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
Michigan State at Michigan: An important Big Ten East Division game between two teams that are unbeaten in league play. Michigan’s defense has been rock solid and should present a severe challenge to Spartans quarterback Connor Cook. The Wolverines have outscored their opponents 97-0 in the last three games. They have not allowed a point in 41 straight defensive possessions. The last time Michigan posted three straight shutouts was in 1980. Michigan ranks No. 1 in the FBS in scoring defense (6.3 ppg allowed), No. 2 in total defense (181.3 yards allowed a game) and No. 3 in rushing defense (65.8 yards allowed a game). Michigan State has won six of the last seven games in the series.
BRONKO NAGURSKI BANQUET NEWS
AutoNation FWAA DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF WEEK
Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah opened the Cowboys’ scoring with a fumble recovery in the end zone, then led OSU’s defense with eight tackles and a sack and two forced fumbles in a 33-26 overtime win at West Virginia. The performance earned Ogbah the AutoNation National Defensive Player of the Week honor for games of the weekend of Oct. 10, as selected by the Football Writers Association on America.
The 6-4, 275-pound junior from Houston is the reigning Big 12 Conference Defensive Lineman of the Year and showed why with his season-high tackle total, and he added a quarterback hurry. After his touchdown, the first of his two forced fumbles minutes later was recovered and set the Cowboys up at West Virginia’s 28-yard line. Oklahoma State scored five plays later for a 14-0 lead.
In the first quarter alone, Ogbah had three tackles, the fumble-recovery for a touchdown, a forced fumble, a half-sack and a half-tackle for loss. Six of Ogbah’s eight total tackles were unassisted. In Big 12 games, Ogbah leads the conference in sacks, tackles for loss and forced fumbles. He is tied for fourth in the nation with 7.5 sacks and is eighth with 11 tackles for losses.
MEMORABLE DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCES FROM LAST WEEK
Houston junior linebacker Steven Taylor: He registered three sacks for the second consecutive game in Houston’s 49-28 victory over SMU. He finished the game with eight tackles, four tackles for loss (three sacks for -33 yards). He also had three quarterback hurries as the Cougar defense limited SMU to 89 second-half yards. Taylor leads The American Athletic Conference and is ranked second nationally in sacks, averaging 1.6 per game.
Pittsburgh junior linebacker Matt Galambos: He had two quarterback sacks and a momentum-changing interception return in Pitt’s 26-19 victory over Virginia. With Pitt holding a 17-10 halftime lead, Virginia opened the second half by driving to the Panthers’ 34-yard line. Galambos ended the threat by intercepting the pass and returning it 51 yards to set up what proved to be the decisive Pitt touchdown. Galambos’ two sacks went for 15 yards in losses and included an 11-yard sack on Virginia’s final possession.
Air Force junior defensive back Brodie Hicks: He recorded eight total tackles (five unassisted), one fumble recovery and a career-high two interceptions in Air Force’s 31-17 victory over Wyoming. With a little more than a minute remaining in the third quarter and Wyoming at the Falcon five-yard line, Hicks recovered a Wyoming fumble to stop the drive and preserve Air Force’s 14-3 lead. The two interceptions and fumble recovery were the first of his career.
Marshall junior lineman Gary Thompson: He finished with seven tackles, two sacks that yielded forced fumbles, three quarterback hurries and two pass breakups in Marshall’s 31-10 victory over Southern Miss. The sack-fumble of Golden Eagles quarterback Nick Mullens allowed fellow defensive lineman Jarquez Samuel to pluck it out of the air and dive into the end zone for the game’s final score.
Alabama senior linebacker Reggie Ragland: He led an Alabama defense that held Arkansas to just 220 yards and 14 points in a 27-14 victory. His eight tackles, including seven unassisted, led the Crimson Tide for the fifth time this season. Ragland collected one sack, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and two quarterback hurries. Ragland led an Alabama defense that limited Arkansas’ vaunted rushing attack to just 44 yards on 25 carries for a 1.8 yards per carry average.
Appalachian State sophomore defensive back Latrell Gibbs: He maintained his one-interception-per-game pace this season when he made his fifth interception of the campaign and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown during Saturday’s 37-3 win at Georgia State. Early in the fourth quarter, Gibbs plucked an errant pass by GSU quarterback Nick Arbuckle out of the air near the line of scrimmage, hurdled a would-be tackler and raced untouched to paydirt to close out the scoring for the Mountaineers. Gibbs also recorded four tackles and a pass breakup. In addition to picking off his fifth pass in as many games, the sophomore scored his second touchdown in as many weeks (he returned an INT 91 yards for a score last Saturday against Wyoming).
Washington senior linebacker Travis Feeney: He led a defense that held USC to 12 points and 345 yards total offense in the Huskies’ 17-12 victory. Feeney finished the game with seven total tackles, including three and a half tackles for loss (two and a half quarterback sacks). He had a half-sack on the first play of the game and another sack on a key third-down late in the third quarter that forced a USC punt. Feeney’s third sack came on a fourth-quarter drive, third-down play that forced USC to attempt a field goal that hit the crossbar and fell short. The Husky defense held USC to 1-of-13 on third-down conversions.
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 for a torn lateral meniscus two days later. He returned for the first time in Arizona’s game against UCLA on Sept. 26. 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. He has missed the Wildcats’ last two games and will be out again for Saturday’s game at Colorado.
SPOTLIGHT ON A BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY CANDIDATE
Ohio State’s Joey Bosa was a first-team FWAA All-America in 2014 as a sophomore. CLICK HERE to learn what they are saying about him as a junior.
SPOTLIGHT ON A BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY WINNER
Aaron Donald won the 2013 Bronko Nagurski Trophy. Two years later he is making it big in the NFL. 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 email@example.com or 214-870-6516.
ABOUT THE CHARLOTTE TOUCHDOWN CLUB AND ITS SPONSORS
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