(STATS) - After the first full week of the FCS season opened with many impressive offensive performances, defenses seemed to strike back this past weekend.
Narrowing a list of defensive candidates to just one for the STATS FCS National Players of the Week was tougher than scoring on some of the best units on that side of the ball, which can be almost impossible.
But Elon's breakout linebacker Corey Mitchell tackled that challenge to lead a group of FCS award winners that included Morehead State's Austin Gahafer, Southern's Willie Quinn and Tennessee State's O'Shay Ackerman-Carter for games Sept. 10-12.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK=
In a terrific duel of quarterbacks with VMI's Al Cobb, Gahafer threw pass-catching ability into the mix of Morehead State's 43-40 road loss. Gahafer completed 35 of 62 attempts for 447 yards and four touchdowns with one interception and caught a 23-yard scoring strike from wide receiver Jake Raymond in a thrilling fourth quarter. His passing yards were the most by a Pioneer Football League signal-caller since he threw for 458 in a 2013 game, and his pass attempts were just four off the school record. The three-year starter has 5,890 passing yards and 40 touchdown passes in his career.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK=
Mitchell posted a game-high 18 tackles to double his previous career high as Elon outlasted Gardner-Webb, 21-13, in three overtimes. He also forced a third-quarter fumble which led to the game's first points while the Phoenix kept Gardner-Webb scoreless until the fourth quarter. In his CAA Football squad's first road win - and only its second overall victory since midway through the 2013 season - Mitchell added a tackle for loss and a pass breakup to an all-around performance.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK=
Willie Quinn, Southern, PR/KR, Sr., 5-5, 145, Miami
Look no further than Quinn for a human highlight reel. The All-SWAC performer, a mere 5-foot-5, 145 pounds, weaved between and around defenders to score on both a 39-yard punt return and a 90-yard kickoff return, and he threw for an 89-yard touchdown on a trick play as a wide receiver in Southern's 50-13 victory over Mississippi Valley State. He also gained 23 yards on one other kickoff return and caught two passes for 35 yards. A week earlier, Quinn was the SWAC special teams player of the week with a 100-yard touchdown and 197 yards on six kickoff returns against Louisiana Tech.
FRESHMAN PLAYER OF THE WEEK=
O'Shay Ackerman-Carter, Tennessee State, QB, R-Fr., 6-3, 215, Jacksonville, Fla.
Talk about a winning tune, the largest Southern Heritage Classic crowd (48,335) since 2008 watched in Memphis as Ackerman-Carter continued his impressive start to running Tennessee State's offense. He threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers' 35-25 win over Jackson State. Among his 15 completions (in 26 attempts) was a 64-yard scoring pass to fellow redshirt freshman Patrick Smith on the second play from scrimmage. Ackerman-Carter also threw a 10-yard touchdown to Joe Bowens with seven seconds remaining in the first half and a 64-yard TD to Chris Sanders-McCollum as his Oho Valley Conference squad improved to 2-0.