B/R's College Football Weekly Awards: Week 3
In the last 100 years, college football has boasted 14 "Game of the Century" matchups. But after Week 3 produced multiple Play of the Year candidates, I finally understand that irony.
While piecing together weekly awards, identifying a singular Play of the Week is the objective. However, if you missed Saturday's action or only watched a favorite team, you might not have seen a few stellar moments—including one game-winning Hail Mary.
Because I care about your football awareness, I want to share all of the good stuff. And so, we have three Plays of the Week.
Every Monday during the 2021 season, B/R will distribute a handful of awards. Some sections will review the previous weekend's slate, and others will preview what's to come. A few topics might be humorous or downright strange.
Along with the highlight-reel plays, we're looking at the Team of the Week, Northern Illinois' big payout and more. Let's ride.
Offensive Play of the Week: SMU's Walk-off Win
In a battle of Oklahoma quarterback transfers, a friendly bounce helped SMU's Tanner Mordecai edge Louisiana Tech's Austin Kendall.
But it took a mini-miracle for that to happen.
Late in the fourth quarter, SMU led 33-28. Kendall tossed a go-ahead touchdown, however, which gave Louisiana Tech the 34-33 edge. SMU's next possession ended in a turnover on downs, and Louisiana Tech padded its slim advantage with a field goal.
Only 36 seconds showed on the clock as Mordecai returned to the field. He connected with fellow OU transfer Grant Calcaterra for an 11-yard gain, ran for 15 yards and hit Calcaterra for 14 yards. That advanced SMU to the 33-yard line with six seconds left.
Mordecai took the snap, drifted left and lofted a prayer to the end zone—and star receiver Reggie Roberson Jr. answered it.
Defensive Play of the Week: D.J. Graham's Interception
All right, big-brain football fans. We'll talk to you first.
On 4th-and-18, it's often smarter for a defensive back to knock down the ball. Though intercepting a pass is great, the turnover might cost the offense some valuable field position. That is exactly what happened in this situation.
But, y'all. Seriously. This catch was otherworldly.
In the fourth quarter of a win over Nebraska, Oklahoma defensive back D.J. Graham made a one-handed grab while diving toward the end zone. The interception sent Fox announcers Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt into an apparent state of shock and, fittingly, ended with them cackling into a commercial break.
The moment also produced a very meme-able reaction from Sooners quarterback Spencer Rattler. He looked on from the sideline with a dropped jaw in absolute awe of Graham.
Without question, we have our early leader for Catch of the Year.
Offensive Defensive Play of the Week: Tyler Allgeier's Flying Forced Fumble
Move aside, Oklahoma and SMU. We have another Play of the Year candidate from BYU running back Tyler Allgeier.
In the last minute of the third quarter, BYU held a slim 21-17 lead on Arizona State. Since the advantage had dwindled from 14 to four, there were already nerves in Provo. The stress intensified when Jaren Hall threw a horrendous pass straight to Merlin Robertson, who sprinted down the sideline dangerously close to the end zone.
And then, Allgeier grew wings.
The star running back leaped at the 23-yard line, floated to Robertson around the 18 and punched the ball loose. Hall pounced on the loose ball, and BYU stole possession and stopped what could've been a go-ahead drive before it even started.
Allgeier's clutch play allowed BYU to keep the lead and knock off the 19th-ranked Sun Devils 27-17. He finished with 69 yards, one touchdown and that sensational forced fumble.
Team of the Week: Penn State Nittany Lions
Alabama's win at Florida deserves a nod, but Penn State's victory over Auburn cemented the Nittany Lions as a team to watch.
To begin the year, Penn State secured a 16-10 win at Wisconsin. Although the defense excelled, a rough offensive day caused a little uncertainty about the unit's upside in 2021. After smashing Ball State last weekend, the Nittany Lions entered Week 3 with a chance to reinforce that they can outlast a stout defense.
