College Football
Oregon's CJ Verdell, Arkansas running backs highlight Saturday's top performers
College Football

Oregon's CJ Verdell, Arkansas running backs highlight Saturday's top performers

Published Sep. 12, 2021 2:53 a.m. ET

Break out the Visine. College football fans must be seeing this wrong. Did we just witness another monumental win for a Pac-12 team against one of the top programs in college football?

Really? That just happened. Take a picture, Pac-12 fans. This is what success looks like.

It looks like CJ Verdell, bursting through a gaping hole, breaking tackle after tackle and running into the end zone for six.

It looks like Verone McKinley III stepping in front of a C.J. Stroud pass, tip-toeing the sideline and securing an interception to seal Oregon's 35-28 upset over No. 3 Ohio State.


It looks like this. A Power 5 conference, the Pac-12, that hasn’t had a team play in the College Football Playoff in five years, notching the most impressive win of the week … for the second week in a row.

Joel Klatt recaps Oregon's 35-28 win over Ohio State at The Shoe ' In the Booth

Joel Klatt breaks down the biggest storylines from Oregon’s win over Ohio State including CJ Verdell’s dominant performance, how the Oregon defense stepped up with Kayvon Thibodeaux out, and how the win is good for the Pac-12 as a whole.

While Verdell and McKinley stole the show in Oregon's memorable win on Saturday, they were just two of many individual standouts from a loaded Week 2.

Here is a look at the top individual performances from Saturday’s games.

CJ Verdell, RB, Oregon

The Oregon Ducks knew they were going to have to get a big performance from their backfield if they were going to beat Ohio State. Verdell was up for the challenge. The talented senior back carried the ball 20 times for a game-high 161 yards and two touchdowns in the Ducks' 35-28 win. Verdell also led the team with three catches for 34 yards and a score through the air. 

CJ Verdell rushes for 161 yards, three touchdowns as Oregon upsets Ohio State, 35-28

The Oregon Ducks pulled off a 35-28 upset over the Ohio State Buckeyes thanks to 161 rush yards and three total touchdowns from running back CJ Verdell.

Payton Thorne, QB, Michigan State

What happens when you complete 75% of your passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns, while also adding 19 yards and a score on the ground? For starters, you get a spot on this list. After relying on a dominant rushing attack in a Week 1 victory over Northwestern, it was redshirt freshmen QB Payton Thorne who came up big in Michigan State's 42-14 win over Youngstown State on Saturday. Thorne was outstanding from start to finish, posting the highest single-game passer rating by a Michigan State quarterback since 2000.

David Bell, WR, Purdue

When it comes to the discussion surrounding the top wide receivers in the Big Ten, Ohio State’s duo of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson have been dominating the conversation. It’s time to add David Bell to that list. The Boilermakers’ junior wide receiver was outstanding in his team’s Week 1 win over Oregon State and even better in Saturday’s commanding 49-0 route of UConn. Bell hauled in six catches for 121 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. 

Brennan Armstrong, QB, Virginia

Welcome to the 400-yard club, Brennan Armstrong! Coming off an impressive showing in Virginia’s 43-0 Week 1 win over William & Mary, Armstrong took his game to another level on Saturday. The Cavaliers’ junior signal-caller completed 27 of 36 passes for 405 yards and five touchdowns in Virginia’s 42-14 win over Illinois. Armstrong became just the third quarterback in program history to top the 400-yard mark, joining Kurt Benkert (who did it twice) and Marc Verica. Armstrong has now thrown for 744 yards and seven touchdowns through two games. Even more impressive … the Cavaliers snapped a nine-game losing streak in non-conference games against Power 5 opponents.

Luke Reimer, LB, Nebraska

It has been two years since the Nebraska Cornhuskers had won two consecutive games. That’s not a favorable stat for any program, especially one that ranks in the top 10 all-time in wins. Scott Frost’s team put an end to that streak on Saturday with a commanding 28-3 victory over Buffalo. The Cornhuskers’ defense was outstanding from start to finish, holding Buffalo to just 135 yards on the ground after the Bulls put up 312 rushing yards in Week 1. The star of the Cornhuskers defense was LB Luke Reimer, who arrived in Lincoln as a walk-on in 2019. The junior linebacker recorded a career-high 16 tackles and added an interception in the win. And the best moment of all? Buffalo was the only FBS program to offer Reimer a scholarship coming out of high school.

Verone McKinley III, DB, Oregon

College football fans were treated to plenty of outstanding plays on Saturday, but no one had a more important play than McKinley III. With Ohio State driving down the field and looking to even the score late in the fourth quarter, McKinley picked off Stroud with 2:50 remaining in the game to seal the win for the Ducks. In addition to his game-winning interception, McKinley also added six tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Zach Evans, RB, TCU

TCU fans have been waiting patiently for former five-star recruit Zach Evans to break out. He did just that on Saturday in the Horned Frogs’ 34-32 win over Cal. Evans carried the ball 22 times for a career-high 190 yards and a touchdown in the victory. His biggest run came just before halftime when he broke off an impressive 52-yard TD. With the victory, Evans and the Horned Frogs could move into the AP Top 25 for the first time since spending one week ranked back in September 2019.

Arkansas Rushing Attack

It would be a near-impossible exercise to pick just one player for this list from Arkansas’ 40-21 upset over No. 15 Texas. That’s not because there were multiple players who put up massive numbers, but because the Razorbacks didn’t have a single skill player top the 75-yard mark. That said, let’s go with the entire Arkansas rushing attack. The Razorbacks shredded the Longhorns for 333 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Trelon Smith led Arkansas with 75 yards and a touchdown, while QB KJ Jefferson added 73 yards. AJ Green, Raheim Sanders and Dominique Johnson each added a score in the victory.

Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis

The Memphis Tigers aren’t exactly known as a college football powerhouse, but when you put up more than 1,200 yards of total offense in your first two games, people are going to take notice. The Tigers put on an offensive clinic on Saturday, totaling 680 yards in a 55-50 win over Arkansas State. While you could put a number of Memphis players on this list, the one that truly stood out was Calvin Austin III. The senior wide receiver hauled in six catches for 239 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday. Austin scored on plays of 50, 55 and 75 yards. His 239-yard day was the second-highest in program history, trailing only Anthony Miller, who caught 12 passes for a school-record 250 yards in 2017.

Blake Corum, RB, Michigan

The Michigan Wolverines have found their running back. Sophomore standout Blake Corum rushed for 171 yards and three touchdowns as the Wolverines cruised to an impressive 31-10 victory over Washington on Saturday night. Corum also topped the 100-yard rushing mark in Michigan's 47-14 win over Western Michigan last weekend. As a team, the Wolverines out-rushed the Huskies 343-50. That's the first time since 2017 the Wolverines have topped the 300-yard rushing mark in consecutive games.

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