This Week in WAC Football-Oct. 23
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSIVE – Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon, a freshman from Strong, Ark. (Strong HS), rushed for a school record six touchdowns in Louisiana Tech’s 70-28 win over Idaho. Dixon had 17 carries for 232 yards and helped the Bulldogs break a school record with 839 yards of total offense, the most by any team in the nation this year. He scored five of his six touchdowns in the first half as Louisiana Tech tied a WAC record with 56 points in a half.
DEFENSIVE – San Jose State cornerback Bene Benwikere, a junior from Los Angeles, Calif. (Serra HS), had a career-high 11 tackles, including two for a loss for 11 yards, in just his second start of the season. Benwikere also forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and returned it seven yards and intercepted a pass, returning it for 30 yards. Both the fumble recovery and interception led to San Jose State touchdowns in the Spartans’ 52-24 win at UTSA. It was San Jose State’s highest scoring game since 2008.
SPECIAL TEAMS – Utah State placekicker Nick Diaz, a sophomore from Redondo Beach, Calif. (Redondo Union HS), had two field goals and made five extra points in Utah State’s 41-7 win over New Mexico State. Diaz’s first-ever field goal attempt was good from 53 yards out and he added a 48-yarder later in the fourth quarter. The 53-yarder was the eighth-longest in school history and the longest for the Aggies since 2008.
Others nominated on offense:
Chuckie Keeton, So., QB, Utah State - was 16-of-26 for 257 yards with two touchdowns in the win over New Mexico State. He threw a career-long 76-yard touchdown pass on the Aggies’ first play of the game. Keeton also rushed seven times for 81 yards with two touchdowns, including one for a career-long 76 yards.
Also nominated on defense:
Le’Vander Liggins, So., DB, Louisiana Tech - made two tackles, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble in the win over Idaho.
Will Davis, Sr., CB, Utah State - had a season-high eight tackles, including two for a loss, and his first career interception which he returned 35 yards in the game against New Mexico State.
Additional special teams nominations:
Matt Nelson, Sr., PK, Louisiana Tech - tied a WAC record when he made all 10 of his extra point attempts in the win over Idaho.
Tyler Ervin, So., KR, San Jose State - returned four kickoffs for 155 yards, including one for a 92-yard touchdown, in the win at UTSA. Ervin set a new school record for most career kickoff returns for a touchdown with three. He also had a 36-yard touchdown reception and totalled 214 all-purpose yards.
WAC TOP NON-AQ CONFERENCE – After eight weeks of play, the WAC remains the top non-automatic qualifying conference according to the ESPN Stats & Information College Football Conference Power Rankings. The WAC has a rating of 23.4, trailing the ACC (47.7), but ahead of the Mountain West (21.3), MAC (21.0), Sun Belt (17.0) and Conference USA (15.4). The ratings take into account the AP poll and various computer rankings.
IDAHO MAKES COACHING CHANGE – On Sunday, Idaho announced that Robb Akey had been relieved of his duties following a 20-50 record since the 2007 season. Offensive coordinator Jason Gesser will serve as interim head coach. The Vandals (1-7) have a bye this week before hosting San Jose State on Nov. 3.
LA TECH TOP SCORING TEAM – In the most recent NCAA statistics report, Louisiana Tech remains the nation’s top scoring team. The Bulldogs are averaging 56.14 points per game following its 70-28 win over Idaho. Oregon is second in the nation at 51.0 points per game. Since 2002, WAC teams have led the nation in scoring five times. Boise State was the last team to accomplish this in 2009 with 42.2 points per game. The WAC record is 48.9 points per game set by Boise State in 2004. The Broncos were second in the nation behind Louisville(49.8 ppg) that season.
BULLDOGS SET WAC RECORDS – Louisiana Tech beat Idaho, 70-28, on Saturday and in the process, broke or tied several WAC records. The 56 points scored in the first half tied a WAC record set by Arizona State versus New Mexico in 1968 and later tied by Fresno State versus Utah State in 2001. Louisiana Tech had 39 first downs to tied the WAC record set by BYU versus Air Force in 1983. Matt Nelson made all 10 of his extra points to tie the WAC record for both extra points made and attempted.
CAMERON BREAKS NCAA RECORD – Bulldog quarterback Colby Cameron broke the NCAA and WAC record of 271 passes without an interception in a season set by Fresno State’s Trent Dilfer in 1993. Cameron has thrown 275 passes without an interception through seven games this year.
