NCF Nation: Western Michigan Broncos
The Turnaround Bowl: There will be no unhappy customers in Boise this weekend. Both teams are happy to be bowling anywhere. No teams made a bigger leap in the right direction in 2014 than Air Force and Western Michigan. Both programs won seven more games than they did when finishing last in their respective conferences last year.
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, in his eighth year coaching the Falcons, rerouted his program by shifting his lineup to get more veteran leadership on the field. The Broncos' second-year coach, P.J. Fleck, took the opposite approach -- relying on fresh talent to spur better results. Fleck, 33, is the youngest coach in the FBS and has infused some of that youthful spirit and energy into his locker room. His "Row The Boat" mantra is catching on in Kalamazoo.
Meet RB Jarvion Franklin: Western Michigan's star freshman from Tinley Park, Illinois, has been a catalyst for the team's improvement. His 1,525 rushing yards this season put him among the top 10 backs in the country and second among rookies behind Oklahoma's Samaje Perine. Franklin provided 24 of Western's 29 rushing touchdowns. Only Melvin Gordon and Jay Ajayi reached the end zone more often this season. Franklin will have a chance to introduce himself to a larger audience Saturday evening against the Falcons.
Playing keep-away: Air Force's approach with the triple-option offense provides headaches for any defense not used to seeing it on a regular basis. The Falcons ran the ball more often than any other team in the country this season. Seven players on the roster had at least 30 carries, led by Jacobi Owens with 204. The deep and steady running game helps to limit opportunities for opponents. Meanwhile, Western Michigan plays defense with its offense at times. Fleck's team finished 10th nationally in time of possession (33:14) this season, which helped its defense give up fewer than 24 points per game.
Plenty of ACC teams wrap up their nonconference slate on Saturday, but there are several important league games, too, in addition to Notre Dame's foray into semi-ACC play. Here's what's on deck. Be sure to follow along on Twitter using the hashtags below.
Colorado State at Boston College, ESPN3, #CSUvsBC: A 4-1 start would be huge for the Eagles, with the heart of ACC play fast approaching. They are the nation's No. 2 rushing team, tallying 1,345 yards, a by-product of Florida transfer quarterback Tyler Murphy, who has tallied at least 99 rushing yards in each game so far. The defense hasn't been too shabby, either, surrendering less than 20 points per game despite plenty of new faces. Garrett Grayson and the Rams can throw the ball, but they'll need more to go their way if they want to escape Alumni Stadium with an upset.
Western Michigan at Virginia Tech, ESPN3, #WMUvsVT: Which Michael Brewer will the Hokies get? The transfer signal-caller was a tremendous ball distributor in Virginia Tech's Week 2 upset win at Ohio State, but last week he had three costly turnovers in letting a home tilt slip away against Georgia Tech for the Hokies' second straight home loss. Coach Frank Beamer liked what he saw out of his quarterback otherwise, and the Broncos should provide an opportunity for Brewer and the rest of the Hokies to shake out of their rut and gain some momentum heading into the rest of league play.
Akron at Pitt, ESPN3: Can Pitt bounce back from a tough home loss to Iowa? The Panthers probably let one get away, but the Zips are not to be slept on, as the 1-2 squad has had no shortage of early-season tests itself so far, losing to Penn State and Marshall. This is a homecoming of sorts for Akron coach Terry Bowden, a Morgantown, West Virginia, native who went to Pittsburgh regularly. The Panthers need this win more, though, as they look to get back on track before their first Coastal game next week at Virginia.
Wake Forest at Louisville, ESPNU, #WAKEvsLOU: This here is a battle of the ACC's two first-year head coaches, Dave Clawson and Bobby Petrino. It's also a rematch of the 2007 Orange Bowl, which Petrino was a part of with the Cardinals. Both teams will be starting true freshmen under center, with John Wolford showing plenty of growth in his fourth start last week against Army and Reggie Bonnafon returning to Louisville after the tragic loss of his father, and after starter Will Gardner suffered a knee injury that will keep him out of action against the Demon Deacons.
No. 1 Florida State at NC State, ABC/ESPN2, #FSUvsNCSU: We know all about how Carter-Finley Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Seminoles lately, as the Wolfpack have won three of their past four home contests against FSU. A win would be a very tall order for the still-growing Pack, who are in their second year under Dave Doeren. But this could be a great measuring-stick game for them after a 4-0 start against subpar competition. NC State has already topped its win total from last season, and Jacoby Brissett has been magnificent under center. The Noles, by the way, will trot out a certain Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback after surviving a one-game suspension without him.
Kent State at Virginia, ESPN3: First things first: How about those sharp throwback unis the Cavaliers will be wearing? As for who will be under center wearing them when things kick off, well, that appears less clear, as Greyson Lambert recovers from an ankle injury he suffered in last week's loss at BYU. The Hoos know the offense is in capable hands with Matt Johns regardless, and their defense will look to revert to its early-season form after stumbling in Provo, Utah.
