NCF Nation: Scott Kovanda

Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl keys

December, 21, 2012
12/21/12
11:00
AM ET
Three things to watch in tonight's Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl between UCF and Ball State:

1. Stopping the run: Both teams have prolific offenses, and it all starts on the ground. Ball State ran for at least 220 yards seven times this season and is led by 1,300-yard back Jahwan Edwards. UCF tailback Latavius Murray has scored a touchdown in eight straight games. The key is whether either defense can make stops and force some third-and-long situations. The Knights have the much better defense statistically, ranking No. 22 nationally in total yards allowed and leading Conference USA in scoring defense. The Cardinals, meanwhile, gave up more than 200 rushing yards and 31.5 points per game, though their defense did improve as the season went on. This game could come down to a defensive stand or two in crunch time.

2. Special teams: UCF has the nation's top kick return man in Quincy McDuffie, but special-teams breakdowns hurt the Knights in their overtime loss to Tulsa in the Conference USA title game. They allowed a punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter and had a field goal blocked in the first extra period. Ball State has some impressive specialists of its own. Kicker Steven Schott ranked second in the nation with 24 made field goals, while punter Scott Kovanda was a Ray Guy finalist. All eyes will be on the offenses, but big plays in the kicking game could make the difference.

3. Ball security: Neither team likes giving the ball away. UCF set a school record for fewest turnovers in a season with just 15, while Ball State had only 16 giveaways. The Knights' Murray has gone 386 straight carries without a fumble. UCF was much better than Ball State this year at forcing turnovers, led by ball-hawking safety and C-USA defensive player of the year Kemal Ishmael, who had three interceptions and three forced fumbles this season. Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning was intercepted four times in losses to Clemson and Northern Illinois. In a game where every possession could matter, turnovers could turn the tide.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

October, 17, 2011
10/17/11
5:39
PM ET
Here are your non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference. The independent players of the week are picked by a national media panel.

C-USA

Offense: J.J. McDermott, QB, SMU. McDermott was 20-of-31 and passed for a career-high 358 yards and two touchdowns as SMU defeated UCF, 38-17. McDermott improved to 5-0 as a starter and it marked his third straight 300-yard passing game, tying the SMU record.

Defense: Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall. Curry had nine tackles, which included four tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, to go with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in a win over Rice.

Special teams: Richard Crawford, PR, SMU. Returned a punt 92 yards in a win over UCF, the second-longest punt return in league history. He totaled 141 punt return yards for the game, the second-best single-game effort in SMU history.

Independent

Offense: Riley Nelson, QB, BYU. Nelson completed 17 of 27 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns, while adding a team-high 87 rushing yards on 12 carries to lead BYU to a 38-28 win over Oregon State.

Defense: Brandon Ogletree, LB, BYU. Forced turnovers on each of the Beavers’ first three possessions of the third quarter, intercepting a pass and causing two fumbles.

Special teams: Jon Teague, PK, Navy. Teague made two field goals against Rutgers, though his 34-yard attempt was blocked with under five minutes to play.

MAC

East Division

Offense: Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple. Pierce broke five school records in a 34-0 win over Buffalo after running for 152 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Pierce and Matt Brown each rushed for 100 yards.

Defense: Roosevelt Nix, DT, Kent State. Forced an early fumble that led to a Kent State field goal and posted career-highs of six tackles and four solo stops in a loss to Miami (Ohio). He also had two tackles for loss, a pair of quarterback hurries and broke up a pass.

Special teams: BooBoo Gates, KR, Bowling Green. Gates had four kick returns for 152 yards, including an 88-yard touchdown return in the fourth quarter in a 28-21 loss to Toledo.

West Division

Offense: Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. Ran for a career-high 229 yards on 14 carries and passed for 203 yards on 14-of-27 passing for a total of 432 yards of total offense in the Huskies 51-22 win over Western Michigan.

Defense: Desmond Marrow, DB, Toledo. Had a team-high 10 tackles in a 28-21 win at Bowling Green. Marrow added a career-best three passes defensed.

Special Teams: Scott Kovanda, P, Ball State. Punted seven times for 327 yards and a 46.7 average in a 23-20 win at Ohio. Kovanda pinned Ohio inside the 20-yard line four times and had a career-long 67-yard punt.

Mountain West

Co-Offense: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State. Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State. Martin carried the ball 20 times for a career-high 200 yards and three touchdowns in a 63-13 win at Colorado State. His 65-yard TD run was the longest of the season for Martin. Hillman ran 27 times for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-27 win at Air Force. Both of his touchdowns came in the final period after the game was tied with 2:30 remaining in the third quarter.

Defense: Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State. Crawford recorded five tackles in a win at Colorado State, including two sacks for losses totaling 14 yards. He also recovered a fumble.

Special teams: Chris McNeill, WR/PR, Wyoming. McNeill returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown, threw a 28-yard touchdown pass and also completed a 2-point conversion pass in a 41-14 win over UNLV. The punt return for a touchdown was the Cowboys’ first since 2004 and the first in the Mountain West this season.

Sun Belt

Offense: Kolton Browning, QB, ULM. Went 23-of-31 for 275 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Troy. He also added 33 yards on nine carries on the ground to top the 300-yard mark in total offense.

Defense: Lance Kelly, LB, ULL. Had a game-high eight tackles, a tackle-for-loss, a fumble recovery, a pass break-up and an interception in a win over North Texas.

Special Teams: Mitchell Bailey, RB, ULM. After ULM took a 15-10 lead on Troy late in the third quarter, Bailey forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff that the Warhawks recovered on the 17-yard line. Two plays later, Browning threw a touchdown pass to Colby Harper to stretch the ULM lead and the Warhawks never looked back.

WAC

Offense: Chandler Jones, WR, San Jose State. Scored three touchdowns three different ways in a 28-27 win over Hawaii. He scored on a 20-yard reverse, off a fumbled kick return, and caught a 37-yard pass with 36 seconds remaining to win. Jones came into the game with just one career touchdown.

Defense: Khalid Wooten, CB, Nevada. Recorded six tackles, forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass in a 49-7 win over New Mexico.

Special teams: Travis Johnson, DE, San Jose State. Blocked two kicks in San Jose State’s win over Hawaii. One was on an extra-point attempt, which was picked up and returned by Duke Ihenacho for the Spartans’ first-ever 2-point defensive PAT. He also blocked a 42-yard field goal attempt with 3:22 remaining.

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