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.
BY DAVID CHOUGH
John Lovett, QB, Princeton
It’s hard enough leading a top-10 team in the country, let alone leading it to a perfect record. But that is exactly what John Lovett has accomplished this season for Princeton. The Tigers are ranked 10th in the FCS coaches poll and finished the year with a resounding victory over their Ivy League rivals, Penn. Of course, striving for perfection and achieving it are two very different things, but Lovett made it look easy in his last game as a college football star.
Though Princeton was firing on all cylinders coming into the game, the very beginnings of its game against Penn looked like there might be some room for error. The Tigers missed a field goal on their opening drive, and even though Penn was not able to capitalize, the Quakers were able to pin Princeton back on its own 20-yard line. But Lovett wasn’t fazed. He immediately led the team down on a seven-play drive that resulted in a gorgeous 42-yard touchdown throw. That Lovett was able to stand in a collapsing pocket was impressive enough, but the fact that he managed to put that much power and touch behind the ball to his receiver made the play even better.
While he created the first touchdown with his arm and set up the second with it, too, the third time Princeton found the end zone was set up by Lovett’s ability to run the ball. He broke free for runs of 7 and 14 yards to keep the drive alive. Then, once the Tigers were in a goal-to-go situation, Lovett ran it to the 3-yard line before throwing a dart to his receiver to put Princeton up 21-0 and the game out of reach for Penn.
Entering the game, Lovett had scored a rushing touchdown in 19 consecutive games and needed just one more to set the Ivy League record. Early in the fourth quarter, Lovett found himself just a few yards away from paydirt on first and goal, so he did what he has done so many times before in his career: he faked the handoff, kept the ball himself, and got an angle past the defenders into the end zone for the historic rushing touchdown.
Lovett finished the game with 255 yards and three touchdowns through the air along with 123 yards on the ground and his one record-breaking score.
Andy Isabella, WR, University of Massachusetts
At this point, Isabella is having such a breakout season that this section should be dedicated to his performances. Just two weeks removed from going off for 303 yards receiving, Isabella once again showed that he can hang with anybody in the country. The senior wideout was nearly unstoppable, hauling in 15 receptions for 219 yards and two touchdowns, including a brilliant 75-yarder on the last play of the third quarter. While the Minutemen have now wrapped up their schedule, there is no doubt that this will be far from the last time that the standout wideout dominates on the gridiron.
Sam Mustipher, C, Notre Dame
Notre Dame have been absolutely demolishing the competition that comes its way, and against No. 12 Syracuse, the Fighting Irish dominated the trenches. Led by senior center Sam Mustipher, the offensive line prevented the Orange defense from getting any real traction, as the Irish methodically kept drives alive and created space for their playmakers to work. Mustipher in particular was key, making the right protection adjustments and getting to the second level to allow whoever was running the ball to go four or even more yards without being touched. When the dust settled, the Irish had decisively beaten the Orange, 36-3.
Oshane Ximines, DE, Old Dominion
The Monarchs have had a roller coaster of a season, with highs like taking down then-ranked Virginia Tech, but their one constant has been the steady pressure by Oshane Ximines. For the third time this season, Ximines registered a pair of quarterback takedowns, and even tacked on two more forced fumbles to put his total at four for the season. His height and power allows him to bully offensive linemen, and he made the most of those opportunities in a 77-14 victory over Virginia Military Institute.
Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington State
Though the column has already mentioned a quarterback above, we would be remiss without mentioning Gardner Minshew’s logic-defying performance against Arizona this past weekend. He threw for a season-high 473 yards and set a school-record for most touchdown passes in a game with seven — all the more impressive considering that Mike Leach has had some perfect quarterbacks for his system the past few years. Minshew absolutely dominated through the air, and it led to a 69-28 win over the Wildcats as the Cougars continue to make a claim to be included in the College Football Playoff.
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.
BY DAVID CHOUGH
Wesley Fields, RB, Georgia Southern
Appalachian State probably had not felt this good about its program since its legendary upset over Michigan. The Mountaineers were riding high at 5-1, sporting a Top 25 ranking in the nation, and they were going to have the perfect stage to show off their newfound success against a high-profile opponent. As it stood, however, Georgia Southern wasn’t about to just roll over and let the Mountaineers have their way. In particular, senior tailback Wesley Fields delivered a memorable performance to grind Appalachian State into a pulp.
