NCF Nation: Matt Christian

Non-AQ Players of the Week

October, 3, 2011
10/03/11
2:52
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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.

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

October, 3, 2011
10/03/11
1:00
PM ET
Taking a look at the week that was in the non-AQs ...

The good: Marshall and Western Michigan pulled upsets on their AQ opponents -- the Thundering Herd beat Louisville 17-13 and the Broncos beat UConn 38-31. ... Boise State got its run game going in a 30-10 win against Nevada as Doug Martin went over 100 yards for the first time this season. ... New Mexico State beat New Mexico 42-28 - the first time in over 40 years that the Aggies have won three straight in the series. ... San Jose State scored the go-ahead touchdown on a pass with 54 seconds remaining to beat Colorado State 38-31. The Spartans have won back-to-back games for the first time in three years. … Louisiana is 4-1 for the first time since 1988 after Brett Baer hit a 26-yard field goal with no time left to lift the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 37-34 win against FAU.

[+] EnlargeDarius Johnson
AP Photo/Matt StrasenReceiver Darius Johnson and SMU ripped TCU's pass defense in a 40-33 overtime victory.
The bad: The TCU pass defense continues to struggle. SMU beat TCU 40-33 in overtime, throwing for 349 yards in the victory. All of its offensive touchdowns came on passes. In all, TCU gave up more than 450 yards for the second time this season, and the Horned Frogs are out of the AP Top 25 for the first time in 47 weeks. ... Temple had a huge win against Maryland in Week 4, but the Owls fell flat at home against Toledo, dropping an important MAC game 36-13. All seven of their drives in the second half ended with a punt or turnover. ... Northern Illinois lost to Central Michigan 48-41 -- the third time this season the Huskies' defense has given up 40 points.

The heartbreak: Utah State is the poster child for broken hearts this season. For the third time, the Aggies lost a game in the closing minutes. This time, it happened against in-state rival BYU. Riley Nelson came off the bench to lead a comeback for the Cougars, engineering a 96-yard game-winnning drive with 11 seconds left for a 27-24 BYU win. His 13-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Matthews was tipped by Utah State defender Will Harris near the goal line. The Aggies blew a 24-13 lead, and were hoping for consecutive wins against BYU for the first time since 1973-74.

Meanwhile in Annapolis, a penalty flag helped decide one of the biggest rivalry games in college football. Navy erased an 18-point fourth quarter deficit behind quarterback Kriss Proctor, who had a 7-yard touchdown run and 5-yard touchdown pass to Gee Gee Greene with 19 seconds left in regulation. Alexander Teich ran in the 2-point conversion and the game went into overtime. Proctor put Navy up first in the extra period on a 1-yard touchdown run, but was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for getting in the face of an Air Force player. The extra point was blocked. Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson answered with a 1-yard touchdown run of his own and the Falcons made their extra point to win 35-34 and get a leg up in the competition for the Commander-In-Chief Trophy. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo was incredulous after the game, "I would hope the referees would have said something like, 'Settle down,' in that situation," he said. "It's too critical a call to make. I hope those guys can sleep well tonight."

Idaho nearly pulled the upset at Virginia, but the Vandals failed on their 2-point attempt in overtime and lost 21-20. Coach Robb Akey decided to go for the win in the extra period, but Brian Reader had his pass batted down. "My only disappointment was that we didn’t make the play at the end of the game," Akey said.

Case Keenum watch: Keenum threw for 471 yards and two touchdowns in a 49-42 win against UTEP, the 15th time he has reached 400 yards in his career. He now ranks third on the NCAA career pasing list, and needs 1,482 yards to break the mark held by Timmy Chang. Keenum is averaging 401 yards passing a game. If he keeps that pace up, he will break the passing record at UAB on Nov. 5.

Helmet stickers

Alex Carder, QB, Western Michigan. Carder threw for a career-high and program record 479 yards and five touchdowns in a 38-31 win against UConn.

Harry Peoples, WR, Louisiana. Peoples had 12 catches for 176 yards in a win against FAU. His 12 receptions tied the mark Brandon Stokley set against Louisiana Tech in 1995 for most catches by a UL receiver at Cajun Field.

Brady Amack, LB, Air Force. Amack amassed a career-high 23 tackles (11 solo), a sack and two tackles for loss in the Falcons’ 35-34 overtime victory at Navy. Amack’s tackle total ranks as the sixth-highest in school history and tied for the most in Mountain West history.

Matt Christian, QB, New Mexico State. Christian went 16-of-27 for a career-high 296 yards and a career-high four touchdowns 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.

