Winners and Losers from Week 2 of College Football

Ian Wharton@NFLFilmStudyFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 9, 2018

Winners and Losers from Week 2 of College Football

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    The college football season is in full swing as Week 2 brought drama despite not having many ranked matchups. The early games held chalk into the evening as high-ranked teams had no issues scoring.

    We saw Heisman Trophy candidates Jonathan Taylor and Dwayne Haskins have great games, while Arizona's Khalil Tate struggled once again to meet expectations.

    With conference play coming soon, there were surprises such as Eastern Michigan over Purdue, Duke over Northwestern and East Carolina over North Carolina to highlight the early slate.

    But the late games led to white-knuckle finishes among the top teams. Clemson barely survived as Texas A&M surged late, and Florida State had to pull out all the stops to defeat Samford. Florida lost to Kentucky after 31 straight wins against the Wildcats. Even Herm Edwards' Arizona State squad was able to get into the upset fun and beat Michigan State 16-13.

    We have you covered on the Week 2 winners and losers.

Winner: Colorado Receiver Laviska Shenault Jr.

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    Colorado and Nebraska collided as two formerly great programs. This was Scott Frost's first game as head coach for the Cornhuskers, but Buffaloes star receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. dominated with a clutch performance on the road.

    The sophomore has thus far lived up to the hype set for him by former Colorado coach Gary Barnett, who called him "the best player CU has had in the last 20 years," per the Pac-12 Network's Michael Yam. Shenault has 21 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns through two games, including 10 catches, 177 yards and a score Saturday. His 40-yard touchdown with 1:06 left in the fourth sealed the 33-28 win over the Huskers.

    Shenault and quarterback Steven Montez have been perfect for each other. Montez's ball placement has given Shenault the chance to use his 6'2", 220-pound frame and finishing ability at the catch point.

    He's an emerging star.     

Loser: Michigan State for Offensive Inconsistency

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Michigan State Spartans lost a late-night shocker to the Arizona State Sun Devils, 16-13. This result comes just one week after the Spartans needed a late rally to beat Utah State at home, and now they are left wondering how to pick up the pieces and become more consistent on offense.

    Quarterback Brian Lewerke had many quality plays, but he had little help. The team rushed for only 63 yards on 27 carries. There's no reason the Spartans should have that much of an issue creating running lanes with a quarterback good enough to challenge a defense.

    It especially stings considering how their foe's offensive strategy was to just throw at heavily covered receivers on isolation routes and hope for the best. It worked in part because receiver N'Keal Harry is a great player, but quarterback Manny Wilkins didn't play nearly as well as his 380-yard stat line suggests.

    The Spartans will be looking back at this game all year as one they shouldn't have let slip away.

Winner: Clemson and Texas A&M

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    Moral victories don't save jobs, but they're meaningful for a young team that's getting started with a new staff. And for CFP contenders, a close win still counts the same as a blowout. That's why both Clemson and Texas A&M are winners even though the Tigers earned it on the scoreboard.

    Dabo Swinney's Tigers couldn't play their best game with a stymied rushing attack and pass defense that allowed a whopping 430 yards. If you knew going into this game that it'd be up to Kelly Bryant to be the focal point of the Clemson offense, most would say the Aggies would pull off the upset. But Bryant showed why 2017's run was important for his poise and growth.

    He and backup Trevor Lawrence split time again, but the incumbent earned more snaps when it mattered. Both fed receiver Tee Higgins, who had a 64-yard touchdown in the second quarter and a 50-yard grab that eventually led to a third-quarter score.

    For the Aggies, the story of the game was Kellen Mond's shocking effort against a great Clemson defense. Mond was almost a one-man show because of the nonexistent ground game, and the quarterback finished as Texas A&M's leading rusher with 33 yards. Eight different Aggies caught a pass from Mond, another sign of his maturation throughout the showdown.

    Jimbo Fisher truly got the most out of his new team. Kyle Field was as intimidating as ever, and they were one play away from getting to overtime against the No. 2 team in the country. Both teams can walk away from this battle feeling good about their reaction to the adversity their opponent caused.

Loser: TCU's Offensive Upside

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    Jim Cowsert/Associated Press

    The lone Friday night game not only dealt with a weather delay, but it also failed to deliver the offensive fireworks expected from a contest featuring SMU head coach Sonny Dykes. The Mustangs jumped out to an early lead as TCU sleep-walked through most of the first half, and SMU must've felt good entering halftime down just two points. The Horned Frogs pitched a shutout in the second half of the Iron Skillet showdown, though, and won by 30 points, 42-12.

    The big-picture loser was TCU's hope that its offense could challenge Ohio State in Week 3. The Horned Frogs scored just half their points on offense, and none of their scoring drives began on their own side of the field.

