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October 11, 2006
Malzahn, Tebow claim weekly awards
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For the second time this season both the Rivals.com honor for National Coordinator of the Week and National Freshman of the Week have a distinctly Southern flavor.
Arkansas offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn gets the nod for the Razorbacks' 27-10 upset of Auburn in which the Hogs rushed for 279 yards, and Florida true freshman Tim Tebow is a winner after he was responsible for all three touchdowns in the Gators' 23-10 triumph over LSU.
For Malzahn and no doubt for coaches who opposed him last season while he was at Springdale (Ark.) High School it was hard to fathom watching Malzahn call running play after running play. After all, his teams threw the ball around quite a bit at Springdale, where he won the state 5A title last year with a 14-0 mark.
"Believe it or not there were times we passed only 12 or 13 times, but we do have that perception," Malzahn told Rivals.com. "You use your strengths, and that's what we were able to do against Auburn."
There's no doubt it was working. Hogs running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones continuously gashed the Tigers for huge chunks of yardage. Each topped the 100-yard mark, with McFadden's 63-yard touchdown jaunt in the second quarter the highlight.
"The credit goes to our players first," Malzahn said. "We have a veteran offensive line and some of the best backs in the country. We went into that thing knowing we hadn't seen a whole lot of teams line up and try to pound it right at them. We wanted to control the ball and the line of scrimmage and we challenged our guys to do that and it worked out."
McFadden finished with 28 carries for 145 yards and the score. Jones had 13 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. He also caught three passes for 8 yards.
"We wanted to give D-Mac the ball about 25 times and get Felix about 15 touches and we came pretty close," Malzahn said. "We try to find ways to put them both out there at the same time."
Malzahn did reach into his bag of tricks, though. Arkansas caught Auburn off guard when Malzahn hid diminutive wide receiver Reggie Fish (listed at 5 feet 7) behind the right guard then had quarterback Mitch Mustain slip him the ball while appearing to drop for a play-action pass. Fish paused for a moment then took off around the left end for a 28-yard gain to the Auburn 6. Jones scored three plays later.
"That's a play that I've run for the past 10 years and we've worked hard on it," Malzahn said "We just had never had the opportunity at the right time, but we had a sudden change off a really short punt (Kody Bliss' shank went only 19 yards to the Auburn 34), and it gave us some momentum.
"Reggie is the perfect guy to run it. He did a great job. He was a quarterback in high school, and he's a quick guy. He and Mitch had a perfect exchange."
Leading 24-10 early in the fourth quarter, Arkansas went on an 11-play, 52-yard drive that ate up almost 7 minutes. The drive consisted of 11 consecutive running plays and it culminated with a field goal that put the game out of reach.
"That was probably the most encouraging thing of the whole game, that we were able to line up and do that with the game in the balance," Malzahn said. "You have to give a lot of credit to our offensive line."
And to a coach who knows how to play to his team's strengths.
Speaking of strength, Tebow has displayed his this season with some bullish runs out of the shotgun for the Gators. Because of that ability, Florida baited LSU into making a couple of big defensive mistakes.
Tebow threw only twice, both after faking dives into the line, and completed both for touchdowns, a 1-yard jump pass to tight end Tate Casey and a 35-yard pass to Louis Murphy. Tebow also scored on a 1-yard TD run and finished with 35 yards on nine carries.
"We're trying to go in and do the best we can," Tebow said. "We're both worried about winning and helping the team out. The coaches do a great job of explaining the gameplan each week."
And Tebow continues to execute it well.
Other freshman considered for the Rivals national honor were:
• Wisconsin redshirt P.J. Hill, who shredded Northwestern for a career-high 249 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries in a 41-9 rout.
• Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, who counted a 72-yard game-winning touchdown run among his nine carries for 104 yards against Wake Forest.
• Kansas State running back Leon Patton, who responded to his first start by ringing up 151 yards and a TD on 21 carries and adding a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the Wildcats' 31-27 victory over Oklahoma State.