Former Vol Alvin Kamara named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

Former Tennessee Volunteers running back Alvin Kamara beat out Kareem Hunt and Deshaun Watson for the AP Rookie of the Year Award on Saturday. Kamara was the fifth running back taken in the 2017 draft by the New Orleans Saints and is just the second Tennessee player ever to win the award.

Kamara racked up 14 total touchdowns including two scores in the postseason. He led all running backs in the NFL with 826 receiving yards. He also led all running backs with over six yards per carry. Kamara fell behind only Pittsburgh Steeler Le’Veon Bell in most receptions by a running back.

Fans voted Kamara the Pepsi Rookie of the Year in his first Pro Bowl appearance last week where he stood beside his teammate and fellow running back Mark Ingram. Ingram and Kamara were the first pair of running backs to log over 1,500 yards from scrimmage in the same season.

“I wish he was here because he’s a big reason why I’m standing right here and ya’ll are interviewing me as the Offensive Rookie of the Year,” Kamara said of Ingram. “Great teammate, great friend, a brother to me, great mentor.”

Ingram set career-highs with the help of Kamara, as he put up over 1,100 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in the 2017 season. They are also the first pair of running backs from the same team to be nominated to the Pro Bowl in over 40 years.

New Orleans swept the Rookie of the Year awards, as first-round cornerback Marshon Lattimore won Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Kamara is the first player to tally five rushing touchdowns, five receiving touchdowns and a kickoff return touchdown since Hall of Famer Gale Sayers. He led all rookies with 14 touchdowns and came in second with over 1,500 yards from scrimmage.

“It would be awesome (if he wins),” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “It would be so well deserved. … Listen, he’s certainly deserving. I’m just excited about the future with him.”

Kamara was famously underutilized in his times at Tennessee under former head coach Butch Jones. He recorded just over 1,900 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns in his career in Knoxville. Still, Kamara averaged over six yards per carry and registered 23 touchdowns in his limited playing time.

“I’m not going to say too much. Thank you, Mom,” said Kamara on Saturday. “She told me not to say anything other than ‘Thank you’ because she thinks she looks ugly when she cries.”

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Jason Behnken

Mariota leads Titans to overtime win in New Orleans

[title_box title=”Mariota leads Titans to overtime win in New Orleans”]

In his first game back from injury, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was able to lead Tennessee to its second win of the season, beating the Saints 34-28 in overtime. A coaching change may have been just what the Titans needed, as Mike Mularkey was able to snap a six-game skid in his first appearance as the Titans’ head coach.

The Titans started off the game slow however, going three-and-out on their first drive and then allowed Drew Brees to dissect the secondary with ease on the Saints’ first possession. Josh Hill caught a 10-yard touchdown in the first quarter and Brandin Cooks later beat Perrish Cox deep for a 38-yard score. Down 14-3, the Titans needed just one big play to gain the momentum that would reinstall confidence into Mariota and the offense as a whole.

The Titans were facing a third-and-six from their own 39-yard line when Mariota unwisely threw to tight end Delanie Walker, who was in double coverage. Somehow, the ball ricocheted off of two Saints defenders before Walker was able to haul it in and run it all the way in from 61 yards out in one of the craziest catches this season. Walker was able to catch fire after that play, and caught another touchdown on the following drive.

Walker had four receptions for 86 yards and two touchdowns in the first half while Mariota completed nine of 15 throws for 172 yards. Brees also had a big first half, going 14-of-19 for 232 yards and two scores.

The success for the two quarterbacks continued into the second half, as Brees found Michael Hoomanawanui for his fourth total touchdown of the game and Mariota answered on the next drive with his third touchdown of the game on and eight-yard strike to Justin Hunter.

The Titans converted on the two-point conversion and found themselves tied at 28 with the Saints in a hostile environment with just seven minutes left to play.

The Titans defense, which was great all day, forced New Orleans to go three-and-out and got possession back with under three minutes to go. Tennessee’s drive stalled around mid-field and kicker Ryan Succop was forced to attempt a 55-yard field goal, which fell short, hitting the bottom crossbar.

Brees and the Saints then had their shot to win the game, but the drive stalled as well at the Tennessee 28-yard line. Kai Forbath was faced with a 46-yard field goal to win the game, but it was blocked by Coty Sensabaugh and the game went to overtime.

The Titans received the ball first, and proceeded to march down the field led by Mariota, who went a perfect 6-of-6 for 62 yards on the drive and won the game on a five-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Fasano.

Mariota finished 28-for-39 with 371 yards and four touchdowns. It was an impressive first game back for him as he was sidelined the last two weeks with a sprained MCL.

Antonio Andrews had another impressive game running the ball. He had 88 yards on 19 carries. Walker was again the Titans’ leading receiver with seven receptions for 95 yards and two touchdowns.

Brees finished 28-for-39 as well, with 389 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. Willie Snead was the Saints’ leading receiver with six receptions for 95 yards.

One of the first things interim head coach Mularkey did in his new position was some shuffling of the offensive line starters. The Titans gave up seven sacks to the Texans last week so Mularkey moved three starters on the offensive line. This ended up working, as the Titans did not give up a sack to New Orleans on Sunday.

The Titans’ pass rush was consistent and effective as well, as they got to the quarterback four times and also hit Brees seven times. Wesley Woodyard led the Titans in tackles with eight, including one sack.

A rejuvenated Titans team will travel back home to Nashville next weekend to take on the undefeated Panthers. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET.

Featured image by Casey Fleser

Edited by Cody McClure