College football fans can rejoice now that the season is back and in full swing. In a way, each week can seem like a season of its own. Each Saturday can be like watching the best action flick you’ve seen in a decade, one that just happens to be twelve hours long.
In an effort to kill time in the early parts of each week, we thought we could come up with a way to recognize some of each weekends most unforgettable moments, keeping in mind, not all unforgettable moments are necessarily great moments. So forget the ESPY’s, they have gotten to poltical anyways. Welcome to “The Junkie Awards.” Here we will reward the great performances, bad ones, and maybe even some flat out strange ones.
Rookie of the Week
Sam Howell- UNC QB
For those who do not follow recruiting all that closely, Howell was 4 star prospect in the 2019 recruiting class that committed to FSU in April of 2018. He was a Top 100 player overall, the number 3 dual threat QB in the country, and the 2nd best player in the state of North Carolina. Enter Mack Brown. He got Howell on campus for an unofficial in September of last year, and then an official in November. One month later on early signing day, Howell flipped to UNC and signed to play for the Tarheels. It was a monumental get for Brown, as Howell was the cornerstone of the class.
He went onto win the starting job out of camp and proved why on Saturday, as he led the Heels to a comeback 24-20 win over UofSC. After a very conservative gameplan in the first half, the Tarheel coaching staff slowly started letting Howell play, and he finished 15-24 for 245 yards and 2 TDs, both coming in the 4th quarter. Check out the highlights if you are one of the few that haven’t seen them yet, especially this throw.
Best Team Performance
Lincoln Riley made a statement about his coaching prowess on Sunday night. In just 3 quarters of action, he had Jalen Hurts bettering every outing he had as QB of the Mighty Crimson Tide. Hurts finished 20-23 for 332 yards and 3 TDs through the air. He added 176 rushing yards on just 16 carries, and 3 more TDs on the ground. It seems that whatever Riley touches turns to gold, at least as far as offensive players go anyways. Can he guide Hurts to be the Sooners third consecutive Heisman winning QB?
New Sooners defensive coordinator Alex Grinch debuted a new, more aggressive approach than what we have seen in recent years in Norman. However, once the fourth quarter was over, they had given up 31 points so the jury is still out. If this defense is improved, this team is a serious national title contender.
Worst Team Performance
Head coach Jeremy Pruitt was brought in prior to last season in an effort to lead the Vols neverending quest back to relevance. One game into his second season and Tennessee has already had one of its most embarrassing losses in recent memory. At home no less. They paid Georgia State, coming off of a 2-10 season, $900K to come into Neyland and give them an old fashioned beating 38-30. This after Phil Steele listed them as one of the nations most improved teams in the preseason. This is just the Panthers 7th season at the FBS level and they have had just one winning season, and made just 2 bowl appearances.
This loss was so bad the Vols official Twitter account went dark for almost 24 hours. It also seriously throws a wrench into what was expected to be a season that saw the team take a step forward. They got pushed around by the Panthers offensive line, giving up 213 yards on the ground, yet could only average just 3 yards per carry themselves on offense. It was glorious to watch.
Oddball of the Week
Hugh Freeze is entering his first year as head coach at Liberty. That’s right. Sleazy Hugh Freeze is head coach of a football team at an Evangelical Christian University, but that isn’t why he is winning this particular award. Freeze is recovering from back surgery that he had on August 16. Instead of stepping aside, letting his assistants do their jobs, and letting himself recover, he decided to have himself wheeled into the coaches booth in a hospital bed. That’s right, a hospital bed in the coaches booth. He gave the pregame motivational speech via Skype, then coached from the bed in the booth. All that and his team was still shutout against Syracuse. That is something we may never see again.
The Chair Award
The Chair Award will be handed out each week to someone who just needs to sit down, zip those lips, and be put in kiddie timeout.
Back at SEC Media Days, the Gamecock head coach proclaimed this to be his best team yet. Entering his fourth season at the helm, he went on to say,
“You’ve got a veteran quarterback returning. I think we’ve recruited very well. We’ve got very good quality depth on our football team. A look at our senior class and you look at guys like Bryan Edwards, who is probably going to leave South Carolina with every receiving record there is. Donell Stanely is a (three year) starter, Bryan is a four year starter, Jake (Bentley) is a four year starter.”
What happened Coach? You came into Charlotte as high as a double digit favorite over a rebuilding North Carolina team and laid an egg. UofSC led 20-9 to start the 4th quarter but watched it evaporate as the first true freshman to start a game in Tarheel history threw those two 4th quarter TDs against this best Muschamp team yet.
This Gamecock defense looked awfully similar to last seasons D, as they just couldn’t stop the run. The Heels ran early and often, rushing for 238 total yards. And there are no injury excuses to toss around after this one, not on the defensive side anyways. It does turn out that Jake Bentley was injured either during the game, on the final play, or in the locker room after the game, take your pick. The senior signal caller is now out indefinitely and has likely taken his final snap as a Gamecock. This paves the way for true freshman Ryan Hillinski to take over as this team is about to find out it has much deeper issues than who is playing QB.
Remember when an Alabama reporter asked the coach about being Clemson’s little brother? Relive it here.
Congratulations to all the winners (and losers) in our inaugural Junkie Awards. We look forward to handing out many more as the season progresses!