Blue Raiders sweep SBC awards ... again

Gross, Rainey, Nickson honored

November 6, 2006 · MT Media Relations

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Middle Tennessee recorded its second straight sweep of the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week awards for the first time since 2001 as announced by the league office today. Running back Eugene Gross was the SBC Offensive Player of the Week, while LB Justin Rainey brought home the defensive award, and Damon Nickson earned the special teams honor.

In Saturday's win over Florida Atlantic, Gross rushed for a career-best 208 yards on 21 carries and scored two touchdowns to pace a ground attack that churned out a season-high 271 yards. Gross, who moved to 47th in the NCAA in rushing, had a career long 76-yard run in the second half to become the first back to register 200 yards since Dwone Hicks in 2002. It was Gross' second career player of the week award.

Defensively, Rainey earned his first-ever player of the week honor after turning in his best game as a collegian against the Owls. The Rock Hill, S.C., native had a personal-high 11 tackles to go along with a sack, two tackles for loss, a pass breakup, and a 50-yard fumble return for a touchdown. A former running back in high school, Rainey notched his first score as a Blue Raider with the fourth quarter return.

Known this year as Middle Tennessee's big play man, Nickson struck again at an opportune time against Florida Atlantic when he brought back the opening kickoff of the second half 94 yards for a touchdown. It was the fifth longest in Middle Tennessee history and the fourth longest in Sun Belt Conference history. Nickson, who also returned one 88 yards for a touchdown against Louisville earlier this season, joins Reuben Justice (1969) as the only players in school history to record two kickoff return touchdowns in a single-season. The Milton, Fla., native ranks second nationally in kickoff return average at 35.36 yards per return.

The Blue Raiders will now turn their attention to Arkansas State in a 4 PM game in Jonesboro this Saturday.

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.