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October 16, 2011

Watkins plays catch-up, grabs top honor

Any upcoming Clemson opponent looking to force freshman wide receiver Sammy Watkins into an early mistake should be forewarned: He may come back stronger.

BIG 12
Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope caught 11 passes for 206 yards and four touchdowns in a 55-28 rout of visiting Baylor.
Cincinnati RB Isaiah Pead rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries in a 26-16 victory over visiting Louisville.
Ohio State DT John Simon had eight tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks as part of a dominating defensive performance in the Buckeyes' 17-7 upset of host Illinois.
SMU QB J.J. McDermott was 20-of-31 for 358 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-17 victory over visiting UCF.
Northern Illinois QB Chandler Harnish threw for 203 yards and rushed for 229 yards in a 51-22 blowout of visiting Western Michigan. He is just the 10th FBS player to rush for 200 and throw for 200 in the same game.
Boise State WR Tyler Shoemaker caught nine passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns in a 63-13 romp over host Colorado State. He also rushed for 37 yards on a fake punt.
Oregon RB Kenjon Barner rushed for 171 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries in a 41-27 victory over visiting Arizona State.
Auburn DE Corey Lemonier had six tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks in a 17-6 win over visiting Florida.
Louisiana-Monroe QB Kolton Browning was 23-of-31 for 275 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-10 shocker over host Troy.
San Jose State DE Travis Johnson had five tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, a blocked field goal and a blocked extra point in a 28-27 victory over visiting Hawaii on Friday night.
BYU WR Cody Hoffman caught nine passes for 162 yards and a touchdown in a 38-28 win over host Oregon State.
Maryland learned that the hard way as Watkins scored three second- half scores and amassed a school-record 345 all-purpose yards in a 56-45 comeback win. The effort earned Watkins the Rivals.com National Player of the Week and the National Freshman of the Week honors. This is the third time Watkins has been the freshman of the week.

Watkins had a tough start Saturday in College Park. On the opening kickoff, Watkins tried to return the kick, which went over his head, and was stopped on the 1-yard line. The more critical gaffe came later in the first quarter, when Watkins fumbled a fair catch inside his 10, which set up Maryland's first touchdown.

"I told him after the fumbled punt in the first quarter that he owed me one," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "He certainly responded. He did show he was human, but to break C.J. Spiller's [single-game] all-purpose record in just seven games is incredible."

Though Watkins looked like a freshman on those plays, he shortly resumed the dynamic play that has transformed Clemson's season. He returned a kickoff 70 yards to set up a Clemson touchdown, and he had two third-quarter touchdown catches. He completed Clemson's comeback from an 18-point deficit, its biggest comeback since 1992, with an 89-yard kickoff return for a score in fourth quarter.

"That was big because all week they have been stressing special teams and how we might need it," Watkins said. "We haven't been doing really well on kickoff returns. We have been just really been practicing this week on it. I told them, 'Boys, just block one time and give me a crease,' and that's what they did."

He finished with eight catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Watkins' day broke Clemson's single-game record of 312 all-purpose yards set in 2009 against Florida State. As with Spiller, Watkins is a Florida native. Watkins' 345 all-purpose yards was the third-highest total nationally this season.

Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State

A year ago, Michigan State proved it could handle Michigan QB Denard Robinson in the passing game. Robinson threw a season-high three interceptions in the Spartans' win last season.

In this season's meeting, Narduzzi's defense proved it could contain Robinson in the running game, which earned Narduzzi the Rivals.com National Coordinator of the Week honor.

The Spartans limited Robinson to 42 rushing yards, his lowest total in the past two seasons. With Robinson neutralized by Michigan State's blitz, the Wolverines managed only 250 total yards in the 28-14 loss.

"He is a great player; he is probably going to be one of the greats ever to play there," Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough said of Robinson. "But it is like any other team: There is a certain game plan you got to have, and if you stick to your game plan and everybody does their job right, you can really stop anybody."

Next week, the Spartans get an opportunity to stop Wisconsin.

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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