Guess who’s back? It’s not just Texas. Welcome to Week 2 of Saturday Superlatives, our review of the best games, performances, plays and moments of the day in college football.
Game of the Week: Texas 34, Alabama 24. In the Nick Saban era, Alabama had never lost a home game by double digits. Even when it felt like Texas was doing all the right things to pull away, I still fully expected the Tide to come all the way back because that’s just what they do. A year ago, Bryce Young put on his superhero cape and saved the day in a hard-earned win in Austin. This game seemed destined for last-minute drama.
Nope. Not this time. Texas was just too good. Scoring three fourth-quarter touchdowns was quite a feat, but not as impressive as getting the ball with 7:14 remaining and never giving it back to Bama. Now that’s the sign of a very good team. We all knew Texas had playmakers and legitimate NFL talent. Steve Sarkisian and his coaching staff had them ready to play their absolute best football. They weren’t at all intimidated on this big stage and went out and made the plays that mattered. They finally lived up to all the hype with a triumph that seriously raises expectations for not just this season but also their future in the SEC.
The Longhorns left no doubt that they’re talented and experienced enough to be a serious factor in the College Football Playoff race. They’re probably going to move into the top five of the polls this week, too. The big question, of course, is whether this squad can figure out how to sustain that level of effort week after week, keep winning close games and avoid bad letdowns in Big 12 play.
I don’t think this is a bad Alabama team by any means, but the pressure is now cranked up for Nick Saban and his team going forward. They have a lot of improvements to make and several challenging tests coming soon, starting with No. 20 Ole Miss in two weeks.
we’ve got a guy who’s got a guy 🤘
📺 https://t.co/eM6elaehSC pic.twitter.com/waKbZLhfX8
— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) September 10, 2023
Offensive Player of the Week: Texas QB Quinn Ewers. Well, now we know. We witnessed just how great Ewers can be. I had a hard time going all-in on the belief that Texas would pull off the stunner because I just wasn’t sure whether the quarterback would deliver. He had played well in some of the biggest games of his redshirt freshman season, but leading a win in Tuscaloosa required playing with big-time confidence and composure. On this night, Ewers put it all together and played up to the five-star hype: 24 of 38 passing, 349 yards, three touchdowns, no turnovers, no sacks. He got terrific performances around him from his talented supporting cast, but Ewers was truly in charge of this ballgame and executed Steve Sarkisian’s well-crafted gameplan with poise.
— Texas Longhorns (@TexasLonghorns) September 10, 2023
Best upsets: Two unranked teams took down Top 25 foes on Saturday, and both were home underdogs. No. 23 Texas A&M was a 3-point favorite against Miami but was not up to the task of stopping them. Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke had an excellent day in new coordinator Shannon Dawson’s offense, lighting up the Aggies for 374 passing yards and five TDs with no interceptions in a 48-33 victory. Texas A&M has now lost seven consecutive road games.
It’s been a rough few months for Washington State, so their 31-22 win over No. 19 Wisconsin had to feel good. Quarterback Cameron Ward (255 total yards, two TDs) and the Cougars, a 5-point underdog, jumped on the Badgers early with 24 points in the first half and managed to hang on with three critical fourth-quarter stops.
One more worthy of recognition: How about Rice knocking off Houston? The Owls got a strong performance from transfer QB JT Daniels, who tied a career high with 401 passing yards, but blew a 28-0 lead and had to go to double overtime before pulling off a 43-41 win as a 7.5-point underdog. That’s a big deal for coach Mike Bloomgren and his staff.
— Mike Bloomgren (@mbloom11) September 10, 2023
Best comeback: Utah pulled off quite an escape against future Big 12 opponent Baylor. The Utes trailed for most of the day until backup QB Nate Johnson led an 88-yard touchdown drive to tie it up with 1:59 left. Three plays later, safety Cole Bishop picked off Baylor’s Sawyer Robertson to put the offense right back in scoring position. Jaylon Glover delivered an 11-yard touchdown run with 17 seconds left to win in Waco.
