College Football's Top Player Performances from Week 3

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2013

College Football's Top Player Performances from Week 3

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    The upsets weren't many—besides, it's still September, so very little that happens now has much impact on what those BCS powerbrokers decide to do in December. Give it some time before the cryptic computer rankings and easily influenced voters start playing a big role in the championship discussions.

    But that doesn't mean that Week 3 of the 2013 college football season wasn't chock full of big-time performances, both from the usual suspects and some who-the-heck-is-that-guy showings that—like every year—come out of nowhere to gain national attention.

    Here's a look at all the known and previously unknowns who made this past weekend what it was.

Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State

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    With the running game stifled due to a scary neck injury to tailback Storm Woods, Mannion was forced to do it all in the Beavers' 51-48 overtime win at Utah.

    Mannion responded beautifully, throwing for 443 yards and five touchdowns, including three TDs to Brandin Cooks in the second half and OT.

AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama

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    He's joked that people have referred to him so much as a "game manager" that it might just be his actual first name. But McCarron was no simple manager in 'Bama's 49-42 win at No. 6 Texas A&M.

    The senior threw for 334 yards and four TDs, including three in a 12-minute span during the first and second quarters that turned an early 14-0 deficit into the start of 35 unanswered points for the top-ranked Crimson Tide.

Nick Montana, QB, Tulane

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    Yes, his dad is that Montana.

    The son of NFL great Joe Montana, Nick, a junior QB, threw for 235 yards and two TDs to lead perennial doormat Tulane to a 24-15 win at Louisiana Tech. It's the Green Wave's first road win in 11 games and the first victory to open Conference USA play since 2005.

Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State

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    The sophomore ran for 125 yards and four touchdowns—as many as he had in all of 2012—in Boise State's 42-20 win over Air Force.

    His performance somewhat overshadowed a school-record passing efficiency game by Boise quarterback Joe Southwick, who completed 27-of-29 passes.

Senorise Perry, RB, Louisville

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    Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater gets all the publicity—that happens when your school floods the post office with Heisman campaign promo material—but on Saturday, it was just as much about Perry.

    The senior scored twice on just 11 carries, gaining 100 yards to more than double his output from the Cardinals' first two games.

Justin March, LB, Akron

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    Akron fell just short of pulling off the biggest upset in Michigan's Big House since, well, the beginning of the end for the ill-fated Rich Rodriguez era in Ann Arbor.

    Even in the loss, though, the Zips had a lot to be proud of, including the effort of March, a junior who intercepted Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner twice. He returned one of those picks 27 yards for a score early in the third quarter that pulled Akron within four points and started the collective puckering in Wolverine Nation.

Paul Senn, LB, Bowling Green

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    At least the only touchdown for Bowling Green in its 42-10 loss at Indiana was a memorable one.

    What began as a run-of-the-mill punt turned into a viral video dream when Falcons special-teamer Paul Senn rushed in and pretty much took the ball off the foot of Indiana punter Eric Toth and returned it untouched for a 56-yard score score.

Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

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    The West Coast has known all about Hundley since he tore up Pac-12 defenses last year as a freshman. But following his 294-yard, three-touchdown effort in the 16th-ranked Bruins' 41-21 win at Big Ten power Nebraska, the rest of the country is taking notice.

    Hundley shook off a slow start that plagued the entire team by throwing three TD passes in the final six minutes of the third quarter, part of a 38-0 run after No. 23 Nebraska led 21-3. He also added 61 yards on 19 carries.

Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma

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    Bell finished second in a training camp competition with Trevor Knight to be the Sooners' starting QB but was thrust into the spotlight against Tulsa after Knight was injured. It might be hard for Knight to get that job back now.

    Known solely as a short-yardage Tebow-like bruiser before, the 6-foot-6, 252-pound junior shook off that reputation by throwing for 413 yards and four TDs in No. 14 Oklahoma's 51-20 win.

Kolton Browning, QB, UL-Monroe

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    The senior needed 68 pass attempts and 43 completions to lead the Warhawks to their first-ever win over an ACC opponent, a 21-19 win at Wake Forest. Browning threw for 314 yards and three TDs.

Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford

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    No more Stepfan Taylor? No problem.

    Gaffney, a senior finally getting the starting nod in the Cardinal's backfield, ran for 132 yards and a touchdown, and also caught a TD pass in No. 5 Stanford's 34-20 win at Army.

Michael Nebrich, QB, Fordham

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    Nebrich was part of a two-headed hero effort for FCS Fordham in its 30-29 last-second win at Temple. The junior threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns, including a 29-yard TD pass to Sam Ajala on the final play of the game.

    The victory was the Rams' first over an FBS team in the 44 seasons since the football program was reinstated at Fordham.

Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State

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    Sure, it was against a cupcake opponent that offered little resistance, but Cook might finally be the answer to MSU's sputtering offense. The sophomore threw for 202 yards and four first-half touchdowns in the Spartans' 55-17 win over Youngstown State.

    Cook had passed for a total of 74 yards in MSU's first two games while sharing snaps with two other QBs. His TDs were the first thrown by the Spartans this season.

Paul James, RB, Rutgers

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    James ran for 192 yards and three touchdowns in Rutgers' 28-10 win over Eastern Michigan. Throw in a 30-yard reception and the sophomore accounted for more than 80 percent of the Scarlet Knights' offensive output.

Vad Lee, QB, Georgia Tech

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    Playing in his hometown of Durham, N.C., Lee threw four touchdown passes and ran for one to pace Georgia Tech's 38-14 win at Duke.

Vinnie Sunseri, DB, Alabama

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    There were so many heroes for top-ranked Alabama in its comeback win at Texas A&M. But Sunseri might have single-handedly blew the game open with his interception of Johnny Manziel that he returned 73 yards for a touchdown to give the Crimson Tide a 35-14 lead early in the third quarter.

Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

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    Evans only caught seven passes and scored one touchdown in A&M's 49-42 loss to Alabama, but it seemed like he did everything. That's what happens when you turn those seven catches into 279 yards, including an electrifying 95-yard TD catch-and-run on a deep fly route that got the Aggies within 42-35 with eight minutes left.

Anthone Taylor, RB, Buffalo

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    Buffalo needed five overtimes—two of which amazingly had no scoring—to get past visiting FCS foe Stony Brook. Based on that, had Taylor not scored on a 6-yard run in the fifth OT, this game might still be going.

    The sophomore finished with 118 yards and two TDs, including a 1-yard score that gave the Bulls a 10-0 lead late in the third quarter.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

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    Even with Chip Kelly doing his thing to mixed results in Philadelphia, Oregon remains a read-option team with countless options. Normally the Ducks are a run-first team, but in its 59-14 destruction of Tennessee, it was the Marcus Mariota Air Show.

    The sophomore was 23-of-33 for 456 yards and four TDs, while also running in a score despite playing only two-and-a-half quarters. He's the first Oregon QB to throw for more than 400 yards since Kellen Clemens did so in 2005.

Derek Thompson, QB, North Texas

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    The Mean Green trailed visiting Ball State 27-9 with three minutes left in the third quarter when Thompson kicked it into high gear. The senior threw a touchdown pass and ran for another as part of a 27-0 run to close out the game, capped by Thompson's game-winning 26-yard run in the fourth.

Jordan Stanton, LB, Wyoming

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    The Cowboys returned two interceptions for touchdowns in its 35-7 win over Northern Colorado, but Stanton's pick-six was by far the more exciting. He hauled in a tipped pass and weaved 39 yards through linemen and receivers-turned-defenders to put Wyoming up 14-0 early in the second quarter.

Quenton Bundrage, WR, Iowa State

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    There wasn't much to be happy about for the Iowa State faithful in the 27-21 home loss to rival Iowa, but Bundrage topped the short list of positives for the Cyclones.

    Bundrage had seven catches for 146 yards and scored all three of ISU's touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter to turn what looked like a runaway Iowa win into a tight finish.

Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

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    Central Florida is officially a BCS school, at least for the time being, now that it's part of the new-look Big East Conference. The Knights might get a future look from the Big Ten after Bortles led them to a 34-31 upset win at Penn State.