North Carolina at Clemson, ESPNU, #UNCvsCLEM: The Tigers might be getting the perfect medicine following a heartbreaking overtime defeat at Florida State. They have a talented and growing offense, led by Deshaun Watson, who will be making his first career start. And they are facing a UNC team that laid a major egg defensively last week against East Carolina, surrendering 70 points and nearly 800 yards of total offense. The Tar Heels have given little indication through three games they are ready for the challenge that awaits them in Death Valley, but that's why they play the games, right?
Duke at Miami, ESPN2, #DUKEvsMIA: We should learn much more about both of these teams when they face off at Sun Life Stadium. The Blue Devils are 4-0 but were hardly challenged during nonconference play, while Miami struggled against the two good teams it faced. It will be interesting to see what kind of response the Hurricanes defense shows after Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah gashed it for 229 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday. Perhaps more importantly, Duke dominated the Canes' D to the tune of 358 rushing yards last year, running away in the fourth quarter. If Miami has any hopes of competing for the Coastal crown this year, it has to show more this time around at home.
No. 8 Notre Dame at Syracuse, ABC, #NDvsCUSE: The Irish unofficially kick off their ACC football alliance by taking on old Big East (hoops) foe Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It is the first "road" game for the 3-0 Irish, though they will likely have most of the home crowd on their side. One thing to watch out for is how Notre Dame's offensive line performs, as it used the bye week to shake up a so-so unit and will now take the field featuring four players in different spots than before. Can the Orange's aggressive defense take advantage of this? Ball protection is key for Syracuse if it wishes to pull the upset, as Terrel Hunt and the offense are capable of putting points on the board when they stay out of their own way.
Sean Mulhearn, a former WMU linebacker who helped the school win the MAC title in 1988 and won league Defensive Player of the Year in 1990, used to be tasked with keeping people out of the end zone at Waldo Stadium.
But at a recent practice, he didn't mind at all -- watching with a big smile as WMU head coach P.J. Fleck helped his wheelchair-aided son John across the goal line to loud cheers from the Broncos players, who had followed the pair all the way down the field.
Well, after a 26-13 win over Western Michigan, the Spartans sure didn't do much to change that perception.
Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook struggled to the tune of 17-of-37 passing and couldn't finish drives. Michigan State punted seven consecutive times. The quarterbacks led MSU to exactly one touchdown drive. Even the run game couldn't manage four yards a carry in the first half.
Luckily for the Spartans, their defense was just as good as advertised. Better, even. Kurtis Drummond made an incredible, one-handed interception that is destined for end-of-the-year highlight reels. And Jairus Jones came down with two picks, including one he lateraled to Drummond for Sparty's first touchdown.
Oh, and let's not forget the late-game Shilique Calhoun fumble return for a TD. The Spartans' defense actually outscored their own offense. This defense showed that it could still be one of the best groups in the nation. Outside of Western Michigan's second-quarter scoring drive, the Broncos' offense just couldn't get anything started.
But, on the flip side, neither could Michigan State.
Mark Dantonio tried to flip his two quarterbacks around in hopes of igniting the sputtering unit. But no matter who was under center, the result was the same: Punt, punt, punt. Each signal-caller made his fair share of bad throws, but the wideouts didn't exactly help them out either. Nothing did -- from the play-calling to the decision-making.
On Maxwell's first four drives, three ended when he threw short of the marker on third down. Third-and-3? Two-yard pass. Third-and-5? Three-yard pass. Third-and-8? Two-yard pass. (Oh, and on that other drive? Maxwell ran seven yards on a 3rd-and-10 play.)
Michigan State endured nearly an hourlong weather delay, but the game was going south well before the break. Put simply, MSU might have won -- but it also now holds more question marks on offense than it did before the opener.
The defense is great, and the offense is not. The big question now remains whether this team can still have a great season as a result.
The Huskies fell behind by 17 points early and gave their defense little help in a 30-24 loss at Western Michigan, putting UConn at 2-2 on the season. The game started a half-hour late because of thunder and lightning in the Kalamazoo area earlier in the day, and UConn's offense took cue.
Chandler Whitmer tossed a red-zone interception in the first quarter, and he was drilled by Desmond Bozeman during a fourth-quarter drive, with Bozeman recovering the loose ball and returning it 53 yards for the Broncos' final points of the day.
The loss will sting even more as WMU lost quarterback Alex Carder in the third quarter after Carder appeared to injure his throwing hand. The Broncos passed for just nine yards in the fourth quarter without Carder, and they failed to score offensively after Carder's 30-yard touchdown pass to Josh Schaffer at the 9:47 mark of the third quarter made it 24-7. Bozeman's play came with 7:12 left in the game, with the Huskies down just seven and looking to even things up after facing separate 17-point deficits.
Carder completed 18-of-34 passes for 237 yards with a touchdown.