It took a little while for the Eagles offense to start rolling, but once opportunities started coming their way, they began to display their vaunted rushing attack. After a costly turnover by the Mountaineers, Fields took one cut and followed the daylight into the end zone to give Georgia Southern a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. Slowly but surely, Fields and the rest of Georgia Southern’s rushing attack began wearing down the Appalachian State defense, a point that would be all to clear starting in the second half.
Fields converted a third down with a beautiful 32-yard run that showed just what makes him so dangerous. The playcall was a simple inside give, but the captain managed to break two arm tackles like they were nothing and keep churning his legs downfield, cutting outside and back in to follow his blockers. Even after the defense managed to get two bodies on him, he rumbled ahead to get more yardage.
The Eagles continued to distribute the carries among their running backs, but Fields got the bulk of them, especially as the game started to unfold in the fourth. With Georgia Southern hammering away at the clock and Appalachian State struggling to find its offense, Fields pushed the Mountaineers into submission on a rush that could be thought of, in a vacuum, as the easiest score that anyone’s ever had. Thanks to his efforts up to that point, Fields was able to find the open hole against a run blitz and jog into the end zone.
What was supposed to be a highly-anticipated and excitable match up turned out to be a one-sided avalanche, as Georgia Southern toppled Appalachian State, 34-14. Fields and the Eagles might not have a ranking next to their name, but at 7-1, they have to feel pretty good knowing that when their star running back is feeling it, as he did with 98 yards on the ground and two touchdowns this past weekend, they have a shot against anybody.
Damion Willis, WR, Troy
The Trojans needed to rebound in a big way after their loss to Liberty last week, and an unlikely hero took the stage for Troy. Willis had not yet eclipsed the 80-yard receiving mark this season, but against South Alabama, he broke out for 132 yards on just five catches.
Josh Allen, LB, Kentucky
With all the offenses around the country seemingly scoring at will, Kentucky is trying to restore some balance to the equation. The Wildcats have had an incredibly stout defense all season long, and it showed up once again in their SEC clash against Missouri. Allen led the way, notching 11 tackles — nine of which were solo, as well as two huge sacks. In case that wasn’t enough, he also showed incredible tenacity and heart in forcing not one but two fumbles in a 15-14 win.
Dakari Monroe, CB, San Jose State
With UNLV deciding to go through the air on offense for much of Saturday’s game, Monroe made the Rebels pay with two outstanding interceptions. Both turnovers showcased not only his ability to get after the ball, but also to burst ahead with speed as he took one 50 yards to the house. The Spartans would go on to win 50-37 for their first victory.
BY DAVID CHOUGH
David Blough, QB, Purdue
D.J. Knox, RB, Purdue
It takes a full team effort to topple the No. 2 school in the country. And while it would be almost impossible to detail every player whose contributions were necessary for Purdue to stage its massive upset of Ohio State on Saturday, it’s most certainly necessary to highlight the efforts of the two men who led the charge: David Blough and D.J. Knox. The backfield duo combined for over 500 yards of offense against the Buckeyes, and they did it in an efficient and collaborative effort.
Early on, it looked like Ohio State’s defensive plan was to force Blough to throw the ball, and the Boilermakers happily obliged. After punting on their first two drives of the game, the senior signal caller eventually made the Buckeyes pay. With the offense backed up on its own two-yard line, Blough calmly directed a 15-play drive that included a three-yard rush to convert a fourth down. Blough and Knox connected for a 23-yard catch and run to set the Boilermakers up in the red zone before Blough threw a gorgeous pass to the end zone that gave Purdue the lead.
With time running down at the end of the half in what was, to that point, a low-scoring affair, the opportunity seemed ripe for Purdue to seize advantage. Knox kickstarted the drive with a 19-yard scamper, and just a few plays later, Blough sprinted out right and threw a bullet on the run to give his receiver a wide-open lane to the end zone and the Boilermakers a 14-3 lead at the half.
When taking on such a highly-ranked squad, it’s important to make the proper adjustments at halftime, and apparently, Purdue’s were to keep the ball in the hands of their starting quarterback and tailback. After getting a second chance at the first drive of the third quarter when Ohio State was called for roughing the kicker, Blough kept the ball moving up until the one-yard line. Then, he turned around and gave the ball to Knox, who delivered with a touchdown to give the Boilermakers a 15-point lead.
