close games, but generally wins them. The last time the Midshipmen posted a losing record in games decided by eight points or less was 2003 (1-2). The last time they were winless in games decided by that margin was 2002 (0-3). That was the last time they failed to reach a bowl.

This year, Navy is 0-4 in those games.

Special teams has been a particular area of concern. Navy has missed at least one kick (extra point or field goal) in six of its seven games this year, including four straight contests.

The defense also has struggled, ranking No. 95 in the nation in total defense and No. 119 in third-down conversion defense. The Midshipmen are allowing opponents to convert 57 percent of the time on third down. Red zone offense has been a problem, too. Navy moves the ball just fine but breaks down inside the 20.

Meanwhile, Army is having a tough time getting into close games. The Black Knights are hurting themselves, too. After being one of the best teams in the nation in turnover margin last season, they are one of the worst in 2011, having given the ball away 15 times. Third-down conversion defense ranks No. 115 as well.

Army still has service academy rivals Air Force (3-4) and Navy left on the schedule, along with Rutgers (5-2) and Temple (5-3). Navy has a slightly easier stretch to close the season after its game against Notre Dame: Troy (2-5), SMU (5-2) and San Jose State (3-4). The finale against Army could have bowl eligibility on the line.

“We’ve just got to find a way,” Niumatalolo said. “We need one to bounce off the backboard and go in for us. They’ve been rimming out. I have faith in our coaches and our players. We’re going to keep fighting. We’re not giving up.”

Non-AQ Players of the Week

October, 24, 2011
10/24/11
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Here are your non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference. The independent players are selected by a national media panel.

C-USA

Offense: Dominique Davis, QB, East Carolina. Davis set an NCAA single-game record with 26 straight completions to open the game in a 38-34 win at Navy. He finished the game 40-of-45 for 372 yards with two touchdowns. His completion percentage of 88.9 was a school record.

Defense: Marques Wheaton, DB, Southern Miss. Wheaton recorded five tackles (four solos), a pass breakup and two fourth-quarter interceptions in Southern Miss’ 27-3 win over SMU. He returned one of his interceptions 41 yards for a score.

Special teams: Ty Long, K, UAB. Long, a true freshman, made the game-winning 40-yarder with 21 seconds remaining in a 26-24 win over UCF.

Independent

Offense: Riley Nelson, QB, BYU. Nelson led six touchdown drives in seven series before leaving the game early in the third quarter in a 56-3 win over Idaho State. Nelson completed 11 of 17 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns, and added 62 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

Co-defense: Geoffrey Bacon, LB, Army. Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU. Bacon returned his first career interception 70 yards for a touchdown in a 44-21 loss at Vanderbilt. Making his first career start, Bacon added a pass break-up, and he matched his season tally with a career-high 13 tackles, including a half tackle for loss. Van Noy had two sacks, three quarterback hurries and a blocked punt.

Special teams: George Atkinson III, KR, Notre Dame. Atkinson had a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a 31-17 loss to USC. He tallied 178 yards on five kickoff returns.

MAC

East Division

Offense: Chazz Anderson, QB, Buffalo. Accounted for 460 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in a 31-30 loss to Northern Illinois. Anderson completed a school record 35 passes on 53 attempts for 406 yards and three touchdowns, including one with just 14 seconds left in regulation that pulled Buffalo to within one before a missed extra point made the difference.

Defense: Chris Jones, DT, Bowling Green. Jones had six tackles, three sacks and one quarterback hurry in a 13-10 win over Temple.

Special teams: Matt Weller, K, Ohio. Went 3-for-3 on his field goal attempts, connecting from 24, 27 and 23 yards in a 37-20 win at Akron.

West Division

Offense: Javonti Greene, RB, Eastern Michigan. Greene caught a 50-yard pass from Alex Gillett in the first quarter and scored on a 50-yard run midway through the fourth quarter for the two Eastern Michigan touchdowns in a 14-10 victory over Western Michigan.