Whitmer threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns, but 146 of those yards came in the fourth quarter when the Huskies were making a late run. UConn rushed for just 94 yards and averaged 2.8 yards per rush.
WMU recovered UConn's desperation onside kick try in the final minute, sealing the deal.
It's worth repeating again: UConn needs to find some sort of offense. And, even more importantly, it cannot be giving away free points when its defense is being stretched. The Huskies will have a final nonconference tilt next week against another MAC school, Buffalo, before conference play kicks off a week later at Rutgers.
1. Establish the run without Bolden: Boilers leading rusher Ralph Bolden is out (torn ACL), but the team has other backs capable of attacking a Western Michigan defense ranked 107th nationally against the run. Akeem Shavers will be Purdue's primary ball carrier, and Jared Crank and Reggie Pegram also should get some touches. Purdue needs to take the pressure off of its quarterbacks and consistently move the chains against the Broncos. One potential problem area is the red zone, where Western Michigan plays its best defense (sixth nationally at 70 percent scoring conversions). Purdue has scored touchdowns on 30 of its 47 red zone opportunities, so the Bolden-less backfield must cash in when opportunities arise.
2. Contain Jordan White: The Western Michigan senior receiver leads the nation in both receptions per game (10.58) and receiving yards per game (137.2). White will be a factor, and quarterback Alex Carder will get him the ball, but Purdue must prevent the Broncos star from taking over the game. Boilers sophomore cornerback Ricardo Allen has covered several other standout receivers this season -- Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, Iowa's Marvin McNutt and Illinois' A.J. Jenkins among them -- and will be assigned to White for most of the game. Allen's aggressive style could result in big plays for Purdue or for Western Michigan, but he's the type of corner you want against a talent like White.
3. Gain the edge on special teams: Purdue's season has been largely defined by special-teams plays, both the good and the bad. A blocked kick has both cost Purdue a chance at victory (against Rice) and preserved a chance for an eventual win (against Ohio State). The Boilers need strong performances from specialists Carson Wiggs and Cody Webster in kicker-friendly Ford Field, and they must avoid breakdowns against Western Michigan, which has been solid on both punt returns and kick returns this season. If Wiggs converts some lengthy field goals, Webster puts Western Michigan in tough field-position situations and Raheem Mostert breaks off a long return or two, Purdue will be in good shape in what should be a close game.
1. Stop the run. Yes, Purdue will be without leading rusher Ralph Bolden, but this is a team that likes to run the ball, and will continue to rely on the run. That is going to be a huge test for a Western Michigan defense that has a tough time stopping teams on the ground this season, ranking No. 107 in the nation in rushing defense. Northern Illinois and Toledo each ran for more than 400 yards on the Broncos, so this has not exactly been an area of strength. If there is a silver lining, it is that Purdue will be without is best runner, and that defensive tackle Drew Nowak ranks No. 4 in the nation with 20 tackles for loss. Purdue must have an answer for him.
2. Throw it again, Alex. Western Michigan had its best success this season when it was able to gain chunks of yards in the passing game. The Broncos can run with Tevin Drake leading the way, but they are best when Alex Carder is hitting a variety of receivers. Jordan White has been great, but there are other options, too. Western Michigan is one of only four programs in FBS with three receivers with more than 50 catches this season (Robert Arnheim, Chleb Ravenell).
3. Nowak time. Speaking of Nowak, he is going to have to be a force not only against the run, but in the pass game as well. The MAC Defensive Player of the Year has 8.5 sacks on the season and plenty of tackles for loss, and has been the most consistent player up front for the Broncos. Purdue ranks No. 81 in the nation in sacks allowed (27), so there will be opportunities to get after Caleb TerBush. If Purdue is able to double Nowak successfully, defensive end Freddie Bishop could have a big game. He has 5.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss this season.
WHO TO WATCH: Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen. The Boilermakers are a little light on star power, but Allen is one of the best cover corners in the Big Ten, with a knack for making the big play. The sophomore will be matched up frequently against Western Michigan star Jordan White, who led the nation with 127 catches and 1,646 receiving yards (along with 16 touchdowns) this season. White is likely to get his yards -- he had at least 98 receiving yards in all but two games this season -- but Allen will need to at least make him work for it and try to keep him out of the end zone. Allen also had three interceptions this season, and turnovers could be big in what looks like a close game.
WHAT TO WATCH: Purdue's running game. Leading rusher Ralph Bolden suffered a torn ACL in the season finale against Indiana, so the team's two Akeems -- Akeem Shavers and freshman Akeem Hunt -- will have to come through. Both have had their moments this season, and Hunt averaged 8.6 yards per carry in limited duty. Starting quarterback Caleb TerBush can also take off and run. The Boilermakers don't own an explosive downfield passing game, but they might not need one against a Western Michigan team that allowed 216 rushing yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry this season. The Broncos faced and lost to two other Big Ten teams this season: Michigan ran for 190 yards (at 7.3 yards per carry) in less than three full quarters of a weather-shortened game, while Illinois produced two 100-yard rushers while rolling up 296 on the ground.
