NCF Nation: Paris Cotton

Non-AQ Players of the Week

September, 20, 2010
9/20/10
4:03
PM ET
Here they are, the players of the week for all five non-AQ conferences:

Conference USA

Offense: UAB QB Bryan Ellis. Came off the bench in the second quarter and threw for 360 yards and three touchdowns to lead UAB to a 34-33 come-from-behind win over Troy. Ellis led a 99-yard drive in the final 1:09 of the game, capping off the drive with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Jackie Williams. His performance helped the Blazers overcome a 23-0 lead for the biggest comeback in school history.

Defense: UCF DE Darius Nall. Led UCF with nine tackles, including three for loss and two sacks, plus a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry in UCF’s 24-10 win at Buffalo. He became just the sixth defensive lineman to lead UCF in tackles for a game under George O’Leary.

Special teams: Memphis P Tom Hornsey; Southern Miss DB Deron Wilson. Hornsey kicked a career-high 10 punts in the game, averaging 41.7 yards per punt. He had a career-long 63-yard punt in the fourth quarter and had two inside the 20 in the win over Middle Tennessee. Wilson recovered a blocked punt and went seven yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter of the Golden Eagles’ 31-16 win over Kansas on Friday night.

MAC

East Division

Offense: Temple RB Bernard Pierce. Ran for 169 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 30-16 win over Connecticut. Pierce moved up to No. 8 on Temple’s career rushing list and now has 1,662 rushing yards.

Defense: Bowling Green LB Dwayne Woods. Was second on the team with eight tackles, including one tackle for loss, two pass break-ups and one interception return for a touchdown in a 44-28 win over Marshall.

Special teams: Ohio P Paul Hershey. Had three 50-plus yard punts in a loss to Ohio State and dropped two inside the 20-yard line.

West Division

Offense: Central Michigan RB Paris Cotton. Ran for a career-high 209 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-14 win at Eastern Michigan. He became the first player to go over 200 yards at the school since 2004.

Defense: Toledo DB Desmond Marrow. Had 10 tackles and two interceptions, including one he returned 15 yards for a touchdown in a win over Western Michigan.

Special teams: Northern Illinois P Josh Wilber. Averaged 49.0 yards on five punts in 28-22 loss at Illinois. Wilber had three punts of over 50 yards with punts of 51, 56 and 55 yards, with all three of those kicks pinning the Illini inside their 12-yard line.

Mountain West

Offense: San Diego State RB Ronnie Hillman and TCU QB Andy Dalton. Hillman rushed for 228 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries in a 27-24 loss at Missouri. He became the first Aztec player to run for over 200 yards in a game in seven years, while also setting a new MWC freshman single-game rushing record.

Dalton had for 293 yard of total offense and two touchdowns in TCU’s 45-10 win over Baylor. Dalton’s 91.3 completion percentage is a MWC record and is tied for the highest mark by an FBS passer with a minimum of 20 attempts since 2004.

Defense: Utah DB Lamar Chapman. Had a team-high eight tackles, including seven solo stops, two tackles for loss and one sack in Utah’s 56-14 victory at New Mexico.

Special Teams: Utah WR/PR Shaky Smithson. Returned four punts for 140 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown. Smithson topped the 100-yard mark and returned a punt for a touchdown for the second straight game, averaged 35.0 yards per return.

Sun Belt

Offense: Arkansas State QB Ryan Aplin, Troy QB Corey Robinson. Aplin recorded 318 yards of total offense and had two touchdowns in a 34-20 victory over ULM. He led ASU on four scoring drives that covered at least 70 yards.

Robinson became the third quarterback in school history, and the first freshman, to pass for more than 400 yards in a game by going 26-of-44 for 404 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to against UAB. He has now attempted 113 consecutive passes without an interception.

Defense: FIU DB Anthony Gaitor. Gaitor gave FIU a 20-6 lead over Texas A&M in the third quarter when he returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown. He also forced a fumble when he sacked Johnson in the first quarter in the game FIU ultimately lost.

