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Rams dominate MW Player of Week honors

Chris Nwoke

Chris Nwoke

Sept. 26, 2011

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – CSU linebacker Shaquil Barrett (defense), long-snapper Tanner Hedstrom (special teams) and running back Chris Nwoke (co-offense) have earned respective Mountain West Player of the Week honors, the conference announced Monday morning.

This marks the first time the Rams have claimed three Player of the Week honors in the same weekend. On seven previous occasions since joining the Mountain West in 1999, CSU has had at least two such awards after a game, most recently Oct. 24, 2005, when QB Justin Holland (offense) and DB Joey Rucks (special teams) did it.

The last time a Mountain West team won as many as three Player of the Week awards in one weekend was Nov. 22, 2008, when Utah’s Brian Johnson (offense), Paul Kruger (co-defense with SDSU’s Luke Laolagi) and Louie Sakoda (special teams) accomplished the feat just prior to the Utes’ triumph over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

CSU earned the honors after a remarkable, 35-34 win in double overtime at Utah State Saturday night, three weeks after Utah State arguably should’ve beaten the defending national champion, Auburn, at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Barrett, a 6-2, 244-pound sophomore from Baltimore, Md., was paramount in the triumph, after helping CSU pull back into the contest in the second half, then win it in double overtime. He gave life to the Rams with USU up 14-3 in the third quarter, scooping up a Michael Smith fumble in the backfield and returning it 15 yards for his first career touchdown. Then, on the next series, Barrett sacked QB Chuckie Keeton, rushing from a DE position, to force a punt. Earlier in the evening, he made a leaping pass deflection to prevent a possible TD, and finished the contest with a team-leading 14 tackles. A 2011 transfer from Nebraska-Omaha, Barrett was immediately eligible because UNO disbanded its football program after the ’10 season. A key cog in the middle of the Rams’ defense after the fractured ankle sustained by All-America candidate Mychal Sisson, Barrett played at Boys Town High School, a boarding institution in Nebraska, and also had interest from Miami, Fla., before choosing the Rams.


 

 

Hedstrom, a 6-1, 220-pound sophomore from Fort Collins (Colo.) High School, has been CSU’s primary long-snapper for punts and placements since Game 5 of his freshman season, when he replaced an injured Scott Albritton, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On Saturday night, he was life-saving in the win, recovering not one but two muffed punts, one late in the fourth quarter with the Rams trailing 21-13 and only 2:06 left in regulation. By pouncing on an Eric Moats muff at the USU 15, Hedstrom set up Nwoke’s game-tying TD and the ensuing two-point conversion in the final minute that sent the game to overtime. Earlier, Hedstrom recovered another muffed punt to give CSU possession at the USU 35, and made a tackle on a previous punt.

Nwoke, who shared offensive honors with New Mexico WR Deon Long, also was principal in the win, especially on the Rams’ final three possessions, when he picked up 47 hard-earned yards on 11 carries, including a career-best two touchdowns. With 42 seconds left in regulation, he helped CSU erase a 21-13 deficit with a 1-yard score (just before Pete Thomas hit Crockett Gillmore for a game-tying two-point conversion to send the game to OT. Then in the extra periods, he ran seven times for 32 yards, setting up Gillmore’s game-tying TD and then scoring the eventual game-winning points with a 2-yard TD of his own. In the first half, Nwoke also converted a pair of third-and-1 attempts, one on an important second-quarter FG drive to put CSU on the board. A 6-0, 215-pound power back from ThunderRidge High School in Highlands Ranch, Colo., Nwoke leads the Rams with four touchdowns this season.

None of the three individuals had previously earned a Mountain West weekly honor.

The Rams now have claimed two Mountain West weekly honors. DE Nordly Capi won the conference award, as well as the Nagurski national award, after setting a single-game NCAA record with four forced fumbles in the Rams’ season-opening win at New Mexico, Sept. 3. Capi continues to lead the nation in sacks for the third time in four weekends this season.

CSU (3-1, 1-0 MW) can jump out to its best start since 2006 with a win in Saturday’s homecoming game vs. San Jose State (2 p.m. MDT). Tickets are moving quickly but are still available. For more information, contact the CSU ticket office at 1-800/491-RAMS or visit CSURams.com/tickets.

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