WHY TO WATCH: This is Purdue's first bowl game since 2007. The fan base has been slow to accept third-year coach Danny Hope, but the school showed faith by extending his contract last week. The Boilers failed to win back-to-back games all season and need a good bowl performance to build some momentum in the program. But how focused is the team? Three players have been arrested and another suspended since the end of the season, and receiver O.J. Ross and linebacker Dwayne Beckford won't play in the game. The Big Ten has some difficult matchups this bowl season, and the league could use a victory over a MAC opponent to get things started.
PREDICTION: Purdue 34, Western Michigan 33. The Broncos' dynamic passing game with White and quarterback Alex Carder will cause some problems for Purdue, which needs defensive tackle Kawann Short to disrupt things in the middle. The Boilermakers could have a tough time if they fall behind early. But Western Michigan struggles mightily against the run, something Purdue ought to be able to exploit all game even without Bolden. I see this one going down to the wire, with perhaps a key special-teams play deciding it.
WHO TO WATCH: Receiver Jordan White. White got a sixth season of eligibility and made the most of it, becoming the first consensus All-American in school history, and the sixth in MAC history. White had a stellar season, with 127 catches for 1,646 yards and 16 touchdowns to lead the nation in both receptions and receiving yards. He is 110 yards from breaking the MAC record for career receiving yards (Darius Watts, Marshall — 4,031 yards) and 125 yards from breaking the MAC record for single-season receiving yards (Freddie Barnes, Bowling Green — 1,770 yards in 2009).
WHAT TO WATCH: Western Michigan is playing in its fifth postseason bowl game, but is looking for its first victory. The good news is that Ford Field has been a good venue for the Broncos under coach Bill Cubit. They are 2-0 in two previous appearances there: a 44-36 win against Eastern Michigan in 2005 and a 23-17 win against Illinois in 2008.
WHY TO WATCH: The connection between White and Alex Carder is probably the best you have never seen. Carder, who missed the regular-season finale with an injury, is healthy and expected to start. In his past three starts, he has thrown for more than 400 yards, and actually has six games this season with 300 yards or more. Carder ranks No. 7 in the nation in passing. Only Matt Barkley to Robert Woods, Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon, Case Keenum to Patrick Edwards and Kellen Moore to Tyler Shoemaker have been more prolific than Carder to White when it comes to touchdowns.
PREDICTION: Western Michigan 35, Purdue 30. The Broncos have lost five straight to Big Ten teams, but the Broncos did hold a halftime lead on Illinois, and beat a team from an AQ conference in UConn earlier this season. Cubit also has wins against Illinois and Iowa on his resume. I think the passing game will be on target, and Western Michigan will pull the upset.
Dec. 27, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Western Michigan take from Andrea Adelson: Western Michigan is in its third bowl game in the last five seasons under head coach Bill Cubit based largely on the strength of its high-powered offense. Oklahoma State and Houston might get all the headlines, but the Broncos are up there with them when it comes to piling up yards and points.
Alex Carder and Jordan White are among the most prolific quarterback-receiver duos in the nation. White leads the nation in total receiving yards (1,646), receiving yards per game (137.17), total receptions (127) and receptions per game (10.58); he also ranks second in the FBS in receiving touchdowns (16). White holds all but three receiving records at Western Michigan and needs 110 yards to become the MAC career leader in receiving yards.
Carder threw for 3,251 yards, 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and ranks seventh in FBS in completions per game (27.18) and leads the MAC with 312.2 passing yards per game. Carder missed the season finale against Akron with a sore shoulder but is expected to start in the bowl game.
The offense ranks in the top 20 in passing (eighth), passing efficiency (14th) and scoring (18th). Meanwhile, MAC Defensive Player of the Year Drew Nowak leads the defense. Nowak ranks fifth in FBS in tackles for loss per game (1.67) and fourth in total TFLs (20.0). He closed out his regular season with 4.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in the final two games of the season. Western Michigan already has a win this season over a team from an AQ conference, beating Connecticut in September. But the Broncos are 0-4 all-time in bowl games.
Purdue take from Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett: Purdue was the very definition of inconsistent in 2011.
The Boilermakers never once won two games in a row and had only one two-game losing streak. They beat Middle Tennessee State by blocking a last-second field goal and followed that up by losing to Rice when their own game-winning kick was knocked down. They had strong performances against Penn State on the road (in a loss) and against Ohio State at home (in victory), but got blown out by Michigan, Notre Dame and Wisconsin.
But all Purdue cares about now is that it's going bowling for the first time since 2007 and for the first time under head coach Danny Hope, who would have felt some heat under his seat had the team stayed home for the holidays again. The Boilers had to overcome the loss of starting quarterback Rob Henry in fall camp and juggled Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve under center.
