NCF Nation: Anthony Martinez

Top 10 non-AQ moments of 2010

January, 18, 2011
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What would a season wrap be without a list of the top 10 moments of the non-AQ season? So here it goes.

1. Tank Carder bats down Scott Tolzien’s 2-point conversion attempt. The best moment of the season simply because it preserved TCU’s 21-19 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, allowing the Horned Frogs to finish No. 2 in the final rankings as the top non-AQ team in the nation.

[+] EnlargeNevada Wolf Pack kicker Anthony Martinez
AP Photo/Cathleen AllisonAnthony Martinez's game-winning kick in overtime shocked Boise State and led Nevada to its best season ever.
2. Anthony Martinez kicks a 34-yard field goal in overtime to beat Boise State. In one of the biggest upsets of the season, Nevada took advantage of two misses from Broncos kicker Kyle Brotzman to pull off the 34-31 win. It was Martinez, a redshirt freshman, who calmly delivered the game-winning kick, triggering a wild celebration and helping the Wolf Pack finish with the best season in school history.

3. Kellen Moore delivers the game-winning touchdown over Virginia Tech. Moore threw the 13-yard touchdown pass to Austin Pettis with 1:09 remaining, lifting the Broncos to a 33-30 win over Virginia Tech. The win may have lost its luster at the end of the season, but at the time, it kept Boise State in the national conversation and proved once again the Broncos had what it took, not only to compete, but to beat the teams from the automatic qualifying conferences.

4. TCU smacks Utah. The stakes were high. College GameDay was in Salt Lake City for the huge clash between No. 3 TCU and No. 5 Utah, two undefeated non-AQs jockeying for BCS positioning. The Horned Frogs dismantled Utah 47-7 as Andy Dalton threw for 355 yards, including a 93-yard touchdown pass to Josh Boyce early in the first quarter that set the tone for the game.

5. Brandon Burton blocks BYU’s game-winning field goal attempt. Not only was this the last game between BYU and Utah as conference rivals, it's also presumably the last time they will end the season against each other. Burton delivered a classic finish, blocking a 42-yard attempt by Mitch Payne to help Utah hold on for a 17-16 victory. Utah had erased a 13-0 deficit to come from behind and win.

6. Austin Boucher throws a 33-yard touchdown pass to Armand Robinson with 33 seconds left to help Miami (Ohio) win the MAC title game. This was supposed to be Northern Illinois’ night. The Huskies finished unbeaten in league play and were the overwhelming favorites to win. But Boucher, a redshirt freshman, converted a fourth-and-20 on the final drive, then hit Robinson for the game-winning touchdown as Miami (Ohio) completed the best turnaround in college football. The RedHawks went 1-11 last season.

7. Navy beats Notre Dame. Alexander Teich had his way against the Irish, running for 210 yards as the Midshipmen won in a 35-17 rout. It was Navy’s third win over Notre Dame in four years, as it racked up 367 yards on the ground – the most ever for Navy against the Irish. Teich also became the first fullback in school history to run for over 200 yards in a game.

8. Dominique Davis’ prayer answered. Trailing 49-45 with seconds remaining in the season opener for both teams, the only option East Carolina had to win was to throw a Hail Mary into the end zone. Davis heaved the football into the end zone, and James Jones came up with the 33-yard touchdown to complete the improbable 51-49 victory. The teams combined for 1,117 yards and swapped the lead 12 times. If Tulsa had won, the Golden Hurricane would have played in the C-USA championship game and East Carolina would not have made a bowl.

9. Air Force knocks off Navy. When the Falcons beat the Midshipmen 14-6 early in the season, they got the upper hand in the race for the Commander-In-Chief Trophy. Air Force beat Navy for the first time since 2002 and also ended the Midshipmen’s 15-game service academy win streak. It was an emotional win for the Falcons, whose win over Army later in the season ended Navy’s seven-year hold on that CIC Trophy.

10. FIU kicks a last second field goal to beat Toledo. In what was one of the best finishes during bowl season, FIU kicker Jack Griffin booted a 34-yard field goal with no time left to give the Panthers a 34-32 win over the Rockets in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. It was a great moment not only because of the heart-stopping ending, but because FIU won its first bowl game in its first bowl appearance and finished with its first ever winning record.

Non-AQ season wrap

December, 8, 2010
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The big storyline going into 2010: Could this be the year for a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference to make history and land in the BCS national championship game?

