Saturday, September 7, 2013

College FB '13 Dread News - Week 1

Two of the very best players with dreads in college football were on the national stage last Saturday night as Georgia and Clemson - schools just 75 miles apart - met for the first time in 10 years. Not only two of the best players with dreads, Georgia sophomore RB Todd Gurley and Clemson junior WR Sammy Watkins are two of the best players period, and they did not disappoint in a game ESPN saved to be telecast in primetime on ABC. There were 4 ties and 2 lead changes, and in the end Clemson held on for a 38-35 home victory in a battle of two teams that coming into the game had realistic dreams of going undefeated this season. But only Clemson's dream remains alive after the Tigers beat the Bulldogs for the first time in 23 years. The game lived up to its billing as a matchup of two high-powered offenses against two mediocre defenses. More than 1,000 total yards were amassed by the two offenses, with Georgia finishing with a 545-467 advantage. And to the surprise of nobody Gurley and Watkins accounted for more than one fourth of those yards.

Gurley struck first. On the first play following the kickoff after Clemson took a 7-0 lead he took a pitch, broke through the line untouched behind great blocking and into the clear. Only S Robert Smith had a chance to stop him, but Gurley sped right past him and took it 75 yards to the house (photo below) to tie the game. I hardly watched Georgia at all last season, so I didn't know Gurley was that fast. But then a couple of days later it suddenly hit me - "Of course he's that fast .... duh .... track team." I somehow had forgotten the article I had read only a few days earlier about how Gurley and fellow RB Keith Marshall had wanted to join the Georgia track team for the indoor season last winter. But being freshmen, they apparently hadn't heard that the UGA track coach insists that his athletes do not have long hair; or maybe they did know about it but thought the coach would give them a pass. When the coach refused to bend his rule, Gurley and Marshall both said, "Thanks, but no thanks. We don't want to run track that bad. We're keeping our dreads."Anyway, with the speed he showed on that play, the 220-pound Gurley convinced me that he has an NFL career in his future, likely as soon as 2015.

The game didn't stay tied for long - because Watkins answered Gurley's TD on the first play of Clemson's next drive. After catching a short pass, Watkins broke a tackle (top photo on right) and then with other defenders closing in showed great acceleration to get away from them (middle photo) , broke into the clear and showed off his great speed (bottom photo) as he took it in for a 77-yard TD. The play was vintage Sammy Watkins - the kind of play he made often during his freshman season in 2011 but very infrequently during his disappointing sophomore year. If he can stay healthy, Sammy might break some records this season.

At that point it was 14-7, and barely 6 minutes had been played. But then some rain fell (figuratively, not literally) on this parade. On Georgia's next drive, no sooner had ESPN announcer Brent Musburger declared Gurley a Heisman Trophy candidate, he limped off the field with a leg injury suffered while being tackled. Fortunately the injury to his thigh was not serious enough to keep him out of the game for long. When Marshall ended that drive with a TD run, that made it 3 TD by players with dreads already in the first 11 minutes of the game. The Bulldogs scored again on their next drive to take a 21-14 lead early in the 2nd quarter before the defenses finally started playing better.

For all of the offense both teams showed, the difference in the outcome was actually the special teams. Georgia paid for a crucial special teams error, but Clemson got away with their two big mistakes on special teams. With Clemson having regained the lead 31-28, the Bulldogs drove 70 yards - featuring a 35-yard reception by sophomore WR Chris Conley - to the 5-yard line late in the 3rd. But after three runs gained just 3 yards, the Bulldogs lined up for an easy FG attempt on 4th down. The snap was bad, however, and the holder ended up being tackled without the kick being attempted. And as it turned out, Georgia ended up trailing for the rest of the game.