As you might expect for an inconsistent 6-6 team, Purdue doesn't stand out in many areas. But lineman Kawann Short emerged as one of the Big Ten's top defensive players, and the offense found success using screens and misdirection, though running back Ralph Bolden is out for the game because of a torn ACL.
Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish won the Vern Smith Leadership Award, as selected by the league coaches and given annually to the top player in the conference. Harnish also was selected the MAC offensive player of the year.
Harnish set a school single-season record with 4,043 total yards of offense as the Huskies earned a spot in the MAC title game against Ohio on Friday night.
Western Michigan defensive lineman Drew Nowak was selected defensive player of the year and Ohio kicker Matt Weller was selected special teams player of the year. Bowling Green running back Anthon Samuel was named freshman of the year.
English, in his third year at Eastern Michigan, went 2-22 in his first two seasons with the Golden Eagles. But this year, Eastern Michigan went 6-6 overall and 4-4 in conference play. Eastern Michigan had the third-best defense in the MAC and the fourth-best rushing offense.
Nowak tied for the lead in the MAC with 8.5 sacks and ranked second with 20 tackles for loss. He had 83 tackles this year.
Weller leads the conference with 22 field goals and his long of 49 yards is tied for the longest field goal made by any kicker in the conference this season.
Samuel rushed 144 times for 844 yards and five rushing touchdowns. His 844 yards rushing set a school record for the most rushing yards by a freshman.
Toledo led the way with five first-team selections. You can check out all the first, second and third-team selections here.
2011 All-MAC First Team Offense
QB: Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois
C: Scott Wedige, Northern Illinois
OL: Mike VanDerMeulen, Toledo
OL: Trevor Olson, Northern Illinois
OL: Joe Flading, Ohio
OL: Pat Boyle, Temple
TE: Evan Rodriquez, Temple
WR: Jordan White, Western Michigan
WR: Eric Page, Toledo
WR: Nick Harwell, Miami (Ohio)
WR: Kamar Jorden, Bowling Green
RB: Bernard Pierce, Temple
RB: Branden Oliver, Buffalo
PK: Mathew Sims, Northern Illinois
2011 All-MAC First Team Defense
OLB: Aaron Morris, Ball State
OLB: Khalil Mack, Buffalo
ILB: Brian Wagner, Akron
ILB: Dwayne Woods, Bowling Green
DL: Roosevelt Nix, Kent State
DL: Adrian Robinson, Temple
DL: Chris Jones, Bowling Green
DL: Drew Nowak, Western Michigan
DB: Jahleel Addae, Central Michigan
DB: Dayonne Nunley, Miami (Ohio)
DB: Desmond Marrow, Toledo
DB: Sean Baker, Ball State
P: Brian Schmeidebusch, Bowling Green
2011 All-MAC First Team Specialists
KR: Eric Page, Toledo
PR: Eric Page, Toledo
Offense: G.J. Kinne, QB, Tulsa. Kinne went 21-of-27 for 300 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for another in a 57-28 win over UTEP.
Defense: Sammy Brown, LB, Houston. Brown had 10 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and three sacks in a 37-7 win over SMU.
Special teams: Chris Boswell, K, Rice. Boswell made a pair of field goals that went over 50 yards in a 19-7 win over Tulane. His first field goal was a career-best 54-yarder, and he added a 51-yarder in the third quarter.
Offense: Jake Heaps, QB, BYU. Heaps returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Sept. 30 and led BYU to a 42-7 home win over New Mexico State, going 21-of-36 for 238 yards and a career high-tying four touchdowns.
Defense: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame. Te'o had a team-high 12 tackles in a 16-14 win over Boston College. He added three quarterback hurries.
Special teams: David Ruffer, K, Notre Dame. Ruffer kicked field goals of 40, 41 and 27 yards against Boston College. He has made eight consecutive field goals dating back to a win over Purdue on Oct. 1, and has made 47 straight extra points.
Offense: Branden Oliver, RB, Buffalo. Oliver set the school FBS record with a career-high 235 yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns in a 51-10 win over Akron. His performance broke the record set by James Starks (231 against Toledo in 2007).
Defense: Stephen Johnson, LB, Temple. Johnson had a career-high 16 tackles, including a career-best eight solo stops, in a 42-14 win over Army.
Special Teams: Matt Weller, K, Ohio. Weller kicked he game-winning field goal from 23 yards, giving Ohio a 29-28 victory over Bowling Green and the MAC East title. The game-winning field goal was his school record fifth in the game.
Offense: Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. Harnish broke the school record for total offense in a game with 519 total yards in a 31-28 win over Ball State. His 519 yards of total offense is tied for third most by any player in FBS this season.
Defense: Drew Nowak, DL, Western Michigan. Nowak had a career-high 2.5 sacks and as many tackles for loss in a 24-21 win at Miami. Nowak leads the team with 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks on the season.
Special Teams: Demarius Reed, KR, Eastern Michigan. Reed returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown at Kent State for the first time in his career. It was the longest return by an Eastern Michigan player since 2002. Additionally, Reed’s return surpassed the entire season punt return yards total for any player during the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 season.