History was definitely made, but in a slightly different way.

[+] EnlargeTCU quarterback Andy Dalton
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireTCU quarterback Andy Dalton led the Horned Frogs to an undefeated season and a Rose Bowl berth.
No. 3 TCU carried the torch for the non-AQs everywhere, going undefeated for the second straight regular season and landing a spot in the prestigious Rose Bowl -- the fifth team to play in the game from outside the Big Ten or Pac-10 in the BCS era. The Horned Frogs will face Wisconsin in what is shaping up to be a must-win, for the sake of credibility.

Of course, the Horned Frogs are the first non-AQ team to play in that game, and have now become the first non-AQ team to land back-to-back BCS berths after playing in the Fiesta Bowl last season.

And to think just three short weeks ago, all eyes were on Boise State. The Broncos were also undefeated and ranked right behind TCU in the BCS standings. But many people figured if they won out, they would leap the Horned Frogs as the top non-AQ school.

The two had spent the entire season jockeying for position. Both started out ranked in the AP preseason poll -- Boise State at No. 3 and TCU at No. 6. Both returned most of their starters, including veteran quarterbacks. Both seemed poised to make that push for history, since no other non-AQ team had ever started the season ranked so high.

But then Nov. 26 happened.

Boise State walked into Reno to play Nevada needing two more wins, with a potential BCS berth on the line. The Broncos jumped out to a 24-7 halftime lead, but that all vanished. Kyle Brotzman missed a 26-yard field goal that would have won it in regulation, then a 29-yarder on the first possession of overtime. Nevada kicker Anthony Martinez nailed his field goal, and Nevada won 34-31, breaking Boise State hearts everywhere.

TCU got the BCS spot. Boise State ended up in Las Vegas, perhaps a perfect place to forget their sorrows.

But what happened to No. 10 Boise State was no fluke -- and neither was the WAC. Nevada posted the best season in school history at 12-1 and finished No. 15 in the BCS standings. No. 24 Hawaii also won 10 games, and the three shared the league championship. They also ended the season ranked in the Top 25 -- the first time the WAC has had three ranked teams since 1997. The Mountain West, usually the standard-bearer for the non-AQs only had two teams ranked.

As for history being made, there was plenty of that in the other non-AQ conferences. UCF earned the first ranking in school history this year en route to the Conference USA championship. FIU won its first Sun Belt championship and got the first bowl bid in school history. And Miami (Ohio) had the best turnaround in college football this season, turning a 1-11 season into a 9-4 season with a conference title.

In addition to all that, Air Force, Army and Navy are all in bowl games for the first time in the same season.

[+] EnlargeKellen Moore
AP Photo/Greg Wahl-StephensKellen Moore's 33 touchdown passes made him a Heisman finalist.
Offensive MVP: Kellen Moore, Boise State and Colin Kaepernick, Nevada. If the WAC can vote them Co-Offensive Players of the Year, then so can I. Both were outstanding for their respective teams. Moore is the first Heisman finalist in school history after throwing for 3,506 yards, 33 touchdowns and five interceptions. Kaepernick put his team on his back, and joined Cam Newton and Tim Tebow as the only players to run for 20 touchdowns and pass for 20 touchdowns in one season.

Defensive MVP: Tank Carder, TCU. You have to give the nod to the leader on the best defensive unit in the country. TCU ranks No. 1 in total defense for an incredible third straight season. His stats don’t jump off the page -- 54 tackles, 2.5 sacks -- but they don’t have to when you do so many other things to help your team win.

Newcomer of the year: Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State. Well, I got one of my preseason predictions right. Hillman had a year to remember for the Aztecs, set the Mountain West freshman rushing record with 1,304 yards and 14 touchdowns en route to league Freshman of the Year honors. Don’t be surprised if his name pops up in Heisman talk in the next few years.

Coach of the year: Chris Ault, Nevada. This was a tough one with so many worthy candidates. TCU coach Gary Patterson, Miami (Ohio) coach Mike Haywood and San Diego State coach Brady Hoke all deserve consideration. But Ault took his team to the best season in school history, and his Pistol offense is all the rage.

Biggest surprise: Miami (Ohio). As I mentioned above, going from 1-11 to 9-4 is quite an accomplishment for the RedHawks and Haywood. This is a team that was predicted to finish fifth out of seven teams in the MAC East. Now they have rings.

