Kai Nacua named AutoNation National Defensive Player of the Week
DALLAS (FWAA) – BYU defensive back Kai Nacua picked off three passes, the last of which sealed the Cougars' second dramatic final-minute win in as many weeks, as BYU rallied to beat Boise State, 35-24. Nacua's interception total tied the school record, and earned him the AutoNation FWAA Defensive Player of the Week honor.
Nacua was also named the College Sports Madness Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.
Each of Nacua's three interceptions played a key role in the game, but the one that will be remembered most was the third, which he snagged at midfield with 30 seconds remaining and returned for a touchdown only moments after a long touchdown pass had given BYU a 28-24 lead.
The first pick for Nacua, a 6-2, 213-pound junior from Las Vegas, came at the BYU one-yard line late in the first quarter to kill a Boise State drive. The second set up BYU's third touchdown that sliced Boise State's lead to 24-21 in the fourth quarter after he returned the interception 26 yards to the Broncos' 12.
Nacua was suspended for BYU's first game and did not play in the Cougars' win at Nebraska. Against Boise State, he also had five tackles (four unassisted) and a pass breakup. The three interceptions tie BYU's single-game record held by 10 other players, last accomplished by Tyson Smith against Wyoming in 2000.
"It's great to have Kai Nacua back. He changed the game," head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "The range he covers and the plays he makes, that's really who he is. I'm really excited for him, regarding all the scrutiny he's been under. For him to be able to come out and play that way, it's fitting. It shows who he is and how he's worked so hard to be back on our team."
As part of AutoNation’s history of charitable involvement, AutoNation will donate $1,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) in Nacua’s name. This charitable college football initiative culminates with the AutoNation Cure Bowl, a new post-season NCAA football game that kicks off bowl season at the Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando, Fla., and will be aired by CBS Sports Network. The aptly named AutoNation Cure Bowl also serves as a fundraiser for the BCRF, CharityWatch’s only A+ rated breast cancer organization in the country.
"We want to celebrate the very best of college football, while also helping to raise awareness for the importance of finding a cure for cancer," says AutoNation CMO Marc Cannon. "This season-long partnership with the FWAA, leading up to the AutoNation Cure Bowl, puts a spotlight on a cause that we’re determined to tackle."
"In our 75th season of existence, this a marvelous platform to get our players and the team of the week series excellent exposure as well as helping AutoNation in its effort to fight cancer and contribute to the educational funds of deserving student-athletes," said FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald. "It is very exciting to be able to help our organization as well as others in this splendid effort."
The FWAA National Defensive Player of the Week and National Team of the Week, both sponsored by AutoNation for the first time this year, have been determined collectively by a group of FWAA officers and the FWAA All-America Committee for several years. The AutoNation FWAA Offensive Player of the Week has been added this season. Nominations are taken from game performance all over the country each week and then those nominations are reviewed by the FWAA, which determines the actual recipients.
AutoNation is also the new sponsor of the 2015 FWAA All-America Team, which will be comprised of 26 first-team and 26 second-team selections as nominated by the membership and chosen by the FWAA All-America Committee. The 2015 AutoNation FWAA All-America Team will be announced at the AutoNation Cure Bowl on Dec. 19.
Coincidentally, the 2002 and '03 FWAA All-America teams were honored on the floor of the very same Citrus Bowl Stadium. Over the years, the FWAA's All-America teams have been honored in different locations and on various media platforms during the second-longest continuous annual selection of an All-America team in major college football.
Additionally, the AutoNation 75th Anniversary FWAA All-America Team, which was announced in August, will be celebrated during the 2015 season. That team includes players selected from past FWAA All-America teams dating to 1944, three years after the organization was formed in 1941. The AutoNation 75th Anniversary FWAA All-America Team is composed of three teams of 25 players each, with all eight decades, starting in the 1940s, represented among the playing eras of members on the team. It includes 56 National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Famers. Forty-one schools are represented on the team that was selected by an FWAA Blue Ribbon Committee after taking into consideration nominations from the membership.