Photo courtesy of Ohio State athletics
That…was your two-point conversion play call, Dan Mullen? Oof.
While one play call may have left something to be desired, there were a number of individual efforts from Week 3 of the college football season that did not. Looking back, here are the top five efforts of the week:
Honorable Mention – Fake Injuries
— UConn Has A Football Team (@UConnHasAFBTeam) September 19, 2021
5. Jaxson Dart – QB, USC
There may not be another team in America that went through a more eventful, and frankly stressful week than the USC Trojans. On Monday, after an embarrassing home loss to Stanford, the university announced that it would be parting ways with head coach Clay Helton. Helton had been with the program since 2010 and had been head coach since 2015.
This abrupt, yet overdue decision sent shockwaves across the college football world. And if you think firing your head football coach at the beginning of the season would be the most taxing part of USC’s week, just wait until you hear what happened on Friday.
According to reports, after USC had landed in Lewiston, Ida. on Friday afternoon, the Trojans’ team plane tipped backwards on the tarmac, sending the plane’s nose into the air, after the grounds crew did not put the plane’s tail stand in place. To make things weirder, several members of USC’s coaching staff were apparently still on the plane when this debacle took place.
When it rains, it pours.
USC just arrived in Pullman WA for their game with Wazzu. Here’s their plane… Half the team was still on it too😳 no explanation yet… pic.twitter.com/3lwvChstEA
— Dave Stockton Jr (@DSJR1) September 18, 2021
Fast forward to Saturday afternoon. The Trojans, who one can only imagine having the morale comparable to Ebenezer Scrooge at this point, were set to face Washington State at a drenched Martin Stadium.
When it rains, it pours.
The game began and the Cougars quickly struck twice, taking a 14-0 lead on a deflated Trojan bunch. To make matters worse, quarterback and offensive leader Kedon Slovis had to exit the game with an upper-body injury.
Enter Jaxson Dart.
There are certain individuals who crumble when faced with adversity. Others rise to the occasion when things start to get a little bit difficult. On Saturday afternoon in Pullman, Dart was the latter. Dart, a highly coveted freshman from Utah, was in many ways, the answer to USC’s hopeless prayers.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 18, 2021
When Dart entered the game, it was as if a switch had went off. The offense, which had looked non-existent to this point, found a groove and did not look back, scoring 45 unanswered points to close out the game in a 45-14 victory.
By day’s end, Dart had a collegiate debut to remember, going 30-for-46 passing with 391 passing yards and four touchdowns. Make no mistake about it: Slovis is the starting quarterback when healthy. But if we learned anything from Saturday afternoon, it would be that the future of the program is pretty darn bright.
4. Tanner Mordecai – QB, SMU
When Tanner Mordecai made the decision to transfer to SMU, he knew he was going to have to fill some pretty big shoes. The former Oklahoma backup was entering a system that had just said goodbye to an offensive juggernaut that was beloved by the city of Dallas.
See, Shane Buechele was SMU football. The Texas transfer had thrown for over 7,000 yards and 57 touchdown passes in just two years under Sonny Dykes to go along with an overall record of 17-6. Replacing Buechele’s production was not going to be an easy task.
And while Rome wasn’t built in a day, what Mordecai was able accomplish on Saturday afternoon may just be what we like to call a foundation-setting performance. In what became one of the games of the year, the Waco native could do wrong, throwing for a total of 395 yards to go along with five touchdown passes and a completion percentage of 75.
SMU’s Tanner Mordecai so far this season:
♨️ 4 TDs, 344 total YDS vs. UNT (W)
♨️ 7 TDs, 317 YDS vs. ACU (W)
♨️ 5 TDs, 446 total YDS vs. LA Tech (W)
UNREAL 😤 pic.twitter.com/9zIHPVhdml
— Bleacher Report CFB (@BR_CFB) September 18, 2021
On top of that, Mordecai had what can only be described as an “ah ha moment”. On the game’s final play, Mordecai threw for the game-winning Hail Mary touchdown pass to Reggie Roberson to lift the Mustangs to a thrilling 39-37 win over Louisiana Tech.
