BY DAVID CHOUGH
Darrin Hall, RB, Pittsburgh
Darrin Hall has always shown flashes of potential to be a workhorse, game-changing running back. In 2017, he burst onto the scene with a 200-yard effort against Duke, and then followed that up with a few more games going over the century mark.
Entering this weekend, however, Hall had yet to get on track this year. Yes, he had over 100 yards rushing against Syracuse, but that was only the first time he had double-digit carries all season. But with all eyes watching a much-hyped ACC clash with No. 25 Virginia, Hall made sure to make the most of his opportunity.
On his first carry of the game, Hall followed his blockers down the left sideline and raced past everyone for a 41-yard touchdown. He ripped off runs of 13 and 10 yards a few drives later, but it wasn’t until the second half when Hall would get going.
At one point in the third quarter, Hall ran the ball five times in seven plays. And even though he wasn’t ripping the Cavaliers defense for big chunks of yardage, he was moving the chains by following his blockers and lowering his shoulders. By the time the Panthers were knocking at the goal line, the Virginia defense was gassed, allowing Hall to walk into the end zone for a 2-yard score.
Though Virginia answered back with a field goal to pull within one point early in the fourth quarter, Hall wanted to prove just how a workhorse back can break down a defense. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Hall ran up the gut, saw nothing but green grass, and accelerated past the defense to go 75 yards for the score. The next time Pitt had the ball, the senior capped his night and iced the game with a 20-yard dash for first down
Hall finished with 229 yards on 19 carries for an absurd average of 12.1 yards per rush, and his three touchdowns nearly equaled his total on the year entering Friday’s contest. There aren’t many games left in the schedule, but as the weather turns cold and the run game becomes more important, the senior tailback sent a message: give Hall the rock and good things will follow.
Andy Isabella, WR, University of Massachusetts
It’s hard to be considered a breakout player when you’re the leading receiver in the nation, but Isabella somehow managed to do just that in a thrilling triple-overtime matchup against Liberty. Isabella notched nine catches for a school-record 303 yards, including two scores — one of which was an 89-yarder that broke open the floodgates.
Leon McQuaker, LB, New Mexico State
With opponent Alcorn State putting up incredible offensive stats, New Mexico needed an equally Herculean effort from their senior linebacker, and he delivered with a season-high 22 total tackles, 13 of which were solo, in victory.
Brandon Watson, CB, Michigan
Though Watson was not credited with a pass defended, that partially arose from the fact that the ball rarely came his way. And when it did, Watson took advantage, take an interception 62 yards to the house.