NCF Nation: Bobby Wagner

Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore kicks off his quest to prove he is a bona fide NFL quarterback this week as he begins practicing at the Senior Bowl.

You get the feeling he is going to be one of the more talked about prospects. Not only is Boise State one of the most polarizing schools in the nation, there is also a major curiosity about whether Moore can play in the NFL given his size (5-foot-11) and arm strength. Can those questions be answered during a week's worth of practice and the game on Saturday?

Todd McShay breaks down his top storylines for the big collegiate all-star game, and Moore happens to one of the quarterbacks he lists with plenty on the line.

McShay says, "The closer Moore is to 6-foot the better it will be for his stock. He's also looking to show NFL scouts he's capable of finding passing windows and reading [the] entire field from inside the pocket."

Among the other players McShay is going to keep an eye on from the non-AQ ranks:

San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley. McShay writes: "He has been working on being more consistent with his mechanics, and Lindley has a chance to improve his draft stock if his accuracy is better during the practice week. He currently projects as a Day 3 pick."

Louisiana-Lafayette tight end Ladarius Green and Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner are two of his under the radar prospects. McShay says Green has a chance to really raise his stock if he proves he can make plays against a higher level of competition. Wagner is "quick, tough and instinctive but scouts will want to see how well he stacks and sheds against bigger blockers in phone-booth situations."

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

November, 28, 2011
11/28/11
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Let's take a look back at the non-AQs in Week 13:

Houston one step away. The Cougars faced a tough task on the road at Tulsa, with a spot in the Conference USA championship game on the line. Tulsa jumped out to a 10-6 lead early in the game, and some had to wonder whether we were seeing the old Houston come back to life. But these are not the Cougars of 2009 or 2010. The Cougars reeled off 28 straight points in the second half to blow open the game and win 48-16. Case Keenum threw for 457 yards and five touchdown passes, and Patrick Edwards had 181 yards and four touchdowns as Houston won a school-record 12th game. Two of their touchdown connections came on fourth down. Edwards went over 100 yards for the 16th time in his career and also broke the conference record for career receiving yards. Houston now hosts Southern Miss on Saturday with a chance to make its first BCS appearance.

Coaching carousel starts. Akron, Memphis and UAB all are in the market for new head coaches. The Zips fired Rob Ianello after he went 2-22 in his two seasons at the helm. The Tigers fired Larry Porter after he went 3-21 in two seasons. UAB fired Neil Callaway after he went 18-42 in five seasons with the Blazers. Athletic directors at all three schools essentially said they did not see improvement in their programs and decided to go in different directions. Callaway is the third Conference USA coach who has been fired this season, joining Bob Toledo of Tulane. New Mexico also fired coach Mike Locksley earlier this season, but already hired former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie. Meanwhile, Ianello was reportedly fired as he drove to his mother's funeral in Long Island, N.Y.

Going bowling. Marshall became bowl eligible for the first time under coach Doc Holliday, after a 34-27 win over East Carolina in overtime. The Pirates sent the game into the extra period when Dominique Davis threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Justin Jones with 14 seconds left in regulation. But Davis threw an interception in overtime, after Tron Martinez scored on a 1-yard run for the Herd. East Carolina will not be in a bowl game for the first time in six years. As for the Herd, they are one of several non-AQ teams to become bowl eligible after losing seasons in 2010:
  • Ball State improved from 4-8 to 6-6.
  • Western Kentucky improved from 2-10 to 7-5.
  • Wyoming improved from 3-9 to 7-4, with one game remaining at Colorado State.
  • Louisiana Tech improved from 5-7 to 8-4 and WAC champs.
  • Utah State improved from 4-8 to 6-5 with one game remaining at New Mexico State.
  • Arkansas State improved from 4-8 to 9-2.
  • Louisiana-Lafayette improved from 3-9 to 8-4.

As you can see, three Sun Belt teams made five-game improvements, and the league has four bowl-eligible teams this season.

Game of the week. FAU 38, UAB 35.

Howard Schnellenberger announced his retirement before the season, began but his final season was not exactly going according to plan. The Owls were the only winless team in FBS heading into Week 13. But alas, the football gods conspired to make sure the legendary program builder would not go out without a win. The Owls played inspired football Saturday against UAB, beating the Blazers 38-35 as Schnellenberger avoided his first winless season. Alfred Morris had a career-high four touchdowns, with a career-high 198 yards on 38 carries to notch his fifth straight 100-yard game. "I got the biggest and best kiss from [wife] Beverlee in a long time on the sideline," Schnellenberger said afterward. "And I'm expecting more when I get home."

WAC-ky WAC. Nevada was in control of the WAC heading into last week's game against Louisiana Tech. But the Wolf Pack have now dropped two straight games, losing to Utah State 21-17 on Saturday. The Bulldogs had no such problems after their big win over Nevada last week and beat New Mexico State 44-0 to win their first WAC title since 2001. Louisiana Tech has won seven straight after starting the year 1-4. The team also accepted a bowl spot in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, the fifth bowl bid in school history. This will be first bowl appearance since an Independence Bowl victory over Northern Illinois in 2008.

