NCF Nation: Carl Ihenacho

Posted by's Graham Watson

If it had been left up to Edith Ihenacho, there wouldn't be a story to read here.

There would be no fabled tale about two brothers with little football experience defying odds to become two of the nation's best defensive players at their respective positions.

 AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
 Carl Ihenacho, left, and his brother, Duke Ihenacho, are preparing for one of the biggest games of their college careers against No. 13 Boise State.

No, if it were left up to Edith Ihenacho, the mother of San Jose State defensive stars Carl and Duke Ihenacho, who lead the nation in tackles for loss (Carl) and interceptions (Duke), her sons would have never played football.

"We tried to persuade my mom to let us play Pop Warner because all our family members were doing it," said Carl Ihenacho, a junior defensive end for the Spartans. "We went to one practice. We didn't even get to suit up. We just went to go watch a practice, and she'd seen a head-on collision by two younger kids, and she just walked us home and we never went back out to play football again."

Carl and Duke followed their love of baseball, which turned into basketball as they got older and were satisfied with flag football games with relatives. But as they got into high school, the urge to play football surfaced again.

By the time Duke was going into his junior year, he realized that he wasn't going to get a scholarship to play basketball at a major college. Steve Garcia, Duke's gym teacher at Serra High School near Los Angeles, was the defensive coordinator on the football team and urged Duke to try out based on his athleticism.

He was tired of pleading for his mother's permission to be a part of a sport he longed to play, so as a 16-year-old, Duke just threw caution to the wind and tried out.

"When you're 16, there's not much your mom can say to have you not play football," said Duke, now a sophomore linebacker. "If she let me play basketball, I didn't see why not let me play football. I was old enough and strong enough to withstand the physical contact of football. It was a decision I made by myself. I didn't ask her, I just told her. She said she didn't like it."

Had it not been for that decision, and later Duke's deft persuasion of his older brother Carl, who was a senior at the time, to join him, the Ihenacho brothers might not have realized that football was their calling. San Jose State assistant Charles Nash might not have recruited Carl and Duke, who have become the anchors of the nation's 13th-ranked total defense.

And the nation would not have the opportunity to see them play in the biggest game of their careers to date against No. 13 Boise State on ESPN this Friday.

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Posted by's Graham Watson

Brennan Marion, WR, Tulsa: Set a Conference USA record for yards per catch in a game with 38.8 as he finished Tulsa's 77-35 win over UTEP with six catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns.

Brian Brunner, QB, Central Michigan: Threw for a career-high 346 yards and a touchdown after he found out a half hour before the game that he was going to make his second career start in relief of starter Dan LeFevour.

Charles Pierre, RB, Florida Atlantic: Rushed for 192 of Florida Atlantic's 255 yards, and two touchdowns to lead FAU to a 24-20 win over Western Kentucky.

Tim Hiller, QB, Western Michigan: Set a school record with 471 yards passing (38-of-53) in a losing effort against Central Michigan. Hiller has thrown for 300 or more yards in three consecutive games.

Aldrick Robinson, WR, SMU: Had eight catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort against Houston. He's had a touchdown in seven of the last eight games.

Brandyn Thompson, CB, Boise State: Had three of Boise State's five interceptions of Hawaii quarterback Inoke Funaki in a 27-7 win. The defense also had seven sacks.

Dennis Kennedy, RB, Akron: Rushed for 277 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning score in a 42-35 win over Eastern Michigan.

Mark Hafner, WR, Houston: Had 10 catches for 160 yards in a 44-38 win over Southern Methodist. It was only his second 100-yard receiving game of the season.

Chase Clement, QB, Rice: Completed 70 percent of his passes for 444 yards and six touchdowns in a 45-40 win over Southern Mississippi.

Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU: Had four sacks and forced two fumbles to help the Horned Frogs to a 32-7 win over previously undefeated No. 9 BYU.

DeAndre Brown, WR, Southern Mississippi: Caught 12 passes for 221 yards and four touchdowns, including a score with 17.2 seconds remaining, in a losing effort to Rice.

Case Keenum, QB, Houston: Led Houston to another come-from-behind win by completing 78 percent of his passes for 404 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for a touchdown.

Collin Mooney, FB, Army: Finished a 27-24 OT loss to Buffalo with 172 yards rushing and two touchdowns. It was the third straight game he broke the 170-yard mark rushing.

Joe Webb, QB, UAB: He accounted for 352 yards of total offense, including 135 yards rushing, to lead his team to a 23-21 win over Marshall. His only touchdown of the game was the winning score.

David Johnson, QB, Tulsa: Threw for 434 yards, his third 400-yard game of the season, and five touchdowns, his third game with five or more touchdowns, in a 77-35 rout of UTEP.

Rodney Ferguson, RB, New Mexico: Ferguson rushed for 149 yards and scored four touchdowns in a 70-7 rout of San Diego State.

Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy: Accounted for 221 yards of total offense and two touchdowns -- one passing and one receiving -- in a 33-23 win over Florida International to stay atop the Sun Belt standings.

San Jose State defense: Had three interceptions, two that were returned for touchdowns, and 17 tackles for loss, including six sacks and three quarterback hurries.

Tim Jefferson, QB, Air Force: The freshman quarterback led the Falcons with 261 total yards, including completing 6 of 7 passes for 162 yards in a come-from-behind win over UNLV. He also had two touchdowns.