Daimion Stafford (3) intercepted a Penn State pass and recovered a fumble.
By Randy York
Nebraska coaches have analyzed the Penn State film with their usual diligence, and the results are now official. Nebraska’s three primary Players of the Game are a fifth-year senior tight end, a fourth-year junior quarterback and a junior college transfer safety in his second and final season as a Cornhusker.
Kyler Reed, a Shawnee, Kan., native and the Nebraska school record-holder for touchdown catches by a tight end (eight in 2010), shared the Huskers’ Offensive Player of the Game honor with Taylor Martinez, the Corona, Calif., quarterback who added the Penn State game to three previous team player-of-the-game honors (Southern Miss, Northwestern and Michigan State).
The Penn State game was the first 2012 player-of- the-week honor for both Reed and Daimion Stafford, who earned the Defensive Player of the Game award after making eight tackles (two solos and six assists), intercepting a pass and returning it 22 yards, plus recovering a fumble and breaking up another pass. Stafford has been consistent throughout the season, recording 11 tackles at Michigan State, eight tackles against Southern Miss, UCLA, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Penn State, seven tackles against Arkansas State and Ohio State and six tackles against Michigan.
Stafford chose Nebraska over USC and Florida after playing at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., where fellow Husker senior Joseph Carter also played. As a freshman and sophomore, Stafford went to the same Norco (Calif.) High School as Martinez, who finished with 275 yards of total offense against Penn State to share the offensive award with Reed, who helped set up Martinez’s game-winning toss to Jamal Turner in the fourth quarter. Reed’s clutch 56-yard catch-and-run against Penn State was similar to his 38-yard catch-and-run on a crucial fourth-and-10 in the waning seconds of the Huskers’ great escape at Michigan State.
Nebraska’s 250-yard offensive production in the second half was significant enough to convince Husker coaches to add two more names to the plaque that hangs outside NU’s locker room and is on the path of each game day Tunnel Walk. Receiving “Special Mention” for their efforts against Penn State were I-back Ameer Abdullah and fullback C.J. Zimmerer. The Offensive Player of the Game for the Arkansas State, Wisconsin and Michigan games, Abdullah rushed for 116 net yards on 31 carries against Penn State. A junior from Omaha Gross, Zimmerer helped pave the way for much of that hard-earned yardage with some crushing blocks against a physical Nittany Lion defense.
Nebraska coaches came up with a unique solution to honor the Special Teams Player of the Game, choosing to recognize the entire field goal and point-after-touchdown units, which includes boundary wing Jake Long, boundary tight end Ben Cotton, left tackle Jeremiah Sirles, left guard Spencer Long, long snapper P.J. Mangieri, right guard Andrew Rodriguez, right tackle Brent Qvale, field tight end Conor McDermott, field wing Graham Stoddard,holder Jase Dean and kicker Brett Maher. As a special teams unit, Nebraska went 3-for-3 on both field goals (32, 27 and 33 yards) and extra points.
In addition to the players of the game, Nebraska coaches also honored three scout team players. Sam Cotton, a freshman tight end from Lincoln Southeast High School, was named Scout Team Offensive Player of the Week. Greg McMullen, a freshman defensive end from Akron, Ohio, received the Scout Team Defensive Player of the Week honor, and Joey Felici, a sophomore cornerback from Millard South High School in Omaha, was the Scout Special Teams Player of the Week. It was a first-time award for all three players. Cotton’s dad, Barney, and Felici’s dad, Tony, are Husker football lettermen. McMullen was highly recruited and chose Nebraska over Ohio State and Notre Dame.
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