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.