In Week 9 in college football, we had a player set an SEC receiving record, more ho-humming-right-along performances from two of college football's top quarterbacks, and a couple of big upsets. Just another week in college football.
Our top takeaways from Saturday's games:
1. Clean jersey for Manziel
It was another outstanding day for Johnny Manziel, but perhaps not quite as spectacular for Johnny Football. Aren't they one in the same, you ask? Well, not exactly. Manziel lit up the Vanderbilt defense for 305 passing yards in a 56-24 route in which his services weren't even needed in the fourth quarter. But Johnny Football likes to play what Vandy coach James Franklin referred to as "backyard football." (Read: Extensive scrambling and thrilling runs). But with Manziel coming off last week's shoulder injury, he had for a season-low four carries for 11 yards to hold down the wear and tear. It was no accident.
2. Matthews sets mark
Record-breaking Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews took yet another mark down Saturday, and this time, it was a big one. Matthews passed Georgia's Terrence Edwards for the most career receiving yards in SEC history. And as College Football 24/7 notes, there is no sign of Matthews stopping now.
3. Evans-Hal square off
Unstoppable Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans took on one of the league's top cornerbacks Saturday in Vandy's Andre Hal, a matchup of two future pros. The winner? None and both. Chase Goodbread explains in his breakdown of the matchup.
4. Mariota steady, not spectacular
Anyone expecting another 'Michael Vick in Madden '04' performance from Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was asking too much, especially against an athletic UCLA defense. Instead, Mariota was a solid and productive game-manager in the 42-14 win over the Bruins, allowing his running backs and defense to do the heavy lifting in the second half.
While it might cool some of the hype about his Heisman and draft prospects, it was refreshing to see Mariota deal with some adversity, especially with the Nov. 7 game at Stanford looming. This two-game stretch is far more likely to give NFL evaluators a better idea of how the redshirt sophomore might fare at the next level than taking a seat in the third quarter of a blowout.
5. Reputation on rise after blocking Barr
UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr had two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery against Oregon, and yet Ducks left tackle Tyler Johnstone came out of the game with his reputation enhanced.
Johnstone stonewalled the feared Barr in the second half as UO closed the game on a 28-0 run. The 6-foot-6, 277-pound redshirt sophomore moves well, as is required of the UO spread offense, but flashed some nice power and leverage against Barr.
If Johnstone can duplicate this effort against Stanford outside linebacker Trent Murphy, it might be time to start talking about this lineman in the same revered manner as is reserved for his quarterback.
6. Louisville defense dominates
Louisville coach Charlie Strong was upset with the play of his defense last week, when the Cardinals suffered a crippling loss to Central Florida. Granted, Saturday's opponent was South Florida, which has one of the weakest offenses in the nation, but the Cardinals' defense was strong Saturday in a 34-3 win. USF finished with just 133 total yards and eight first downs. Louisville had four sacks and seven tackles for loss, and Cardinals CB Charles Gaines scored on an interception return. Senior DE Marcus Smith had two sacks, giving him eight for the season. Smith (6-3, 260), who was a high school quarterback, has good speed off the edge and has improved against the run to the point that he now is a potential third-day draft pick.
And how did Louisville's top draft prospect perform in the victory? Teddy Bridgewater was as effective as ever, completing 86 percent of his pass attemptsfor 344 yards and three TDs.
7. FSU gets rushing attack untracked
Florida State's rushing attack had one of its best days of the season in the Seminoles' easy win over North Carolina State. TBs Devonta Freeman and Karlos Williams combined for 178 yards and three TDs on 25 carries, and FSU ran for 224 total yards. The 'Noles averaged 6.6 yards per carry; the highest total in any of the three previous games was 4.4 per carry, and it was just 3.2 last week against Clemson.
Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston, meanwhile, didn't dazzle with his running Saturday, losing 11 yards on his lone carry. However, he did put on one heck of a show in the first quarter.
8. Clemson's Beasley gets 10th sack
Clemson junior DE Vic Beasley (6-2, 235) got his 10th sack of the season in the Tigers' win over Maryland. Beasley went into the game tied for the national lead in sacks. He also forced a fumble recovered by Tigers DT Grady Jarrett on the sack, which came late in the game. Beasley added two other tackles for loss and now has 15 on the season. Maryland senior OLB Marcus Whitfield (6-3, 250) also had a sack, giving him 7.5 for the season. Whitfield has moved into possible third-day draft status with his newfound pass-rushing skills.
9. Miami pulls one out behind Johnson
For the second week in a row, Miami scored in the final minute to win. Last week, it was against North Carolina; Saturday, it was against Wake Forest. Sophomore TB Duke Johnson did the bulk of the work for the Hurricanes in their 24-21 victory; he rushed a career-high 30 times for 168 yards and two TDs, including a 1-yard game-winner with 53 seconds left.
As the coaches did last week, they put the game in the hands of their running back (last week, it was Dallas Crawford in relief on an injured Johnson) and their offensive line rather than trust senior QB Stephen Morris (6-2, 218) on the final drive. Miami's winning march lasted 10 plays, and eight were runs. Morris finished 17 of 28 for 191 yards and a TD, but his mechanics were off for much of the day, and he wasn't particularly sharp. Yes, he has a great arm. But for a senior, he still is way too inconsistent, and while a lot of analysts saw him as a first-rounder before the season, he sure doesn't look like one now.