With the Ohio State defense now keying in on Purdue’s red-hot quarterback, Knox decided it was time to take matters into his own hands. On a third-down inside draw, he displayed his trademark speed and shiftiness, setting up the single-high safety up with a head fake to the right before taking off into the end zone. In the waning minutes, Knox then took it upon himself to put the dagger in the hearts of the Buckeyes. On perhaps the easiest run of his life, Knox took the handoff on a simple counter and ran down the middle of the field for 40 yards.
With Blough’s 379 yards and three touchdowns and Knox’s 128 yards and three touchdowns of his own, the senior duo took down Ohio State with a convincing 49-20 victory. Though it might be tough for Purdue to make it to the Big Ten championship game, there’s still a bowl berth on the line for them. And given the way these two players balled out on Saturday, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them make some more magic memories for Purdue down the stretch.
Michael Dogbe, DL, Temple
The senior Owl has always been a presence on the defensive line for Temple, but pressure doesn’t equate to sacks. Be that as it may, Dogbe has found his groove in taking the quarterback to the ground. After registering zero sacks in 2017, Dogbe already has five on the season, including 1.5 sacks in a crucial overtime victory over Cincinnati.
Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Louisiana Tech
Ferguson has already shown his ability to dominate a game when it matters most, including his four-sack performance against North Texas earlier this year. And he was at it again this past weekend against UTEP. With just under two minutes to go and his team clinging to the lead, Ferguson registered a sack to force UTEP to burn a time out. Then on third and goal from the 8-yard line, Ferguson stymied the UTEP offense with another sack for a 12-yard loss. All in all, he finished with 3.5 sacks on the day to preserve victory.
Ronald Cleveland, WR, Air Force
Playing for a service academy means that the wide receivers rarely get time to shine, but Cleveland found himself in the perfect situation against UNLV. As the shootout took off in the second half, Cleveland managed to outdo the UNLV defense, registering 100 yards receiving, including a 69-yard touchdown. Cleveland, who is the school’s active leader in career rushing yards, did damage on the ground as well with 40 yards on six carries.
BY DAVID CHOUGH
Jordan Ta’amu, QB, Ole Miss
It’s never easy being the starting quarterback of an SEC team, but Jordan Ta’amu is doing his best to keep the Ole Miss afloat in the ever-competitive conference. While the Rebels quarterback has been labeled a dual-threat ever since his days as a high school recruit, his arm talent holds up quite well on its own. However, this past weekend’s matchup against Arkansas saw Ta’amu break out every tool he has at his disposal.
After Ta’amu threw an interception and Arkansas converted the turnover into a score that dug a 17-3 deficit, things were looking pretty bleak for Ole Miss. But the senior quarterback bounced right back from that mistake, using his arms and his legs to lead the Rebels on a five-play, 75-yard drive that he capped with an 18-yard scamper into the end zone.
The flood wasn’t plugged quite yet, though as the Razorbacks poured it on later in the half to go up 27-10. With just over two minutes before halftime, Ole Miss desperately needed to get the ball into the end zone. Cue the music. Ta’amu delivered some picturesque passes to all areas of the field, finding four different receivers on the drive before finishing it off with a 6-yard scoring toss that cut the lead to 10.
That momentum poured into the second half, with Ta’amu finding a wideout for 66 yards and a score to start the third quarter. Down two with two minutes to play in regulation, Ole Miss again looked to its quarterback for an answer. Ta’amu delivered once again, masterfully moving the Rebels from their own 3-yard line with big throws and a 15-yard scamper for first down to set up the touchdown that would seal their first SEC win of the season.
During the 37-33 victory, the senior completed nearly 75 percent of his 35 passes for 387 yards and two touchdowns, while also chipping in with 141 yards rushing and a score. Given the way the game broke, the Rebels needed every last one of those yards, and there’s sure to be plenty more to come in the games that will follow. It isn’t easy, but when Ta’amu is leading the Rebels, there’s always a chance.
Kyle Rachwal, LB, Eastern Michigan
Rachwal looks the part of an intimidating force over the middle, and on the off chance that anyone doubted it, he showed just why he’s a terror to opposing offenses with his performance against Toledo. The senior registered 11 total tackles, posted a sack, and even displayed his ability to disrupt passing lanes with a pass break up as the Eagles won 28-26.
Wesley Fields, RB, Georgia Southern
The going was tough against Texas State, but Fields never stopped believing in himself, and the team put its trust in him as well. In a low-scoring affair, Fields churned out 93 yards and one touchdown to pave the way in a 15-13 victory.