JOHNSON NEARS SACK RECORD – San Jose State senior defensive end Travis Johnson has 27.5 sacks in his career, the third most in WAC history. He is just one behind Nevada’s Jorge Cordova (2000-03) and 2.5 behind the all-time leader, Nevada’s Dontay Moch (2007-10). Johnson is the NCAA’s active leader. He is also ninth all-time in WAC history in tackles for loss with 42.0, placing him fourth in the nation among active players.
JOHNSON NAMED QUARTERFINALIST FOR TWO AWARDS – San Jose State’s Travis Johnson has been named a quarterfinalist for both the Rotary Lombardi Award (outstanding lineman) and Lott IMPACT Trophy (outstanding defensive player). Semifinalists for the Lombardi Award will be announced by the end of October while semifinalists for the Lott Trophy will be announced on Nov. 13.
CAMERON O’BRIEN SEMIFINALIST – Louisiana Tech quarterback Colby Cameron has been named one of 16 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien Award given to the nation’s top quarterback. Cameron has completed 196-of-275 passes for 2,306 yards and 20 touchdowns with no interceptions. He has a passing efficiency rating of 165.7.
WILLIAMS CRACKS CAREER TOP 5 – Utah State senior running back Kerwynn Williams has 5,923 yards of all-purpose yards during his career. He is now fifth all-time in WAC history, 768 behind career leader Terance Mathis of New Mexico (1985-87, 89). Williams is the WAC’s active leader in rushing yards with 1,798. He also has 598 career receiving yards, 135 punt return yards and is the WAC’s all-time career leader in kick return yards with 3,392.
NATIONAL WEEKLY AWARDS – Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon was honored by the College Football Performance Awards as the national wide receiver of the week while San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin and Idaho’s Todd Handley were named two of seven Kickoff Returners of the Week. Other honorable mention CFPA winners were Chuckie Keeton, Utah State (QB); Nick Diaz, Utah State (PK); Donte Savage, New Mexico State (DL); Bene Benwikere, San Jose State (DB); and Will Davis, Utah State (DB).
NEW ERA – The WAC began a new era this year with the additions of Denver, Seattle, UT-Arlington, UTSA and Texas State with only the latter two competing in football. The WAC consists of a total of 10 schools for the 2012-13 season, but just seven play football. Both UTSA and Texas State are eligible to compete for the WAC championship, but UTSA is not eligible for a postseason bowl game in 2012 due to the two-year process of transitioning from FCS to FBS. Texas State began the process last year and is bowl eligible if there are not enough eligible teams to fill the 70 bowl slots this year. For their opponents, wins against Texas State this year count toward bowl eligibility while those against UTSA do not.
NEW MEMBERS FEATURE TOP COACHES – New members UTSA and Texas State have coaches that are in their second year with their respective schools though Texas State’s Dennis Franchione coached an additional two years with the Bobcats in 1990 and 1991. Franchione had two previous stints in the WAC with New Mexico and TCU. His 61 overall victories and 38 conference victories as a WAC head coach are both tied with Boise State’s Chris Petersen for 10th most in conference history. UTSA’s Larry Coker won a National Championship in his first year with Miami (Fla.) in 2001.
PRESEASON FAVORITES – Defending WAC champion Louisiana Tech was picked as the favorite by both the media and coaches for the 2012 season. Utah State was second in both polls and San Jose State was third. As selected by the media, Louisiana Tech wide receiver Quinton Patton was voted the preseason Offensive Player of the Year while San Jose State defensive end Travis Johnson was picked as the Defensive Player of the Year. Patton, a senior, was a first-team all-WAC selection last year after catching 79 passes for 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first season with the Bulldogs. Johnson, a senior, earned first-team all-WAC honors after finishing second in the WAC with 9.5 sacks last year. He enters this season with 19 career sacks, the third most of any active player in the country.
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL – The WAC continues its affiliation with the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl this year. The WAC champion (unless its UTSA or Texas State) will play an opponent from the Mid-American Conference. The WAC has played in the bowl game every year since 2000.
BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES – Since 1997, the WAC has been an official part of the Bowl Championship Series. The WAC’s champion will receive an automatic berth in one of the five BCS bowl games if ranked in the top 12 of the BCS Standings (and is the highest ranked team from a conference without an automatic bid) or if ranked in the top 16 of the BCS Standings and its ranking is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls. The BCS Standings are determined by a formula involving polls and computer rankings. Next year’s National Championship Game will be played in Miami on Jan. 7, 2013.