Lunchtime Links

October, 6, 2010
10/06/10
12:30
PM ET
Troy beat Middle Tennessee 42-13 on Tuesday night. Who wants a little more mid-week football? UAB-UCF is on tap tonight.

Now on to some links:

Middle Tennessee defensive tackle Dwight Smith played with a heavy heart, after losing his mother and grandmother in the last week.

The Boise State defensive line is dominating.

Back-to-back shutouts for TCU would show some style.

SMU linebacker Ja'Gared Davis has become a big hit in the 3-4 defense.

Chase Blaine will make his first collegiate start Saturday for North Texas, but Riley Dodge is putting off surgery on his broken wrist and could be available as a backup.

New Mexico State could be without starting quarterback Matt Christian on Saturday because of a shoulder injury.

Is Temple-Northern Illinois a MAC title game preview?

Navy RT Matt Molloy is out for the season after sustaining another concussion last week against Air Force.

Marshall has struggled with the new spread offense.
We told you about quarterback battles still going on among the non-AQ schools in a two part series yesterday: Part I and Part II.

Here is a look at the quarterback battles that have already been decided as we close in on the start of the season:

Akron

Winner: Patrick Nicely.

Buzz: Nicely and Matt Rodgers played pretty evenly throughout fall camp and split the reps evenly. But Nicely emerged thanks to his play throughout the spring and camp. He started seven games as a true freshman in 2009, completing 120 of 222 passes for 1,349 yards and six touchdowns.

Bowling Green

Winner: Matt Schilz.

Buzz: With Tyler Sheehan gone, Bowling Green turns to the redshirt freshman, who has never thrown a pass in a collegiate game. The Falcons have had much stability at the quarterback position, so it will be interesting to see how Schilz does this season.

Colorado State

Winner: Pete Thomas.

Buzz: The highly touted true freshman enrolled in school early and beat out redshirt freshman Nico Ranieri. The last time a freshman started at quarterback for Colorado State was Caleb Hanie in 2004.

[+] EnlargeStewart
Hunter Martin/Getty ImagesTemple's Chester Stewart needs to improve his completion percentage for the Owls to succeed this season.
Louisiana Tech

Winner: Steven Ensminger.

Buzz: The Auburn transfer found new life under new coach Sonny Dykes’ spread offense. After playing tight end last spring under former coach Derek Dooley, Ensminger was able to beat out Ross Jenkins, who started parts of the past two seasons.

Marshall

Winner: Brian Anderson.

Buzz: The incumbent survived a challenge from A.J. Graham, Eddie Sullivan and former Clemson player Willie Korn to emerge as the starter once again. Korn ended up transferring. Important to note: Anderson is learning his third different offense, now that new coach Doc Holliday is there.

New Mexico

Winner: B.R. Holbrook.

Buzz: Holbrook won the job over freshman Tarean Austin and Brad Gruner, and coach Mike Locksley cited his knowledge of the offense, the way he moved the team during scrimmages and his mostly error-free play.

New Mexico State

Winner: Matt Christian.

Buzz: Coach DeWayne Walker went with the junior college transfer over Jeff Fleming, who was 1-7 as a starter last season. Christian had been nursing a sore elbow during camp. Watch for Andrew Manley, a freshman from Hawaii, in case Walker decides not to redshirt him.

North Texas

Winner: Nathan Tune.

Buzz: Tune got the opportunity to compete for the starting job with Derek Thompson after last season’s starter, Riley Dodge, moved to wide receiver because of the accumulation of injuries to his arm. Tune, a former walk-on, has served as the backup the past two seasons.

Temple

Winner: Chester Stewart.

Buzz: Stewart emerged as the leader for the job during the spring when Vaughn Charlton moved from quarterback to tight end. Stewart played last season but had his struggles, completing 40 percent of his passes, throwing for three touchdowns and three interceptions.

UAB

Winner: David Isabelle.

Buzz: Isabelle won the job over Bryan Ellis to replace Joe Webb. Coach Neil Callaway cited Isabelle’s athleticism, but also said Ellis would play this season. Isabelle has played in spot duty behind Webb.

Western Kentucky

Winner: Kawaun Jakes.

Buzz: The sophomore started eight games last season, and coach Willie Taggart says Jakes has shown potential to be a very good quarterback in the new West Coast offense that is being installed. Jakes missed nearly all of spring after injuring his ankle during a pickup basketball game and had to work his way back into Taggart’s good graces.
New Mexico and New Mexico State resolved their quarterback battles Tuesday, selecting their respective starters.