HUGE INT!! Let’s go!!
— Utah Football (@Utah_Football) September 9, 2023
Heisman watch: USC’s Caleb Williams, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. and Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders all had terrific performances yet again. Ewers definitely put his name in the race with his play in Tuscaloosa. Travis Hunter, the Buffaloes’ do-it-all WR/CB, once again played a ridiculous snap count (125) and turned three catches into 73 yards. It was a good to see Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. get back to doing what he does best against Youngstown State with 160 receiving yards and two TDs on seven catches.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 9, 2023
Drive to 325 update: Iowa 20, Iowa State 13. The Hawkeyes took care of business against their rival, winning the Cy-Hawk Trophy for the seventh time in eight years. Their offense produced nine first downs, six punts, 235 total yards and 13 points on the day, but Iowa DB Sebastian Castro’s pick six does count according to the terms of coordinator Brian Ferentz’s deal. The Hawkeyes have now scored 44 points through two games and must average 25.5 points per game over the rest of the season to save Ferentz’s job. Next up on the schedule is Western Michigan, which just gave up 48 points at Syracuse.
Best pass: I’m not sure I will find a touchdown pass this season that I love more than this one. Colorado Mesa left tackle Cooper Mumford picked up a fumble on an attempted end-around, ran and then realized this was his chance to throw a 9-yard touchdown pass. That’s a 6-foot-4, 275-pound freshman making that play. The Mavericks, a Division II team, ended up pulling off a stunner with a 28-21 win over their FCS opponent in overtime.
THE O-LINEMAN SCOOPED UP THE FUMBLE AND THREW A TD 😯 pic.twitter.com/GJuIhcEMz6
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 9, 2023
Best catch: Several worthy candidates this week. I particularly enjoyed this difficult catch from Ole Miss wide receiver Dayton Wade and the backflip at the end against Tulane.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) September 9, 2023
Vanderbilt’s Will Sheppard made a similarly stunning grab in the corner of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown in a 36-20 loss to Wake Forest.
— Vanderbilt Football (@VandyFootball) September 9, 2023
Clemson’s Hamp Greene is listed at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, which makes this next catch even more impressive. He really got up for this one-hander in a 66-17 rout of Charleston Southern.
GET UP AND GET IT THEN HAMP GREENE 😮 pic.twitter.com/7raMTxnaes
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) September 9, 2023
We also need to give a shoutout to Rice receiver Luke McCaffrey for this one-handed touchdown grab in the Owls’ win over Houston.
LUKE MCCAFFERY ARE YOU KIDDING
— The American (@American_Conf) September 9, 2023
Best run: Virginia running back Mike Hollins rushed for two touchdowns in his first home game since surviving last year’s on-campus shooting. This was an awesome moment.
I’ve been coming Scott Stadium a long time, I don’t think I’ve experienced anything like the reaction to Mike Hollins’ touchdown.
— Zach Staton (@ZStatonSports) September 9, 2023
Best rushing performance: North Carolina running back Omarion Hampton had the game of his life against App State, turning 26 carries into 234 yards and three touchdowns for the No. 17 Tar Heels. They needed every one of those yards to survive a 40-34 scare in double overtime.
— Carolina Football (@UNCFootball) September 9, 2023
Best 99-yard TD: Miami (Ohio) quarterback Brett Gabbert took a shot downfield from his end zone to Gage Larvadain, who outraced three UMass defenders and tumbled in for a 99-yard score. Larvadain led all FBS receivers on Saturday with a whopping 273 receiving yards and three TDs in the 41-28 victory.
— Miami Football (@MiamiOHFootball) September 10, 2023
Best fake: Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura got his offense lined up for a spike on first-and-goal to stop the clock with 13 seconds left in the first half at Mississippi State. Then he decided to fool everyone — including his offensive line — by trying to push in for the touchdown run. And it actually worked. The Bulldogs would end up winning 31-24 in overtime.
