SFA's Ward headlines FCS Players of the Week
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - It took almost three full games for the Stephen F. Austin defense to gain its first takeaway of the season, but it was worth the wait.
Safety Alize Ward completed a spectacular performance Saturday night by scoring on a game-ending, 70-yard interception return that lifted SFA past Incarnate Word in the Southland Conference opener for both teams. It will be a strong candidate for the play of the year in the FCS.
Ward joined Indiana State's Bob Pugh, Towson's Aidan O'Neill and Kennesaw State's Bryson Armstrong as the STATS FCS National Players of the Week for Week 3 games through Sept. 16.
NATIONAL OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Bob Pugh, Indiana State, WR, R-Sr., 5-11, 190, Foley, Alabama
National players of the week usually come from victorious teams, but Pugh was worthy after he nearly gave Indiana State an upset of nationally ranked Liberty. In the Missouri Valley Football Conference team's 42-41 loss, Pugh put up the second-best single-game performance in school history (and fifth-best in conference history) with 260 receiving yards on eight catches. He scored touchdowns on a 64-yarder in the second quarter and a 31-yarder in the third, and also had 43- and 49-yard catches while averaging 32.5 yards per receptions.
Honorable Mention: Lenorris Footman, QB, Alcorn State; Gage Gubrud, QB, Eastern Washington; Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond; Peter Pujals, QB, Holy Cross; Kurt Rawlings, QB, Yale; Chris Streveler, QB, South Dakota; James Tabary, QB, McNeese
NATIONAL DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Alize Ward, Stephen F. Austin, R-So., S, 5-10, 195, San Diego
Saving his best for last, Ward scored on a game-ending, 70-yard interception to provide the winning margin in the Lumberjacks' 37-31 triumph over Incarnate Word. Following a timeout and on a 3rd-and-6 with 16 seconds remaining, UIW quarterback Sean Brophy threw a desperation pass off a flea-flicker that Ward picked off on his team's 30. Ward broke across the field and ran down the right sideline, leaping over an UIW player at the Cardinals' 5 and diving into the end zone. Ward also posted the second-most tackles for the Lumberjacks with 10, including one for loss, and notched two pass breakups.
Honorable Mention: Gerald Ferguson, LB, Robert Morris; Nate Hatalsky, LB, Albany; Tyree Horton, LB, Illinois State; Richard Jarvis, DE, Brown; Mario Jenkins, LB, Idaho State; Dylan Weigel, LB, ETSU; Vincent White, CB, UC Davis
NATIONAL SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Aidan O'Neill, Towson, PK, So., 6-1, 182, New Paltz, New York
O'Neill hit a game-winning, 55-yard field goal to end Towson's final game last season and he was at it again in booting a 42-yarder as time expired to lift his CAA Football squad past Saint Francis 16-14, which ended the Red Flashes' 11-game home winning streak. O'Neill was 3 for 3 on field goals, also connecting on 33- and 38-yard attempts. He's 23 of 28 on field goals in 14 career games.
Honorable Mention: Willie Barrett, LB, Marist; Lorran Fonseca, PK, Nicholls; Nick McBeath, LB, Holy Cross; Ryan Parenteau, DB/ST, UC Davis; Fidel Romo-Martinez, P, Delaware State; Marcus Taylor, KR, Norfolk State
NATIONAL FRESHMAN PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Bryson Armstrong, Kennesaw State, R-Fr., LB, 5-11, 201, Marietta, Georgia
In just his third career game, Armstrong set third-year program Kennesaw State's single-game record with 15 tackles (13 solos) in a 20-14 victory at Alabama State. He intercepted a pass in the second quarter for his fourth takeaway of the season and it led to the go-ahead touchdown. He also had two sacks, including one on Alabama State's final possession, which came up empty, and allowed the Big South preseason co-favorite to improve to 2-1.
Honorable Mention: Grayson Atkins, PK, Furman; Zane Dudek, RB, Yale; Gresch Jensen, QB, Montana; Franklin "Mac" McCain III, CB, North Carolina A&T; Daniel Smith, QB, Campbell; Cade Sparks, QB, Indiana State; Ryan Stover, QB, Towson; C.J. Wall, CB, Princeton
Updated September 18, 2017