Matt Christian won the starting job for New Mexico State over Jeff Fleming, who started parts of last season but went 1-7 as a starter. Christian had missed time during fall camp with an elbow injury, but coach DeWayne Walker told the Las Cruces Sun-News that Christian has the "it factor. Guys want to play for him." Christian, a transfer from Palomar Junior College, started 11 games there and went 191-of-326 for 2,329 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Fleming will still be a part of the offense, but the backup quarterback job is going to be between redshirt freshman Tanner Rust and true freshman Andrew Manley.

At New Mexico, B.R. Holbrook was named the starter as expected. Coach Mike Locksley announced the move during a news conference, citing Holbrook's performances in the team's scrimmages. Holbrook only played in five games last season because of mono, but he has game experience freshmen Tarean Green and Stump Godfrey lacked. Brad Gruner, who started at New Mexico in 2008 in place of injured Donovan Porterie, has been nursing a shoulder injury.

What to watch in the WAC this spring

February, 25, 2010
2/25/10
10:00
AM ET
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Boise State Broncos
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

" All starters but Kyle Wilson return in 2010. Jerrell Gavins, who started at Wilson's outside cornerback position during the Fiesta Bowl (Wilson moved to safety) likely will slip into that starting slot.

" With so many players returning and few questions to answer, the Broncos can really start working on the 2010 season. This will also be a good time to sort out the offensive line (10 O-linemen had at least one start last year) and looking for some redshirted playmakers that could find their way into the lineup this season.

" Defensive line coach Pete Kwiatkowski steps in as the new defensive coordinator for Justin Wilcox, who went to Tennessee, but don’t expect any major changes to the defense. Kwiatkowski was Wilcox’s mentor and the two shared the same vision for the Broncos defense.

Fresno State Bulldogs
Spring practice starts: March 15
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:

" Fresno State lost three top backs in Ryan Mathews, Lonyae Miller and Anthony Harding and will spend the spring looking for a replacement. Robbie Rouse is the top returning back, but he’s a smaller back than the ones the Bulldogs lost. Look for Michael Harris to get a chance this spring.

" With Seyi Ajirotutu, Marlon Moore and Chastin West gone, the Bulldogs will be looking to fill their receiver depth to help starting quarterback Ryan Colburn. Coach Pat Hill noted on signing day that he wants to spread things out this year and he’s looking forward to some speed joining the team in the fall. In the meantime, sophomore Rashad Evans, redshirt freshman A.J. Johnson and sophomore J.J. Stallworth will work for playing time with Jamel Hamler and Devon Wylie.

" The defensive front, which struggled late against the running game (most notably Nevada and Wyoming), will be a focus this spring. The Bulldogs return nine starters from the bowl game, including All-WAC first team defensive end Chris Carter and linebacker Ben Jacobs.

Hawaii Warriors
Spring practice starts: April 1
Spring game: April 30

What to watch:

" The offensive line was a question heading into the 2009 season and will be again in 2010. The Warriors lose four senior starters, including center John Estes. Backups Kainoa LaCount, Matagisila Lefiti, Andrew Faaumu, Bronson Tiwanak, Clayton Laurel and Adrian Thomas will be among those competing for starting roles.

" Bryan Moniz finished the season as the starting quarterback and will go into spring ball as the leading candidate to start in 2010, but Shane Austin, who played some in 2009, will challenge for the starting role this spring. Moniz finished the season completing 57 percent of his passes for 2,396 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

" The Hawaii defense struggled some last year, but should be better if star linebacker Brashton Satele receives a sixth season. The Warriors will be looking for a new right tackle as well as a couple of starting linebackers, but the defense, which improved as the season progressed, should be a pleasant surprise in 2010.

Idaho Vandals
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 23

What to watch:

" The top priority this spring will be reloading the offensive line. The Vandals lost four starters on the offensive line, including All-American guard Mike Iupati. The only returner is left tackle Matt Cleveland. Guy Reynolds Jr. was Iupati’s backup, and players such as Clell Hasenbank, Tevita HalaHolo and Tyron Novikoff will be competing for starting roles.

" The offense carried the team last year, especially the passing game, but starting quarterback Nathan Enderle will have to work out three new receivers this spring. The biggest loss is slot Max Komar, who made key catches all season, including in the Humanitarian Bowl win over Bowling Green.