Juwan Foggie, LB, Charlotte
Western Kentucky might be known as the Hilltoppers, but Foggie was most certainly at the top of his game this past Saturday. He was all over the field, registering eight tackles (seven of them solo) and was a menace in the backfield, including one sack. Of course, his coup de grace was when he snagged a pair of passes of interceptions for the 49ers as they cruised to a 40-14 win.
Brent Stockstill, QB, Middle Tennessee
With two early losses to SEC teams, Middle Tennessee needs to lock down the rest of its schedule, especially against conference foes, if the Blue Raiders want to contend for a Conference USA title and bowl eligibility. With those season hopes on the line this past weekend against Marshall, the Blue Raiders turned to their quarterback in Brent Stockstill, who showed just how lethal he could be under center.
Despite settling for a field goal and watching Marshall turn a turnover into 10 straight points, Stockstill refused to panic. Instead, with about two minutes left in the first half, No. 12 willed the Blue Raiders down the field in under a minute, marching them 67 yards downfield for the score. The drive featured a 39-yard completion, a 17-yard scramble and a 5-yard touchdown run by the senior quarterback.
The Blue Raiders knotted the score again just after halftime, as Stockstill found his target for a 2-yard touchdown pass. During that drive, he moved the chains with his arm and legs, including a 5-yard run for a critical third-down conversion. The next time out, Stockstill converted passes of 22 and 21 yards before punching it for another score.
With Marshall again threatening, Middle Tennessee finally pulled away early in the fourth quarter, thanks a masterful drive led by Stockstill. A 19-yard completion on third down maintained the momentum, followed by an 11-yard scramble out of the pocket. The senior capped his fantastic day with an 18-yard throw to the end zone, sealing the Blue Raiders’ 34-24 win and extending their unbeaten Conference USA record.
With 317 yards through the air, Stockstill became the 24th player in NCAA history to eclipse 10,000 career passing yards. Quite the feat for a player who missed seven games with injury last season and often goes unnoticed in the conversation of the nation’s top college quarterbacks.
Kenny Young, RB, Miami (OH)
No one would look at Young and expect the tailback to be a power runner, especially when standing at 5 foot 7. But as they say, looks can be deceiving. Young converted three rush attempts into 78 yards and 2 touchdowns. In case that wasn’t enough, Young also caught 5 passes for 18 yards and another touchdown for the Redhawks in victory.
DaMarkus Lodge, WR, Ole Miss
Lodge always had the physical stature and skillset of a top-tier wide receiver, and against the University of Louisiana Monroe, he showed just how much talent he truly possesses. The senior grabbed nine catches for 179 yards, including getting deep in the secondary for a 51-yard score. Time and again, Lodge outbodied smaller defenders, and when he got the ball in space, he made sure it was a nightmare for opponents to take him down.
Anree Saint-Amour, DL, Georgia Tech
Saint-Amour was a menace in the offensive backfield against Louisville this past weekend. He registered six total tackles (five solo), a sack, and two forced fumbles on the day. After recording his first sack of the season the week before against Bowling Green, as well as his first pick-six, the Georgia native is looking to continue his individual march through the rest of the ACC.
BY DAVID CHOUGH
Taylor Cornelius, QB, Oklahoma State
Some quarterbacks might shy away from the moment and crumble after a disappointing loss early in the season. Other quarterbacks might take a few games to get back on track. But signal callers like Taylor Cornelius make sure to take advantage of their schedule and come out firing on all cylinders during the next opportunity that they have. With a plucky Kansas team scheduled this week, Cornelius and the Cowboys needed to make sure they did not look past their opponent, who upset Texas in the not-so distant past.
From the first drive, Cornelius made sure to make a statement. He only threw the ball twice, but both went for completions, the last of which ended in an 11-yard touchdown. After the Jayhawks missed a field goal on their next drive, Cornelius made some plays with his feet before displaying his soft touch on a pass that went 42 yards to the house and put the Cowboys up 14. When Kansas finally responded with a score of its own, the senior passer shrugged off any inkling of pressure and made the perfect read to get the ball to his wide receiver Tyron Johnson, who, 64 yards later, put the Cowboys up 21-7 with a touchdown on each of their opening three drives.