Special teams: Middle Tennessee P Josh Davis. Punted four times for a school record 59.8-yard average, including a 78-yarder, the third longest punt in school history. Three of his punts were downed inside the 20-yard line.

WAC

Offense: Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick. Had 329 yards of total offense and five touchdowns in a 52-31 win over No. 24 California on Friday night.

Defense: Idaho DE Aaron Lavarias. Had four tackles, including two sacks, and a forced fumble in Idaho's 30-7 win over UNLV.

Special teams: Idaho K Trey Farquhar. Made all three of his field goal attempts and was 3-for-3 in extra points in the win against UNLV. He also had seven kickoffs that went into the end zone.

What to watch in the MAC this spring

February, 16, 2010
2/16/10
11:00
AM ET
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each team in the MAC heading into the spring:

Akron Zips

Spring practice starts: March 24

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

" New head coach Rob Ianello takes over an Akron squad that hasn’t had a winning season since 2005. The Zips struggled last year averaging 19.25 points per game on offense and gave up 28.75 points per game on defense. This spring's goal will be to find playmakers to bring both sides of the ball on par with the rest of the league.

" The Zips had a running back by committee system last year, but none of their backs had more than 250 yards. Two of the team’s top three rushers are gone and the rest are freshmen and sophomores. Ianello signed five tailbacks in his first class.

" The defense struggled to put pressure on the quarterback as the Zips finished with 11 sacks. Opponents scored touchdowns on 66 percent of opportunities inside the red zone. Shoring up the defensive line and the linebackers will be an emphasis this spring.

Ball State Cardinals

Spring practice starts: March 24

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

" Sophomore quarterback Kelly Page tries to regain the starting role after missing the second half of the season with thumb surgery. The Cardinals were winless with him in the lineup, but he improved as the season progressed. Redshirt freshman Aaron Mershman will vie for the role in the spring before highly-touted recruit Keith Wenning joins the competition in the fall.

" Running back MiQuale Lewis and tight end Madaris Grant are both awaiting word from the NCAA about a possible sixth season. Both are team leaders and are the top players at their respective positions.

" Losing defensive coordinator Doug Graber is a blow to the Cardinals. Although he was only with the team for a season, the defense was one of the team's bright spots and got better as the season progressed. The Cardinals have yet to name a replacement.

Bowling Green Falcons

Spring practice starts: March 19

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:

" Replacing quarterback Tyler Sheehan will be one of the biggest chores since he took 95 percent of the snaps for the past three seasons. Aaron Pankratz was the backup last year and the leader heading into spring. But redshirt Matt Schiltz, walk-on Kellen Pagel and December enrollee Caleb Watkins will all be in the mix.

" Freddie Barnes was the Falcons best offensive weapon and it will be hard to find a replacement. Overall, the Falcons lose three of their top five receivers, and one of those returning is running back Wille Geter.

" Rebuilding the defense will be a priority after losing seven players, including the entire line backers corps and three-fourths of the secondary. There is a lot of young talent waiting, it is just a matter of gelling during spring ball.

Buffalo Bulls

Spring practice starts: March 20

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

" Losing quarterback Zach Maynard, who decided to transfer last month, hurt their offense. He would have been the starter heading into the season, but now sophomore Jerry Davis and redshirt freshman Alex Dennison will duke it out this spring before two freshmen arrive in August.

" The Bulls have to replace top receivers Naaman Roosevelt and Brett Hamlin and have several candidates to do so. Juniors Terrell Jackson, Marcus Rivers and Ed Young, and redshirt freshmen Fred Lee and Alex Neutz will compete for playing time.

" New head coach Jeff Quinn is going to install a more wide-open offensive system at Buffalo, however finding the right guys to play it will be a challenge. There are athletes remaining at Buffalo, but the loss of players such as Maynard and Roosevelt will make the transition slower.

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