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October 2, 2011

Wisconsin's Wilson passes major test

A year after junior college transfer Cam Newton transformed Auburn into a national title team and won the Heisman, another "new" quarterback is transforming the title race.

CONFERENCE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
ACC
Clemson DE Andre Branch had 11 tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble in a 23-3 victory at Virginia Tech.
BIG EAST
Pittsburgh RB Ray Graham rushed for 226 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries in a 44-17 rout of visiting USF on Thursday. He also caught four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown.
BIG 12
Kansas State LB Arthur Brown had eight tackles, an interception and 1.5 sacks in a 36-35 victory over visiting Baylor.
CONFERENCE USA
SMU QB J.J. McDermott was 23-of-45 for 349 yards and four touchdowns in a 40-33 upset of host TCU in overtime.
MID-AMERICAN
Western Michigan QB Alex Carder was 37-of-51 for 479 yards and five touchdowns in a 38-31 upset of host Connecticut.
MOUNTAIN WEST
Air Force QB Tim Jefferson was 9-of-10 for 136 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 60 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries in a 35-34 overtime victory at Navy.
PAC-12
USC QB Matt Barkley was 32-of-39 for 468 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-41 victory over visiting Arizona.
SEC
Arkansas WR Jarius Wright caught 13 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-38 victory over Texas A&M.
SUN BELT
Louisiana-Lafayette QB Blaine Gautier was 26-of-33 for 329 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-34 victory at Florida Atlantic.
WAC
New Mexico State QB Matt Christian was 16-of-27 for 296 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-28 victory over New Mexico. He also rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
INDEPENDENTS
BYU QB Riley Nelson was 10-of-14 for 144 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-24 victory over Utah State. He also rushed for 62 yards on 11 carries after coming off the bench to replace ineffective starter Jake Heaps.
At N.C. State, Russell Wilson was a first-team All-ACC quarterback as a redshirt freshman and played in his share of big games, but nothing compared to the atmosphere and scope of Saturday night, when Wisconsin pounded Nebraska 48-17.

[Dienhart: Wisconsin lays claim to title status ]

Wilson rose to the occasion, going 14-of-20 for 255 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson also rushed for 32 yards and a touchdown on six carries to earn Rivals.com National Player of the Week honors.

With the win, Wisconsin moved into the top five in both polls (No. 4 in The Associated Press poll, No. 5 in the coaches' poll).

"It's huge for our football team, huge for our football program," Wilson said. "To play a great game like that against a great team in Nebraska is pretty awesome."

Wilson's output didn't come as a total surprise. He already had sliced through defenses for UNLV, Oregon State, Northern Illinois and South Dakota. On Saturday, Nebraska's defense looked no different.

"Every day, his approach is the same thing," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "It goes back to last January and the way we prepared and the way we handle our work every day. I think Russell is great. I think that is what attracted him here. He likes that daily approach himself."

Wilson is one of two quarterbacks with a pass efficiency rating higher than 200. Wilson is second with a rating of 216.9, behind only Baylor's Robert Griffin (230.3). Hawaii's Colt Brennan set the single-season pass efficiency record of 186.0 in 2006.

NATIONAL FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
West Virginia RB Dustin Garrison

As long as Dana Holgorsen is coach at West Virginia, the Mountaineers will be a prolific passing team. That doesn't mean Holgorsen is happy with a lackluster run game.

Before Saturday, West Virginia had rushed for 306 yards this season. Freshman Dustin Garrison nearly doubled that Saturday with 291 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries in a 55-10 romp over Bowling Green.

Garrison's performance was the best rushing performance for a Mountaineer since 2004, when Kay-Jay Harris rushed for 337 yards against East Carolina.

NATIONAL COORDINATOR OF THE WEEK
Clemson's Kevin Steele

The Tigers' offense received the bulk of the attention for Clemson the past two weeks. It's only fitting, then, that Clemson's defense found the spotlight against an opponent known for its defense.

Steele's defense held Virginia Tech to 133 rushing yards and 125 passing yards in a 23-3 upset in Blacksburg.

[Buchanan: Clemson turns corner at Virginia Tech ]

Clemson's defense created one of the most frustrating days for Virginia Tech's offense since coach Frank Beamer turned the Hokies into a perennial top-25 team. Virginia Tech was held to less than a touchdown for the first time since 2006 (a 22-3 loss to Boston College), and the three points were the fewest Virginia Tech scored at home since a 16-0 loss to Cincinnati in 1995.

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David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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