Winners, losers from college football Week 2

By Matt Johnson
Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 college football season is underway with the ACC and Big 12 kicking off their seasons in Week 2. While nearly every team showed a lot of rust, including top-25 programs, football fans were delighted to see games back on television Saturday, with some top-25 upsets mixed in.

We saw the action in Week 2 get started early with a clash between the BYU Cougars and Navy Midshipmen. What some hoped would be a competitive game turned into a blowout, as BYU’s defense crushed the Midshipmen into dust.

If Week 2 is any indication of what’s to come, we’ll be seeing plenty of upsets this season. The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns stunned the Iowa State Cyclones, headlining a day that saw quite a few surprising performances.

Winners, losers from Notre Dame’s Week 2 win over Duke

With the first big week of the 2020 college football schedule in the books, let’s examine the winners and losers from Week 2.

Winner: Cam’Ron Harris, running back, Miami Hurricanes

We saw flashes of explosiveness from Harris in 2019, but he was stuck behind DeeJay Dallas on the depth chart. The Hurricanes knew they had something special in this 5-foot-10 running back and it’s evident he will be a focal point of their offense this season. Given what we saw in Week 2, that is the right decision.

Harris scorched the UAB Dragons defense on seemingly every carry. He started his night with a six-yard run and kept picking up huge chunks, including a 66-yard trip to the end zone, after that. The junior racked up 134 rushing yards and two scores on the day, with Miami taking its foot off the brake in the fourth quarter holding a three-score lead. Once D’Eriq King settles in, this offense will be even more explosive.

Loser: Navy Midshipmen’s offense

If there was any doubt Malcolm Perry was a special college player, it should be erased after Navy’s season-opening loss. The passing attack has never been this program’s strength, but it was efficient with Perry at quarterback and his skills as a runner were legendary. With him now in the NFL, the Midshipmen are trying to make things work with a quarterback rotation and the results are alarming.

While Perry posted a 181.6 quarterback rating this past season, Navy quarterback Dalen Morris and Perry Olsen combined for an 81.5 rating against BYU. Even more problematic, the two quarterbacks couldn’t get anything going on the ground. Navy’s offense averaged 3.1 yards per carry and the Midshipmen failed to find the end zone for the first time since Nov. 3, 2018. It could get ugly this season for Navy.

Winner: Neal Brown, head coach, West Virginia Mountaineers

The Mountaineers had plenty of excuses to struggle in their season opener. A shortened summer with little time to practice reflected in nearly every football program showing rust in Week 2. Worse yet for the Mountaineers, they came into Saturday with 11 players suspended for violating team rules. With little time to prepare and playing without key starters and depth, West Virginia could have come out slow.

Instead, the Mountaineers exploded out of the gate to a 42-7 lead at halftime. On offense, junior quarterback Jarrett Doege picked up three first-half touchdowns, while running back Leddie Brown gashed Eastern Kentucky for three scores. Not only did West Virginia roll to a 56-10 victory, freeing up snaps for inexperienced players, it also didn’t record a turnover and dominated time of possession. That’s all a credit to Brown, who clearly has his team prepared for battle this season.

Loser: Brock Purdy, quarterback, Iowa State Cyclones

Before the summer, many talked about Purdy as a potential first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He exploded as a sophomore with 3,982 passing yards and 35 total touchdowns, which generated plenty of hype coming into 2020. If his first start this year is an indicator of what’s to come, NFL teams will avoid him.

Purdy could never find an answer for Louisiana’s defense, even with weeks to prepare for his opponent. He averaged an atrocious 4.1 yards per attempt and completed just 16-of-35 passes. The Ragin’ Cajuns did an excellent job causing all kinds of problems for the Cyclones and it got to Purdy, with only 145 passing yards on the day. He’ll have two weeks to prepare for TCU, but No. 23 Iowa State’s margin for error this season is now razor-thin before it even faces Big 12 foes.

Winner: Asante Samuel Jr, cornerback, Florida State Seminoles

If seeing this name makes you feel old, you’re not alone. Asante Samuel retired from the NFL in 2014, walking away with two Super Bowl rings, 51 interceptions and six defensive touchdowns in an incredible career. Now, his son is making the same kind of impact at Florida State.

A four-star recruit in 2018, Asante Samuel Jr. quickly became one of the top cornerbacks in college football. He put in the work this offseason to get better and we saw the results in Week 2. If he keeps this up, Samuel Jr. could be a first-round pick in 2021 and make his own legacy.

Loser: Sam Howell, quarterback, North Carolina Tar Heels

When Trevor Lawrence came out of the gate slow in 2019, he was criticized for making some poor decisions and falling a bit short of massive expectations. Entering his sophomore campaign, Howell should be held to a similar standard and he wasn’t sharp in Week 2.

Howell’s day started nicely with an 11-yard touchdown strike, but he ran into some issues in the first half. He threw an interception in the first quarter and wasn’t quite as sharp with his throws. A slow start led to North Carolina’s offense holding a 7-3 lead at halftime. When Howell returned, he threw another pick and it led to points for Syracuse. This wasn’t a terrible game. Completing 25-of-34 attempts for his 295 yards is respectable, but the bar is higher for a star quarterback with the talent to one day be the No. 1 pick in an NFL Draft.

Winner: Sincere McCormick, running back, UTSA Roadrunners

One of the best things about college football returning is the emergence of unheralded, young stars at smaller programs. McCormick didn’t attract much attention as a freshman with the Roadrunners, but the 5-foot-9 running back impressed coaches with 983 rushing yards and eight touchdowns last season. In Week 2, he put himself on the national radar.

When UTSA put the football in McMormick’s hands, great things happened. He turned Texas State’s defense into dust, burning them for 197 rushing yards on 29 carries. The sophomore also helped make life easier for dual-threat quarterback Frank Harris, who had a strong day through the air and on the ground. After setting numerous UTSA freshman records this past season, McMormick is well on his way to an even better sophomore year.

Loser: James Blackman, quarterback, Florida State Seminoles

Blackman barely clung to the starting gig in 2019, after entering the summer with plenty of hype. Under new head coach Mike Norvell, Florida State hoped Blackman would take a step forward this season and get something out of his potential. We hope reality is settling in for the Seminoles after Week 2.

Things looked promising after Florida State jumped out to a 7-0 lead, thanks to Blackman’s touchdown. Unfortunately, that was one of the few positives for this offense. Blackman completed just 23-of-43 attempts for 198 yards and the Seminoles couldn’t crack the end zone in the final three quarters. It’s not all his fault, Florida State’s offensive line is a giant turnstile, but it’s clear Norvell needs to find a long-term answer at QB1.

Winner: Trevor Lawrence, quarterback, Clemson Tigers

2020 is the year of Trevor Lawrence. It started with Clemson’s star quarterback and his fiancee raising money for COVID-19 relief, beating archaic NCAA rules in the process. He then stepped up as a leader, joining teammates in protests across campus and calling for equality. With the offseason behind him, Lawrence is showing why he’ll be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

This wasn’t one of those starts where Lawrence posted jaw-dropping statistics. He didn’t need to do it, we’ve seen it plenty on times. In Week 2, it was the breathtaking throws. Hitting receivers perfectly in stride, fitting the football in impossibly tight windows. He made the passes All-Pro quarterbacks make. Lawrence essentially declared for the NFL Draft before Week 2. But, before he leaves Clemson, he’s got the Heisman Trophy and another national championship in his sights.