Once halftime rolled around, it was already too late for Kansas. Cornelius had gotten into a groove. He came out guns blazing with a 56-yard strike to set up the Cowboys in the red zone. Two plays later, they would punch in another score. Even after an interception, Cornelius was not fazed, bouncing back with a touchdown to put the Jayhawks away for good.
In the end, only five of the senior’s passes fell incomplete, and four of his throws went for scores. He displayed poise and accuracy from the pocket, and with a dominant run game, Cornelius did the most important thing a quarterback can do: take advantage of what the defense gives you. The game didn’t require him to be the hero; it just necessitated him making the right read each time. Whether it was through the air or even on the ground, Cornelius rebounded strong from the previous week’s loss and put up his third 300-plus-yard outing of the season. With much of the year left to play, especially in Big 12 competition, all eyes will be on Cornelius to see if he can keep the magic going.
Wesley Fields, RB, Georgia Southern
With the Eagles looking to rebound after a loss to Clemson, all hands were needed on deck as Georgia Southern tried to impose its will in the run game against Arkansas State. While Fields contributed to a number of big plays on the ground (including a blistering 64-yarder), his biggest play might’ve been through the air. With time running down in the first period, Fields turned a simple wheel route into a burner of a score, racing down the sideline for a 61-yard touchdown. He would finish the day with 159 all-purpose yards.
Kendall Joseph, LB, Clemson
Syracuse had already knocked off Clemson last year, and when the Tigers’ quarterback left the game, it looked like a repeat upset was on its way. But with the offense sputtering, it was up to the defense to make the necessary stops, and Joseph was among those who rose to the top. The senior linebacker chased down the Orangemen from all angles of the field, registering 12 total tackles, eight of them solo. Anyone who got past the line of scrimmage had to contend with number 34, and he made them pay. By the end, the Tigers made enough stops to claw back into the game, as Joseph and rest of the defense emerged victorious and, as of yet this season, undefeated.
Andy Isabella, WR, UMass
Following an explosive first game of the season, Isabella has had a tough time getting free for more big plays. Well, on Saturday against Ohio, Isabella had enough, and absolutely erupted against the Bobcats defense. Whether it was bracket coverage, man or zone, nothing could not stop the quick and sure-handed receiver, as he hauled in 12 catches for 198 yards. Of those 12, Isabella took three to the house, scoring from 39, 37, and 55 yards out.
BY DAVID CHOUGH
Jonathan Duhart, WR, Old Dominion
Casual fans may never have heard of Old Dominion’s team before, and even those who do follow college football might not be aware of where the school is located. But after this weekend, everyone should know that Old Dominion is in Norfolk, Virginia, and despite entering their game at 0-3, the Monarchs shocked the world by upsetting No. 13 Virginia Tech, 49-35..
An upset of that magnitude, with Old Dominion in the Conference USA cellar heading to the matchup against the Hokies, requires peak performances from everyone on the team, especially the seniors. And when the Monarchs turned to their backup quarterback, Jonathan Duhart and his fellow wideouts made sure to step up big time.
Duhart had already started off the season strong, registering back-to-back weeks of over 100 yards receiving, but it was hard for him to break into the national spotlight. He had missed most of last season, and though he caught nine touchdowns in 2016, there was no telling whether that would transfer over into a game like this.
Each time his team needed someone to make a play, Duhart delivered. In the first quarter, after Virginia Tech had just scored a long touchdown, Duhart and the offense capped off their own 75-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown grab by the senior wideout to tie the score at 7 apiece. The two teams traded blows for the rest of the first half, and despite a missed field goal by ODU, the offense never wavered, as Duhart got open in the end zone with just four seconds remaining to tie the score again at halftime.
The back-and-forth continued in the second half, and thanks to Duhart reeling in more passes from quarterback Blake LaRussa, the Monarchs kept pace. With the score tied at 28, Duhart snagged a 27-yard catch that led to an ODU touchdown. After the Hokies again knotted the score, Duhart delivered with a highlight reel, over-the-shoulder grab despite a defender draped over him to register the touchdown that would ultimately seal victory.
None of his touchdowns were pretty; they were all hard-fought, and if it was someone else, maybe they couldn’t have made the play. But Duhart, with his innate body control and strong hands, made sure to secure the ball almost every time as he finished with nine catches for 142 yards, three touchdowns, and of course, a sweet upset as the Monarchs would have their day.
