Since 1995, the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club have partnered to bring you the Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner each year. The Best Defensive Player in the entire country is announced at the Westin Hotel in downtown Charlotte each December before sellout crowds, with this year’s 21st straight banquet, sponsored by ACN and slated for Dec. 7. Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn will deliver the keynote speech.
Five finalists for the award, named after the legendary Minnesota Gopher and Chicago Bears lineman, will appear on stage before the winner is announced by 2015 FWAA President Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald. During the evening, the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award, sponsored by East Coast Railways, will also be feted–Ohio State linebacker Randy Gradishar (1971-73).
Arizona’s junior linebacker Scooby Wright III will attempt to become only the second player to win back-to-back Nagurski Trophies after Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald in 1995 and 1996. Wright is just the second sophomore to win the award after Ohio State linebacker James Laurinatis in 2006.
The weekly ACN Bronko Report will bring to you updates on what is happening on the defensive side of the ball during the 2015 season, top matchups and also provide links to stories on Bronko Nagurski Alumni and occasional feature stories about current top defensive players who might wind up in Charlotte the first week of December
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK
Notre Dame at Clemson: The Fighting Irish head to Clemson for a key game that could determine the College Football Playoff fortunes of both teams in one of the best games of the weekend. In the battle of unbeatens, Notre Dame boasts four members of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List: tackle Sheldon Day, defensive back KeiVarae Russell and linebackers Joe Schmidt and Jaylon Smith. Smith leads Notre Dame with 29 total tackles and 4.5 tackles for 19 yards in losses, but Day is right behind with 4 for 32 yards in losses. Schmidt is second in total tackles at 28. Clemson averages 36.7 points a game, but is also 11th in scoring defense. Clemson needs a win to boost the ACC image nationally. Notre Dame, as an independent, has little margin for error to make the Top 4 in the CFP standings.
BRONKO NAGURSKI BANQUET NEWS
AutoNation FWAA DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF WEEK No. 3
Duke safety Jeremy Cash was a constant nemesis in the Georgia Tech backfield, coming up with a team-high 12 tackles, a sack and three tackles for loss as the Blue Devils upset the No. 20 Yellow Jackets, 34-20. Cash kept Georgia Tech off balance all day with four quarterback hurries, and his efforts earned him the AutoNation FWAA Defensive Player of the Week honor for games of the weekend of Sept. 26.
The 6-2, 210-pound redshirt senior from Miami also forced two fumbles as Duke held the nation’s second-best rushing offense to 173 rushing yards, 204 yards below their season average (377.0). Cash is tied for the national lead in forced fumbles (3) through four games, and is tied for fifth in the nation in tackles for loss (8.5, 30 yards lost). Over the past two games, the 2014 FWAA second team All-American has produced 6.5 tackles for loss.
Cash’s biggest play may have been his last in the game, as his second forced fumble came late in the fourth quarter at the Georgia Tech 39. Duke, which led 26-20, recovered and scored the clinching touchdown shortly thereafter to seal their ACC opener.
MEMORABLE DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCES FROM LAST WEEK
California senior defensive end Kyle Kragen:. He registered career highs of six tackles and 1.5 sacks (-16 yards) as well as a career-high-tying 1.5 tackles for loss (-16 yards) in California’s 30-24 victory over Washington. Kragen picked up his first forced fumble and pass break-up of the year in Cal’s first victory at Washington since 2005.
Boston College sophomore linebacker Connor Strachan: He led the Eagles in tackles for the third time in 2015 with nine in Saturday’s 17-14 victory over Northern Illinois. He tallied a career-high nine tackles, including seven unassisted stops and registered additional career highs with one sack for a loss of nine yards and 2.5 tackles for a loss of 11 yards. The Boston College defense held the Huskies to 72 rushing yards and only 153 total yards.
Oklahoma State junior defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah: He posted six tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss (two sacks) in Oklahoma State’s 30-27 victory at Texas. Ogbah had a sack early in the game, then assisted on two sacks during Texas’ last offensive drive. That stand forced a punt that set up the Cowboys’ winning field goal. Oklahoma State became the first team in history to beat Texas on four consecutive trips to DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Florida Atlantic freshman cornerback Ocie Rose: The true freshman in his second consecutive start had a big impact in Florida Atlantic’s 17-7 victory at Charlotte. He recorded five unassisted tackles and picked off two passes. After the 49ers drove to the FAU 43 with 1:28 remaining in the game and trailing 10-7, Rose stepped in front of a pass on the far sideline and returned it 60 yards for a score, which put the Owls up 17-7 with less than a minute and a half to play. He added another interception to seal the victory for FAU.
Mississippi State junior linebacker Richie Brown: He finished with game and career highs in tackles (13), sacks (two) and tackles for loss (three) in a 17-9 road victory at Auburn. Of Brown’s 13 tackles, 12 were unassisted. Mississippi State held Auburn without a touchdown for the first time during the Gus Malzahn era. The 12 unassisted tackles tied for the most by an SEC player in a conference game this season.
SCOOBY WRIGHT III UPDATE
Arizona’s junior linebacker Scooby Wright III, the 2014 Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner, went down with a left knee injury midway through the first quarter of the Wildcats’ 42-32 season-opening victory over Texas-San Antonio on Sept. 3. He had surgery to replace a torn lateral meniscus two days later. He returned for the first time in Arizona’s game against UCLA last Saturday. His left knee held up, but he suffered a right foot injury in the 56-30 loss to the Bruins. Wright finished with seven tackles in the UCLA game, five unassisted.
“The other disappointing news is Scooby,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said at his weekly press briefing on Monday. “He landed on his right foot at some point in the game and sprained his right foot. We were concerned that it was more than that, but the MRI results came in and so Scooby will probably be out several weeks with foot sprain on his right foot. Our linebacker situation has been a little sketchy anyway, but having Scooby out several weeks is something that we will have to deal with. We are a little banged up there.”
SPOTLIGHT ON A BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY CANDIDATE
Texas A&M end Myles Garrett is having a big sophomore campaign. CLICK HERE to read more.
SPOTLIGHT ON A BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY WINNER
UT’s Derrick Johnson was the 2004 winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy. He has been a member of the Kansas City Chiefs during his whole professional career and was elected to the Texas High School Hall of Fame this past off-season. CLICK HERE to read more.
NCAA FBS INDIVIUDAL DEFENSIVE STATISTICS NATIONAL RANKINGS
BRONKO NAGURSKI WATCH LIST
The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,400 men and women who cover college football. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game-day operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 214-870-6516.
ABOUT THE CHARLOTTE TOUCHDOWN CLUB AND ITS SPONSORS
The Charlotte Touchdown Club is a non-profit organization founded in 1990 for the purpose of promoting high school, collegiate, and professional football in the Charlotte, N.C., region. The club’s activities and services focus community attention on the outstanding citizenship, scholarship, sportsmanship, and leadership of area athletes and coaches. For more information, contact John Rocco (704-347-2918 or email@example.com). The official website of the Charlotte Touchdown Club is touchdownclub.com.
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