September 3, 2008

Rivals.com Week 1 National Awards

The USC quarterback position and the Alabama football program received a clean bill of health after the first week of the season.

The Trojans' rout of Virginia and Alabama's dismantling of Clemson helped those two programs claim Rivals.com's three weekly national honors.

NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
QB Mark Sanchez, USC

Oh, how the tables have turned in the run-up for the mammoth meeting between USC and Ohio State on Sept. 13.

A week ago, fans wondered if Sanchez would be healthy enough to play against the Buckeyes. Sanchez answered those questions with a resounding yes against Virginia when he led USC to a 52-7 win in Charlottesville.

Three weeks after suffering a dislocated kneecap, Sanchez was 26 of 35 for 338 yards and three touchdowns before turning the game over to backup Aaron Corp.

Along the way, Sanchez got all of his receivers involved.

The receiving corps struggled last season, but the top four wide receivers caught a combined 17 passes and two touchdowns against the Cavaliers.

Now, all eyes will be on injury updates coming out of Columbus. Ohio State tailback Chris Wells is doubtful for this week's game against Ohio after suffering a right foot injury in the opener against Youngstown State.

COORDINATOR OF THE WEEK:
Kevin Steele, Alabama

CONFERENCE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
ACC
Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner was 27 of 36 for 220 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Baylor.
BIG 12
Quarterback Chase Daniel got Missouri's national title hopes off to a good start by going 26 of 45 for 323 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Illinois.
BIG EAST
Cincinnati quarterback Dustin Grutza was 21 of 28 for 296 yards, with three touchdowns. He also ran for 33 yards and a score in Cincinnati's victory over Eastern Kentucky.
BIG TEN
Illinois quarterback Juice Williams was 26 of 42 for 451 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions in the loss to Missouri.
CONFERENCE USA
East Carolina quarterback Patrick Pinkney was 19 of 21 for 211 yards with a touchdown, and also rushed for a score in an upset of Virginia Tech.
MID-AMERICAN
Buffalo quarterback Drew Willy was 10 of 16 for 221 yards and four touchdowns in a rout of UTEP.
MOUNTAIN WEST
TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes had six tackles, a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception in the Horned Frogs' league victory at New Mexico.
SEC
Kentucky defensive tackle Myron Pryor led a dominant defensive effort in a victory over Louisville. He forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and also scored on a 72-yard fumble recovery himself. In addition, he had three tackles and a tackle for a loss.
SUN BELT
A two-time 1,000-yard rusher, Arkansas State running back Reggie Arnold helped the Red Wolves stun Texas A&M with 145 yards on 21 carries.
WESTERN ATHLETIC
Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns, with most of his damage coming in the second half, in a victory at Rutgers.
INDEPENDENTS
Navy running back Shun White rushed for a school-record 348 yards and three touchdowns on only 19 carries in a romp over Towson.
Whatever title Alabama wants to give its defensive planner, the Crimson Tide turned in a dominant defensive effort in a 34-10 win over Clemson in Atlanta.

Steele carries the "head defensive coach" title, while secondary coach Kirby Smart is called the defensive coordinator. No matter what you call its leader, Alabama's defense held Clemson to 188 yards and no rushing yards. The Tigers' tailback tandem of James Davis and C.J. Spiller ran a combined eight times for 20 yards.

Others considered for coordinator of the week:
Dan Brown, Fresno State: The Bulldogs shut out Rutgers for three quarters and held Mike Teel to 106 passing yards. Fresno State had two interceptions in the 24-7 win.
Steve Brown, Kentucky: The Wildcats have won two in a row over Louisville after Brown's defense held the Cardinals' offense scoreless in a 27-2 win.
Jim McElwain, Alabama: John Parker Wilson looks like a different quarterback under McElwain, in his first season after moving from Fresno State. The Tide offense amassed 419 yards against Clemson.
DeWayne Walker, UCLA: The Bruins gave up 366 yards to Tennessee but controlled the line of scrimmage and managed to overcome four first-half turnovers in a 27-25 overtime upset.
Mike Ward, Bowling Green: The Falcons sapped Pittsburgh's offseason momentum by holding LeSean McCoy to 71 yards and 3.1 yards per carry in a 27-17 upset.

FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK:
RB Mark Ingram, Alabama

Of all the freshmen in Alabama's highly ranked recruiting class, Ingram was the surprise contributor in the opener. He was listed as the co-backup along with sophomore Terry Grant going into the game.

Ingram, from Flint, Mich., carried the ball 17 times for 96 yards, helping Alabama dominate the clock. Alabama held the ball for 41:13, compared to Clemson's 18:47.

Others considered for freshman of the week
RB Brandon Bolden, Ole Miss: The Rebels look to have uncovered another offensive weapon. Bolden, a true freshman from Baton Rouge (La.) Scotlandville, had eight carries for 76 yards and a touchdown. He also completed one pass for 37 yards in the "Wild Rebel" formation in Ole Miss' victory over Memphis.
WR DeAndre Brown, Southern Miss: Brown, the Golden Eagles' most touted freshman in a long time, lived up to the hype with four catches for 92 yards and a touchdown against Louisiana-Lafayette. He is a true freshman from Ocean Springs (Miss.) High.
WR Nathan Palmer, Northern Illinois: Palmer, a redshirt freshman from Elkhart (Ind.) Central, had three catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns in a near-upset of Minnesota.
S Earl Thomas, Texas: Thomas, a redshirt freshman from Orange (Texas) West Orange-Stark, helped ease worries about Texas' young secondary by recording five tackles, two pass breakups, a forced fumble and a blocked punt in a rout of Florida Atlantic.
TB Shane Vereen, California: Vereen, a redshirt freshman from Valencia (Calif.) High, carried the ball nine times for 101 yards and a touchdown against Michigan State.

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David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.



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