Studs and Duds from Week 11 of College Football
Johnny Manziel's heroic performance will long be remembered, but Texas A&M's star quarterback wasn't college football's only stud shaking things up in Week 11.
Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey rumbled for a Pac-12-record 366 yards rushing against Colorado. He found the end zone five times, too. Oregon's Marcus Mariota tossed six TD passes in an effort to strengthen the Ducks' rank in the BCS standings.
Alabama's crushing, 29-24 loss to the Aggies—their first in 2012—cost it a chance at an undefeated season and potentially its shot at a second straight national title. AJ McCarron, one of last week's heroes, leads the pack of this week's disappointing performers.
Let's move on to the studs and duds from Week 11 in college football.
Stud: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
I think Johnny Football has earned the right to occupy this first slide, don't you?
The Aggies' freshman phenom shredded the Tide's defense both on the ground and in the air Saturday. Manziel's 92 yards rushing led all Texas A&M ball-carriers, but it was the dual threat's 253 yards and two scores on 24-of-31 passing that sparked the upset win.
Manziel found himself under constant pressure against the top defense in the country, yet fired crisp, accurate passes on the run and remained poised from start to finish. He's now accounted for more than 300 yards of offense in each of the Aggies' last seven games—all against SEC opponents.
Not only has Manziel proven that Texas A&M belongs in college football's toughest conference, he's thrust himself straight to the top of this year's Heisman Trophy discussion.
Duds: AJ McCarron and T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
Recovering from a 20-0 first-quarter deficit is quite the chore for any offense, but it wasn't what cost the Tide their undefeated season. After all, AJ McCarron and his troops were able to get within six points before halftime.
McCarron's early interception only fueled the Aggies' fast start, but his last-minute pick on fourth-and-goal at Texas A&M's 2-yard line was what ultimately sealed Alabama's fate.
Freshman running back T.J. Yeldon's fumble on a running play following a 50-yard pass completion proved to be nearly as damaging. 'Bama was down 23-17 and in A&M territory at the time. Two plays after the recovery, the Aggies found the end zone and extended their lead to 12 points.
McCarron's day wasn't entirely disappointing; he did throw for more than 300 yards, including a 54-yard TD pass to Amari Cooper in the final minutes that gave the Tide an opportunity to win. Yeldon, however, rushed for only 29 yards on 10 attempts and uncharacteristically failed to contribute anything meaningful.
Stud: Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
Subtracting level of competition from the equation, Carey's 366-yard, five-touchdown day was without a doubt the most impressive individual performance of the weekend.
The sophomore accounted for more than 100 yards (rushing) more than any other running back in the nation. He did so on just 25 carries, averaging an unheard of 14.6 yards per attempt. Seriously, not even Oregon's running backs eat up that much grass per carry.
Does it matter that Carey's super-sized day came against the lowly Colorado Buffaloes? Well, yes. But he also surpassed the 100-yard mark against Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA. So, clearly he's no one-week wonder.
Dud: The Auburn Tigers
What about Auburn isn't absolutely awful right now?
Gene Chizik's Tigers, just two years removed from a perfect season and BCS National Championship, are 2-8 in 2012 and 0-7 against SEC opponents. Auburn's 38-0 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs served as the only shutout in the deep history of this rivalry.
Not to mention it became the low point of the Tigers' forgettable season. One has to wonder if Auburn can even survive its meeting with Alabama A&M in Week 12.
Just kidding. I think.
Studs: Devin Gardner and Roy Roundtree, Michigan
Devin Gardner, who had started the entire season at wide receiver before Week 10, has been one of the Big Ten's top performers over Michigan's last two games—from the quarterback position.
In fact, he's led the Wolverines to two straight victories in Denard Robinson's absence, even if Saturday's 38-31 overtime win over the visiting Northwestern Wildcats required a little help from the opposition.
Gardner unleashed a bomb in the final seconds of regulation, and his pass was batted by a Northwestern defender while he and senior WR Roy Roundtree battled in mid-air. Little did Daniel Jones know, his deflection of the pass would fall into Roundtree's arms as the two fell to the ground.
The play, an unbelievable 53-yard reception, moved the ball inside Northwestern's 10-yard line and would set up the field goal that sent the game into OT. Gardner, this time making a play with his feet, scampered into the end zone for his fourth TD of the game (second rushing TD) to put Michigan up seven. The defense came up with a huge stop on the ensuing drive, and the rest is history.
Michigan moves to 7-2 and remains in the hunt for a Big Ten Championship with the win, though it will need a Nebraska loss to reach the title game. Nonetheless, the Wolverines wouldn't be in this position if not for the late-game heroics from Gardner and Roundtree.
Stud: Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Marcus Mariota's six TD passes in the Ducks' 59-17 win over the Cal Golden Bears set a school record and thrust Oregon to the No. 2 spot in the BCS rankings.
Not bad, freshman.
The youngster had previously thrown for 300+-yards and four scores twice in 2012, but his 377 yards and six TDs both were single-game highs. Led by Mariota, Oregon has posted 42 or more points in every game this season.
