As the intensity of every weekend in college football heats up, especially with the arrival of some rivalry games, so do the performances from the country’s top athletes.
Week 12 of the college football season delivered everything fans could hope for. A weekend with thrilling clashes between heated rivals and exciting conference matchups delivered some truly outstanding player performances.
A week after passing attacks stole the show in Week 11, we saw dominant running games become the theme this weekend. Here are the 15 most jaw-dropping performances from Week 12 of the college football season.
Shaq Vann, running back, Eastern Michigan Eagles
After two consecutive weeks of dominance by quarterback Mason Fine, Eastern Michigan switched things up on Tuesday. Vann became the focal point of the Eagles’ offense and repeatedly drove through Akron’s defense.
While the senior didn’t rip off a single run over 20 yards in the matchup, he made each of his 28 carries count. Vann used his 222-pound, 5-foot-10 frame to drive through tackles and finish with 142 yards. He also made four trips to the end zone, easily carrying the Eagles to a 42-14 victory.
Dedrick Mills, running back, Nebraska Cornhuskers
Very few things have gone right for Nebraska this season, especially at running back. Down to its No. 3 back and now needing to rely on him heavily, Mills gave this program everything it could dream of on Saturday against Wisconsin.
A matchup against the Badgers isn’t easy, either. Wisconsin’s defense entered allowing the fifth-fewest rushing yards (84.4) per game in the FBS. Mills blew past that mark before halftime. He finished with 188 rushing yards and a touchdown on only 18 carries against one of the nation’s best run defenses. While the Cornhuskers fell short, Mills did everything in his power to win.
Kelvin Hopkins Jr., quarterback, Army Black Knights
A week after the Black Knights blew the doors off UMass’ defense, the offense repeated its dominant efforts this weekend against the Virginia Military Institute. Specifically, Army’s senior quarterback led his team to victory.
Hopkins Jr.’s speed and elusiveness were far too much for VMI to handle. He showed his special abilities on nearly every carry by turning 16 touches into a career-high 208 rushing yards. Now with the Black Knights’ offense finding its rhythm, Hopkins Jr. can keep the fireworks going with a trip to Hawaii on Nov. 30.
Jett Duffey, quarterback, Texas Tech Red Raiders
If the Red Raiders wanted any shot at competing with TCU on Saturday, it needed Duffey to put on a career performance. The junior put Texas Tech on his back and nearly led it to an incredible victory.
TCU jumped out to a 24-3 lead in the second quarter and everyone thought this contest would be a blowout. One throw gave the Red Raiders new life as Duffey emulated Patrick Mahomes with an unbelievable touchdown pass. Duffey made the game close at halftime, then threw three touchdowns in the third quarter to take the lead. While Texas Tech lost a heartbreaker 33-31, the junior’s four-touchdown, 331-yard performance stood out for its pure excellence.
Evan Hull, running back, Northwestern Wildcats
Hull came into this matchup relatively unknown. The true freshman, a three-star recruit, received only eight carries in two games. Injuries forced him into a prominent role against UMass and the freshman put on a show.
Northwestern struggled out of the gate without a score until blocking a field goal and returning it for a score. That sparked something for the offense. Hull scored two touchdowns late in the second quarter and ripped off some big runs in the second half. He finished with 220 rushing yards and four scores, proving he needs to be a fixture in this offense moving forward.
Jonathan Taylor, running back, Wisconsin Badgers
Taylor came out of the loss to Ohio State frustrated with his underwhelming 52-yard performance. It felt like a certainty that he’d take out his frustration on opponents and we’ve seen precisely that in the past two games.
While he didn’t quite reach the 250-yard mark, which he accomplished in Week 11, Taylor still found a way to make this game special. The junior blew past Herschel Walker’s collegiate record for rushing yards by a junior on his way to another 200-yard, two-touchdown day. Now with 5,634 rushing yards and 50 total touchdowns in his career, Taylor can add to his record in the weeks to come.
Quincy Roche, defensive end, Temple Owls
A week after delivering a jaw-dropping defensive performance against South Florida, Roche put on an even better defensive clinic this weekend. The junior ripped through Tulane’s offensive line with ease throughout the day. He racked up three sacks, giving him 6.5 sacks in his last two games, and set a conference record with six tackles for loss.
Shea Patterson, quarterback, Michigan Wolverines
Patterson came to Michigan as one of the most hyped transfer players in years. While he hasn’t lived up to the grand expectations at Michigan, he overwhelmed the Spartans’ defense on Saturday and delivered a big win.
