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September 20, 2006

Mustain, Muschamp earn Rivals.com weekly awards

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On Oct. 7, they'll test their mettle against each other and only one can win.

This past Saturday, both came out winners. Their efforts earned them national honors from Rivals.com.

Arkansas quarterback Mitch Mustain is our National Freshman of the Week after winning his first road start. The Springdale, Ark., product completed 13-of-20 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in a 21-19 victory against Vanderbilt.

First-year Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is our National Coordinator of the Week. His Tigers held LSU's Tigers to three points and 42 yards rushing on 23 carries in a 7-3 victory. LSU came in averaging 45 points per game.

Mustain was a five-star prospect and was rated the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the country by Rivals.com at Springdale High, where his team went 14-0 and won the state championship. He was a target of many of the nation's top programs, but ultimately the home Hogs won out. Arkansas also had hired Mustain's Springdale head coach, Gus Malzahn, as its new offensive coordinator.

"It's comforting that I have him (Malzahn) here and I understand what he's trying to do and what he wants to accomplish," Mustain told Rivals.com. "And he knows what I'm capable of, and he's always trying to get us in the best possible position to make plays."

Mustain made plenty of plays against the Commodores, tossing TDs in each of the first three quarters. His first covered 56 yards to Marcus Monk.

"I honestly didn't think I did that well," Mustain said. "We had some key big plays that we needed, but there were a lot that we missed that we should have gotten."

Mustain's other TD passes covered 21 yards to Felix Jones and 15 yards to Ben Cleveland.

Mustain also had the benefit of a solid running game that produced 170 yards.

"You can't put a price on what it means to have that," Mustain said. "We've got Felix and Darren McFadden, and Michael Smith is coming back this week. They're all great backs, and our line is solid and has a lot of experience.

"Our running game is something we can take huge advantage of and we did so (against Vanderbilt)."

It is one thing doing it against the Commodores, ranked 90th in the nation in total defense, and quite another to do it against Arkansas' next couple of opponents. The Razorbacks play host to Alabama (ranked 31st in total defense) this weekend, then get a week off before going to Auburn (21st).

"It's going to be a long couple of weeks," Mustain said. "I look down the schedule and it only gets tougher. Alabama, that's a huge tradition, and it has been an interesting couple of years for them. Auburn obviously is one of the best teams in the SEC and the country. We've got them back to back. But you come to the SEC for the opportunity to play teams like that."

Muschamp is SEC from head to toe. He played at Georgia. He got his master's at Auburn. He was an assistant at LSU from 2001-2004.

Muschamp told Rivals.com his familiarity with the Bayou Bengals definitely gave him a boost.

"I don't think there's any question that it helped to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their players," Muschamp said. "But once the game started we had to adjust to the new things that we saw."

Muschamp had to adjust as well, just as he has all season. He has been without probable starting linebackers Kevin Sears and Tray Blackmon because both have been serving team-imposed suspensions. The Auburn defense also lost cornerback Jonathan Wilhite in the second quarter against LSU, and his backup, Patrick Lee, was out with the flu.

"The kids have really adapted well to our new scheme and what we're trying to do," Muschamp said. "More than anything, it's been the kids being able to adjust and adapt that's been the key to our success."

Others considered for freshman honors were:

Wisconsin running back P.J. Hill, who had his third consecutive 100-yard game with 26 carries for 184 yards against San Diego State. He had a 53-yard TD run as the Badgers prevailed 14-0.

Virginia Tech defensive end William Wall, who had three sacks in the Hokies 36-0 rout of Duke.

Toledo safety Barry Church, who had an 84-yard interception return for a touchdown to go along with a fumble recovery and eight tackles, including one for loss. The Rockets upset Kansas 37-31 in overtime.

South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe, who had 375 yards of total offense and three touchdown passes to lead a victory over rival Central Florida 24-17.

Southern Miss running back Damion Fletcher, who erupted for 177 yards and three TDs in a 37-17 win over NC State.

Others considered for coordinator honors were:

Oregon offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, whose unit racked up 501 yards against Oklahoma.

Michigan defensive coordinator Ron English, whose unit limited Notre Dame to 4 rushing yards, picked off Brady Quinn three times and scored two touchdowns in the 47-21 triumph over the Irish.

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