By no means was it a dominant outing. Auburn held Penn State to 92 rushing yards on 32 attempts, excluding one kneeldown. The Nittany Lions leaned on a hyper-efficient night from Sean Clifford—who went 28-of-32 for 280 yards and two touchdowns—and narrowly outgained the visitors 391-367.
But if this defense consistently plays at a high level, a competent offense may be enough for Penn State to win the Big Ten.
Panic Alarm of the Week: Florida State Seminoles
Losing to Notre Dame hurt, but few expected Florida State to win that matchup. Conversely, falling to Jacksonville State was inexcusable. And in Week 3, Wake Forest wrecked the 'Noles 35-14.
Mike Norvell's tenure is bordering on a nightmare.
For the first time since 1976, Florida State is 0-3. Worse, Norvell has a 3-9 record through 12 games. Given that Willie Taggart posted a 9-12 mark before FSU moved on, the lingering frustration is assuredly heating Norvell's proverbial seat.
Unless the 'Noles improve dramatically, get ready for a couple of months of hot-seat discussions.
Yet if the school truly has championship expectations, a continued slide in 2021 may suggest FSU cannot afford to keep Norvell around.
Payout of the Week: Northern Illinois Huskies
This weekend, Northern Illinois went to Ann Arbor for a cool $1.5 million—and to get absolutely shellacked.
After kicking a field goal on its second drive to make it 7-3, NIU didn't put up another point until the fourth quarter. Michigan, meanwhile, scored nine touchdowns.
NIU had no answers for a surging Michigan rushing attack, which racked up 373 yards on 48 attempts. Blake Corum rushed for 125 yards and three touchdowns. Donovan Edwards tallied 86, Hassan Haskins added 56, and both players scored twice. Overall, the Wolverines outgained the Huskies 606-208.
Sixty minutes and one sweet paycheck later, Northern Illinois lost 63-10.
Steve Berkowitz of USA Today noted NIU also received $1 million for its earlier trip to Georgia Tech. That game, a 22-21 victory, went a tad better for the Huskies, wouldn't you say?
Others Receiving Votes: Week 3 Rundown
Controversy of the Week: Memphis' Punt-Return TD
After the kicking team touches a punt, the receiving team could pick up the ball with no risk of a turnover. It's a strange rule that Calvin Austin III utilized perfectly, and his 94-yard touchdown ended up playing a key role in Memphis' 31-29 win over Mississippi State. However, two mistakes from the officiating crew could have and—according to the SEC—should have negated the play. Sad Clanga.
True Freshman of the Week: Jaxson Dart, USC
On USC's opening drive, quarterback Kedon Slovis exited with a game-ending neck injury. Jaxson Dart stepped in and created a quarterback controversy. Washington State built a 14-0 lead, but Dart responded and helped the Trojans score 45 unanswered points. He finished the game with 391 yards and four touchdowns.
#TeamChaos Wins of the Week
From a pure upset perspective, MAC squad Western Michigan edged ACC program Pitt 44-41. In the AP Top 25, Fresno State upended 13th-ranked UCLA. And in the FCS-over-FBS realm, Northern Arizona overcame a 13-point deficit to stun Arizona 21-19. Please give us a little more chaos, Week 4.
Best Week 4 Storylines
Week 4 has a pair of Top 25 matchups, and both contests will be played at a neutral site.
As the clock strikes noon, Notre Dame takes on Wisconsin at Soldier Field—the home of the Chicago Bears. Despite only being separated by 250 miles, they last played in 1964.
History aside, though, this is a meaningful opportunity for both programs to bolster their perception. Notre Dame is 3-0 but narrowly beat Florida State and Toledo before needing a late touchdown to put away Purdue. Wisconsin's offense had major issues finishing drives in a 16-10 season-opening loss to Penn State.
In the midafternoon window, the focus will shift to an SEC clash at the Dallas Cowboys' stadium.
Texas A&M lost quarterback Haynes King to a leg injury, but Zach Calzada played well against New Mexico in his first career start. While the Aggies are 3-0, the competition level rises substantially as they meet 3-0 Arkansas at JerryWorld.
The list of national contenders will shrink by at least two in Week 4.