BY DAVID CHOUGH
Kyle Shurmur, QB, Vanderbilt
With Rivalry Week upon us, the Vanderbilt seniors hoped to snag a three-peat over their in-state rivals at Tennessee. At the helm was Kyle Shurmur, playing in his fourth iteration of this matchup, and after the previous two had gone so well, the senior quarterback was surely looking to put the cherry on top, knowing that only the winner of the matchup would go on to be bowl eligible.
After going three and out on the first drive, Shurmur wanted to make sure that the Commodores quickly established control of the game the next time they came out. He completed his next 14 pass attempts, including all of his throws on the next drive that spanned 84 yards. It didn’t matter what looks the defense gave him — Shurmur still calmly threw it to the open man underneath and kept the chains moving. By the time he threw a beautiful pass up the right sideline to his receiver, the Commodore offense had possessed the ball for nearly half the first quarter and converted two third downs. The next drive was much the same, with Shurmur controlling the tempo of the offense with quick strikes to his receivers, keeping the clock running, and engineering yet another touchdown drive.
But after a scoreless third quarter, it looked like the Volunteers might have the chance to come back into this game. Shurmur made sure to quickly put those doubts to rest, as he threw a gorgeous pair of passes to start the final period. The first completion was a teardrop on the left sideline, even as the receiver was being interfered with. Next, Shurmur attacked the right sideline and rainbowed a pass right into his teammate’s arms for a 26-yard score.
Two drives later, Shurmur came out firing on all cylinders, including a quarterback sneak on fourth down to move the chains. He then capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown to push the score to 38-13, firmly solidifying Vanderbilt’s chances of a second bowl bid in the past three seasons.
Shurmur finished the day a brilliant 31 of 35 for 367 yards to go with three touchdowns. And while fans of the Commodores were most certainly happy to see their senior signal caller do so well, the Volunteers might be as equally happy knowing that they will no longer have to worry about Shurmur as he makes his move to the next level.
Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State
The game didn’t live up to the competitive stakes that everyone wishes for, and Parris Campbell was part of the reason why. The Michigan Wolverines simply could not cover him, as the senior wideout had six catches for 192 yards and two scores, including a 78 -yard dash to the end zone.
Alonzo Smith, RB, Miami (OH)
It was the senior tailback’s final home game, and Alonzo Smith made sure it was a memorable one. After cracking the century mark just once this season, Smith ran for 207 yards on just 18 carries, and recorded three touchdowns. The first score was the most important, as it came on fourth and one with Ball State leading 21-7 late in the second. The team went for it, and Smith repaid its faith in him by taking it 56 yards to the house. His combination of size and speed wore down the Cardinals, and the Redhawks would eventually win, 42-21.
Otaro Alaka, LB, Texas A&M
It might seem counterintuitive to spotlight a defensive player from a team that just gave up 72 points in victory, but that just makes it all the more impressive for what Otaro Alaka accomplished. In the thriller between LSU and Texas A&M that saw a record-tying seven overtimes, Alaka never once stopped running, and his constant motor paid off in the first overtime period. His sack on the LSU quarterback forced a long field goal, and even though it was converted, it gave his offense a peace of mind, knowing they could kick a field goal in kind to extend the game. In all, Alaka was a menace, notching 11 tackles, including two sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss in a game that will be remembered for years to come.