Offense: Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming. Smith accounted for 352 of his team’s 462 yards of total offense in a 31-10 victory over New Mexico. He had a career-high 140 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and threw for 212 yards and a touchdown.
Defense: Tank Carder, LB, TCU. Carder returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown and tied a season-high with nine tackles (one for loss) in a 34-10 win over Colorado State.
Special teams: Ross Evans, K, TCU. Evans accounted for 10 points (four extra points, two field goals) in a 34-10 victory against Colorado State. His two field goals of 21 and 46 yards gave him 55 for his career, moving him past BYU’s Matt Payne (54, 2001-04) into second place on the conference career chart.
Offense: Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey rushed for a season-high 214 yards and a touchdown against North Texas, helping the Hilltoppers become bowl eligible. He also caught four passes for 48 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown reception to finish with 262 all-purpose yards.
Defense: Jonathan Cyprien, S, FIU. Cyprien had nine tackles, five of them unassisted, and one interception return for a touchdown in a 28-17 win over ULM.
Special teams: Luther Ambrose, KR, ULM. Ambrose had a 98-yard kickoff return for touchdown against FIU, moving into second place in Sun Belt history with his third career kickoff return for a touchdown.
Offense: Robert Turbin, RB, Utah State. Turbin ran for a career-high 208 yards and three touchdowns in Utah State’s 49-42 double overtime win at Idaho. Two of his touchdown runs came in the overtime periods and the other was on an 80-yard run in the second quarter.
Defense: Adrien Cole, LB, Louisiana Tech. Recorded a career-high 17 tackles (15 solo) in a 24-20 win at Nevada, ending the Wolf Pack’s 16-game home winning streak.
Special teams: Jens Alvernik, K, San Jose State. Alvernik hit two field goals from 44 and 23 yards to help San Jose State beat Navy, 27-24. He now has 16 field goals on the season, tying the school record.
Offense: Charles Sims, RB, Houston. Sims rushed for a career-high 207 yards on only 10 carries with two touchdowns to lead Houston to a 73-17 win at Tulane. He had 252 all-purpose yards in the game.
Defense: Shawn Jackson, LB, Tulsa. Jackson had nine total tackles, including eight solos and three tackles for loss, and added one pass breakup in a 59-17 win against Marshall.
Special Teams: Danny Hrapmann, K, Southern Miss. Hrapmann tied his own school and Conference USA records by making five field goals in a 30-29 win against UCF.
Offense: Tommy Rees, QB, Notre Dame. Rees set a season high for completions with 30 in a 45-21 win against Maryland. Rees completed 30-of-38 pass attempts for 296 yards and two touchdowns, his 18th and 19th passing touchdowns of the season.
Co-Defense: Thomas Holloway, DB, Army. Jabaree Tuani, DE, Navy. Holloway set a career high with 14 tackles in a 27-12 loss to Rutgers. He also got his first career interception. Tuani had four tackles and a sack in a win against SMU.
Special teams: David Ruffer, PK, Notre Dame. Ruffer made a career-long 52-yard field goal against Maryland.
Offense: Matt Brown, RB, Temple. Brown made his first start of the season and rushed 24 times for 123 yards and a touchdown in a 24-21 win against Miami (Ohio).
Defense: Roosevelt Nix, DT, Kent State. Nix tied a career-high with six tackles in a 35-3 win against Akron. Nix helped his defense hold Akron to just 58 yards rushing on 27 attempts.
Special Teams: Paul Hershey, P, Ohio. Hershey had five punts for 205 yards, including a 51-yard punt in a win over Central Michigan. He had four go inside the 20.
Co-Offense: Alex Carder, QB, Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan. Carder threw for a program record 548 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for another in a 66-63 loss at Toledo. The yardage total ranks second all-time in MAC history and his passing TD total is tied for the most in conference history. White had 238 yards receiving and became the school leader in career receiving yards leader (3,678), single-season receptions (111) and single-season receiving yards (1,402).
Defense: Brad Ohrman, DL, Eastern Michigan. Ohrman had eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack in a 30-17 victory over Buffalo.
Special Teams: John Potter, K, Western Michigan. Potter made a career high nine extra points at Toledo. Potter became the MAC's record holder for consecutive PATs made with 114.
Offense: Casey Pachall, QB, TCU. Pachall went 24-of-37 for a career-high 473 yards and five touchdowns in a 36-35 win at Boise State. The five touchdown passes tied a TCU single-game record, while his 473 yards marked the second-highest single-game total in school history.
Co-Defense: Carmen Messina, LB, New Mexico. Nat Berhe, DB, San Diego State. Messina had his fifth straight double-digit tackle performance with 14 stops in a 21-14 victory against UNLV -- the first of the season for the Lobos. He also forced a fumble. Berhe tied a team-high with six tackles, forced a fumble and also had an interception in San Diego State’s 18-15 win at Colorado State.