Defense: Desmond Marrow, DB, Toledo. Marrow led Toledo with six tackles and tied his career high with two interceptions in a 49-28 win over Miami.

Special Teams:Jamill Smith, KR, Ball State. Returned the opening kickoff for a career-high 48 yards in the Cardinals' 17-point second half comeback victory, a 31-27 win over Central Michigan. Smith led all returners for both teams with four kickoff returns for a total of 135 yards.

Mountain West

Offense: Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State. Moore completed 23-of-29 passes for 281 yards in a 37-26 win over Air Force. Moore tied former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy for the most career wins (45) in NCAA history.

Defense:Byron Hout, LB, Boise State. Hout had a career-high 18 tackles against Air Force, including eight unassisted stops and a half tackle for loss.

Special teams:Antonio Graves, WR, TCU. Graves scored his first collegiate touchdown when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone in a 69-0 win over New Mexico. He also forced a fumble on a kickoff return.

Sun Belt

Offense:Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey rushed for 206 yards and a career-high three touchdowns as the Hilltoppers won their first home game since 2008 with a 42-23 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.

Defense:Eric Russell, DB, Middle Tennessee. Russell had six tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception in a win over FAU.

Special Teams:Luther Ambrose, KR, ULM. Ambrose became ULM's all-time leader in kickoff return yards and he did it in style, returning the opening kickoff 100 yards at North Texas. He finished with 148 yards on three returns.

WAC

Offense: Mike Ball, RB, Nevada. Ball rushed for a career-high 198 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries and added two catches for 18 yards and another score in a 45-38 win over Fresno State.

Defense: Adrien Cole, LB, Louisiana Tech. Cole had 14 tackles (9 solo), including two for a loss, and broke up a pass in a 24-17 win at Utah State.

Special teams: Ryan Allen, P, Louisiana Tech. Allen averaged 52.2 yards on eight punts in the win at Utah State. Seven of them were downed inside the 20-yard line.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

October, 3, 2011
10/03/11
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Here are the non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference. The independent players are selected by a national media panel.

Conference USA

Offense: Darius Johnson, WR, SMU. Had a career-high-tying two receiving touchdowns, along with 12 catches and 152 yards as SMU defeated No. 20 TCU 40-33 in overtime. It was his third straight 100-yard game.

Defense: Tyson Gale, LB, Marshall. Had a team-high seven tackles against Louisville, including a tackle for loss and the biggest play of the game when he intercepted a pass with 4:32 left in a 17-13 win.

Special teams: Kase Whitehead, P, Marshall. Dropped four of his five punts inside the 20 in the 17-13 win at Louisville. On the season, 10 of his 30 have been downed inside the 20.

Independent

Co-offense: Riley Nelson, QB, BYU. Cierre Wood, RB, Notre Dame. Nelson came in in relief of starter Jake Heaps and accounted for 206 yards of total offense in four drives as BYU rallied from a 24-13 fourth-quarter deficit to beat Utah State. Nelson was 10-of-14 for 144 yards and two touchdowns, adding 62 rushing yards on 11 carries. Wood ran 20 times for a career-high 191 yards and a touchdown in a win against Purdue. His 55-yard scoring scamper was also a career-long run.

Defense: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame. Had a team-high eight tackles unassisted, and a sack against Purdue.

Special teams: Alex Carlton, PK, Army. Made his first field goal of the season and made all six extra point attempts as the Black Knights beat Tulane. His six conversions moved him into sixth place on the Army career PAT made list.

MAC

East Division

Offense: Tyler Tettleton, QB, Ohio. Threw for over 250 yards for the third consecutive week as he finished with 276 yards passing and two touchdowns in a 17-10 victory over Kent State.

Defense: C.J. Malauulu, LB, Kent State. Had a game- and career-high 12 tackles in a 17-10 loss to Ohio. He also added three tackles for loss, a sack, a pass break-up and a forced fumble.