    Gary Patterson's defense and special teams were fantastic outside the opening drive, but both sides of the ball will have to execute at a high level against a loaded Buckeyes team next week.

    It all starts with quarterback Shawn Robinson. He completed only 15 of 28 passes and was careless with the football. He threw one interception and had a fumble, though TCU recovered it. The offense had five fumbles.

    TCU offensive co-coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Curtis Luper will have to find easier way to score. The Buckeyes have a young defense that has shown cracks, but the hope that the Horned Frogs can score in the 40s looks misguided.     

Winner: The Joe Moorhead Era Gets Off on the Right Foot

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Mississippi State's early returns on hiring head coach Joe Moorehead to replace Dan Mullen have been exceptional. It's not clear if the Bulldogs are SEC contenders, but they successfully avoided losing a trap game against Kansas State.

    Their 31-10 win over Bill Snyder's Wildcats featured dominant running performances, as the team racked up 370 yards between running back Kylin Hill and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Hill was tremendous in Saquon Barkley's former workhorse at Penn State—where Moorehead was the offensive coordinator—rushing for 211 yards, two touchdowns and catching a 16-yard touchdown pass.

    The budding star showed nimble feet and great acceleration for a 215-pounder. He'll be a must-watch player in the SEC this year, as his ability to be more than a downhill power back is a game-changer.

    Snyder has made a career of causing more athletically gifted teams play undisciplined, but it didn't matter that the Bulldogs had nine more penalties than his Wildcats. Mississippi State's experience in the trenches paid off as they bulldozed rushing lanes on offense and stymied everything the Wildcats tried.         

Loser: The Khalil Tate Heisman Campaign

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    Two games into the year for what was supposed to be one of the nation's most dangerous offenses, the Arizona Wildcats are 0-2. Their 45-18 blowout loss to the Houston Cougars once again showed a non-functioning offense despite the presence of supreme playmaker Khalil Tate at quarterback.

    Wildcats head coach Kevin Sumlin's Air Raid attack has never looked so disjointed, and the defense hemorrhaged yards. Sumlin told's Paul Carcaterra (via Sam Khan Jr.) that Tate was dealing with an ankle injury suffered in the first half, but the game was all but over by then.

    Not all of this is on Tate's shoulders, but with two losses featuring subpar play from him, the quarterback has seen his Heisman Trophy campaign end before it really began.

    An overcorrection has neutralized Tate's running ability. He tweeted his support for a higher profile passing scheme this past offseason—which he discussed with Bleacher Report's Matt Hayesand it affected the school's decision to go with Sumlin at head coach. Instead of exploiting the running lanes created from man coverage with his legs, he's forcing passes to covered receivers as he tries to prove his passing chops.

    It's fine for the second-year starter to want to show development as a passer. But there's a balance he must find between doing what's most effective for the team and him, and that's on Sumlin to guide his growth.   

Winner: USF Receiver Terrence Horne

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    In one of the best games of the early slate, South Florida rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Georgia Tech 49-38. The contributions of freshman receiver Terrence Horne significantly helped the Bulls. He finished the game with back-to-back kickoff returns for touchdowns and a three-yard touchdown reception.

    His 98-yard and 97-yard touchdown returns in the first quarter put him in rare company. According to David Hale of ESPN, just eight players in the last decade have had 229 return yards in one game against a Power Five opponent, and Horne accomplished that in the first quarter of his second career game.

    The former 3-star prospect spurned UCF, Arizona State and others to sign with the Bulls. Every team in the country could have used a speedy return man like Horne. His performance will be one to keep in mind as the season progresses.

Loser: Antonio Reed’s Hit on Defenseless Receiver

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    The Nebraska Cornhuskers had the Colorado Buffaloes right where they wanted them on 3rd-and-24 with 1:14 left in the game. With Nebraska leading 28-27, Colorado quarterback Steven Montez airmailed a throw over the middle, and it momentarily looked like the Cornhuskers were one more stop away from winning their first game under Scott Frost.

    Instead of playing the ball, which at worst would've been a completion well short of the first-down marker had it been on target, Nebraska safety Antonio Reed blasted receiver Jay MacIntyre—and was flagged for it.

    From the unnecessary roughness penalty, the Buffaloes were awarded 15 yards, a fresh set of downs and a chance to win the game. On the next play, Montez connected with Shenault, and the rest is history. 

    The hit overshadowed a seven-sack day from the Cornhuskers defense and a solid debut from frosh quarterback Adrian Martinez. Instead, the storyline after Week 2 is how the blunder was so easily avoidable.

Winner: Kansas Jayhawks for Breaking 46-Game Road Losing Streak

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    One of the sport's longest road losing streaks finally ended Saturday as the Kansas Jayhawks defeated Central Michigan 31-7. It marked their first road win since 2009, and they were just two losses shy of tying Idaho State's record of 48 in a row.