Special teams: Anson Kelton, P, TCU. Kelton averaged 45.8 yards on four punts in a 36-35 win at Boise State.
Offense: Derek Thompson, QB, North Texas. Thompson set a North Texas single-game record by completing 82 percent of his passes – going 31-of-38 -- to lead North Texas to its first win ever at Troy. He completed 17 consecutive passes in the game and threw for 331 yards.
Defense: Brandon Joiner, DL, Arkansas State. Joiner tied a school and conference record with four sacks, and he also tied his career high with a team-best eight tackles in a 30-21 victory against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Special teams: T.Y. Hilton, KR, FIU. Hilton returned a punt 97 yards for touchdown in a win over FAU. The punt return is the longest in FIU history.
Offense: Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada. Fajardo accounted for 371 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-28 win against Hawaii. He completed 25-of-36 passes for 290 yards and a career-high three touchdowns with no interceptions. He also rushed 19 times for 81 yards including a 25-yard touchdown run in the second half.
Defense: IK Enemkpali, DE, Louisiana Tech. Had six tackles, including 3.5 for a loss of 18 yards, in the 27-7 win at Mississippi. Enemkpali had a sack for a loss of seven yards and also forced a fumble.
Special teams: Taveon Rogers, KR, New Mexico State. Rogers returned eight kickoffs for a career-best 246 yards -- including a 99-yard return for a touchdown -- in a 48-45 win against Fresno State. He had a school-record 412 all-purpose yards in the game.
Offense: Case Keenum, QB, Houston. Keenum threw for 534 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns, breaking the NCAA mark for career touchdown passes in a 73-34 win over Rice.
Defense: Milton Howell, DB, Tulsa. Howell tied school and conference records with three interceptions for 44 return yards a 38-7 win over SMU.
Special teams: Tyron Carrier, KR, Houston. Carrier tied the NCAA FBS all-time record with his seventh career kickoff return (matching Clemson’s C.J. Spiller). Carrier returned the opening kickoff 100 yards.
Offense: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. Floyed had six receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown in Notre Dame’s 56-14 home win over Navy. Floyd and his first career rushing touchdown in a win over Navy.
Defense: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame. Te'o had a game-high 13 tackles including 2 1/2 tackles for loss.
Special teams: J.D. Falslev, KR, BYU. With the Cougars trailing 35-13 late in the third quarter, Falslev returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown --BYU’s first punt return for a touchdown since Nov. 9, 2006, a span of 64 games.
Offense: Zac Dysert, QB, Miami. Dysert went 20-for-25 for 313 yards and a record-tying five touchdowns in a 41-13 victory over Buffalo. Dysert now has 7,166 career passing yards, ranking second behind only Ben Roethlisberger (10,829).
Defense: Luke Batton, LB, Kent State. Had 10 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry in a win over Bowling Green.
Special Teams: Freddy Cortez, K, Kent State. Went 2-for-2 on field goal attempts against Bowling Green.
Offense: Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan. White became the school's career receptions leader in a 45-35 win over Ball State with nine catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns. White holds the record with 261 career receptions and is over 1,000 yards for the season.
Defense: Johnnie Simon, Western Michigan. Had 10 tackles, a pass break up, two hurries and his second career interception in a 45-35 win over Ball State.
Special Teams: David Harman, K, Central Michigan. Kicked a career-high three field goals and accounted for nearly half of Central Michigan's points in a 23-22 win at Akron.
Co-offense: Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming. Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State. Smith threw for a career-best 341 yards and scored four total touchdowns in a 30-27 upset over San Diego State. Hillman had 25 times for 224 yards and two touchdowns. His 99-yard touchdown in the third quarter was the longest rush in the nation in 2011 and is also the longest in MW history. Hillman also had a 71-yard touchdown reception, finished with a career-high 305 all-purpose yards.
Co-Defense: James Dunlap, DL, UNLV. Jonathan Anderson, S, TCU. Dunlap had a career-high 4.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, seven tackles and a forced fumble in a 38-35 win over Colorado State. Anderson finished with a career-high and team-best 17 tackles and recorded his first career interception in a 38-28 win over BYU.
Special teams: Deante' Purvis, KR, UNLV. Had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and posted 202 total yards on five kick returns in a 38-35 win over Colorado State.
Offense: Alonzo Harris, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette. Harris ran for a career-high 189 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Middle Tennessee, and became the first Cajuns running back to post a 100-yard game since 2009.
Defense: Melvin White, DB, ULL. White had an interception, fumble recovery and seven tackles in the win over Middle Tennessee.
Special Teams: Jack Griffin, K, FIU. Griffin tied a career-best with three field goals in a 23-20 overtime win over Troy. Griffin kicked a 20-yarder that tied the score with 3:31 to go in regulation, then won the game with a 22-yarder in overtime.
