College Football 2011: Best and Worst of Week 5
The first month of college football is in the books, and conference play is in full swing.
The first weekend of October showcased some huge games, thrilling finishes and some truly epic collapses. Toss in the usual slate of jaw-dropping plays, mind-boggling stats and idiotic decisions, and you have a thoroughly entertaining week.
That is, unless you're the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Here now are the best and worst from Week 5.
Best: Tyrann Mathieu for Heisman
The Heisman Trophy is designed to be awarded to the "most outstanding player in college football," yet that almost always means "the best quarterback, running back or wide receiver on a BCS team."
However, this year, there is a serious contender in LSU sophomore defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.
The player nicknamed "Honey Badger" has been the most dynamic playmaker in the country this year for the top-ranked Tigers, and he continued that dominance this past Saturday against Kentucky.
In what's quickly becoming a typical performance from Mathieu, he registered five tackles, a sack, forced two fumbles and returned the fumble caused by his sack for a touchdown.
Few players, if any, can match Mathieu in their ability to fill up a stat sheet.
So far through five games, he has 35 tackles, four tackles-for-loss, an interception, four pass break-ups, three fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles. Not to mention his two defensive touchdowns.
Best: Ray Graham Goes into 'Beast' Mode
This season has been a challenge for the Pitt Panthers thus far, as they have struggled mightily while going 2-2.
However, one consistent bright spot has been junior running back Ray Graham, who has carried an offense saddled with a terrible offensive line. Needless to say, the prospects looked grim when No. 16 South Florida came to Heinz Field on Thursday.
Graham was on fire, gashing the Bull defense en route to 226 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, while also catching four passes for another 42 yards. He was the proverbial one-man wrecking crew as the Panthers wrecked the Bulls' unbeaten start in the 44-17 win.
He was so impressive, LeBron James took to Twitter to affectionately crown Graham "a beast."
Best: Alabama's Defense
LSU and Alabama are ranked first and second in this week's AP Poll. That may as well be for defense as well, with the only debate as to who deserves top billing.
The Crimson Tide traveled to Gainesville to take on then-No.12 Florida. Nick Saban's defense figured to have their hands full with a Florida offense designed by Charlie Weis that had blazing fast playmakers to burn.
That was immediately on display when the Gators scored just 19 seconds into the game on a 65-yard touchdown pass from John Brantley to Andre Debose and had a 10-3 lead late into the first quarter.
Then the Alabama defense took over.
It knocked Brantley out of the game in the second quarter and utterly dominated the rest of the way. The Tide limited the Gators to just 222 total yards, a mere 15 of them on the ground, and forced two turnovers as Alabama scored 35 straight points in their 38-10 victory.
The 10 points allowed by the Crimson Tide defense actually raised their season average, to 8.4 per-game.
When Alabama and LSU meet on Nov. 5, it very well be the first team to 10 wins.
Best: Clemson is for Real
Despite their 4-0 start and impressive wins over Auburn and Florida State, there were still some people who doubted whether Clemson was for real.
Those doubts have now been put to bed.
The 13th ranked Tigers traveled to Blacksburg to take on conference rival and No. 11 Virginia Tech in a critical ACC matchup.
While it was quarterback Tajh Boyd who had been getting a lot of the attention during Clemson's impressive start, it was the Tiger defense that was the star of Saturday's affair.
They held Virginia Tech without a touchdown in a home game for the first time since 1995 en route to a punishing 23-3 victory. The Hokies were held to 258 total yards of offense and committed two turnovers.
With the win, Clemson becomes the first ever ACC team to beat three ranked teams in consecutive weeks, a feat that was rewarded with No. 8 rankings in both major polls.
Best: Air Force and Navy Do the Country Proud
Any time there is a game between the service academies, it's something special. What Air Force and Navy put on display this Saturday went past special and into truly thrilling.
The Falcons took a 28-10 lead early in the fourth quarter and looked to be in prime position to coast to the victory. But the determination of the Midshipmen was not to be denied.
Navy quarterback Kriss Proctor orchestrated a terrific comeback, running for a touchdown and throwing another with just 19 seconds left to force overtime.
Proctor kept rolling in the extra frame, scoring a touchdown on the opening drive to give Navy the lead. However, he was called for a personal foul for unsportsmanlike conduct as he "got in the face of an Air Force player right after the play," according to referee Mike DeFee.
