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15 most jaw-dropping performances from CFB Week 1

Matt Johnson
Travis Etienne
Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

The college football season kicked off with a full slate this weekend and delivered even more action than expected. Beyond the exciting games and thrilling finishes came a flurry of jaw-dropping performances.

Our first taste of the 2019 season could be a great indicator of what to expect in the coming months. Some of the country’s best quarterbacks delivered phenomenal performances, and a few star running backs proved why they are the cream of the crop.

What makes college football truly special are the stunning stat lines fans never see coming. They often provide everyone a chance to learn about a player for the first time, and we saw plenty of that in Week 1.

Here are the 15 most jaw-dropping performances from the first week of college football action.

Travis Etienne, running back, Clemson Tigers

On a night when Trevor Lawrence didn’t play to his usual standard, Etienne proved Clemson only needs one star to shine for the offense to thrive. He kicked off his Heisman Trophy campaign in grand fashion with a 205-yard, three-touchdown game.

Etienne opened with an impressive 90-yard touchdown run that displayed his vision and outstanding speed. He later added a 14-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, then capped off his day with a 48-yard touchdown. A season-opening act of 205 rushing yards and nine missed tackles is only the beginning for Etienne.

Cedric Byrd II, wide receiver, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

Sometimes the biggest performances come from the smallest players. We certainly saw that with Byrd’s performance in Hawaii’s opener. The 5-foot-9 receiver caused headaches for Arizona’s secondary and might still be in their nightmares.

Byrd dominated the first half with three touchdowns and Arizona didn’t return from halftime with a new plan to stop him. The senior hauled in his fourth touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter and single-handedly won the game with 224 receiving yards and four trips to the end zone.

Chuba Hubbard, running back, Oklahoma State Cowboys

Oklahoma State hoped the flashes it saw in his freshman season would be a sign of things to come in 2019. If Hubbard’s performance against Oregon State is any indicator, greatness awaits for the young back.

Hubbard got to work early with a short touchdown in the first quarter then served as Oklahoma State’s hammer in the second half. He also suffocated the Beavers’ hopes of a comeback with two touchdowns in the third quarter. Hubbard finished with a career-high 221 rushing yards and is now well on his way to a 1,000-yard season.

David Woodward, linebacker, Utah State Aggies

It takes a stunning defensive outing for a player to make the jaw-dropping performance list. Utah State’s junior linebacker delivered that, and more. Woodward lived around the football against Wake Forest and posted some eye-popping statistics.

The numbers go beyond 18 solo tackles and his role in trying to make up for deficiencies on Utah State’s defense. He made a massive impact and gave his teammates opportunities with two forced fumbles and a sack. Woodward drew plenty of attention as a sophomore and is now ready to take his game to another level.

Jamie Newman, quarterback, Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Newman came out of Wake Forest’s camp with the starting job in hand and a chance to make a strong impression to start his junior campaign. He put on an even greater offensive clinic than the coaching staff could have imagined.

He stood tall in the pocket and picked Utah State’s secondary apart by completing 34-of-47 passes for 401 passing yards and four total touchdowns. Newman’s shining moment came on a late drive that he finished with a game-winning touchdown pass on fourth down. Let’s hope more greatness is in his future.

Justin Fields, quarterback, Ohio State Buckeyes

Fields faced some legitimate questions about his readiness for the season after a fairly mediocre offseason. Those questions are probably going to quiet down a lot more after he roasted Florida Atlantic’s defense.

He kicked things off on the first drive of the game by ripping off a 51-yard touchdown run to showcase his elite athleticism. Fields would then throw three touchdowns in the first quarter to get the home crowd excited. The sky is the limit for Fields in Ryan Day’s offense and this team’s ceiling will go as far as he takes it.

Isaih Pacheco, running back, Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Rutgers found itself on upset alert early against Massachusetts. Fortunately, Pacheco saved them from further embarrassment with his breakout performance. After UMass jumped out to a 14-0 lead, Pacheco cut the deficit with an early touchdown.

He then made the second quarter his own with three touchdowns in 10 minutes to give Rutgers a 38-21 lead at halftime. The sophomore entered with three career touchdowns and finished the game with 156 rushing yards and four scores in a win the program desperately needed.