The first of Clemson's two errors came late in the 2nd quarter, when Watkins muffed a Georgia punt, with the Dawgs recovering at the Clemson 30. But on the very next play the Tigers got the ball right back with an INT. The other play came with 6 minutes remaining in the game and Clemson up 38-28. A punt by Georgia hit the ground and was bouncing toward the end zone; but instead of getting away from the ball, a Clemson player (stupidly) decided to block one of the Georgia players covering the kick. Sure enough, the ball touched the Clemson player and kept rolling into the middle of the end zone. It looked like it was going to be a TD for Georgia or at the very least a safety. But then out of nowhere senior CB C.J. Jones swooped in and saved the day for the Tigers, not only getting to the loose ball first, but scooping it up and returning it out of the end zone to the 9-yard line. No TD, no safety, disaster avoided. Nice job, C.J., you just earned your scholarship for the whole year with that one play. 
Marshall, whose dreads you could only see when he took his helmet off on the sideline, finished with 71 total yards for UGA. Conley had 3 catches for 67 yards. Conley figures to see more playing time in the weeks ahead because the Bulldogs' best receiver, Malcolm Mitchell, incredibly tore his ACL while celebrating Gurley's TD (wow). Sick junior LB Ramik Wilson (photo above) had a game high 13 tackles (2-11). And sick senior LB T.J. Stripling? He's still playing only on special teams, still not good enough to be on the field with the defense.

For Clemson  senior LB Quandon Christian had 3 tackles (2-1). Junior DT Tavaris Barnes had 2 tackles (2-0), one of which was a sack. Sophomore RB Zac Brooks gained 51 total yards, including a nice over-the-shoulder catch (photo above) for a 31-yard TD. Of course, it would have looked even nicer if Zac hadn't had his dreads reduced. Junior WR Martavis Bryant (0 receptions) struggled but at least had a good finish when he recovered an onside kickoff after Georgia scored a TD with 1:19 to play, allowing the Tigers to run out the clock. 

There were even more total yards (1,080) and more points (103) at Fresno than there were at Clemson. But of the 13 touchdowns scored in Fresno State's 52-51 overtime victory over Rutgers, the only one by a player with dreads came in the 1st quarter when freshman WR Janarion Grant, touching the ball for the first time in a Rutgers uniform, took a kickoff return 100 yards to the house to tie the game at 7 after Fresno State started the game with a 74-yard TD drive. Unfortunately for Grant he didn't enjoy similar success returning punts, as he was charged with 2 fumbles, one of which was a turnover.
For Fresno State senior WR Isaiah Burse averaged only 9.1 yards per catch. but he made enough receptions to make the dread stars list. And who was that #89 with dreads in a Bulldogs uniform? I was more than a bit surprised when I saw that it was the same #89 as last year - TE Marcel Jensen (photo above). I had Jensen listed as a senior last year; but evidently he wasn't. He finished the game with 2 catches for 25 yards.
I was similarly surprised while watching Louisville dismantle Ohio U 49-7 in their season opener on Labor Day when I noticed that senior RB Senorise Perry was still playing for Louisville (photo above). But that's just my bad. For some reason I thought he was a senior last year even though I had him listed as a junior in my book. Perry's a senior for sure now, and in his first game back after recovering from ACL knee surgery he rushed for 58 yards on 13 carries. Louisville looked awfully good against a not-bad Ohio team; so maybe the Cardinals are getting ready to do something really special this season.

I have a correction to make. In dread gallery 148 I mentioned that ODU junior CB Eriq Lewis had been added to the ex-dread list. But after watching the Monarchs open the season at East Carolina, I see I was wrong. He still has his dreads - well, only a few of them actually. All the dreads on the side of his head are gone, so he now looks like Dashon Goldson. He played like Goldson (a Pro Bowl safety in the NFL) too on Saturday night, although overall the ODU defense still stinks. ODU, beginning their 2-year transition to the FBS (meaning they are ineligible to go to a bowl game until 2015), scored 38 points. But they didn't even come close to winning because East Carolina scored 52.
Lewis (photo above) had 5 tackles (4-1), and 3.5 of them were TFL, including 1.5 sacks - the first sacks of his career. In addition to being disappointed with Lewis' partial dreads I was disappointed that sick senior WR Marquel Thomas was on the field with his dreads reduced. Yo Marquel, you won't repeat as a selection on my dread all-America team with reduced dreads. Hopefully after catching 1 pass for 3 yards, he'll have those awesome dreads flowly freely next week. Senior RB Colby Goodwyn rushed for 29 yards and 1 TD and had 7 catches for 73 yards for the Monarchs.