Special Teams: Boo Boo Gates, KR, Bowling Green. Had seven returns for 233 yards, including a career-best 77-yard return in the first quarter in a 55-10 setback at West Virginia. His seven returns are the second-most in school history, while the yards are the most ever in a game.

West Division

Offense: Alex Carder, QB, Western Michigan. Threw for a career high and school record 479 yards and five touchdowns, including three in the fourth quarter, in a 38-31 upset of UConn. His five touchdowns tied for second most in a game in school history.

Defense: Robert Bell, LB, Toledo. Had a career-high 12 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and one recovered fumble in a 36-13 road win at Temple.

Special Teams: David Harman, K, Central Michigan. Was 6-of-6 on extra-point attempts and 2-of-2 on field goals for 12 total points in a 48-41 win over Northern Illinois.

Mountain West

Offense: Tim Jefferson, QB, Air Force. Went 9-of-10 for 136 yards and a touchdown, and rushed 18 times for 66 yards and two scores in a 35-34 overtime win at Navy. Jefferson, who scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard run, led Air Force to its second-straight win over Navy and the first in Annapolis since 1997.

Defense: Brady Amack, LB, Air Force. Had a career-high 23 tackles (11 solo), a sack and two tackles for loss in a 35-34 overtime victory at Navy. The tackle total ranks as the sixth-highest in school history and tied for the most in Mountain West history. It also tied for the most in a FBS game this season.

Special teams: Alex Means, LB, Air Force. Blocked Navy’s extra-point try in overtime. Means has blocked two kicks this season and also tied a career-high with 12 tackles and intercepted a pass.

WAC

Offense: Matt Christian, QB, New Mexico State. Went 16-of-27 for a career-high 296 yards and a career-high four touchdowns with no interceptions in a 42-28 win at New Mexico. Christian also rushed for a career-high 101 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. He had 397 yards of total offense and accounted for five of the six Aggie touchdowns in the game.

Defense: Keith Smith, LB, San Jose State. Had a team-high 10 tackles and forced a fumble in a 38-31 win at Colorado State. The forced fumble occurred in the second quarter and was returned 20 yards for a touchdown to give the Spartans a 17-7 lead.

Special teams: Justin Hernandez, WR, Idaho. Blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown with 3:11 left in Idaho’s game at Virginia. Idaho trailed 14-6 at the time and following the successful two-point conversion, the Vandals forced overtime. They lost 21-20 in the extra period.

Sun Belt

Offense: Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State. Set a new school record for completions in a game when he completed 37 passes on 49 attempts in a 26-22 win at Western Kentucky. Aplin passed for a season-high 396 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and also caught a touchdown pass against the Hilltoppers.

Defense: Lance Kelley, LB, Louisiana. Had eight tackles, a tackle-for-loss and an interception in a win over FAU. He currently leads the Cajuns and ranks fourth in the Sun Belt with 39 total tackles.

Special teams: Brett Baer, K/P, Louisiana. Scored 13 points in a 37-34 victory. He made field goals of 47 yards and 46 yards before hitting the game-winning 26-yard field goal as time expired. It was the first win for the Cajuns in the final 10 seconds of regulation since 2003.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

September, 19, 2011
9/19/11
4:00
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Here are the non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference. The independent players of the week are selected by a national media panel.

Conference USA

Offense: Case Keenum, QB, Houston. Ryan Griffin, QB, Tulane. Keenum led the biggest comeback in school history in a 35-34 win at Louisiana Tech, completing 25-of-40 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns to overcome a 27-point third quarter deficit. Griffin completed his first 11 passes for 164 yards and finished the game 22-of-26 for 281 yards and a career-high-tying three touchdowns in a 49-10 win over UAB.

Defense: Korey Williams, LB, Southern Miss. Williams led the Golden Eagles with 10 tackles, seven of which were solo stops, in a 52-6 win over Southeastern Louisiana. He added one tackle for loss and an interception return for a touchdown.

Special teams: Nick Adams, KR, UAB. Adams set a UAB single-game record with 194 kick return yards and took a Tulane kickoff back 92 yards for a touchdown in a loss to Tulane.