After Alabama's loss, the Ducks are one of only three teams that remain undefeated. With games against Stanford and Oregon State on deck, they'll need their star signal-caller to keep on shining to reach the BCS title game.
Dud: Louisville's Run Defense
Allowing 278 rushing yards to your opponent is just one way to ruin a 424-yard passing day from your quarterback.
Oh, and an undefeated season, too.
Jerome Smith and Tyson-Prince Gulley combined for 242 of those rushing yards and three touchdowns to help Syracuse hand the formerly undefeated Cardinals their first defeat. With a final score of 45-29, it wasn't really even close.
Teddy Bridgewater threw for 424 yards and three scores, but Louisville was trailing by 18 points at halftime. Smith's 35-yard scamper early in the third quarter extended the lead to 25.
To make matters worse, Louisville now trails Rutgers by a game for the top spot in the Big East.
Stud: Curtis McNeal, USC
Credit Marqise Lee and his 80-yard TD catch for getting the party started, but the second half of the Trojans' 38-17 win over Arizona State was all Curtis McNeal.
In desperate need of a victory to get back on track, USC put the ball in the hands of its senior running back one play after another. When the day was done, McNeal had piled up 163 rushing yards on 31 carries, in addition to a 22-yard catch for another score.
With starting RB Silas Redd sidelined, McNeal's breakout day couldn't have come at a more opportune time. It was just his second 100-yard rushing performance of the season and arguably the finest of his career.
Studs: Stepfan Taylor and Zach Ertz, Stanford
With freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan making his first start, Stanford was going to need its star skill players to come up big on Senior Day against Oregon State.
Boy, did they.
Senior RB Stepfan Taylor came through with a miraculous touchdown as the third quarter came to a close, catching a short pass, shaking multiple defenders and scooting a total of 40 yards into the end zone.
Still, the Cardinal trailed 23-21 heading into the fourth quarter. Taylor's second TD got them close, but it was junior tight end Zach Ertz who sealed the deal, hauling in Hogan's pass for a 13-yard, game-winning score.
Ertz finished with 75 yards and the TD on nine catches. Taylor went for 114 rushing and 47 receiving, and Stanford improved its record to 8-2 (6-1 in the Pac-12) and has a chance to draw even with Oregon this Saturday.
Dud: Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
The Hokies' season hasn't unfolded to their liking, but they hosted Florida State Thursday night with a chance to notch a big victory in front of the home crowd.
While it was Virginia Tech's defense that allowed a last-minute touchdown that ultimately lost the game, junior QB Logan Thomas didn't have his best day, either.
Thomas threw two interceptions—one in the game's final minute—and couldn't get much of anything going with his feet. Typically a dangerous threat on the ground, the 6'6", 260-pound signal-caller ran for just 13 yards on 10 carries.
After suffering its third straight loss, V-Tech will now have to win its final two games to become bowl eligible.
Stud: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
West Virginia's 55-38 loss to Oklahoma State won't stop us from honoring Stedman Bailey's monstrous performance.
Bailey's 14 catches and 255 yards were better than any receiver in college football in Week 11. Surprisingly, it wasn't the junior's biggest game of the year. Bailey caught 13 passes for 303 yards and five scores in a 70-63 win over Baylor in September.
Geno Smith was solid as well, throwing for 364 yards and two TDs. Even with an air attack as potent as the Mountaineers have, it's tough to win when your defense can't stop anyone.
Stud: David Ash, Texas
Speaking of 364 passing yards and two scores, that's what Texas QB David Ash piled up on Saturday.
Unlike in Smith's case, though, his team actually got the win.
Ash also needed fewer attempts, completing 25 of his 31 passes. OK, so the Longhorns were playing Iowa State and not Oklahoma State. Still, the sophomore's performance is deserving of mention. It was his second straight impressive outing after being benched against Kansas two weeks ago.
If Texas can beat TCU Saturday, it'll be 9-2 with a chance to knock off the undefeated Kansas State in its regular-season finale.
Dud: Big Ten Officiating
The Big Ten has endured a miserable season thus far, and the referees haven't made it any easier to bear.
One week ago, Big Ten officials botched a pass interference call in East Lansing, Mich., that gave Nebraska an automatic first down on what looked to be a fourth-down stop. The Cornhuskers, rather than settling for a field goal attempt to send the game into overtime, scored two plays later and sealed the win.
This week, Nebraska again found itself to the beneficiary of a highly debatable call.
Nittany Lions' tight end Matt Lehman caught a pass inside the Cornhuskers' 10-yard line, rumbled to the goal line and lunged for the end zone. The ball was knocked loose by an opponent's knee just after it crossed the line, but the officials saw it differently.
Not only did the refs rule it a fumble on the field, they failed to overturn the call after review. The TD that wasn't would have given Penn State a lead. Instead, Nebraska, which recovered the loose ball in the end zone, kept its lead and eventually won the game.
