STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State sophomore Anthony Johnson was named the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week, the conference office announced today.
Johnson's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown was the play of the game for the Bulldogs.
The return set an MSU school-record and tied the NCAA record for longest interception return. It gave MSU a 10-9 lead just seconds before halftime and moments after Alabama was primed to take command of the game at the intermission. Facing a third-and-1 at the Bulldog 1-yard line with 21 seconds left in the half, 'Bama quarterback John Parker Wilson - under heavy rush - threw short into the end zone and into the waiting arms of Johnson.
Johnson finished the game with a pair of tackles and a pass breakup and Mississippi State's defense limited Alabama, which came into the game averaging 31 points and nearly 400 yards per game, to just four field goals and 274 yards of total offense.
The Jackson, Miss., native also helped keep D.J. Hall, the SEC's leader with 93.3 yards per game receiving entering the game, to just 46 yards.
Johnson becomes the fourth MSU defender to earn player of the week honors this season, joining Gabe O'Neal, Derek Pegues and Avery Hannibal. State players also won the defensive award four times in 1999.
This is the second time in 2007 that the Bulldogs have claimed the award following back-to-back games. O'Neal and Pegues were honored in weeks two and three, and the only other occasion State won the award following consecutive games was when Daniel Boyd (Oct. 1, 1992 win over Florida) and Kelvin Knight (Oct. 10, 1992) were selected fifteen years ago.
Johnson's interception return has been nominated as a Pontiac Game-Changing Performance.
Fans can vote for Johnson's return by visiting pontiac.com/ncaa. Voting ends Wednesday at midnight and ESPN will announce this week's "Pontiac Game Changing Performance" winner on Thursday night during the Pontiac Performance Halftime Report during the Oregon-Arizona game. The winning university earns a $5,000 contribution from Pontiac to their general scholarship fund. Additionally, the winning play will be nominated for the "Pontiac Game Changing Performance of the Year" and the chance to win a $100,000 General Scholarship from Pontiac.