Independent

Offense: Trent Steelman, QB, Army. Had 28 carries for 108 yards and three touchdowns in a 21-14 win over Northwestern.

Defense: Robert Blanton, CB, Notre Dame. Grabbed an interception deep in Notre Dame territory and returned it 82 yards, setting up a game-sealing field goal for the Fighting Irish over Michigan State.

Special teams: George Atkinson III, RB/KR, Notre Dame. Had 142 yards on four kickoff returns, including an 89-yard touchdown, in a 31-13 home win over No. 15 Michigan State. Atkinson is the first Fighting Irish freshman to return a kickoff for a score since Raghib Ismail in 1988.

MAC

East Division
Offense: Tyler Tettleton, QB, Ohio.
Threw for a career-high 285 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Bobcats to a 44-7 victory over Marshall and improve to 3-0 on the year -- its best start to a season since 1976. He also also rushed for a touchdown and a season-best 53 yards.

Defense: Dwayne Woods, LB, Bowling Green. Had a game-high 12 tackles and two tackles for loss in the Falcons’ 28-27 loss to Wyoming.

Special Teams: Matt Weller, K, Ohio. Was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals, connecting from 20, 21 and 34 yards and was 5-for-5 in extra-point attempts in a win over Marshall.

West Division
Offense: Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan.
Had 13 catches for a season-high 177 yards in a 44-14 win over Central Michigan. White had two touchdowns and a career-best 241 all-purpose yards.

Defense: Travis Freeman, LB, Ball State. Had a season-high 12 tackles in a 28-25 victory over Buffalo.

Special Teams: John Potter, K, Western Michigan. Scored for 14 points in a 44-14 win over Central Michigan with five extra points and a career-matching three field goals (33, 43, 43).

Mountain West

Offense: Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State. Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State. Moore went 32-of-42 passes for 455 yards and five touchdowns. The 32 completions are a single-game career high for Moore, while the five touchdowns tied his career high. Hillman rushed for 191 yards on a career-high 32 carries and tied his career-high with four touchdowns in a 42-24 win over Washington State.

Defense: Larry Parker, DB, San Diego State. Josh Biezuns, DL, Wyoming. Parker helped forced three turnovers, including two fourth-quarter interceptions, as the Aztecs beat Washington State 42-24. The two interceptions were the first two of his career. Biezuns forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, had two sacks for 15 yards and combined with fellow senior defensive lineman Gabe Knapton to block the potential game-tying extra-point attempts with 3 seconds left as Wyoming beat Bowling Green 28-27.

Special teams: Greg McCoy, DB, TCU. Returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown in the second half, setting the tone for TCU to score 14 points in the opening 4:18 of the third quarter in its 38-17 win over ULM.

Sun Belt

Offense: Corey Robinson, QB, Troy. Set new career highs for pass attempts (63), completions (36) and rushing yards (33) in a loss to Arkansas. His 373 passing yards were the third most of his career.

Defense: Isame Faciane, DT, FIU. LaDarrius Madden, DB, Troy. Faciane had arguably the biggest play of the game against UCF when he picked up a fumble by Jeff Godfrey and returned it 51 yards for a game-tying touchdown in the win over the Knights. Madden had six total tackles and a 53-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Special Teams: Melvin White, DB, Louisiana. Made the momentum turning play against Nicholls State with a 68-yard blocked field goal return for a touchdown. The Cajuns outscored the Colonels 24-7 after the blocked field goal.

WAC

Offense: Mike Ball, RB, Nevada. Rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns in Nevada’s 17-14 win at San Jose State.

Defense: Logan Harrell, DT, Fresno State. Recorded a career-high 11 tackles and tied his career-high with 4.5 tackles for a loss of 23 yards in a 27-22 win over North Dakota.

Special teams: Jake Hurst, P, Nevada. Punted six times for 259 yards, A 43.2-yard average, in the win over San Jose State. He had a long of 49 yards and placed two inside the 20-yard line.

