Illini RB Mike Leshoure Sweeps National Player of the Week Awards

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Illinois Fighting Illini running back Mikel Leshoure is to this week’s national player of the week college football awards what Ohio State’s Evan Turner was to last year’s college basketball player of the year awards.

Leshoure was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, Walter Camp Foundation National Player of the Week, Rivals.com National Player of the Week and College Football Performance Awards National Performer of the Week following his record-setting performance in Illinois’ 48-27 win over Northwestern at Wrigley Field on Saturday.

Leshoure broke Illinois’ single-game rushing record with 330 yards on 33 carries, an incredible average of 10.0 yards per carry, with two touchdowns. #5 also earned a “helmet sticker” from ESPN College Gamenight. This award goes to the top six individual performers from across the nation.

By Paul M. Banks

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Leshoure had five carries of over 30 yards, with runs of 70, 62, 39, 32 and 30. He started Illinois’ first drive with consecutive runs of 32 and 30, setting up his four-yard touchdown run. He scored his second touchdown of the day on Illinois’ next drive, and after Northwestern cut the Illini’s lead to 14-7, he reeled off a 70-yard run to the Northwestern three yard line. Leshoure then broke free for his 62-yard run on Illinois’ first drive of the fourth quarter, which set up the score that extended the Illini’s lead to 41-24.

Leshoure’s 330-yard total is a school record and the fifth-highest total in Big Ten history. It also is the highest rushing total in the Football Bowl Subdivision since Aug. 30, 2008, and the first game of over 330 yards rushing in the Big Ten since Ron Dayne ran for 339 yards at Hawaii on Nov. 30, 1996. The old Illini single game record belonged to Robert Holcombe- 315 versus the Gophers in ’96) The Big Ten honor is Leshoure’s second of the season – and second in the last three weeks – and third of his career after earning the award on Nov. 8, 2010, and Dec. 6, 2009.

Leshoure now has 1,371 yards this season, second to another #5, Rashard Mendenhall’s 1,681 (2007 Rose Bowl year) in school history. So if Leshoure averages 155 rushing yards a game over the season finale versus Fresno State and the bowl game, he can break the record.

The last time we saw two great backs like this in orange and blue wear the same number back-to-back it was #44 in Syracuse with Jim Brown and Ernie Davis.

Big Ten Players of the Week
Offense: Mikel Leshoure, ILL
Defense: Brian Rolle, Ohio State
Co-Special Teams: Denicos Allen, Michigan State // Andrew Dailey, Penn State
Freshman: James White, Wisconsin

Walter Camp Foundation National Players of the Week
Offense: Mikel Leshoure, Illinois
Defense: Trent Hunter, Texas A&M

Rivals.com National Player of the Week: Mikel Leshoure, Illinois

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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