Offense: Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada. Went 19-of-29 passes for 283 yards with no interceptions and rushed 13 times for 60 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-34 win at New Mexico State. Nevada trailed 27-20 at halftime before Fajardo scored two third-quarter touchdowns to give the Wolf Pack the lead for good.
Defense: Aaron Brown, LB, Hawaii. Had a team-high nine tackles (five solo), including 1.5 for a loss, and an interception in a 16-14 win over Idaho.
Special teams: Kenton Chun, K, Hawaii. Kicked a game-winning 35-yard field goal with 32 seconds remaining in a victory at Idaho. Chun also made a 27-yard field goal. Entering the game, he had one career field goal attempt, making a 38-yarder in the season opener against Colorado.
Southern Miss flying high: Plenty have taken notice of the Golden Eagles this season following a 7-1 start. They are now ranked No. 25 in the BCS standings for the first time since 2004, and have gotten off to its best start since 1996. After getting a big challenge from UTEP on Saturday, going into halftime tied at 10, Southern Miss scored 21 points in the second half and shut the Miners out in the fourth quarter to win 31-13. The defense, which has had its share of letdowns the last several seasons, has shown major improvement. Southern Miss has allowed just a touchdown and three field goals over the last two games, and held its fourth opponent of the season to under 100 yards rushing. Southern Miss went undefeated in October for the first time since 2000 and have emerged as the favorite to win the East in Conference USA.
Keenum watch: Case Keenum threw a whopping nine touchdown passes in a 73-34 win over Rice, passing Graham Harrell for the most career touchdown passes in FBS history. Keenum now has 139, five more than Harrell had from 2005-08 at Texas Tech. Next up on the Keenum assault of the NCAA record book -- the career passing yards record. Keenum now has 16,805 passing yards to rank second in NCAA history. He needs 268 yards Saturday against UAB to pass Timmy Chang, who holds the mark of 17,072 yards set from 2000-04 at Hawaii.
Upset of the week: Wyoming 30, San Diego State 27. The Cowboys scored 30 first-half points behind true freshman quarterback Brett Smith, who scored two passing and two rushing. One of those scores came on third-and-goal from the San Diego State 26. Then Wyoming had to hold off a furious comeback. Ronnie Hillman ran for 224 yards -- including a 99-yard touchdown that was the longest play from scrimmage in school history. But it was not enough. Kicker Abel Perez had a tough game, missing field goal attempts from 39 and 27 yards in the fourth quarter, along with an extra point as well. Coach Rocky Long said the first half was “as bad a defensive performance in the first half as I've been associated with.” Wyoming, 18-point underdogs going into the game, moved to 5-2 on the season but needs two more wins to become bowl eligible because two of its victories came against FCS teams. Still, the Cowboys have a shot with New Mexico and Colorado State left on the schedule.
Close calls: Akron. The Zips came oh so close to beating Central Michigan after Clayton Moore drove the team 56 yards and threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Marquelo Suel as time expired. Rather than go for the tie, they went for the win. But Moore threw incomplete on the 2-point conversion and Central Michigan won 23-22.
Idaho. Hawaii kicker Kenton Chun made a 35-yard field goal with 32 seconds to play to give the Warriors a 16-14 lead. Idaho nearly pulled the upset, but Trey Farquhar missed a 53-yard field-goal attempt with 8 seconds left. Idaho dropped to 1-7 and 0-4 in the WAC.
Colorado State. UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring ran for a 5-yard touchdown 1:20 left to give the Rebels a 38-35 win. Pete Thomas tried to rally the Rams, but one of his passes was tipped and intercepted at the UNLV 28-yard line with 35 seconds left. Also of note in the game, Phillip Payne set the school career touchdown receptions record with 25. Colorado State, a team many thought had a shot for a bowl game this season, dropped to 3-5.
Patrick Edwards, WR, Houston. Edwards had seven receptions for 318 yards and five touchdowns in a 73-34 win over Rice -- the best receiving performance for any player this season. Edwards leads the nation with 11 touchdown receptions. Also in the game, Tyron Carrier returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, the seventh of his career. That ties the NCAA mark for kickoff returns for touchdown, set by C.J. Spiller at Clemson.
Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan. White had nine catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-35 win over Ball State to become Western Michigan's career receptions record holder at 261. He also went over 1,000 yards this season, making him only the third receiver to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in school history.
Jonathan Anderson, S, TCU. Anderson finished with a career-high and team-best 17 tackles (11 solo) and recorded his first career interception in a 38-28 win over BYU. Anderson, who came off the bench to replace the team’s leading tackler, Tekerrein Cuba, had the team's highest tackle total since 2004.
Alonzo Harris, RB, ULL. Harris had a career-best 189 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 5.7 yards per carry in a win over Middle Tennessee.
Lampford Mark, RB, Nevada. Mark had 185 yards on eight carries for a 23.1 yard average in a 48-34 win over New Mexico State. He got all those yards after sitting out the first three quarters, then posting two runs of 80 yards or more.