That pushed the extra point back 15 yards where it was blocked by Air Force.
The Falcons then were able to quickly score their own touchdown and kicked the extra point for the improbable 35-34 win, and now just stand a victory over Army from winning the Commander-in-Chief Trophy.
Bonus Best: Cameron Marshall Channels His Inner Earl Campbell
As an added bonus, here is perhaps the best run of the weekend, courtesy of Arizona State junior running back Cameron Marshall.
He breaks seven tackles on his way to a very beastly 37-yard touchdown run that helped secure the 35-20 victory for the now No. 22 Sun Devils over Oregon State.
Enjoy this thing of beauty.
Worst: No Style Points in Tempe
However, Cameron Marshall's run was the lone pretty sight during that game.
For No. 22 Arizona State, it's a good thing that the polls do not have a "style" component, because if they did, the Sun Devils would not be anywhere near the top 25 after their performance Saturday night.
Coming in as an 18-point favorite over a winless Oregon State team who was without one of their best players in running back Malcolm Agnew, ASU figured to roll to an easy victory.
Three turnovers in their first three drives derailed that hope.
After a Beaver touchdown a mere 20 seconds into the second quarter, the shell-shocked Devils found themselves in a 13-0 hole.
They soon righted the ship, reeling off 21 straight points to take a lead into the half and later pulled away to win 35-20, but it was one of the uglier games in recent memory.
All told, the teams combined for 19 penalties (13 by Oregon State) and nine turnovers, a figure that could have been much higher had ASU not dropped nine would-be interceptions.
At the end of the day, a win is a win, so ASU now sits alone atop the Pac-12 South.
Worst: Taylor Martinez Comes Up Small
The college football game of the week happened in Madison, as No. 7 Wisconsin hosted Big Ten newcomer and No. 8 Nebraska.
While Badger quarterback Russell Wilson had yet another sterling performance, worthy of his Twitter hashtag trend #AllRussellWilsonEverything, Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez had yet another terrible performance in a big game.
Martinez completed only 11 of his 22 passes for 176 yards with no touchdowns and three costly interceptions. He also only managed 61 yards rushing on 20 carries, as the stout Badger defense shut down the Huskers' ground game.
Nebraska's 48-17 loss in their Big Ten debut can be traced to many factors, but none bigger than Martinez, who has yet to show he is a legitimate high-level quarterback.
Worst: Jonathan Brown Breaks Man Code
Illinois is 5-0 and ranked No. 19 in the AP Poll. So far this has been a fantastic season for the Fighting Illini, and a big part of their success has been the play of linebacker Jonathan Brown.
The sophomore has 30 tackles, two sacks an interception and a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award for his play in the win against Arizona State.
However, what he did on Saturday to Northwestern's Patrick Ward was heinous.
Check out the video here and cringe.
The cheap shot earned Brown a one-game suspension.
Worst: Texas A&M's Collapse
A week after blowing a 20-3 halftime lead to Oklahoma State, the Texas A&M Aggies were at it again.
This time, they did it against future conference rival Arkansas.
Texas A&M raced out to a 35-17 halftime lead behind Christine Michael's three touchdown runs and looked to make amends for last week's implosion.
Not so fast.
Razorback quarterback Tyler Wilson and wide receiver Jarius Wright led a tremendous comeback for Arkansas. Wilson set a school record with 510 yards passing and Wright set the school's receiving yardage record with 281 on his 13 receptions as Arkansas outscored A&M 25-3 in the second half for the astounding 42-38 victory.
Texas A&M may be wondering what kind of SEC mess that they got themselves into.
Worst: Stephen Garcia, Again
If ever a photo encapsulated a performance...
Not content with just leading the nation in team issued suspensions (five, for those playing at home), South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia took the lead in interceptions after last week's four picks against Vanderbilt.
Thankfully for the Gamecocks, they are talented enough to overcome such a dreadful performance against a team the caliber of the Commodores.
They'd need a much better showing from Garcia this past week when they hosted the defending national champion Auburn Tigers.
They didn't get it.
Garcia completed only 9-of-23 for 160 yards and threw another two interceptions. While his Gamecocks lost 16-13, Garcia can take solace in the fact that his spot atop the interceptions standings remains secure.
Sadly, it appears unlikely that he will stay there for long, as he was benched for sophomore Connor Shaw on Monday.
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