Jacob Eason, quarterback, Washington Huskies

It proved to be a perfect day for former Georgia Bulldogs quarterbacks making their debuts with new programs. Eason followed up Fields’ offensive showcase with a masterpiece of his own.

He started the fireworks early with a dime on a 50-yard touchdown strike to give Washington a two-score lead. Eason kept things rolling with excellent touch throughout the day and finished with 27-of-36 passes completed for 349 yards and four scores. Now he’ll face soft matchups against California, Hawaii and BYU before a bigger test against the USC Trojans on Sept. 28.

Trey Lance, quarterback, North Dakota State Bison

North Dakota State is an FCS powerhouse program and their stretch of dominance might continue if Lance’s first collegiate start indicates what’s to come. The freshman took the field against Butler and put on a dual-threat performance fans won’t forget.

Lance set the standard for efficiency as a passer by completing 10-of-11 passes for a jaw-dropping four touchdowns and 185 passing yards. If averaging 16.8 yards per attempt isn’t enough, he also racked up 116 rushing yards and two scores on only five carries. The reigning champs must be feeling confident about their future.

Isaiah Hodgins, wide receiver, Oregon State Beavers

A team with a history of producing NFL wide receivers might have another exciting, young player ready to dominate this season. Hodgins came into the season labeled as a potential breakout candidate and lived up to the hype this week.

The junior got things rolling early with a 29-yard touchdown to give the Beavers an early lead. He later came through in the red zone for a nine-yard touchdown grab to keep his team in the game for a little while longer. While Oregon State ultimately lost, the coaching staff will be finding ways to feed him more after his 170-yard outing.

Jon Wassink, quarterback, Western Michigan Broncos

The Broncos took the field on Saturday desperately needing a jumpstart to their 2019 campaign after two disappointing seasons. Wassink got things off on the right foot by obliterating Monmouth’s secondary in a blowout win.

Western Michigan’s senior quarterback needed little time to rip Monmouth’s hopes and dreams to shreds. He picked up two early touchdowns in the first quarter and kept the pace up with five scores in the three quarters. An excellent season-opening performance from a quarterback who threw just 16 touchdowns in 2018.

Yetur Gross-Matos, defensive end, Penn State Nittany Lions

Sometimes it only takes a few drives for a player to make his impact felt before getting pulled in a blowout to preserve his game-changing ability for the rest of the season. That’s what happened to Gross-Matos in his sensational performance.

The junior pass rusher showed flashes of his abilities in 2018 by racking up eight sacks. He turned those flashes into dominance against Idaho by recording 2.5 sacks in just two quarters. It’s great to see him turning his athleticism into production, and performances like this could help him eventually become a first-round pick.

Omar Bayless, wide receiver, Arkansas State Red Wolves

A high-scoring affair on Saturday night between Southern Methodist and Arkansas State helped delivered one of the best stat lines we might see all year. Bayless made easy work of SMU’s secondary with a whopping four touchdowns.

The 6-foot-3 monster scored twice inside the 10-yard line and hauled in two 20-plus yard scores for good measure. It only took one game for him to surpass his touchdown mark from last season (two) and he should shatter his career-high (six) from 2017 in a matter of weeks.

Josh Johnson, running back, Louisiana Monroe Warhawks

In a week that features so many big rushing performances to choose from, Johnson wins out thanks to his insane efficiency. He entered the season averaging just 3.6 yards per carry for his career, but that number will skyrocket after Saturday.

It felt like he kept ripping off a huge run every time he touched the football and the box score reflected it. Johnson turned 10 carries into an unthinkable 173 yards with two touchdowns. It’s pretty incredible when a running back averages more than nine yards per carry in a game and Johnson nearly doubled that.

Jonathan Taylor, running back, Wisconsin Badgers

It is difficult to imagine a running back with 4,306 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns in two seasons could suddenly become even more dangerous. That’s precisely the case with Taylor thanks to his new role in the passing game.

Taylor’s 37-yard touchdown run on the opening drive and 158-yard, two-touchdown performance is already outstanding. It’s the two receiving touchdowns, including a spectacular catch-and-run touchdown, that made this game very special. Taylor’s Heisman Trophy campaign is already rolling with the support of the NFL’s MVP.