No one is saying the Cornhuskers wouldn't have come out on top without the help, but Big Ten referees continue to define themselves with horrible officiating.
If you haven't seen the play in question, click here. You be the judge.
Stud: Seth Doege, Texas Tech
Texas Tech needed every one of Seth Doege's 476 yards passing in Week 11.
The senior QB continued his spectacular season against Kansas Saturday, completing 45 of his 59 passes and finding the end zone three times. While Eric Stephens Jr.'s two late TDs (one passing and one throwing) sealed the 41-34 OT win, it was Doege's dominance through the air that made it possible.
Coming off two consecutive losses, Doege's big day arguably saved the Red Raiders' season. The team will now head to Oklahoma State with a 7-3 record and a chance to propel itself into a respectable bowl game at season's end.
Dud: Louisiana-Lafayette Punt Team
Odds are, you'll never see it again.
No, I don't mean Louisiana-Lafayette taking an SEC opponent down to the wire. We've seen worse than that. I'm talking about the Ragin' Cajuns allowing the Florida Gators to return a blocked punt for a score with two seconds left in the game.
With the game tied 20-20 and seemingly headed straight for overtime, the Cajuns suffered a complete meltdown. Of course, 13 seconds remained on the clock before the snap, so punting was a must in that situation. Regardless, a block is probably something few expected.
Returning it for a score to win the game seemed like an unimaginable outcome as well—before it happened.
But it did. One could argue the Cajuns had little chance of winning in OT anyway, but who expected them to be holding a 20-13 lead with under two minutes left in the game to begin with?
Either way, it is now the upset that wasn't. The fact that Louisiana-Lafayette's punt team allowed Florida to block Brett Baer's punt is baffling, but that's how it went down.
Because of that, they've earned the right to be named one of Week 11's duds.
Stud: Ryan Swope, Texas A&M
What a gutty performance.
For senior WR Ryan Swope, it was all about the number one this past weekend. Johnny Football was the hero of the day, but Swope's 11 catches for 111 yards and one TD were needed in full.
The wideout made one huge catch after another, especially late in the game. Swope hauled in passes over the middle in a fearless manner despite having a safety waiting to blow him up several times.
He didn't drop the ball, and A&M didn't lose the game. Thanks in part to Swope's big day, the world now knows Alabama isn't invincible. Not by a long shot.
Quick, someone ask Steve Spurrier if he still thinks the Tide could beat an NFL team.
Stud: Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State
West Virginia's Stedman Bailey may not have been even the best receiver on the field against Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Josh Stewart, the Cowboys' sophomore receiver, caught 13 passes of his own. In all, he totaled 172 yards receiving and two scores, leading Oklahoma State to victory. Stewart also pitched in on the ground, taking his only carry of the game 46 yards into the end zone.
His quarterback, junior Clint Chelf, was pretty impressive as well. Chelf finished with 292 yards passing and four TDs in the first start of his college career.
Together, the two made for quite the dynamic duo in Week 11. Odds are you'll be seeing plenty more of them in the future.
Dud: Tennessee's Defense
It took them four overtimes to do it, but the Volunteers' defense wasted a brilliant performance from Tyler Bray in the team's 51-48 loss to Missouri Saturday.
The loss comes just one week after Tenessee's D nearly allowed Bray's 530-yard, five-touchdown day to go to waste against the lowly Troy Trojans. Yes, the Vols allowed 496 yards of offense and 48 points to a team from the Sun Belt Conference.
Bray went for 404 yards and four TDs in Week 11, doing all he could to keep his team's bowl hopes alive. But the D failed him again, allowing a late fourth-quarter score and a TD in each of the game's first three overtimes to cough up what should've been an easy W.
With the loss, Tennessee will now need to defeat either Vanderbilt or Kentucky to become bowl eligible.
Stud: David Fluellen, Toledo
Dominant rushing performances have become a common occurrence for junior David Fluellen.
Toledo's star RB eclipsed the 200-yard mark for the third time this season in the Rockets' 34-27 loss to Ball State, needing 34 carries to finish with exactly 200 yards rushing. It was Fluellen's fourth straight game of 161 yards or more on the ground.
Toledo's loss was a crushing blow to its season, but it can still secure a trip to the MAC Championship game with wins in its final two games. Continuing to lean on Fluellen would be wise, but the passing game will need to provide more assistance for its star running back from here on out.
Stud: Kansas' Running Game
Closing out the list with studs from losing teams was not my original intention, but I suppose I'm a bit of a sucker for the ground and pound.
The Jayhawks ran the ball a whopping 57 times on Saturday against Texas Tech, but it was clearly for good reason. In all, Kansas ball-carriers totaled 390 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Junior Tony Pierson led the charge, accounting for 202 of those yards on just 16 carries.
James Sims was a beast as well, running for 127 yards and two scores on 30 touches. He also contributed with a TD reception. In all, the Jayhawks out-rushed the Red Raiders 390-63.
Too bad Kansas could only muster 29 yards passing to Texas Tech's 508 yards through the air.