Middle Tennessee’s Wood is Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week

DALLAS (FWAA) – Middle Tennessee set a commanding tone with interceptions on two of No. 25 Miami’s first three offensive plays, while Zaylin Wood started his own career day by taking the second one back 15 yards for a touchdown as the Blue Raiders came out of Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium with a 45-31 win. For his outstanding play in guiding MTSU to its first win over a ranked team, Wood earned the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week honor for games during the weekend of Sept. 24, as selected by the Football Writers Association of America.

Wood, a 6-1, 280-pound redshirt sophomore and two-year letterman from Bowdon, Ga., had a career-best 2.0 sacks to go with 2.0 tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and the interception he turned into a touchdown, his first career score on defense that gave MTSU a quick 10-0 lead just five minutes into the game. MTSU had already picked off one pass on Miami’s first play, the second time in three weeks the Blue Raiders had an interception on their opponent’s first play of the game. Wood’s interception gave the Blue Raiders their third straight game with at least two interceptions.

This is the third time for a Middle Tennessee player to earn the weekly Bronko Nagurski award. Safety Reed Blankenship earned it late in the 2018 season and safety Damon Nickson earned it late in the 2006 season. Both came on similar weekends of Oct. 27 (Blankenship) or Oct. 28 (Nickson) those seasons.

Wood, who started for the second time at left defensive end, and the play of the Blue Raiders’ defensive front has been essential in their current three-game win streak. The sacks and TFL’s against Miami were Woods’ first of the season and he has eight total tackles this season. MTSU has allowed just 111 total yards on the ground during the win streak and leads C-USA and is 22nd nationally giving up just 93.0 rushing yards per game. Wood and MTSU are No. 2 nationally in sacks (16.0) and in the top 10 in five other defensive categories.

MTSU entered the game 0-21 against ranked foes since joining the FBS ranks in 1999.

The Blue Raiders (3-1), on a three-game win streak as Conference USA play begins, host UTSA at 6:30 p.m. CT Friday on CBS Sports Network.

Each week during the regular season, the FWAA has selected a Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week since 2001. The FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club will announce finalists for the 2022 Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Nov. 16. The national defensive player of the year will be chosen from those finalists who are part of the 2022 FWAA All-America Team and presented with the trophy at the Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet on Dec. 5 at the Charlotte Convention Center. N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren will be the keynote speaker.

The FWAA has chosen a National Defensive Player of the Year since 1993. In 1995, the FWAA named the award in honor of the legendary two-way player from the University of Minnesota. Nagurski dominated college football then became a star for professional football’s Chicago Bears in the 1930s. Bronislaw “Bronko” Nagurski is a charter member of both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

About the Charlotte Touchdown Club
The Charlotte Touchdown Club is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1990 for the purpose of promoting high school, collegiate, and professional football in the Charlotte, North Carolina region. Since its inception, the club has grown as well as diversified, boasting a sponsor team of more than (80) companies. The Club’s activities and services focus community attention on the outstanding Citizenship, Scholarship, Sportsmanship, and Leadership of area athletes and coaches. Through individual and corporate support, nearly $3,000,000 has been raised and donated to benefit the Touchdown Club’s scholarship efforts. For more information call 704-347-2918 or touchdownclub.mysites.io.