10. Hokies' Thomas helps Duke pull off upset
Duke went 1 of 11 on third down; finished 7 of 26 for 107 yards, no TDs and four interceptions; had 198 total yards; and lost the time-of-possession battle by almost 19 minutes. Still, the Blue Devils won 13-10 at Virginia Tech -- their first win over a ranked team after 47 such losses in a row and the first road win over a ranked team since 1971.
After three consecutive games without an interception, Virginia Tech senior QB Logan Thomas tossed four Saturday; Duke had four interceptions on the season before the game. Thomas did run for 101 yards and a TD, but as he has all too often the past two seasons, he made staggeringly bad decisions and lacked consistency with his fundamentals. The last interception was particularly egregious. He failed to spot a wide-open receiver deep (the guy could've walked in backward for the go-ahead TD) and instead dumped it off -- on a poorly thrown pass to boot -- to an underneath receiver who was well-covered. It's going to take a team with patience and maybe even a deep, abiding faith to take Thomas as a quarterback. Still, as bad as Thomas was, a good kicker would've meant a Hokies victory. Tech missed two extremely makeable field goals.
11. Cooks contained, but not by Stanford corners
How do you stop the most productive wide receiver in all of college football? Pummel his quarterback to ensure the ball never gets to him. That's exactly what Stanford did to Oregon State junior Brandin Cooks, unleashing its ferocious pass rush to come away with the 20-12 win. The Beavers had allowed nine sacks total in their first seven games, but simply could not keep quarterback Sean Mannion upright as Stanford brought him down eight times.
12. Hageman comes up big for Gophers
Nebraska senior guard Spencer Long, the Huskers' best offensive lineman, is out -- probably for the season -- and Minnesota star senior DT Ra'Shede Hageman took advantage in the Gophers' upset of the Huskers. Hageman was credited with just three tackles, but he seemed to be in the backfield on almost every important play. He had a sack and two tackles for loss, and the Gophers held the Huskers to 328 total yards and 4 of 12 on third downs. Minnesota rushed for 271 yards and had the ball 11 minutes more than the Huskers. Hageman, considered a first- or second-round pick is No. 5 on Gil Brandt's Hot 100 seniors list, has 8.5 tackles for loss this season.
The loss increased the heat on Huskers coach Bo Pelini. Nebraska, which fell to 5-2, lost four games in each of Pelini's prior five seasons. Nebraska has lost fewer than four games just once since 2001.
13. USC's defense delivers
Forced to play multiple walk-ons at tight end and wide receiver, the USC offense simply wasn't in position to consistently produce scoring drives against Utah (the Trojans' longest sustained push covered 50 yards in 10 plays). That put the defense in a position where it had to win the game, and it did just that with four takeaways leading to 16 points and nine tackles for loss (six sacks) in a 19-3 smothering of Utah.
The front seven, led by defensive end Leonard Williams (eight tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss with 1.5 sacks) and linebacker Devon Kennard (six tackles, one-half tackle for loss), remains stout. Even though the secondary remains an issue -- gifted freshman safety Su'a Cravens suffered a groin injury returning an interception late in the second quarter -- the USC defense can stifle any opponent left on the schedule.
14. Injured Agholor shows stuff
USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor wasn't supposed to play with a rib injury. Instead, the sophomore had six receptions for 97 yards -- both game-highs -- and caught the game's only touchdown. With a great combination of savvy route-running and athleticism, Agholor showed he can be the No. 1 option without Marqise Lee. With Lee likely off to the NFL after this season, that will be an important revelation for the next USC head coach.
15. Gilbert great for Oklahoma State
Can a cornerback give up two touchdowns and still play his best game of the season? That's exactly what Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert did against Iowa State, returning a first-quarter interception 31 yards for a touchdown, breaking up a pass and recording three tackles.
It took two ridiculous catches from Quenton Bundrage to negate outstanding coverage by Gilbert (6-0, 200) for those scores. Gilbert and Jason Verrett of TCU are going to be two of the top senior corners available in the 2014 NFL Draft, but they could be overlooked during the season with the Big 12 no longer a factor in the BCS championship chase.
16. Roland revives Oklahoma State run game
The Cowboys needed a pick-me-up to lift their flagging rushing offense, so junior Desmond Roland got the starting nod at Iowa State and delivered a career-high 219 yards and four touchdowns, the most by an Oklahoma State running back since Kendall Hunter in 2010. Roland, who had 36 carries for 147 yards and two touchdowns through the first six games of the season, showed a nifty mix of speed, balance and power. If OSU can get its passing attack on track and keep Roland rolling like this, this team could still be a factor in the Big 12 title race.