The game would have tied for this week's house of dread award if not for a fumble by ECU senior RB Vintavious Cooper just as he was about to score. A teammate recovered the ball for a TD, getting Cooper off the hook. But he finished the game with 0 TD along with 52 total yards. Playing his first game in an East Carolina uniform, freshman WR Davon Grayson pulled off the unusual feet of making the dread stars list with only 28 total yards gained. That's because of his 4 reception, three went for TDs.

I wanted to catch some of the Miami (Ohio) at Marshall game, but I was concentrating so much on the Clemson and ODU games on at the same time that I forgot about the two MUs. Big mistake. I missed out on seeing the sick dreads of Miami senior CB Dayonne Nunley, who had 6 tackles (3-3) and 3 PBU in the game, as well the sick dreads of redshirt freshman Rokeem Williams, who debuted with 3 catches for 77 yards. But what I really missed was the debut in a Marshall uniform of senior WR Devon Smith. You may recall that I excitedly did a feature on Smith back in 2009, after he had signed to play for Penn State. But after he cut off his dreads (because he was forced to??) before ever playing his first game for the Nittany Lions, I lost interest. I'm happy to report that after sitting out last season after his transfer to Marshall, the dreads are back! And in his first game for the Thundering Herd he had 7 punt returns for 70 yards and 3 catches for 75 yards, including a 54-yard TD (on which he beat junior CB Jarrell Jones). I know he's tiny (even smaller than Travis Benjamin), but Devon has blazing speed; and if he has more performances the rest of the season like the one last Saturday, he just might get a shot at the NFL next year. Marshall opened with an impressive 52-14 demolition of Miami.


LSU has another RB with dreads, and apparently he's a good one; taking the place of Spencer Ware (now in the NFL without dreads), junior Terrence Magee rushed for 95 yards and 2 TD, barely missing the dread stars list, in a 37-27 win over TCU ...... Baylor senior WR Tevin Reese also barely missed the dread stars list, catching 5 passes for 97 yards and 1 TD in a 69-3 slaughter of Wofford ..... Junior RB Trayion Durham rushed for 92 yards on 21 carries as Kent State opened with a tougher than expected 17-10 home win over Liberty ..... Sophomore WR Ronald Carswell had a 69-yard TD catch for West Virginia to tie the game at 17 late in the 3rd quarter, and WVU went on to avoid an embarrassing defeat with a 24-17 home win over William & Mary ..... Sophomore CB Maurice Canady had a team-leading 13 tackles (9-4) and 1 PBU for Virginia in a big 19-16 home win over BYU ..... 

..... Sophomore RB Travis Greene had 88 yards rushing, and senior S BooBoo Gates had 7 tackles (5-2), 1 TFL, 1 FF, and 1 FR as Bowling Green whipped defending CUSA champ Tulsa 34-7 ..... Junior CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun took an INT return 89 yards to the house for his 1st TD in a Minnesota uniform in a 51-23 home win over UNLV ..... Junior S Adrian Witty took his 1st INT in a Cincinnati uniform 41 yards to the house in a 42-7 home rout of Purdue ..... Senior WR Kyle Griswould took a punt return 57 yards to the house to give MTSU a 21-0 lead late in the 1st quarter, and the Blue Raiders went on to beat western Carolina 45-24 ..... And junior WR D.D. Goodson gained 75 total yards on 6 touches, including an 18-yard TD catch (photos above) - his 1st TD in a Colorado uniform - as the Buffaloes, 1-11 last season and now under new management, defeated Colorado State 41-27 at Denver. But D.D.? What's up with those dreads? Please get them back to normal ASAP.


You know, putting together DG149 last weekend took a lot longer than I was hoping. So I didn't have time to go through the recaps of all the Division 1 games. In fact, at least half the games from Week 1 I still haven't gotten to yet, including almost all of the FCS games. So I don't have much on the FCS this week. Hopefully I'll be back on schedule next week.