    The victory was no fluke, as Kansas played a well-balanced game. The Jayhawks defense logged six turnovers, including four interceptions, and limited the Chippewas to 280 total yards and 23 minutes, 44 seconds with the ball.

    Meanwhile, freshman running back Pooka Williams Jr. made a resounding statement in his debut. He was unavailable for their Week 1 game but came back to post 125 yards and two touchdowns on 14 rushes. He changed the dynamic of the offense as he sped around defenders like Power Five playmakers should against lower competition.

    It's the first time in years Kansas has had a single playmaker who could lap defenders with athleticism. Head coach David Beaty is now 4-34 in his Jayhawk career.    

Loser: South Carolina and Its Mistakes

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    All hopes that the South Carolina Gamecocks had the needed firepower to hang with the Georgia Bulldogs dissipated by the midpoint of the third quarter. The Gamecocks had to play turnover-free football and control the trenches to have a chance.

    Instead, the Bulldogs' speed and Gamecocks' mistakes led to a 41-17 blowout. And it started immediately, as Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley's pass was tipped into the air, intercepted by Deandre Baker, and eventually turned into a touchdown after Baker dropped the ball at the 1-yard line. Bentley suffered from three drops in the first quarter alone, and the missed opportunities to extend drives were costly.

    Receiver Mecole Hardman further drove the stake into the Gamecocks' hopes as he took a swing pass in the flat to the house for a 34-yard touchdown because of a bad angle taken by safety J.T. Ibe.

    Ultimately, Georgia was both too efficient and explosive for South Carolina. The mistakes compounded the talent difference, and it became ugly before the fourth quarter.

Winner: Florida Atlantic and Chris Robison Bouncing Back

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    There's not much comfort for teams about to play a military institution after being exposed to a powerhouse. Lane Kiffin's Florida Atlantic Owls were tasked with facing Air Force after Oklahoma demolished them, yet they escaped thanks to the terrific performance by quarterback Chris Robison. The Air Force Falcons nearly stole the game on the back of their triple-option attack, though.

    Robison impressed despite a limited running game. Normally, running back Devin Singletary wrecks defenses with his uncanny ability to break tackles and create yards that didn't exist before contact. But the Falcons loaded the box and forced Robison to go over the top.

    His 471 yards on an 82.5 percent completion percentage formed a clinic of precision and timing. Kiffin's offense spreads the wealth to all levels of the field, relying on motion and layered routes to confuse defenders. Robison had no issues finding gaps.

    At least part of the Owls' attention will turn to UCF in two weeks, as it's unlikely Bethune-Cookman will have what it takes to pull the upset next Saturday.

Loser: Larry Fedora

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    The North Carolina Tar Heels were on the rise after head coach Larry Fedora had quarterback Marquise Williams lead his team to a stellar 11-3 record in 2015. Outside that year, Fedora's been mediocre at best, including when the team somehow went 8-5 with eventual No. 2 NFL draft pick Mitchell Trubisky. And now he's down to 3-11 in his last 14 games as his program falls apart.

    The East Carolina Pirates exploited the undisciplined Tar Heels defense in the second half, finishing the game on a 20-point unanswered run. The Pirates have gone 11-25 over the last three years, so it's not as if the competition was impossibly tough. Fedora's inability to make effective halftime adjustments and react to game trends has plagued the team throughout his tenure, which began in 2012.

    It's hard to see things getting better. UCF, Pittsburgh, Miami, Virginia Tech and Syracuse are their next five opponents. It's possible the Tar Heels could drop to 0-7 unless drastic changes are made.

    If Fedora has any tricks up his sleeve, he'll need to unleash them now to save his job.    

Winner: Anthony Johnson’s Flu-Game Heroics

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    Buffalo and Temple went down to the wire in an under-the-radar battle between teams from the MAC and AAC. The Bulls are a sneaky-fun team to watch because of their three stars, quarterback Tyree Jackson, wide receiver Anthony Johnson and edge-rusher Khalil Hodge.

    And it was Johnson who came through with a touchdown catch with 59 seconds left to break a 29-29 tie.

    What made Johnson's effort even more impressive was that he was questionable for the game because of the flu, per Josh Reed of WIVB, and his best friend was shot and killed Friday, per Paul Peck of Buffalo Sports Page. Johnson's flu game forced the Bulls to rely more on the run game than usual, and freshman Kevin Marks filled the void with 138 yards on 25 carries.

    Temple fought back, but Buffalo's star power was too strong. The Owls converted just three of their 14 third downs and coughed up three turnovers. The Bulls weren't at their best either, but they did enough to squeak out a win on the road.

