COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Most of the Rams' starters are sophomores or younger, and one of their most talented playmakers, RB Chris Nwoke, earned conference recognition Monday morning for one of the top performances in the country this season.
Nwoke (pronounced WOH-kay), whose 269 rushing yards Saturday represented the third-best individual rushing effort by any player in the nation this year, earned his second Mountain West Player of the Week award, sharing honors with Air Force QB Tim Jefferson.
Across the nation A 6-foot, 215-pound sophomore from ThunderRidge High School in Highlands Ranch, Colo., Nwoke's 269 yards Saturday vs. Air Force:
* Gave him the third most in a single game this season, behind West Virginia's Dustin Garrison (291 vs. Bowling Green Oct. 1) and Oregon's LaMichael James (288 vs. Arizona Sept. 24).
* Placed him with James, the Ducks' Heisman candidate, as one of two individuals this season with multiple games of at least 232 rushing yards, after Nwoke reached that total Nov. 12 vs. San Diego State. James registered 288 vs. Arizona (Sept. 24) and 239 vs. Cal (Oct. 6).
* Made him one of just six individuals with multiple 200-yard rushing games this season, joining James (3), Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey (3), Baylor's Terrance Ganaway (2), Pitt's Ray Graham (2) and Wisconsin's Montee Ball (2).
* Vaulted him to 24th in the country with an average of 101.4 yards per game.
In Mountain West annals A strong all-conference candidate, Nwoke also etched his name into the Mountain West record books in multiple categories Saturday, recording:
* The most rushing yards by a non-senior, breaking the mark held by New Mexico's DonTrell Moore, 242, his sophomore season vs. Colorado State (Nov. 7, 2003).
* The most rushing yards by any player in a conference game, eclipsing the record held by Air Force's Chad Hall, 256, at Colorado State (Oct. 13, 2007).
* The fourth-most rushing yards ever by any player, behind the 285 of CSU's Gartrell Johnson vs. Fresno State ( Dec. 20, 2008), the 285 of SDSU's Larry Ned vs. Eastern Illinois (Oct. 6, 2001), and the 275 of Air Force's Hall vs. Army (Nov. 3, 2007).
* One of five individual seasons in conference history to include multiple 200-yard rushing efforts, joining SDSU's Ned (three in 2001), Air Force's Hall (two in 2007), SDSU's Ronnie Hillman (two in 2010), and SDSU's Lynell Hamilton (two in 2003).
The leading rusher in conference-only games and No. 2 overall behind Hillman, Nwoke picked up his third career 100-yard game Saturday, with all three efforts coming over the last four games, all in MW contests. Including his 232 yards vs. San Diego State (Nov. 12) and 156 the previous game at UNLV (Oct. 29), since entering the starting lineup over the last five games, Nwoke has averaged 162.0 rushing yards per game, and 6.9 yards per carry (118 attempts, 810 yards, five touchdowns).
Plus, Nwoke became the first CSU player to earn multiple MW Player of the Week honors in the same season since QB Bradlee Van Pelt also won the award twice in 2003. The conference also recognized Nwoke for his game-tying and go-ahead touchdowns in a memorable, 35-34 triumph in double overtime, Sept. 24 at Utah State. Nwoke's 232 rushing yards vs. San Diego State Nov. 12 may have earned him a third honor, if not for the effort of TCU QB Casey Pachall in a 36-35 win at then-No. 5 Boise State earlier in the day. Pachall not only earned MW honors, he also picked up national Offensive Player of the Week recognition from the Walter Camp foundation.
In CSU history A business administration major with a 3.27 grade-point average, Nwoke needed just 154 rushing yards entering the Falcons game to become CSU's first 1,000-yard rusher since MW rushing champion Gartrell Johnson (1,476) in 2008, and the 19th overall.
* On his 62-yard TD run in the third quarter, he not only topped 1,000, he also became just the seventh CSU player to break 1,000 as a sophomore or younger. He joined sophomores Kyle Bell (2005), Cecil Sapp (2000), Kevin McDougal (1997), Damon Washington (1996) and Leonice Brown (1992) , and freshman Steve Bartalo (1983).
* Nwoke became the first player in CSU history with multiple 200-yard rushing efforts in the same season.
* He joined a group of four CSU players with multiple 200-yard rushing games in a career: McDougal (1997 and '99), Lawrence McCutcheon (1969, '70) and Bartalo (1983, '85). The three previous players were drafted by NFL teams.
* His 269-yard effort represented the third-best rushing total ever by a CSU player, topped only by Tony Alford's 310 yards at Utah (Oct. 28, 1989) and Johnson's 285 in the New Mexico Bowl vs. Fresno State (Dec. 20, 2008).
* His 269 yards were the most ever by any player in 227 all-time games at Hughes Stadium, which opened in 1968. He broke the record held by Air Force's Hall, who had 256 in a Falcons win on Oct. 13, 2007. Among CSU players, he now owns the top two efforts ever at the facility, including his 232 yards vs. San Diego State (Nov. 12).
* An all-around weapon, he also extended the longest reception streak on the team to 12 games, including a catch in all 11 contests this year. Nwoke's streak started Nov. 20, 2010, at Wyoming.
He has an opportunity this week to break Bell's CSU sophomore rushing record (1,288 in 2005), needing 174 in the season finale Saturday. With 1,115 yards this season, Nwoke's already No. 10 on the Rams' all-time single-season list, and by passing Bell, he would rank fifth on that chart.
CSU on Saturday concludes its 2011 season in the 102nd Border War with Wyoming at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium. Tickets for the contest, a noon kickoff, are available online at www.CSURams.com/tickets, at any King Soopers or City Market location in Colorado, or during normal business hours through the McGraw Center ticket office, in person or by calling 1-800/491-RAMS (7267).