Helmet Stickers

Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall. Cato went 23-of-29 for 341 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-27 overtime win over East Carolina to get the Thundering Herd to a bowl game.

Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple. Pierce had a season-high 189 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries in a 34-16 win over Kent State. Pierce went over the 100-yard mark in rushing for the 17th time in his career and eighth time this season. Pierce has had three or more touchdowns in six games this year.

Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey had a season-high 227-yards and three touchdowns in a 41-18 win over Troy. Rainey also broke the school's single-season rushing record, ending the regular season with 1,695 yards. He now leads the nation for the second straight season in carries and broke his own school record with 369 attempts on the season.

Travis Stanaway, S, Boise State. Stanaway, making just the second start of his career for Boise State, had a career-high nine tackles, forced a fumble and had his first career interception as a Bronco in a 36-14 win over Wyoming.

Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State. Wagner had a game-high 15 tackles in a 21-17 win over Nevada, and also had a critical fumble recovery on a fourth-and-1 in the final minutes of the game to preserve the victory.

Top non-AQ players, defense

January, 24, 2011
1/24/11
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Earlier today I did a post with the top non-AQ offensive players, according to the final NCAA stats. Now let us take a look at the top NCAA defensive players from the non-AQs.

We start with tackles. Seven of the top 10 leaders in tackles per game came from non-AQ teams:

No. 3 Jamon Hughes, Memphis, 12.25

No. 4 Mario Harvey, Marshall, 11.92

No. 5 Archie Donald, Toledo, 11.23

No. 6 Dwayne Woods Jr., Bowling Green, 11.17

t. No. 7 Bobby Wagner, Utah State, 11.08

t. No. 7 Craig Robertson, North Texas, 11.08

No. 10 Dan Molls, Toledo, 11

Only three of these players return for next season -- Woods, Wagner and Molls. Donald and Molls formed one of the best linebacker duos in the nation if you want to look at their numbers alone. Donald finished with 146 total tackles, while Molls had 143. The only other school with two tacklers in the top 30 was Akron with Brian Wagner (130) and Mike Thomas (113).

Next up: sacks. Five of the top 10 in the NCAA stats are from non-AQ schools.

No. 4 Jonathan Massaquoi, Troy, 13.5 (1.04 pg)

No. 5 Vinny Curry, Marshall, 12 (1.0 pg)

No. 7 Jamari Lattimore, Middle Tennessee, 11.5 (0.88 per game)

No. 8 Mario Addison, Troy, 10.5 (0.88 per game)

No. 9 Chris Carter, Fresno State, 11 (0.88 per game)

Just missing the list is Kent State true freshman Roosevelt Nix, who will most definitely be a player to watch for 2011. Nix had 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss in his debut season, en route to winning MAC defensive player of the year honors. Troy will lose one member of its sack duo -- Addison just finished his senior season. So did Lattimore and Carter. Massaquoi is an early candidate for Sun Belt defensive player of the year. The honors went to Lattimore this past season.

Finally, we take a look at interceptions. Many non-AQ players made the list here if you want to count total interceptions:

No. 3 Mana Silva, Hawaii, 8 (0.57 pg)

t. No. 5 Dexter McCoil, Tulsa, 6 (0.5 pg)

t. No. 5 Sean Baker, Ball State

t. No. 5 Domonic Cook, Buffalo

t. No. 10 Marco Nelson, Tulsa (.046 pg)

t. No. 13 Evan Harris, Miami (Ohio), (0.43 pg)

t. No. 13 Dayonne Nunley, Miami (0.43 pg)

Everybody on the list but Silva had six interceptions this past season. Impressive to see duos from Tulsa and Miami on the list. Each of those players returns for 2011. There were only three seniors on this list -- Baker, Cook and Silva.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November, 25, 2010
11/25/10
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Happy Thanksgiving to all! Hope you get to spend today with lots of food, family and football -- it will be a great treat to see whether Texas can pull the upset and become bowl-eligible tonight against Texas A&M.

What are you thankful for today? Here is my list:

Passionate college football fans, who are all to eager to tell you that you are either 1) The smartest person alive or 2) The dumbest person who ever lived and should be scrubbing toilets rather than talking college football. I love you all!

Boise State and TCU. Haters can hate all they want, but we are seeing something this season that may never happen again. This is history in the making, the possibility that a non-AQ makes it into the national championship game. With Boise State and TCU set to be in the same conference in 2011, Utah leaving for the Pac-12 and the implosion of the WAC, this could very well be the last time we see two undefeated non-AQ teams jockeying for position in a national championship race.

The Pistol offense. It's nice to see Nevada coach Chris Ault get all the pub he has gotten for his innovative offense this season. Not only have countless stories been done on him, but several teams throughout college football are now running some version of it, from UCLA to Alabama to Stanford.