It was a very good week for several of the FCS's top programs. Two-time defending champ North Dakota State wasted no time letting it be known they might be better than ever in 2013. The Bison opened with a 24-21 road victory over Kansas State. That's right, the same K-State that played in the Fiesta Bowl last season. Senior RB Sam Ojuri (photo below) made the dread stars list, averaging more than 12 yards per carry in the game. And senior CB Marcus Williams, likely to be in the NFL at this time next year, had an INT - the 19th of his career. With each INT this season Williams will continue to increase the school record (which he already holds) for career interceptions.  
No less impressive was Eastern Washington (a semi-finalist last year), going on the road and defeating Oregon State of the Pac 12 (another team that played in a bowl last season). Last season the Eagles had a pair of RBs with dreads who had more than 1,100 yards rushing and 14 TD between them. But don't expect a repeat of that this season. Quincy Forte (who cut his dreads off) and Demitrius Bronson (who still has his dreads) didn't play much (if at all) in EWU's wild 49-46 win over Oregon State, a game in which the Eagles racked up 625 total yards ..... Also, Towson won at Connecticut 33-18, Eastern Illinois flew out to California and embarrassed San Diego State 40-19, and McNeese State not only defeated South Florida, they crushed South Florida 53-21 (wow, are the Bulls really that bad?)

Probably the best news from the FCS was finding out that Morgan State's starting RB has dreads - and he's a freshman no less. Lamont Brown rushed for 75 yards on 19 carries in MSU's 28-12 road loss to Army ..... Senior RB Marcus Washington rushed for 40 yards and had 11 catches for 92 yards, almost making the dread stars list; but Nicholls State was annihilated by Oregon 66-3 ..... Villanova sophomore WR Jamal Abdur-Rahman (whose photo on the VU website shows him with short dreads, but I haven't confirmed that yet) caught 4 passes for 41 yards and ran 47 yards to the house on a highlight reel fake punt, but the Wildcats lost to Boston College 24-14 ..... And I watched most of the MEAC/SWAC Challenge between Mississippi Valley State and Florida A&M. But with MVSU being a bit challenged offensively, it made for kind of a dull game. MVSU senior WR Kenneth Dabney, whose dreads are trying for a repeat appearance on my dread all-America team, had a tough day, finishing with 0 receptions. And senior S Kevin Eugene, also trying to repeat on my dread all-America team, had 2 tackles (2-0) and 1 PBU. For FAMU, junior WR Lenworth Lennon almost made the dread stars lists, finishing with 4 catches for 85 yards in the Rattlers' 27-10 victory.

1. Junior WR Rannell Hall gets past Akron LB Jatavis Brown as he runs after the catch for a 19-yard TD, giving UCF a 14-0 lead late in 1st quarter at Orlando on Aug. 29. Hall finished with 3 catches for 54 yards.

2. Sophomore WR Breshad Perriman can't make the catch as the pass is broken up by sick junior CB Donte Williams on 3rd and 10 late in 2nd quarter. UCF kicked a FG on the next play to up their lead to 24-0. Earlier in the game Perriman, on the 2nd play from scrimmage, put his name in the UCF record book, as his 91-yard TD catch was the longest play from scrimmage in school history. The Knights went on to defeat Akron 38-7. 

3. Junior WR Bradley Marquez beats CB Kenneth Acker for a 20-yard TD catch, giving Texas Tech a 20-9 lead over SMU midway through 3rd quarter at Dallas on Aug. 30. Marquez finished with 6 catches for 56 yards as the Red Raiders won 41-23.

4. Junior S Josh Shaw takes an INT return 35 yards to the house to give USC a 17-5 lead late in 2nd quarter on Aug. 29 at Honolulu. Shaw also had 2 tackles (2-0) and 1 TFL as the Trojans opened with a 30-13 road win over Hawaii.

 5. Trying to pick up the 1st down on 3rd and 12, Western Kentucky RB Antonio Andrews is stopped short and fumbles the ball too as he is hit by sophomore LB Khalid Henderson midway through 1st quarter at Nashville on Aug. 31. Kentucky recovered the fumble at the WKU 41-yard line, and the ensuing drive resulted in a FG to cut WKU's lead to 7-3. Henderson finished with 10 tackles (4-6), but UK fell to WKU 35-26.

