Nov. 17, 2008
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Alabama junior kick returner Javier Arenas has been named the Southeastern Conference Special Teams Player of the Week after his record-setting performance in the No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide's 32-7 win over Mississippi State on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.
The Tampa, Fla., native set Alabama records for punt return yards (game and career) and punt return touchdowns (career) in the MSU game. In the win over Mississippi State, he had six punt returns for 153 yards and one touchdown; including an 80-yard TD return in the third quarter that gave the Tide a 19-7 lead. He had 46-yard return in the second quarter that set up the go-ahead touchdown with a first-and-goal at the MSU 2-yard line.
"I think special teams, probably as much as any game this year, had a tremendous impact on field position this game," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said following the game. "Certainly Javier and his returning, but also a good job by our return teams, had a tremendous impact on the game."
He also set a new Alabama single-game record for punt return yardage. That total bettered the previous mark of 147 yards set by Arenas on September 6 against Tulane. Prior to this season, the Alabama single-game record for punt return yards was held by Harry Gilmer, who compiled 122 yards on punt returns in a 17-7 win at Georgia on October 25, 1947.
His 80-yard punt return with 2:14 left in the third quarter gave Alabama a 19-7 lead and tied for the 10th-longest punt return in Alabama history, and was Arenas' fifth punt return for a touchdown in his Alabama career, moving ahead of David Palmer's (1991-93) school record. Palmer actually had a fifth punt return for a touchdown against Colorado in the 1991 Blockbuster Bowl that came prior to the NCAA recognizing bowl statistics.
Arenas has had three punt returns of more than 80 or more yards in his career, including an 86-yarder vs. Oklahoma State in the 2006 Independence Bowl and an 87-yarder against Tulane this year. The junior also owns three of the 10 longest punt returns in Alabama history. His list of punt returns includes: 65 yards vs. Florida International (Oct. 28, 2006); 86 yards vs. Oklahoma State (Independence Bowl) (Dec. 28, 2006); 61 yards vs. LSU (Nov. 3, 2007); 87 yards vs. Tulane (Sept. 6, 2008) and 80 yards vs. Mississippi State (Nov. 15, 2008).
Arenas also set the Alabama career record for punt return yardage as his career punt return yardage is now at 1,146 yards. Arenas is averaging 13.0 yards per punt return for his career (1,146 yards on 88 returns), an average that has him on pace for second place in Alabama history. Harry Gilmer's average of 13.5 yards per punt return (1,119 yards on 83 returns from 1944-47) is the best in Alabama history.