Photo courtesy of Wake Forest athletics
Is Clemson (clears throat) irrelevant?
While the 6-time reigning ACC champions watched its hopes dwindle away, there were several other performances that were nowhere near irrelevant. Here’s a look back at the five best efforts from Week 8:
Honorable Mention – Disgruntled Fans
— no context college football (@nocontextcfb) October 24, 2021
5. Brock Purdy – QB, Iowa State
Photo courtesy of Iowa State athletics
Iowa State is a good football team. While a couple of early-season losses to Iowa and Baylor may have derailed the Cyclones’ chances of being a College Football Playoff contender, they still have the ability to hang with anyone in the country.
In what was expected to be one of the more intriguing games of the day, the Cyclones welcomed No. 8 Oklahoma State to Ames for a Saturday afternoon rendezvous. It would be a matchup where the deciding factor came down to the greater production from the most important position on the field.
Career TD pass No. 7️⃣2️⃣ for Brock Purdy.@CFBONFOX
— Cyclone Football (@CycloneFB) October 23, 2021
When Brock Purdy plays his final game in Ames this fall, he will leave as the greatest quarterback to ever wear the cardinal and gold. The Arizona native holds the record for the most passing yards and touchdown passes and is three wins away from becoming the winningest signal caller in program history.
There’s just one thing that Purdy is missing: a Big 12 title. The senior quarterback came, oh-so-close to accomplishing that feat last season.
As Purdy took the field on Saturday, he knew that if he had any chance to cap off his legacy with a Big 12 title, he would need to start with a statement win against Oklahoma State. Not only did the senior playmaker come away with a 24-21 win, but he did so while having arguably, the most effective start of his career.
Purdy went 27-for-33 passing with 307 yards and two touchdown passes. He may not win many individual accolades, but there are few quarterbacks in the country better than Purdy.
4. Carson Strong – QB, Nevada
Sometimes, the truest character in us all is shown when facing the jaws of defeat. For some, defeat can mean termination, a spiral of negativity that leads to a path of poor choices. For others, a loss is a near road bump in life, a chance to get back up, brush yourself off and continue on your way to greatness.
Nevada quarterback Carson Strong is a man that loves the latter.
As the fourth quarter approached during Saturday night’s contest against Fresno State, it was clear that the Bulldogs had the game in hand, leading by double digits. Strong’s finish however, lived up to his last name.
Carson Strong NFL Throw HOLY MOLY https://t.co/26HEXONYfm
— The Transfer Portal CFB (@TPortalCFB) October 24, 2021
Strong led his Wolf Pack all the way back and had his team in position to tie the game with a successful 2-point conversion. The 2-point try may have failed and the Wolf Pack may have lost the game, but the effort was nothing short of commendable.
Strong finished the game with 476 passing yards on 61 passing attempts, to go along with four passing touchdowns. He was sacked five times, but Strong kept getting up and fought to the bitter end in the 34-32 road loss.
3. Garrett Shrader – QB, Syracuse
Photo courtesy of Syracuse athletics
Most may not know his name, but he has injected life into his team’s offense. Garrett Shrader is a sophomore quarterback from Charlotte, N.C. who transferred from Mississippi State after getting limited playing time in 2019 and not seeing the field in 2020.
Coming into Saturday’s affair at Virginia Tech, the Syracuse starter had not surpassed 200 passing yards in a game and had actually been held to under 10 rushing yards three times this season.
FOR. THE. WIN.
Garrett Shrader to Damien Alford for the 45-yd score! pic.twitter.com/y7g1pbiTcT
— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) October 23, 2021
En route to a 41-36 upset win in Blacksburg, Shrader had the game of his life. He passed for 236 yards and two touchdowns while adding 174 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. More importantly, he came through when it mattered.
After losing three straight games by three points, Shrader delivered the death blow to the Hokies on Saturday. Trailing by two late, Shrader connected with Damien Alford for a 45-yard touchdown with 19 seconds remaining as the Orange rallied from nine points down in the final period.
2. Illinois’ Rushing Attack
Photo courtesy of Illinois athletics
It wasn’t pretty, but it was historic. On Saturday afternoon, Illinois entered Happy Valley as more than a 3-touchdown underdog. At 2-5, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who thought Illinois had a fighter’s chance to come away with the victory. But again, that is why you play the games.
Illinois head coach Bret Bielema has never drawn up a run play that he doesn’t love. Illinois ran the ball to begin the game; it ran the ball in the middle of the game, and it ran the ball to end the game. Ultimately, it worked as Illinois pulled off the 20-18 upset.
— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 23, 2021
By day’s end, Illinois had racked up 357 rushing yards on 67 carries — the most Penn State had allowed in more than 25 years. Sophomore running back Chase Brown had 223 yards while freshman speedster, Joshua McCray, had 142.
Sure, this game may have broken an FBS record, as it went into nine overtimes. The dominant display that we saw from the Fighting Illini rushing was equally as impressive.
1. Sam Hartman – QB, Wake Forest
Photo courtesy of Wake Forest athletics
Is it time we start considering Wake Forest as a serious College Football Playoff contender? It sounds crazy. Wake Forest doesn’t exactly scream football power, but the Demon Deacons are 7-0 for the first time since 1944.
Wake is also going to be favored in each of its five remaining games. Quarterback Sam Hartman may be the nation’s best quarterback that no one talks about.
What Hartman is doing this season for the Demon Deacons is not only impressive; it’s flat out uncanny. The junior gunslinger has already surpassed the 2,000-yard passing mark with 19 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.
Hartman ranks fifth nationally in QBR at 86.2. Still not buying the hype? Let’s take a look at what the North Carolina native did on Saturday at West Point.
WHAT IS HAPPENING pic.twitter.com/qt2Ww9PzWF
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) October 23, 2021
Army entered Saturday’s contest playing outstanding defense. Only one opponent had scored more than 28 points against the Black Knights. Entering Saturday however, they had not played against Hartman.
The Demon Deacons put up 70 points and 638 total yards of offense to improve to 7-0. Remember that Hartman guy we were just talking about?
He passed for 458 passing yards which was paired with a career-high six total touchdowns. Five of those came through the air.
There are good days. There are great days. And there are days that will be talked about for years to come. That’s what Hartman had in Wake’s 70-56 victory.