Tanner Mordecai Hail Mary Magic. pic.twitter.com/byEMUfEusj
— Josh Helmer (@JoshOnREF) September 18, 2021
3. Josh Downs – WR, North Carolina
One of the biggest questions heading into North Carolina’s 2021 season was “How in the heck are the Tar Heels going to replace 4,000 yards of offense?” And of course, this questioning comes off the heels of the departures of receivers Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown, and running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams.
It goes without saying that losing such offensive production from a year ago is going to hamper your offensive flow in some way, shape or form. However, what we are seeing from certain Tar Heels, who have been waiting for their number to be called, is what makes the spirit of good college recruiting oh so great.
In 2020, Josh Downs had 119 receiving yards on just seven receptions. In many ways, the sophomore from Suwanee, Ga. was a shadow in head coach Mack Brown’s offense and quarterback Sam Howell could have confused him for a stranger on the street. Fast forward a calendar year however, and the 5-foot-10 wideout has suddenly become one of the nation’s elite playmakers.
Josh Downs, ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?! 😲
— Carolina Football (@UNCFootball) September 19, 2021
On Saturday, during the Tar Heels 59-39 shootout win over Virginia, Downs put on a clinic. The explosive wide receiver nearly doubled last season’s output. Downs racked up 203 yards on eight receptions, to go along with two touchdown catches.
2. Matt Corral – QB, Ole Miss
There are good offenses, there are great offenses, and then there is Lane Kiffin’s lethal attack. The competition has not been stout, but what we’re seeing out of Oxford early on, is an offensive explosion.
This is an Ole Miss offense that had more than 400 yards by halftime in Saturday’s 61-21 win over Tulane. It is led by one man that the college football world should be talking about.
The biggest qualm with Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral last year was that he turned the ball over too much. The talent was never disputed, but 14 interceptions in a shortened season was simply too high.
In 2021, it’s been a case of so far, so good. We are three games into the season and Corral has yet to throw an interception. Corral is the type of quarterback who is going to put the ball into tight space and most of the time, connect because he is so accurate with his touch. Corral may be playing with more confidence than any signal caller in the country.
— Alex Kielar (@AlexKielar) September 19, 2021
As Ole Miss dismantled the Green Wave, Corral once again made the morning headlines. Corral passed for 335 yards and accounted for seven total touchdowns. Four of those came on the ground.
The Rebels’ trip to Tuscaloosa to face No. 1 Alabama is just two weeks away. Circle that date on your calendars.
1. TreVeyon Henderson – RB, Ohio State
Perhaps one area of Ohio State’s legacy that often goes unnoticed is just how gifted many great running backs it has produced over the years. Eddie George, Archie Griffin, Ezekiel Elliott, J.K. Dobbins — the list goes on for miles. In many ways, Ohio State is “RBU” and TreVeyon Henderson may have just been admitted with a full ride.
Henderson, a 5-star, mega-recruit out of Virginia, arrived on campus in January with bright expectations. The wide-shouldered freshman was rated as the No. 1 running back recruit in the country and was said to be as explosive as a city block party on the fourth of July.
Although the true freshman showed glimpses of promise during the first two games of his college career, compiling 69 yards to go along with a rushing score, it was what he did on Saturday in “The Horseshoe” that has the people of Columbus ready to proclaim him as the next big thing.
Make no mistake about it: Ohio State did not look good in its 41-20 win over Tulsa on Saturday. With that being said, there was one positive takeaway from the Buckeyes lackadaisical performance: Henderson going absolutely ballistic on the ground.
Henderson rushed for 277 yards on 24 carries to go along with three rushing scores. This performance was so dominant in fact, that it broke Griffin’s freshman program record for the most rushing yards in a single game. That was set by the only 2-time Heisman Trophy winner in 1972. Nearly 50 years later and Henderson now sits alone.
Henderson, at the very least, will need to spend three years in college before becoming eligible for the NFL Draft. One can only wonder as to what his stat sheet may look like when all is said and done.