" The Idaho defense was one of the worst in the country allowing 433.23 yards per game and 36.00 points per game. More often than not, the Vandals were trying to outscore their opponents instead of stopping them defensively. Eleven players with starting experience from last year’s bowl team return; the only loss is strong safety Jeromy Jones. But with the way the defense played last season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some of those positions open this spring.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Spring practice starts: March 17
Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

" The loss of running back Daniel Porter and tight end Dennis Morris takes out a lot of the offense and scoring the Bulldogs had in 2009. New head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin will spend the spring looking for playmakers to fit their wide-open offensive style.

" Wide receiver will be a key competition this spring for Louisiana Tech’s new spread offense. Tennessee transfer Ahmad Paige and LSU transfer Tim Molton are both eligible and will join RP Stuart, Cruz Williams and Phillip Livas in the receiving corps.

" Louisiana Tech will be looking for some consistency in the punting game after Cade Glasgow struggled last year. Overall, the Bulldogs punting game averaged 32.91 yards per game, which ranked last in the WAC. The Bulldogs didn’t recruit a punter, so expect some potential walk-on help.

New Mexico State Aggies
Spring practice starts: April 5
Spring game: May 1

What to watch:

" Second-year coach DeWayne Walker was unhappy with the team's scoring, especially in the second half of the season, which prompted him to replace his offensive coordinator and running backs coach. His main priority this spring is finding some consistency at quarterback. Jeff Fleming and Trevor Walls return and redshirt freshman Tanner Rust and true freshman Andrew Manley will challenge, but junior college transfer Matt Christian is the favorite to be the starter.

" The running game was the one bright spot for the offense last season with Seth Smith rushing for 1,016 yards, but he had just one rushing touchdown. Redshirt freshman Marquese Dunn will get a look this spring and will challenge for playing time as Walker looks for playmakers.

" Shoring up a total defense that allowed 423.62 yards per game and 31.62 points per game will be Walker’s project this spring. The Aggies return some key players, but Walker said most of the help on the defensive line will come in the fall.

Nevada Wolf Pack
Spring practice starts: March 5
Spring game: April 3

What to watch:

" The running game is Nevada’s bread and butter and it should stay that way with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and star running back Vai Taua returning. However, the Wolf Pack need to spend this spring working on depth with players such as Lampford Mark, Mike Ball and Stefphon Jefferson.

" The offensive line needs to replace Kenneth Ackerman and Alonzo Durham this spring in order to keep the running game effective. Center Jeff Meads and tackle Jose Acuna are the primary backups for those two spots. The Wolf Pack also will look to build offensive line depth across the board.

" The Nevada defense will spend the spring learning a slightly altered 4-3 defensive scheme under new defensive coordinator Andy Buh. The defense has been the weak link of the Wolf Pack for the past few years, so shoring that up this spring will be a high priority.

San Jose State Spartans
Spring practice starts: March 12
Spring game: April 22

What to watch:

" For the second consecutive season, San Jose State had trouble producing offense mostly because of inconsistent play at quarterback. Jordan La Secla returns as the incumbent, but junior college transfer Matt Faulkner, who enrolled in January, will challenge this spring.

" For as much as the passing offense struggled, the rushing offense was worse. Lamon Muldrow, who led the team with 592 yards and three touchdowns last season will be counted on in the running game, but the Spartans signed three running backs for 2010, including Forrest Hightower, who will challenge in the fall.

" Most of spring practice will be spent learning the new coaching staff and the new offensive and defensive schemes. The Spartans are transitioning from a spread offense to a more traditional style that will incorporate an H-back and a tight end. The Spartans also will move toward an attacking style defense, but will stay in a 4-3 base that will feature both man-to-man and zone coverage.

Utah State Aggies
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

" The primary concern this spring will be finding running back depth after star Robert Turbin suffered a torn ACL during winter workouts. All eyes will be on Michael Smith, Derrvin Speight and Kerrwynn Williams as they try to pick up the slack.

" Second-year head coach Gary Andersen is showing his commitment to defense after shuffling several players on that side of the ball. Nathan Royster is moving from defensive tackle to end, Junior Keiaho and Devin Johnson are moving from end to linebacker, wide receiver Cameron Sanders has moved to defensive back and the Aggies are hoping to get some defensive contribution out of Page Clifford, a transfer from Utah.

" There should be some good competition at wide receiver this spring with Matt Austin returning from injury and Travis Van Leeuewen coming off a redshirt season. Mid-year signees Xavier Martin and Dontel Watkins also will challenge for starting roles. Utah State had a good passing offense with 246.75 yards per game from starter Diondre Borel.

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