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

September, 19, 2011
9/19/11
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Let's take a look back at the weekend that was for the non-AQs:

The good: FIU pulled off yet another big win, this one against UCF, 17-10. The Panthers are 3-0 for the first time in school history and received votes in both polls for the first time in school history. They did it without star receiver T.Y. Hilton, who hurt his hamstring. But coach Mario Cristobal says his star player should be fine. ... Trent Steelman had a terrific game for Army, scoring three touchdowns in a 21-14 win over Northwestern. It was Army's first win over a team from a Big Ten team since 1988 -- which also was the last time it played a team from that conference. And that team was -- Northwestern. ... Ohio is 3-0 for the first time since 1976 after beating Marshall 44-7. ... Ronnie Hillman had 191 yards rushing and four touchdowns in a 42-24 win over Washington State and is now the second-leading rusher in the nation. Hillman is tied for the national lead in rushing touchdowns with eight this season.

The bad: Perhaps bad is a kind way of describing BYU's performance against Utah. The Cougars and Utes generally play a tough, close game. Twelve of the previous 14 meetings had been decided by a touchdown or less. Then came Saturday. BYU had seven turnovers -- three from quarterback Jake Heaps -- and lost 54-10 to its biggest rival. Incredibly, the score was 14-10 at halftime. But one mistake after another snowballed, and BYU faces some serious questions heading into its game against UCF on Friday night.

The upset: If you had asked for any non-AQ game considered a lock for a win Saturday, you probably would have picked Hawaii over UNLV. The Warriors came in as 20-point favorites, have a win over Colorado already this season and played Washington well. But the Rebels shocked the Warriors in one of the more stunning upsets of the day, winning 40-20. I admit it. I did a double-take when I saw the score. Hawaii had four fumbles, 6 yards rushing and converted 1-of-9 third-down opportunities in the disappointing loss. UNLV had scored 24 combined points in its first two losses of the season to Wisconsin and Washington State. But perhaps the UNLV victory should not come as a huge shock. UNLV has beaten Hawaii four of the last five times they have played in Sam Boyd Stadium.

Then there is Western Kentucky, which lost for the 17th straight time at home. Only this loss was to FCS Indiana State 44-16. It was Indiana State's first win over an FBS opponent since 2001.

The oh-so-close: Navy played with South Carolina every step of the way in its game, taking a 21-17 lead into the fourth quarter. But South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore was just too much to contain as he ran for 246 yards and three touchdowns in the 24-21 win. ... Temple was right there with Penn State as well, holding a 10-7 lead until late in the fourth quarter. But for the second straight season, the Nittany Lions squeaked out a close victory, breaking Owls' hearts again.

The comeback: The common knock on Houston is that the Cougars generally lose at least one game a season that they should not. That looked to be happening against Louisiana Tech, as Houston trailed 34-7 with 5:11 to go in the third quarter. But alas, the Cougars have Case Keenum, who engineered a furious rally. Houston scored the final 28 points of the game to cap the biggest comeback in school history and win 35-34. Keenum began the rally with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Edwards, and he ended it with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Edwards with 1:36 remaining in the game. Keenum has now engineered three of the top four biggest comebacks in Houston history. In addition to this one, he rallied Houston from 19 points down against UTEP in a 42-37 win in 2008; and from 17 points down against UAB in a 45-20 win, also in 2008.

The heartbreak: Bowling Green had a furious late fourth quarter rally, overcoming a 28-14 deficit when Matt Schilz threw touchdown passes on two straight drives. But Wyoming blocked the game-tying extra point with 3 seconds left to hold on and win 28-27. Wyoming is 3-0 for the first time since 1996. ... San Jose State was 15 yards away from pulling off one of its biggest wins in years. The Spartans trailed Nevada 17-7 in the fourth quarter before Matt Faulkner delivered one touchdown drive and had his team marching down the field for another. But his pass in the end zone was intercepted by Duke Williams with 1:10 left and the Wolf Pack survived 17-14. The road is much tougher for Nevada next, with games at Texas Tech and at Boise State. ... Miami (Ohio) knows the feeling. Zac Dysert had a pass broken up in the end zone as time expired, and the RedHawks lost to Minnesota 29-23.

