Freshmen lead FCS players of the week

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – Candidacy for this year’s Jerry Rice
Award, given annually to the national freshman player of the year at the FCS
level, has largely consisted of Fordham running back Chase Edmonds, and
then everyone else.

Perhaps the majority of the nation’s freshmen just needed a little bit of time
to wake up.

That’s exactly what freshmen players all over the country did this past
weekend. It’s even more promising considering Edmonds’ Rams squad was idle with
an open week, so the rookie sensation wasn’t able to participate in the fray.

Although it’s customary for one, and sometimes two players, to garner a
national weekly award, there were a handful of freshmen who deserved to be
recognized this week.

Idaho State linebacker Mario Jenkins and VMI quarterback Al Cobb were named co-
freshmen of the week after leading their teams with outstanding performances.
Jenkins recorded 14 tackles, two interceptions (for the first time in his
career at any level) and had four tackles for loss. Cobb threw for a program-
record six touchdown passes and a career-high 351 yards in a double-overtime
defeat. That was just the start.

Freshmen who weren’t named to the weekly awards included Portland State running
back Steven Long, who carried the ball 16 times for 253 yards and a touchdown
in a losing effort. Wide receiver Jared Beard caught seven passes for 88 yards
and three touchdowns as his Austin Peay Governors ended their 18-game losing
streak – the longest in Division I – against Murray State. And Gardner-Webb
linebacker Jeffrey Pegues accounted for 20 tackles (the fifth-highest
single-game total in the FCS this season) against Cobb and VMI.

Maybe it won’t be Edmonds and then everyone else going forward. The Rice Award,
which has been handed out to some spectacular names already in its three years
of existence, once again appears to have serious promise.

Jenkins and Cobb, along with Idaho State’s Justin Arias, Gardner-Webb’s Kenny
Cook, Tennessee Tech’s Marty Jones and Nicholls State’s Keenan Canty have all
been named The Sports Network national FCS players of the week following Week 8
action of the college football season.

CO-OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK:

Justin Arias, Idaho State, QB, R-Sr., 6-0, 213, Agoura Hills, California

It seems like Arias, when looking at the big picture for quarterbacks in the
nation, has flown relatively under the radar. The senior has led the Bengals to
a 4-3 record, including a perfect 4-0 mark at home and a 2-1 Big Sky Conference
record. Over the weekend, he threw for over 400 yards for the fourth
consecutive game, completing 30-of-50 pass attempts for a career-high 465 yards
and four touchdowns in his Bengals’ 56-28 win over Southern Utah. The 465
passing yards rank seventh in Idaho State program history. Since throwing an
interception in the third quarter against Eastern Washington a few weeks ago,
Arias has completed 71-of-106 attempts for 1,006 yards and 11 touchdowns
without another pick.

Kenny Cook, Gardner-Webb, WR, R-Sr., 6-4, 218, Cross Hill, South Carolina

Prior to this weekend’s double-overtime victory for Gardner-Webb, Cook had only
one 100-yard receiving game and a total of just two touchdowns. Maybe some
critics got to Cook because he exploded in the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ win over VMI.
The senior hauled in 12 receptions for a Big South Conference single-game
record 251 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including the game-winning 25-yard
touchdown grab in the second overtime. Earlier in the third quarter, Cook
caught a pass and took it 80 yards to the end zone, which was the longest pass
play of his career at GWU. He nearly matched his yardage total from the
previous four games played (260) in the contest, and set the FCS high this
season for single-game receiving yards.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

Marty Jones, Tennessee Tech, S, Sr., 5-11, 195, Cincinnati

Tennessee Tech faced a tall order Saturday going up against previously unbeaten
Eastern Kentucky. But the Golden Eagles were, well, golden in their effort to
slow the Colonels, and Jones was right at the center of the action, especially
late in the game. Jones registered a game-high 12 tackles and had four
interceptions on defense, which tied a single-game Ohio Valley Conference
record. Two of his interceptions came within the final 1:07 of play
to help preserve TTU’s eight-point lead and ultimately the victory. He also
contributed on special teams when he took a low snap as the holder in a PAT
situation, and carried the ball into the end zone for the two-point conversion
that gave the Eagles a one-point lead (the team’s game-winning score). Jones
now shares the single-game OVC interception record with five others in history.

SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

Keenan Canty, Nicholls State, WR, R-Sr., 5-9, 170, New Orleans

Talk about a hefty workload. Canty saw plenty of action as Nicholls’ kick
returner in his Southland Conference team’s one-sided loss at the hands of
Lamar, 63-21. Canty took advantage of his opportunity as he racked up a
ridiculous 203 yards on 10 kick returns, which included a long of 39 yards. He
also took his one punt return 83 yards for a touchdown, giving him 286 total
return yards and Nicholls its first punt return for a touchdown since Lardarius
Webb did so back in 2008. Midway through the third quarter, Canty caught his
only reception of the day – a 5-yard touchdown strike. He finished the contest
with 297 all-purpose yards (he added a 6-yard rush) and two total touchdowns.

CO-FRESHMEN PLAYERS OF THE WEEK:

Mario Jenkins, Idaho State, LB, R-Fr., 6-1, 225, Nampa, Idaho

Jenkins is enjoying a strong freshman campaign, but this past weekend was truly
his time to shine. The Idaho native recorded 14 total tackles, adding in four
tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, a quarterback hurry and a pair of interceptions.
It’s the first time on any level of play Jenkins had recorded two interceptions
in a single game. His Bengals easily handled Southern Utah – a playoff team in
2013 – at home (56-28), and are now perfect in Pocatello with a 4-0 mark.
Jenkins, thanks to a big stat boost from the weekend, is a prime candidate for
the Rice Award.

Al Cobb, VMI, QB, R-Fr., 6-3, 190, Pulaski, Tennessee

Cobb has been on the cusp of winning freshman of the week on multiple
occasions, but his stats in VMI’s double-overtime loss to Gardner-Webb were not
only undeniably strong, but record-setting. The freshman quarterback completed
34-of-53 pass attempts for 351 yards (a season high) and a school-record six
touchdowns as his Keydets were taken down, 47-41, in two overtimes. All six of
Cobb’s touchdown tosses went to different receivers.