The senior delivered a nearly perfect performance against one of Michigan’s biggest rivals. He completed 24-of-33 attempts for 384 yards, four touchdowns and a season-best 210.5 quarterback rating. Given the opponent and overall numbers, it’s arguably his best performance since he came to Michigan.
Chase Claypool, wide receiver, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Many expected a clash against Navy to be a trap game for the Fighting Irish, especially given the team’s recent offensive woes. Instead, Notre Dame flipped the script in Week 12 and Claypool played a crucial role in it all.
The 6-foot-4 senior started his eye-popping performance with a seven-yard touchdown to open the scoring. Claypool then turned on the jets to beat Navy’s secondary deep with a 47-yard touchdown. He added a third red-zone touchdown in the second quarter before ending his day with a 20-yard score to give him 117 receiving yards and four touchdowns in three quarters.
Kaleb Barker, quarterback, Troy Trojans
Troy’s passing offense is routinely a treat to watch and it took the fireworks show to an even more entertaining level this weekend. Barker took the Trojans’ aerial attack to Texas and put on a show against the Bobcats’ secondary. The senior put on an outstanding display with precision passing and a willingness to get everyone involved. He completed a pass to 11 different receivers to fuel his way to a six-touchdown, 363-yard performance and a decisive 63-27 victory.
A.J. Epenesa, defensive end, Iowa Hawkeyes
Epenesa entered 2019 as a consensus top-15 NFL Draft prospect with a chance to improve his stock with a dominant year. Surprisingly, his season started on a quiet note. Now, he’s coming alive and he created havoc off the edge against Minnesota.
Even when Epenesa didn’t hit quarterback Tanner Morgan, he lived in his head and created opportunities for his fellow defenders to create pressure. Of course, the 6-foot-6 disruptor found his way to the quarterback, including on Minnesota’s failed game-winning drive, and finished with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. One of the nation’s best players is once again impressing the NFL community.
Anthony Gordon, quarterback, Washington State Cougars
Quarterbacks in Mike Leach’s offense always have an opportunity to do something great and now Gordon is the one thriving in this system. After a rough stretch in consecutive losses, the senior came alive on Saturday against Stanford.
Gordon cut through Stanford’s secondary like an electric chainsaw slices through twigs. He completed 44-of-60 attempts, threw five touchdowns and hit 520 passing yards on the night. It marks Gordon’s third game 500-plus yards this season and his next touchdown pass will be his 40th this year.
John Rhys Plumlee, quarterback, Ole Miss Rebels
The LSU-Ole Miss matchup seemed like the perfect opportunity for Joe Burrow to add to his Heisman Trophy-worthy resume. While he certainly impressed for most of the night, it’s the quarterback on the other side who stole the show.
Plumlee’s epic night changed the way we look at LSU’s defense. He rushed for 212 yards with four touchdowns and added 123 yards through the air. The freshman also became the first quarterback to rush for 200 yards against the AP’s No. 1 team since Vince Young’s iconic Rose Bowl performance. Just watch his incredible 60-yard touchdown run and you’ll understand why he’s the future in the SEC.
Ja’Marr Chase, wide receiver, LSU Tigers
LSU needed its offense to have a big night and Burrow’s connection with Chase led the way to another victory. The Tigers’ sophomore receiver continued his record-breaking season with another monster night on the gridiron.
Chase did plenty of damage early with a 34-yard score in the first quarter and a gorgeous 51-yard touchdown in the second quarter. He then gave his teammates opportunities to shine in the third quarter. When LSU needed to put the game away, Chase turned a quick slant into a 61-yard score to sink the Rebels. He finished with 227 receiving yards, three touchdowns and set LSU’s single-season record with his 13th receiving touchdown as well.
Jalen Hurts, quarterback, Oklahoma Sooners
Hurts took the field on Saturday for Oklahoma’s most important game in a difficult spot. It’s one thing to travel to Waco and face No. 13 Baylor on the road and it’s an even greater challenge to do it without the nation’s best receiver, CeeDee Lamb.
Oklahoma’s offense struggled early without Lamb and quickly found itself in a hole. Trailing 28-3 midway through the second quarter, Hurts needed to accomplish a historic comeback.
He carried the offense more than ever before and stepped up in the clutch. Hurts led the game-winning drive, finished with 297 passing yards, four touchdowns and 114 rushing yards. Meanwhile, he ended Baylor’s perfect season in the process.