Milestone watch: TCU coach Gary Patterson earned his 100th career victory as the Horned Frogs’ head coach in a 38-17 win over ULM Patterson is 100-29 in 11 seasons, and needs 10 more wins to surpass Dutch Meyer (109-79-13, 1934-52) as TCU’s all-time winningest coach. Meyer coached TCU to its 1935 and 1938 national championships. Patterson is one of nine active head coaches to have 100 wins at their current school.

Helmet stickers

Ryan Griffin, QB, Tulane. Went 22-of-26 for 281 yards and tied a career high with three touchdown passes in a 49-10 win over UAB.

Logan Harrell, DT, Fresno State. Recorded a career-high 11 tackles and tied his career high with 4.5 tackles for a loss in a 27-22 win over North Dakota.

Kellen Moore, Boise State. Completed 32 of 42 passes for 455 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Toledo. The 32 completions is a single-game career high for Moore, while the five touchdowns tied his career high. The five passing TDs also tied the MWC single-game record for most by a senior. The 42 pass attempts were second most in his career, as were his 455 yards.

Trent Steelman, QB, Army. Ran the ball 28 times for 108 yards and three touchdowns in a 21-14 win over Northwestern. It was his second straight three-touchdown rushing effort.

Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan. Had 13 receptions for 177 yards and two touchdowns in Western Michigan's 44-14 win over Central Michigan. White moved into fourth place on the career receptions list at WMU with 195, is now third in career 100-yard receiving games (13) and is tied for seventh in career receiving TDs (17).

Melvin White, DB, Louisiana. Returned a blocked field goal 68 yards for a touchdown to break a tie and help the Ragin Cajuns beat Nicholls State 24-7. He also forced a fumble that led to the first score of the game.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

September, 12, 2011
9/12/11
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The good: It was a weekend of big wins for non-AQs. FIU picked up the first win against an AQ team in school history when the Panthers upset Louisville 24-17. New Mexico State stunned Minnesota 28-21, picking up its first win against a Big Ten team, and first win against an AQ opponent since defeating Arizona State in 1999. The Aggies have been one of the worst teams in college football -- coach DeWayne Walker has won six games there in three seasons. Taveon Rogers had two touchdowns and 88 yards receiving.

[+] EnlargeGeorge O'Leary
AP Photo/Reinhold MatayCentral Florida and coach George O'Leary dominated Boston College.
Meanwhile, Conference USA pulled out two wins against AQ opponents: UCF handled Boston College 30-3 and Rice beat Purdue 24-22. Both were milestone wins. Though UCF has beaten AQ programs before, the Knights had never done so at home. They are off to their first 2-0 start since 1998, a season removed from making the Top 25 for the first time in program history. Rice had lost 22 consecutive games to AQ opponents. The win was the Owls' first against a Big Ten team since a 40-34 win at Northwestern in 1997.

TCU rebounded in a big way against Air Force, winning 35-19 in a game that was never close. In fact, the Horned Frogs led 35-9 in the fourth quarter, and played much better on defense, even without leading tackler Tanner Brock.

The heartbreak: The MAC easily had the most heartbreaking day. Central Michigan, Toledo and Northern Illinois had leads on their AQ opponents only to come up just short.

Central Michigan led the Wildcats 13-6 at halftime and had outgained them 227 yards to 94. But the turning point came midway through the third quarter, when coach Dan Enos elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 34. Tim Phillips ran for no gain. Kentucky scored on the next play to tie the game at 13, and Central Michigan never scored again in 27-13 loss.

