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April 18, 2009

Blanton picks up MVP honors

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Robert Blanton’s interception return for a touchdown early in the first half of Saturday’s Blue-Gold Game set the tone for the defense and won the freshman MVP honors on defense. Blanton stepped in front of a Jimmy Clausen pass intended for John Goodman, intercepted it and took it back for a touchdown.

"We were in a Cover-2, and he ran a slant, and I just stepped in front of it," Blanton said. "After I caught it, I saw about five people in front of me, all my defensive boys. I was just walking in behind those guys."

After the pick Blanton had only Clausen to beat and made his way into the end zone with ease. When asked if Clausen had any chance at taking him down, Blanton could only laugh.

"Anything's possible," he said. "Clausen] could've got me. I was scared there for a second. I would've been pretty embarrassed."

Coach Charlie Weis was impressed with Blanton's performance, but said that it was to be expected from the young cornerback.

"That's R.J.," Weis said. "You better realize that the kid is going to challenge you on route, especially three-step routes. R.J. drove right inside of Goodman] and picked off the ball. He's got ball skills, and once he's got the ball in his hand, don't be surprised when the ball ends up in the end zone down on the other end because he knows what to do with it once he gets the ball in his hands."

After the touchdown, the defense celebrated with a game of duck duck goose, spurred by senior safety Kyle McCarthy.

"I don't know who came up with it," Blanton said. "I'm running down the field and you have Kyle McCarthy yelling 'Duck duck goose! Duck duck goose!' Somebody had planned that celebration before. It was pretty great."

Blanton is coming off of a freshman season of two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. Blanton said he is starting to feel more comfortable on the field, which should make him ready for the upcoming season. Considering the cornerback battle among Blanton, Raeshon McNeil and Darrin Walls, any edge the freshman can get is welcome.

"When I first got here, my first snap, things were moving really fast," he said. "Sometimes I thought I was kind of slow, things are blowing by you. But as you learn what you're supposed to be doing on defense and learn what the other teams are doing and listen to the coaches, things kind of slow down for you."

Blanton's interception led the Gold Team defense that fell 68-33 to the Blue Team offense. Still, the cornerback believes his side played well.

"Considering we have no offense, we don't really worry about the score too much," he said. "We just want to make sure that we're doing what we're supposed to do, be where we're supposed to be, that we're filling the gaps we're supposed to fill and doing everything the right way. We had some good plays, we had some bad plays. We have to go watch the tape, try to get better, of course. We're in the spring so it's not about winning and losing. It's about getting better right now."


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