Late-season heroics earn FCS national honors

(STATS) - Heroic performances seem even bigger when a team has a lot at stake.

Penn was trying to move into a tie for first place in the Ivy League when wide receiver Justin Watson played the game of his life Saturday.

Eastern Illinois needed a victory to remain in contention for an FCS playoff bid, so defensive tackle Dino Fanti did something about it.

Montana State and Western Illinois were trying to keep alive hopes for a winning season., and up stepped placekicker Luke Daly and quarterback Sean McGuire.

As a result of their performances, Watson, Fanti, Daly and McGuire were selected as the STATS FCS National Players of the Week on Monday for games played Nov. 14.

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OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK=

Justin Watson, Penn, WR, So., 6-3, 210, Bridgeville, Pennsylvania

Watson caught two touchdowns when Penn pulled a Top 5 upset of Villanova in September, but his offensive performance in the Quakers' 35-25 win at then-No. 12 Harvard was one of the better ones in school history. Penn (6-4) handed Harvard its first loss after 22 straight wins, including 16 in a row in the Ivy League, as Watson finished with 249 all-purpose yards - a career-high 149 receiving yards on seven receptions and a career-best 100 rushing on five carries. He scored on a 68-yard catch to give the Quakers a 21-6 lead in the first quarter and, switching to the backfield at times, later broke off a 79-yard touchdown run early in the fourth to extend Penn's lead from 28-25 to the final margin.

Honorable Mention: Steve Cluley, QB, William & Mary; Bennie Coney, QB, Eastern Kentucky; Marshaun Coprich, RB, Illinois State; and Alex Ross, QB, Coastal Carolina.

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DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK=

Dino Fanti, Eastern Illinois, DT, R-Sr., 6-1, 265, Venice, Florida

Fanti has enjoyed an outstanding four-year career at EIU, and he's trying to extend it into this year's FCS playoffs. In a must-win game for both Ohio Valley Conference teams, Fanti stood out in the Panthers' 23-21 win at UT Martin. He totaled seven tackles, including 2½ for loss to get to 50 as EIU's all-time leader, a sack and a forced fumble. And then there were his two huge plays in the fourth quarter. With the Panthers (6-4) leading by one point, Fanti hit UTM quarterback Jarod Neal, forcing him to float a pass that was picked off by Thomas Coronado and returned 45 yards for a touchdown to give EIU an eight-point advantage. Then, after UTM closed the margin to 23-21 with 4:51 to play, Fanti tackled Neal on a 2-point conversion attempt to preserve the lead.

Honorable Mention: Xavier Coleman, CB, Portland State; Andrew Hooks, FS, Jacksonville; Tim Hayes, CB, Wagner; Cameron McCurry, S, Villanova; and Deon King, LB, Norfolk State.

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SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK=

Luke Daly, Montana State, PK, R-So., 6-2, 185, Billings, Montana

Only two of Daly's first 18 career field goals had been from 40-plus yards, but after he kicked one from over 50 against Idaho State, he went and did it again. He tied the FCS season high by booming a 57-yarder (the second-longest in school history) to open the scoring midway through the first quarter of Montana State's 44-20 Big Sky win. He later added a 53-yarder just before halftime and then completed a 3-for-3 performance with a 29-yarder midway through the fourth quarter. The sophomore, who is 21 of 28 on field goals in his career, also averaged 62.6 yards on five kickoffs as the Bobcats evened their record at 5-5.

Honorable Mention: Mikes Bergner, PK/P, South Dakota, and Truett Burns, P, Charleston Southern.

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FRESHMAN PLAYER OF THE WEEK=

Sean McGuire, Western Illinois, QB, R-Fr., 6-3, 220, Franklin, Wisconsin

Having returned to practice last week after missing the previous three weeks because of mononucleosis, McGuire learned 24 hours beforehand that he would make his first career start at Indiana State after Trenton Norvell underwent surgery for appendicitis. McGuire didn't even have a walk-through practice in Terre Haute before going out and helping Western Illinois to a 37-30 win in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. He completed 29 of 44 passes for 332 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 28 yards and another score, as the Leathernecks (5-5) overcame a 17-point second-half deficit for the second-largest comeback win in program history.

Honorable Mention: Dom Bragalone, RB, Lehigh; Case Cookus, QB, Northern Arizona; Devlin Hodges, QB, Samford; Micah Wright, WR, Maine; and Tucker Yinger, RB, Dayton.

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