Toledo had Ohio State on the ropes, but the Rockets killed themselves with one mistake after another: 14 penalties for 102 yards; a missed 45-yard field goal and botched hold on a 50-yard attempt; allowing a punt return for a score. A final interception from Terrance Owens on the Ohio State 17 with 48 seconds closed out a 27-22 loss.

Northern Illinois lost to Kansas 45-42 with 9 seconds left when Jayhawks quarterback Jordan Webb threw a 6-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to B.J. Beshears. The Huskies had taken the lead with 5:03 remaining when Jasmin Hopkins scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. Kansas converted two fourth down opportunities on the winning drive. Chandler Harnish finished 27-of-33 for 315 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and added 89 yards and a career-high three touchdowns on the ground. Harnish has 11 total touchdowns in two games this season.

Not to be outdone, Fresno State and BYU each had halftime leads in their games before losing. The Bulldogs gave up a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that turned the tide and lost to No. 10 Nebraska 42-29. ... BYU led Texas 13-3 but the Longhorns changed quarterbacks in the second half and that seemed to spark them to a 16-13 win. The BYU offense has not exactly gotten immediate results from new offensive coordinator Brandon Doman. The Cougars rank No. 108 in the nation in total offense (275.5 ypg), and No. 107 in scoring offense (15 ppg). Despite that, they could very easily be 2-0.

The ugly: The offense clearly was not invited to the Louisiana-Kent State game. The teams combined for 19 first downs, seven turnovers and 15 penalties in one of the ugliest games of the day. Louisiana had 159 total yards; Kent State 186. Louisiana quarterback Chris Masson threw for 18 yards.

Army was one of the best teams in the nation last season in turnover margin, but so far this season, turnovers have been a big problem in an 0-2 start. In a 23-20 loss to San Diego State, the Black Knights fumbled eight times -- losing three. In two games, Army has given the ball away six times and is at minus-4 in turnover ratio.

Record watch:
  • Ohio coach Frank Solich notched his 100th career win Saturday in a 30-3 win against Gardner-Webb.
  • Southern Miss quarterback Austin Davis broke Brett Favre's school passing yards mark of 7,695, in a 26-20 loss to Marshall.
  • Houston quarterback Case Keenum threw for 458 yards and five touchdowns in a 48-23 win against North Texas. He moved into fourth place on the FBS career list for passing yards (14,354) and tied Danny Wuerffel for sixth in career passing touchdowns with 114.
  • Pete Thomas became the first sophomore quarterback in Colorado State history to reach 3,000 yards passing. In a 33-14 win against Northern Colorado, Thomas was 28-for-42 for 259 yards and a touchdown -- but he also threw three interceptions.
Injury update: Colorado State linebacker Mychal Sisson broke his ankle in the second quarter against Northern Colorado and is out indefinitely. Coach Steve Fairchild said the hope is for Sisson to be able to return later this season. ... UTEP starting quarterback Nick Lamaison separated his shoulder in a loss to SMU. ... Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson was pulled from the loss to TCU and got precautionary X-rays after the game for an undisclosed injury. Nose guard Ryan Gardner injured his knee.

Helmet stickers

Eugene Cooper, WR, Bowling Green. Had career-highs in catches (6), yards (134) and touchdowns (4) in the Falcons’ 58-13 win against Morgan State. Cooper’s four receiving touchdowns tied a school record for touchdown catches in a single game.

Jerome Long, DT, San Diego State. Had a career-high 10 tackles in a 23-20 win against Army, and his sack on a critical third-down on Army's last drive of the game took Army out of field goal range.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, FIU. Set a career-high and school record with 201 yards receiving and two touchdowns in a 24-17 upset win against Louisville.

Adrien Cole, LB, Louisiana Tech. Had 9 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and blocked Central Arkansas’ field goal in overtime, his second blocked field goal in as many games.

UCF defense. Held Boston College to three points and 84 yards passing in the 30-3 win. The Knights have yet to allow 100 passing yards in a game this season and have limited their first two opponents to three points and 260 total yards.
They are fierce rivals, yes, but everybody who coaches at and plays for a service academy understands the difficulty of making a bowl game. So it should come as little shock that they applauded what happened last season -- when Army, Navy and Air Force all made bowl games for the first time in college football history.