David Blough, QB, Purdue
Old Dominion wasn’t the only unranked, winless team with an upset over a ranked opponent. The Boilermakers also made light work of Boston College. The Eagles had no answer for Purdue’s Blough, who connected with six different receivers for 296 yards and three scores, all while completing 75 percent of his passes as Purdue rolled to a 30-13 win.
Tre Watson, LB, Maryland
Maryland started the season strong with a win over Texas that is looking better by the week, but the Terps needed to show their worth in Big Ten conference play if they wanted to be taken seriously. Cue the music, as Watson might as well have taken up residence in the Minnesota offense. He finished the day with 11 tackles, a sack, and a beautiful interception that he returned 36 yards for the score.
Ryquell Armstead, RB, Temple
Armstead was known to have a nose for the end zone as a sophomore when he found pay dirt 14 times, but this season has been a bit tougher. Despite two 100-plus-yard rushing efforts, the featured back had yet to find the end zone. That “streak” came to an end against Tulsa, as Armstead ran all over the defense for 108 yards and that elusive touchdown.
Isaiah Buggs, DE, Alabama
Another year, another dominant Alabama defensive lineman. Buggs had already started off strong with two sacks in his first two games, and this past weekend against Texas A&M, he was nearly unstoppable. Not only did he have seven tackles, but he also notched three sacks as the Crimson Tide defense looks as intimidating as ever.
BY DAVID CHOUGH
Wyatt Ray, DE, Boston College
Boston College senses that there might be an opening in the ACC, and the way Eagles are playing, they are looking to bust the conference wide open. This past weekend, Boston College took its 2-0 record up against a Wake Forest team that had totaled 74 points in its first two games. With his team in need of a defensive spark against this ACC foe, Wyatt Ray stepped up by having the game of his life with four sacks.
After logging a sack last week against Holy Cross, Ray got off to a fast start Saturday, notching his first sack in the opening quarter to put the Demon Deacons behind the sticks and on notice. While Wake Forest would move the ball at times, they were constantly hounded by pressure when trying to pass, and Ray made his presence felt in the run game, too. He finished the game with eight total tackles, including seven solo stops.
Those stops would be necessary with Wake Forest threatening in the fourth quarter. Following a critical third-down conversion by the Demon Deacons with 10 minutes to play, Boston College needed someone to step up. Ray answered the call, promptly sacking the opposing quarterback for a 7-yard loss on first down and completely thwarting the momentum of the drive. After two plays that went nowhere, Wake Forest had to punt the ball back to the Eagles.
On its final drive of the game, Wake Forest managed to move the ball down the field, but BC once again clamped down. After wrapping up the quarterback on first down, Ray registered his fourth sack of the day two plays later to force Wake Forest into a fourth-down situation. Though the Demon Deacons would convert and eventually score a touchdown, Ray’s two sacks on the drive chewed up enough time to force Wake Forest to onside kick. When that failed, BC was able to run out the clock and secure the win.
After registering just 2.5 sacks a year ago, Ray surpassed that in just one game. And with his combination of size and pass-rushing tricks, the senior defensive end looks poised to continue his strong output and keep the victories coming for Boston College.
Lexington Thomas, RB, UNLV
Standing at 5-foot-9, Thomas isn’t the most imposing figure. But he carried the rock 30 times against Prairie View this past weekend, notching his third consecutive 100-yard effort on the season and a touchdown as well. Though his trademark speed was bottled up by the defense, Thomas showed that he’s more than just a one-trick pony by consistently moving the chains.
Marcus Green, University of Louisiana-Monroe
The Warhawks never quit even as Texas A&M dominated the game, and that was especially true of Green. The senior wideout managed to get behind the Aggies defense for 44 yards, and even though he didn’t find the end zone, he still finished with four catches for 75 yards. Though he might have preferred the win, it definitely helped prove that his first two weeks of production were no fluke.
Blake Banham, RB, Eastern Michigan
The positional label of “offensive weapon” never quite took off, but if there was ever a player deserving of it in college football, Banham fits the bill. Listed as a running back, Banham made the most of his touches through the air, catching nine balls for 159 yards, including a 75-yard scamper for a score. With nary a rushing attempt on the season but an impressive 23 receptions and 361 yards receiving, Banham is a threat however he gets the ball in his hands.
Gary Johnson, LB, Texas
It didn’t have the drama of the previous two matchups between these storied programs, but Johnson helped launch the Longhorns into yet another victory over USC. He finished with six tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble while preventing any attempt at a comeback by USC.