Biggest disappointment: BYU. I got this preseason prediction right as well. The Cougars had won 10 or more games in four straight seasons, but they could not get anything going offensively in 2010 after struggling at quarterback and failing to find any consistent playmakers.

Game of the year: Nevada 34, Boise State 31 (OT). The game was an instant classic. It changed the course of the non-AQ season, and also gave Nevada its first ever win over a Top 5 opponent.

Video: One Good Thing

November, 29, 2010
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Andrea Adelson’s One Good Thing focuses on Nevada kicker Anthony Martinez.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

September, 13, 2010
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Here are your non-AQ players of the week:

Conference USA

Offense: Bryce Beall, RB, Houston. Ran for a career-high 195 yards and tied a career-high with three touchdown runs in a 54-24 win over UTEP.

Defense: Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall. Had 11 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles in a loss to West Virginia on Friday night.

Special Teams: Kevin Fitzpatrick, K, Tulsa. Tied a career-best when he made four-of-four field goals, including two in each half.

MAC
East Division

Offense: Thomas Merriweather, RB, Miami. Ran for 100 yards for the second time in his career, getting 105 yards on 15 carries and tied his career high with three touchdowns in a win over Eastern Michigan.

Defense: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple. Had six tackles, a career-high two sacks, a career-high three tackles for loss and one forced fumble in a 13-10 overtime win over Central Michigan last Thursday.

Special Teams: Freddy Cortez, K, Kent State. Made field goals from 45 and 41 yards in a 26-13 loss at Boston College. It was the first time in his career Cortez has made two field goals of 40-plus yards.

West Division

Offense: Alex Carder, QB, Western Michigan. Completed a career-high 24-of-33 passing for 298 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-14 win over Nicholls State. Carder became the sixth Bronco quarterback with five passing touchdowns in a game and the first since Oct. 8, 2005.

Defense: Dan Molls, LB, Toledo. Had a career-high 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack and two interceptions in a 20-13 win at Ohio.

Special Teams: Jay Karutz, P, Eastern Michigan. Set a school record with a 49.5 punt average against Miami with three of the four inside the 20-yard line, including two that were downed inside the 1. His fourth punt was a 56 yarder that went out of bounds.

Mountain West

Offense: Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State. Rushed for 150 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-21 victory over New Mexico State. The four rushing touchdowns set a conference freshman single-game high and are the most by a San Diego State player since Larry Ned had four touchdowns against Wyoming in 2001.

Defense: Alex Ibiloye, S, TCU. Forced three fumbles and added a team-high tying nine tackles in a 62-7 win over Tennessee Tech. Ibiloye became the first Horned Frog to force more than one fumble in a game since Jerry Hughes forced two against BYU in 2008.

Special teams: Shaky Smithson, WR/PR, Utah. Returned five punts for 128 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown, to help Utah beat UNLV 38-10. He is the first Utah player to return a punt for a touchdown since 2007.

Sun Belt

Offense: Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State. Threw for a single-game school record 438 yards in a loss to Louisiana. That is the highest total for an FBS player this season. He currently has the second-most passing yards in the country with 716.

Co-Defense: Maurice Rolle, DB, Louisiana; Jonathan Massaquoi, DE, Troy. Rolle had a key interception of Aplin with 1:59 remaining to secure the win. Massaquoi had eight total tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in a loss to Oklahoma State.

Special Teams: Jerrel Jernigan, KR, Troy. Became the fourth player in league history to return a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in a loss to Oklahoma State. Jernigan finished the game with 277 all-purpose yards and moved past former Middle Tennessee star Desmond Gee into fifth place on the SBC career list with 4,362 career all-purpose yards.

WAC

Offense: Bryant Moniz, QB, Hawaii. Completed 25 of 36 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-28 win at Army. Moniz led the Warriors to touchdowns in three of their first four possessions.

Defense: James-Michael Johnson, LB, Nevada. Had a team and career-high nine tackles, including 1.5 sacks in a 51-6 win at Colorado State. Nevada notched its first shutout since 2006.

Special teams: Anthony Martinez, K, Nevada. Made all three of his field goal attempts and six extra point in the win over Colorado State. The field goal attempts were the first of his college career, while the 15 points he scored in the game are tied for the third most of any kicker in the nation in a game this year.

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