Loser: Notre Dame's Quarterback Situation

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    As impressive as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were in their Week 1 victory against Michigan, quarterback Brandon Wimbush had a mediocre game. He didn't hold the unit back to the point of being a liability, but his best plays were also to be expected of a senior.

    Things imploded this week in a 24-16 win against Ball State.

    Wimbush had three interceptions total, and the two in the second half gave Ball State life. Had it not been for the Irish's defense allowing an astounding 3.6 yards per play, the Cardinals may have pulled off the upset.

    Ball State ran 97 plays compared to Notre Dame's 72, as Wimbush relied on chunk plays instead of a consistent foundation as a passer. His scattershot accuracy is a variable nearly impossible to account for in big moments.

    Notre Dame must get him into rhythm with games against Vanderbilt and Wake Forest up next. Stanford and Virginia Tech, Notre Dame's opponents after Wake Forest, won't be forgiving if Wimbush continues to struggle.     

Winner: Ohio State's Quarterback Room

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    The most amazing statistic of the day is that Ohio State quarterbacks combined for 30 completions on 33 attempts for 354 yards and five touchdowns. While it was against lowly Rutgers, it was a flawless performance in the rain by both Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell.

    Haskins has thus far matched the hype he had entering the season, and Martell looks every bit like the highly rated recruit he was. They are considerably different players, though, and that dynamic has allowed the Buckeyes to use a different offense for each. 

    Haskins has been terrific through two games, conjuring up Troy Smith memories for Buckeyes fans who've endured erratic passers since then. He can hit every throw with velocity or touch, and he rarely forces his receiver to adjust his stride to get the ball.

    Martell is a creative rusher and is willing to take big chances. His 51-yard touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin came on a third down in which he correctly identified the coverage mismatch on a "four verticals" call. He later came back in the fourth and ran 47 yards on a keeper for another touchdown.

    The Buckeyes are loaded beyond belief on offense this year after being up and down with J.T. Barrett at the helm. Bigger tests will soon arrive, though, as TCU looms next week.     

Loser: Willie Taggart

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    Phil Sears/Associated Press

    The Willie Taggart era started off with a little scheduling bad luck, as a young Florida State team was pitted against Virginia Tech. While the Seminoles looked terrible, some of that can be explained away as first-game kinks being worked out. But when those same issues plague the team against an FCS opponent the next week, there's clearly something not working so far.

    Samford Bulldogs quarterback Devlin Hodges was able to get almost any throw he wanted in Tallahassee, totaling 475 yards through the air. He also finished with four interceptions as the offense stayed pass-happy despite leading midway through the fourth quarter. Three of his picks came in the second half.

    The biggest issues for Taggart right now are a weak offensive line and secondary. Both of those areas take time to develop consistency and communication skills. With road games against Syracuse and Louisville in the next three weeks, Florida State needs to fix its weaknesses fast—or else things could get ugly in the second half of the season. 

    There's no reason the Seminoles should've narrowly won this game when they had five forced turnovers and limited Samford to 3-of-13 on third down. Their own third-down conversion rate of 4-of-14 and 3.8-yards-per-rush average highlight key areas in need of improvement.

Winner: Antoine Winfield Jr.

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    There are times when a lineage can adversely affect an athlete's career due to excessive expectations. That hasn't been the case through two games for Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. The redshirt sophomore had a 76-yard punt return touchdown in Week 1 and followed that up with one of the best interceptions I've ever seen.

    What's even more impressive about the play is that it sealed the game for the Gophers. Fresno State had the chance to send the contest into overtime with a touchdown and extra point, but Winfield ended its bid by dragging his toe before falling out of bounds with the ball in his hands.

    Winfield's father played 14 years in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings. He carved out a career as the premier run defender at the corner position. Winfield Jr. has a long way to go to match that career success, but his impact for the Gophers this season has been impressive on its own.

Winner: Kentucky

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    The gap between the Florida Gators and Kentucky Wildcats is now gone. After losing three of their last four meetings by six points or less, the Wildcats finally broke their 31-game losing streak to Gators with a 27-16 win.

    Their victory wasn't easy or devoid of uncertainty, though. The Gators may have been robbed of a field goal that would've put them down eight entering the fourth. Later, Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks somehow missed an open target for a two-point conversion that would've brought them within three points with 3:43 left in the game.

    And still, the Gators had the chance for a Hail Mary and a win. But Franks fumbled when he was hit, and the Wildcats grabbed it for a scoop-and-score touchdown.

    That's not to say the Wildcats didn't earn this one. Their offense was much more efficient, as quarterback Terry Wilson totaled three touchdowns and 256 yards. Running back Benny Snell Jr. ran over countless defenders en route to 175 yards on 27 carries.

    Kentucky was the bully in this game, and it finally got the gator-sized monkey off its back.