"All three are phenomenal places. Each one has their own niche that our country badly needs," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "We’re fortunate to have each one of these academies. When they all have winning seasons, that’s pretty cool stuff."

Now the big question -- can they do it again and again?

[+] EnlargeArmy quarterback Trent Steelman
Hunter Martin/Getty ImagesLast season Trent Steelman passed for 995 yards, rushed for 721 yards and led Army to its first bowl game since 1996.
"There are no guarantees in this, but I think that’s a realistic outcome when you look at who we are and our schedules and how well we’re playing," Army coach Rich Ellerson said. "It’s not hard to visualize that."

Navy and Air Force have been playing at high levels in recent years. The Midshipmen have been to eight straight bowl games; Air Force to four straight. It had been Army that lagged behind. But Ellerson has changed the culture at West Point, taking his Black Knights to a bowl game for the first time since 1996.

Is that enough to get the momentum going for Army? On paper, it appears that Army has the longest shot of the three service academies to make it back to a bowl game.

The defense lost six starters, including all-important nose guard Mike Gann and defensive end Josh McNary, who holds the school record for tackles for loss and sacks. The defensive line is more undersized than usual for a service academic, so the team is hoping its quickness and athleticism can make up for that. The Black Knights also lose leading tackler Stephen Anderson, who had 108 stops last season, and both starting safeties.

If you take a look at the Army schedule, you will find very few gimmes. Six of the 12 games feature bowl teams; only four of their FBS teams had losing records last season. The opening stretch is tough, starting with a game at Northern Illinois (11-3 last season), then home to San Diego State (9-4) and Northwestern (7-6). Army plays six straight games before getting a bye.

But if there is a bright spot for Army, it has to be on offense. Quarterback Trent Steelman and fullback Jared Hassin return, and they should given opposing defenses fits. Hassin ran for 1,013 yards last season and Steelman added 721 on the ground and 995 yards passing. Army does have to replace four starters on the offensive line, but Ellerson has been pleased with their progress.

Navy faces a rebuilding year as well, but the Midshipmen are a team that knows how to win and win consistently. They only return 10 starters -- and just three on defense. Navy lost its top four tacklers from a year ago -- Wyatt Middleton, Tyler Simmons, Aaron McCauley and Jerry Hauburger.

There are some bright spots returning, though. Defensive end Jabaree Tuani, their best defensive lineman, returns. Cornerback Kewsi Mitchell will anchor the defensive backfield, though just exactly where he will play remains up in the air. On the latest depth chart, he is listed as a possibility at rover, right and left cornerback.

Offensively, Ricky Dobbs is gone, but there isn't much concern about Kriss Proctor coming in to run the triple-option. Proctor has had extensive experience running the offense as a backup the past two seasons. Plus, he has fullback Alexander Teich to help him out. Teich had a breakout year in 2010, running for 863 yards and is in line to be a 1,000-yard rusher this season. Four of five starters on the offensive line return as well.

As for Air Force, the Falcons are the defending Commander-In-Chief Trophy winners after breaking the seven-year Navy streak. Air Force has to be the favorite to repeat as CIC champions because of everybody it has returning. In fact, the Falcons were picked to finish third in the Mountain West in the preseason media poll, and some have called them a darkhorse candidate to win the conference.

Air Force has the best quarterback of the service academies in Tim Jefferson, and the best return specalist in Jonathan Warzeka. The Falcons also have the most solid defense. Eight starters return on defense, including the team's top three tacklers from a year ago -- Jordan Waiwaiole, Jon Davis and Brady Amack.

All three programs need to get to six wins to be bowl eligible. If that happens again, Navy would head to the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman on Dec. 28 in Washington against a team from the ACC. Army would head to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco against a Pac-12 team on Dec. 31. Air Force would go to a Mountain West tie-in.

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