Week 11 of the college football season featured several upsets where the second, third and fourth ranked teams in the country were all upset, a historic moment in college football. Of the three monumental upsets, #2 Clemson's high scoring, upset loss to the unranked Pitt Panthers was by far the most exciting. Clemson came into the game featuring one of the stingiest defenses and a top three defensive line in the nation, only to be completely obliterated up front by Pittsburgh and run all over by their star back, James Conner.
While 132 yards and a touchdown may look a bit modest in comparison to some of the 200 and even 300 yards games college football has seen this season, there is something to be said about Conner making it happen despite playing against an incredibly talented Clemson defense that knew he was getting the ball and him still being able to make yards come efficiently.
Not only did Conner average 6.6 yards over his 20 carries, he made plays in the passing game catching three passes, one of which went for a 46 yard score. Conner was the X factor on offense for the Pitt Panthers and this upset would not have been possible without him. It is important, however, to credit strong days by offensive linemen Adam Bisnowaty and Dorian Johnson for road grading for Pittsburgh. Conner did a great job following their hard work to a productive day.
As many know, James Conner is back this season after battling with cancer all of last year. After a near 1800 yard rushing season in which Conner scored 26 touchdowns, he missed all of his junior season while he went through chemotherapy. This season, Conner is not only playing great football but has added another element to his game, making an impact in the passing game like has never done before in his career.
Conner is a big back, standing at 6-2 and 240 pounds, but he is a very solid athlete who moves well down hill and can make guys miss in space, with an obvious ability to run over defenders. This season, Conner has posted nearly 850 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns and 255 yards through the air for three more scores. With three more games left, it is likely Conner finishes his incredible and inspiring college career with a thousand yard season. If he can prove his health, Conner has all the makings of an NFL bell cow back.
Other performances to note...
Quinton Flowers, QB, USF: Quinton Flowers is the best quarterback you've never heard of. The six foot, 210 pound junior signal caller may be smaller, but he is a legit weapon at the college level. Flowers passed for 260 yards and two touchdowns against Memphis last weekend, but his rushing for 210 more yards and three scores is what helped USF beat Memphis in a shootout. That was Flowers fifth game of the season where he rushed for over 100 yards and his third where he rushed for over 150. Many will question Flowers' projection to the NFL and it is a wonder if he even decides to declare after this season, but there is no doubt that he is a dynamic football player to keep an eye on.
Adoree Jackson, CB, USC: In last week's "Game of the Week", I highlighted the importance of Adoree Jackson's perfroamcne against Washington's star, John Ross. The match up lived up to the hype, with the two incredible athletes going back and forth all day. While Ross won a battle, making Jackson fall over himself when Ross beautifully released from the line and scored on what was basically an uncontested touchdown, Jackson won the war. Jackson limited Ross a lot more than the stat sheet may indicate and Jackson was able to make two great interceptions to help USC pull the big upset. Jackson is a lot more than just an athlete, he looks like a legitimate NFL quarterback and his performance against Washington's potent offense proves that.
Mason Rudolph, QB, OSU: After starting the season rather underwhelming, Mason Rudolph has played some outstanding football in the last few weeks. This week he faced TTU's swiss cheese defense and unsurprisingly rained down hellfire on them, throwing for nearly 400 yards at 14 yards per attempt. Rudolph has looked outstanding as a downfield passer this season and figures to be in the conversation as a potential first round pick this spring.
Akrum Wadley, RB, Iowa: Another running back who keyed one of the top four upsets last weekend, Akrum Wadley deserves recognition for his performance against an incredibly tough Michigan defense. The Iowa offense played abysmally, with their quarterback passing for only 66 yards. However, 52 of those yards were to Wadley and the 192 pound running back put up another 115 yards rushing up on the ground at 5 yards a pop. Wadley is a creative back who can make guys miss and that was important to make something happen when Michigan was constantly clamping down on Iowa. It will be exciting to see Wadley get a chance in the NFL with real offenses.