FAKE SPIKE! 😮@jayden_delaura punches it in for a Touchdown!
📺: SEC Network pic.twitter.com/6j750HVE2I
— Arizona Football (@ArizonaFBall) September 10, 2023
Best interception: So many great options to choose from in this category. Let’s start in Georgia with this pinballed pick by Georgia linebacker Chaz Chambliss in a 45-3 win over Ball State. I don’t fully understand how a football can hit a guy in the ankle and pop up into the air like that, but it happened.
Kick pick? Kick pick‼️
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 9, 2023
Here’s another extremely difficult one to pull off by Eastern Kentucky’s Frank Lee in a 28-17 loss to Kentucky. The linebacker rushed the passer, deflected quarterback Devin Leary’s pass, watched it bounce off Leary’s helmet and then grabbed it out of the air for the takeaway.
DEFLECTION. INTERCEPTION. COLLISION COURSE!
Frank Lee with the #SCTop10 play for the Colonel defense!
— EKU Football (@EKUFootball) September 9, 2023
Liberty defensive back Brandon Bishop also deserves a shoutout for paying attention and grabbing this ball off a deflection as he ran out of bounds. The Flames would go on to beat New Mexico 33-17.
Brandon is his name, interceptions is his game pic.twitter.com/YWgdwY5Sne
— Liberty Football (@LibertyFootball) September 10, 2023
Bad beat: If you had Oregon covering a 4.5-point spread in their road game at Texas Tech on Saturday, you got a miraculous turn of events late. The Ducks were trying to hold on to a 31-30 lead in the final minute with Texas Tech near midfield. Tyler Shough dropped back, was pressured by Brandon Dorlus and was picked off by Oregon linebacker Jeffrey Bassa.
The head coach might tell you to not score in that situation so that Texas Tech doesn’t get a chance to force overtime. But this 45-yard pick six was just too easy, and the Ducks won 38-30. I bet there were a lot of folks out there toasting Bassa for saving their night.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 10, 2023
Best dance: Shedeur Sanders tried to imitate his father’s touchdown dance after punching in a rushing touchdown in the Buffaloes’ 36-14 win over Nebraska. When asked to evaluate those moves, Deion Sanders did not hold back. “It was horrible,” he said. “Because he don’t kick the feet up. He don’t want it. Shedeur is not a dancer.”
Like father, like son ✨
Shedeur Sanders imitates his father Deion’s celebration dance as Colorado pulls away from Nebraska.
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) September 9, 2023
Best t-shirt: If you want to mess with Coach Prime, you’ve gotta go through this guy. I wouldn’t recommend testing him.
Coach Prime’s bodyguard is wearing an “F Around & Find out” shirt 😅 pic.twitter.com/464eHJjPLx
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 9, 2023
Worst luck: Is it possible to return or exchange a $15 million videoboard? NC State just debuted this impressive 43-by-166-foot board (in TV measurements, that’s a 2,057-inch screen) for the home opener against Notre Dame. It shorted out after a lightning strike near Carter-Finley Stadium but eventually came back, though one large panel of it was still dark. Hopefully it came with a good warranty.
NC State’s brand new scoreboard got struck by lightning and shorted out pic.twitter.com/9xZ7WN9r42
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) September 9, 2023
Best commentary: Since the SAG-AFTRA strike is still going on and these actors currently have plenty of free time, can we please get more Matthew McConaughey with a mic on the sideline? I mean, he wouldn’t be an impartial sideline reporter, but he is entertaining.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 10, 2023
Best meme: They don’t get more perfect than this one from Ole Miss after a 37-20 comeback win over No. 24 Tulane.
— Ole Miss Athletics (@OleMissSports) September 9, 2023
(Photo: John E. Moore III / Getty Images)