17. Sankey joins the 1,000-yard club
Washington running back Bishop Sankey made amends for his dismal 13-carry, 22-yard performance at Arizona State last week, responding with a career-high 241 yards on 27 carries in a 41-17 thrashing of Cal to help break a three-game losing streak. Sankey isn't some Adonis like Adrian Peterson or speedster like Reggie Bush, just a steady, consistent and complete running back that moves the chains. This kind of performance is what Sankey can do, at this level and the next.
18. Bortles carves up UConn
Central Florida junior QB Blake Bortles (6-4, 230) was razor-sharp in leading UCF to a 62-17 demolition of Connecticut. Bortles was 20 of 24 for 286 yards and a career-high four TDs passes. He also ran for a 10-yard score, before taking a seat on the bench early in the third quarter. It was Bortles' third game this season with a completion percentage of at least 74. UCF moved to 6-1 on the season and remains unbeaten in the AAC.
19. Three TDs for Greenberry
Houston sophomore WR Deontay Greenberry (6-3, 198) had his fourth 100-yard game of the season, with 168 yards in the Cougars' dominant 49-14 win at Rutgers. Houston rolled up 611 yards and forced six turnovers to move to 6-1. Greenberry, who showed off his speed, physicality and good hands, had eight receptions against the Scarlet Knights, and three went for TDs. He now has eight TD receptions on the season. Greenberry, from Fresno, Calif., was a national recruit who committed to Notre Dame in high school but reneged late and signed with the Cougars in February 2012. He is one of the top five sophomore receivers in the nation.
20. Iowa's linebackers have big day
Each of Iowa's three starting senior linebackers is a potential draft pick, and they showed why Saturday in a 17-10 overtime victory over Northwestern. OLB Christian Kirksey (6-2, 235) led the Hawkeyes with 12 tackles. OLB Anthony Hitchens (6-1, 233) had nine tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. And MLB James Morris (6-2, 240) had eight tackles, two sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. And TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (6-7, 265), one of the top tight ends in the nation, had two receptions for 26 yards and the game-winning 8-yard TD catch in overtime.
21. BC's Williams stars in loss
Boston College TB Andre Williams continued his strong senior season by rushing for 172 yards and a TD on 26 carries, but the Eagles still lost 34-10 to North Carolina. Williams (6-0, 227) is a plugger but runs hard and can handle a heavy workload, and he looks to have moved himself into third-day draft status. He has 1,010 yards and eight TDs this season. Saturday's performance was his fifth 100-yard day of the season.
22. UNC's Ebron adds another role
North Carolina junior TE Eric Ebron (6-4, 245) might be the best tight end in the nation, and he showed off his versatility in a 34-10 win over Boston College. Ebron was UNC's leading receiver with 67 yards (on four catches); he also lined up in the backfield and had two carries for 7 yards. One of his carries was for 6 yards on a 3rd-and-3 play. They were the first two rushes of his career
23. Long day for Johnson
Tennessee middle linebacker A.J. Johnson found himself on his heels throughout Alabama's 45-10 beating of rival Tennessee. The junior has NFL potential, but against the Crimson Tide's improving offensive line, Saturday would not be his day.
24. Stone cold
Tennessee center James Stone, a senior, is expected to be drafted next April, and tape from his performance against Alabama on Saturday will be one that NFL scouts look at closely. So we did, too.
25. Michigan State defense stifling
Illinois scored on its first drive of the game against Michigan State. It was all Spartans after that, and, as usual, the defense was sterling. Illinois finished with eight first downs (three came on the first drive) and 128 yards of offense. For the most part, the big-name defenders came through. Senior OLB Denicos Allen (5-11, 218) had 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Senior SS Isaiah Lewis (5-10, 208) had a pick. Sophomore DE Shilique Calhoun (6-4, 250) had 1.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Michigan State plays host to Michigan next week.
26. Mizzou's Sam making name for self
Missouri DE Michael Sam, the NCAA leader in sacks, recorded his 10th of the season Saturday night in an overtime home loss to South Carolina. Strangely enough, it was the first time this year he's had one and only one sack in a game. His first nine came from three three-sack games. Where might Sam, a senior, be drafted next year? College Football 24/7 has some intel.
27. One big night, one big catch
The receiver of the night in the Southeastern Conference had to be LSU's Odell Beckham, Jr., who had a career-high 204 yards and two touchdowns against Furman. But nobody did more with just one catch than Missouri's L'Damian Washington: One reception for a 96-yard touchdown for the second-longest pass play in Mizzou history. See video here:
28. Ohio State suffocates Penn State
Ohio State's offensive output was the story of the game, but the Buckeyes' defensive work against Penn State shouldn't be overlooked. Penn State came in averaging 33.3 points per game, but the Nittany Lions managed just 14 and their second TD came after Ohio State already had put up 63 points. Junior LB Ryan Shazier (6-2, 230), one of the top two or three players at the position nationally, led Ohio State with 10 tackles; he also had a sack. The Buckeyes had four sacks, with Pennsylvania native Noah Spence (6-3, 252) coming up with two; he now has a team-leading five sacks. And senior safeties Corey "Pitt" Brown (6-1, 203) and C.J. Barnett (6-1, 204) each had an interception.
College Football 24/7 writers Chase Goodbread, Dan Greenspan and Mike Huguenin contributed to this report.
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