Great coaching jobs. Look across the non-AQs and you will find plenty -- TCU coach Gary Patterson and Boise State coach Chris Petersen go without saying. Here are a few others:
  • Miami (Ohio) coach Mike Haywood -- Took a 1-11 team to an 8-4 record and a share of the East Division title.
  • Ohio coach Frank Solich -- Overcame the loss of three star players to lead his team to a share of the MAC East.
  • Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill -- On the verge of a 10-win season for the Huskies.
  • FIU coach Mario Cristobal -- Has his never-been-bowling Panthers one win away from a Sun Belt title.
  • UCF coach George O'Leary -- Has his team one win from the C-USA title game with a freshman quarterback and an outstanding defense.
  • BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall -- His team is bowl-eligible after starting the season 1-4.
Great players. You know the headliners. Here are some of the most unheralded from the non-AQs: Western Kentucky RB Bobby Rainey, who has carried the ball a whopping 313 times this season and ranks No. 4 in the country in rushing, averaging 135 yards a game. North Texas back Lance Dunbar is right behind him in the Sun Belt. Dominique Davis of East Carolina, Bryant Moniz of Hawaii, Alex Carder of Western Michigan and Corey Robinson of Troy all rank in the top 10 in the nation in passing.

Great WR duos, too: Titus Young and Austin Pettis at Boise State; Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares at Hawaii; Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson at San Diego State; Juan Nunez and Jordan White at Western Michigan.

Defensively, it's hard not to like Jamon Hughes of Memphis, Bobby Wagner of Utah State, Dwayne Woods of Bowling Green, Vinny Curry and Mario Harvey of Marshall, Archie Donald and Danny Molls of Toledo, the entire TCU and Boise State defenses, Josh McNary of Army and Wyatt Middleton of Navy. Three of the best special-teamers in the nation are from non-AQs too: Shaky Smithson of Utah, Jeremy Kerley of TCU and Darius Johnson of Tulsa.

Happy eating, everyone!

Non-AQ Players of the Week

November, 8, 2010
11/08/10
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Here are the non-AQ Players of the Week, as selected by each conference:

Conference USA

Offense: UCF quarterback Jeff Godfrey. Went 15-of-19 for 294 yards and a pair of touchdowns and rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown, giving him 399 yards of total offense in a 40-33 win against Houston. It was just the second 100-yard rushing game by a UCF quarterback in school history.

Defense: UCF linebacker Josh Linam. Had 17 tackles, 1.5 for a loss and a pass breakup against Houston. It more than doubled his previous career-high of seven.

Special Teams: Tulsa kick returner Damaris Johnson. Totaled 322 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns in a 57-27 victory against Rice. Johnson became the Conference USA record-holder for career kickoff return yards with 3,054 yards and needs only 64 yards to become the NCAA’s all-time kick-off return leader.

MAC

East Division

Offense: Temple quarterback Mike Gerardi. Threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-10 win at Kent State. In four games, Gerardi has three starts and is 54-of-81 for 871 yards and eight touchdowns.

Defense: Ohio defensive lineman Stafford Gatling. Recorded six tackles, including 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss with a forced fumble in a 34-17 win against Buffalo.

Special teams: Kent State punter Matt Rinehart. Averaged 48.4 yards on seven punts in a 28-10 loss to Temple. Rinehart had a pair of punts downed inside the 5-yard line as the Flashes averaged an impressive 48.1 net average.

West Division

Offense: Ball State receiver Jack Tomlinson. Had a career day with seven catches for 175 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-30 double overtime win against Akron.

Defense: Central Michigan linebacer Armond Staten. Recorded 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack and three forced fumbles in a 26-22 win against Western Michigan.

Special teams: Ball State kicker Ian McGarvey. Made three field goals and four extra points against Akron.

Mountain West

Offense: TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. Went 21-of-26 for a career-high 355 yards and three touchdowns in a 47-7 win at No. 5 Utah. His 93-yard touchdown pass to Josh Boyce marked the second-longest play in MWC history.

Co-Defensive Players: TCU linebacker Tanner Brock and San Diego State linebacker Miles Burris. Brock had a career-high 12 tackles, an interception and a pass breakup in the win against Utah. Burris had a career-high 10 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles in a 24-19 victory against Colorado State.

Special teams: New Mexico kicker James Aho. Kicked a 38-yard field goal as time expired to help New Mexico stop a nine-game losing streak with a 34-31 win against Wyoming. He also made a career-best 51-yard attempt.

Sun Belt

Offense: FIU receiver T.Y. Hilton. Had 291 all-purpose yards, scoring four touchdowns in a 42-35 win in double overtime against ULM. He had two receiving touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and one kickoff return for a touchdown.

Defense: Arkansas State linebacker Demario Davis. Had seven tackles and a career-high two interceptions in a 51-24 victory against Middle Tennessee.

Special teams: Hilton. Had 168 kick return yards, including 95 on a touchdown return. The return was his fourth-career return for touchdown, tying him for first all-time at FIU.

WAC

Offense: Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore. Went 30-of-37 for a career-high 507 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-7 win against Hawaii. The 507 yards are the second most by any player in the nation this year.

Defense: Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner. Tied a career-high with 17 tackles in a 27-22 win against New Mexico State.

Special teams: Louisiana Tech return specialist Phillip Livas. Returned seven kickoffs for 225 yards, including a 95-yarder for a touchdown, and a punt for another 29 yards in a loss to Fresno State.

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