    Bortles, a junior, threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns, the last giving UCF a 28-10 lead.

Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington

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    On a banner day for Pac-12 schools against other BCS competition, Washington's Sankey was among the most notable. The junior tailback ran for 208 yards and a touchdown, and also caught a TD pass from Keith Price in the Huskies' impressive 34-24 win over Illinois in Chicago.

Kenny Guiton, QB, Ohio State

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    When word came down that Braxton Miller was too hurt to play, the upset predictions flooded the Internet. Then Kenny Guiton happened.

    The fifth-year senior made the most of his first-ever start, throwing for 276 yards and four touchdowns in the Buckeyes' 52-34 win at California.

    Guiton, who also added 92 yard rushing, threw three TDs in the game's first six minutes, including a 90-yard toss to Devin Smith just 1:53 into the clash. 

Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn

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    Auburn had lost its last 10 SEC games. That's because the Tigers didn't have a quarterback who could catch his own passes.

    Marshall, a JUCO transfer, threw for 339 yards, including a 37-yard reception he pulled in after his own throw was tipped. He also tossed two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 10 seconds left to give Auburn a 24-20 win over Mississippi State.

Brendon Kay, QB, Cincinnati

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    Back in the starting role after the injury to dual threat Munchie Legaux, Kay needed just 13 completions (on 15 attempts) to throw four touchdowns in Cincinnati's 66-9 rout of Northwestern State.

Kip Daily, DB, Kansas State

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    Daily recorded two interceptions in K-State's 37-7 win over Massachusetts, the first of which he brought back 38 yards for a score in the first four minutes of the game.

C.J. Brown, QB, Maryland

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    The Terrapins' senior quarterback threw for 277 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 122 yards and a 41-yard score to help coach Randy Edsall beat Connecticut, his former employer, 32-21.

Chris Boswell, K, Rice

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    The senior was true on all three of his field goal tries, including a 56-yarder midway through the fourth quarter that proved to be the game-winner in Rice's 23-14 win over Kansas.

Chuckie Keeton, QB, Utah State

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    Keeton only got to play the first half of Utah State's 70-6 rout of in-state rival Weber State, but that was more than enough time to throw for 249 yards and five touchdowns.

Jeff Scott, RB/PR, Mississippi

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    Scott is quickly making the case for the fastest player in college football after the first three weeks. His 75-yard touchdown run allowed Ole Miss to win at Vanderbilt in the season opener, and in the Rebels' 44-23 upset of Texas, he starred both as an option runner (164 yards, one TD) and as a punt returner.

    Scott's 73-yard TD return in the final seconds of the third quarter was the biggest play in Ole Miss' 27-0 second half.

DaVaris Daniels, WR, Notre Dame

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    Daniels turned a nail-biter into a fireworks show against Purdue, scoring on two passes from Tommy Rees in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter of Notre Dame's 31-24 win. The game was tied at 17 prior to Daniels' first TD, a 9-yarder, then he scored on an 82-yard pass.

    All told, Daniels finished with 167 receiving yards on eight catches.

Devante Davis, WR, UNLV

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    Down 21-0 at home to Central Michigan in the final minute of the first half, Davis caught a 12-yard TD pass to give the Runnin' Rebels something to build off of going into halftime.

    Davis himself built on it with two more TD catches in the second half, part of a seven-catch, 140-yard performance in UNLV's 31-21 win.

B.J. Denker, QB, Arizona

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    Arizona's passing game has yet to come close to the production it had in 2013, but the rushing game continues to be solid thanks to the deceptive speed of Denker. The senior gained 90 yards on 10 carries for two touchdowns, including a 35-yard scramble, in the Wildcats' 38-13 win over UTSA.

    Denker also added 158 passing yards (almost as much as he had in Arizona's first two games) and a TD.

Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State

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    All anyone's talking about from Arizona State's 32-30 win over Wisconsin was the bizarre ending. Look further into the box score and you'll see a number of standout efforts, most notably the four-touchdown performance from Grice.

    The senior had those scores as part of a workmanlike 22-carry, 84-yard output. Three of his scores came in the second half, the last two turning a 24-19 deficit to a 32-24 lead.