6. Freshman LB T.J. Simmons of Indiana tackles RB Shakir Bell of Indiana State during 1st quarter on Aug. 29. Simmons, a true freshman, led the Hoosiers with 9 tackles (4-5) in his debut as IU routed ISU 73-35. 

7. Three players with sick dreads are pictured in this shot of WR Sammy Watkins' 77-yard catch and run during 1st quarter on Aug. 31. Trailing behing Watkins is Clemson RB Zac Brooks, and further back is Georgia LB Ramik Wilson. Just for fun this season, let's keep track of Watkins' weekly 'attendance' on the dread stars list. He's 1 for 1 after his 100+-yard receiving game in a big 38-35 win over Georgia.

 8. After Arkansas CB Tevin Mitchel grabbed his facemask trying to make the tackle, junior WR Jamal Robinson responded by delivering an elbow to Mitchell's chops during Louisiana-Lafayette's first drive of the game on Aug. 31. The 8-yard reception plus 15-yard penalty moved the ball to the Arkansas 19-yard line, but the drive ended with a missed 27-yard FG. Robinson finished with 4 catches for 33 yards in the Ragin Cajuns' 34-14 road loss. 

9. Senior WR Lamar Scruggs of North Carolina Central is in for a rough landing as he is undercut by Duke S Dwayne Norton after making his only reception of the day late in 2nd quarter on Aug. 31. Scruggs' 24-yard reception converted a 3rd and 11, and NCCU picked up 2 more first downs on the drive before it ended with a missed FG attempt. Duke rolled to a 45-0 victory.

10, Rutgers LB Steve Longa unsuccessfully tries to strip the ball from Fresno State senior WR Isaiah Burse while making the tackle during 1st quarter at Fresno on Aug. 29. Burse kept his dreads restrained in most of the games last season. But if he's going to turn them loose like this all year, he'll be on my dread all-America team.

11. Figuring that Maryland would never throw the ball to him, FIU didn't bother to cover freshman FB Kenneth Goins, and he is all by his lonesome as he makes a 17-yard TD catch, increasing the Terrapins' lead to 26-10 midway through 2nd quarter on Aug. 31. It was Goins' only touch of the day. Maryland jumped to a 40-10 lead at halftime and cruised to a 43-10 home win over FIU.

12. Last season you may have noticed Jalen Overstreet doing the headset and clipboard thing as a QB while redshirting during his freshman season at Texas. Now he's a RB, and he had an impressive debut last Saturday, although it was in garbage time. Here Overstreet, after diving to avoid a defender at the 2-yard line, falls into the end zone to finish off a 38-yard run with 1:26 remaining at Austin. Overstreet, who according to his bio on the Texas website is a cousin of Oakland Raiders WR Denarius Moore, rushed for 92 yards and 2 TD on 9 carries in his first game in a Texas uniform as the Longhorns walloped New Mexico State 56-7. I may have to start watching Texas games now.

FYI: The honors section for Week 1 is incomplete. I'll make additions to the dread stars list and changes to the house of dread and head dread if necessary after I check the rest of the games (which ain't gonna be anytime soon).

  • Sammy Watkins - Clemson - 6 catches for 127 yards, including 77-yard TD, in 38-35 home win over Georgia
  • Breshad Perriman - UCF - 3 catches for 113 yards, including 91-yard TD that sets new record for longest play from scrimmage in UCF history, in 38-7 home W over Akron
  • Melvin Gordon - Wisconsin - 13 carries for 144 yards rushing, including 70-yard TD, in easy 45-0 home W over Massachusetts
  • Alex Collins - Arkansas - 21 carries for 131 yards rushing in first game in Arkansas uniform in 34-14 home W over Louisiana-Lafayette

  • Ryan Jackson - Houston - 120 yards and 2 TD rushing on 10 carries in 62-13 blowout of Southern U
  • Tre Mason - Auburn - 15 carries for 73 yards and 1 TD rushing, also took kickoff return 100 yards to the house in 31-24 home W over Washington State
  • Davon Grayson - East Carolina - 4 receptions for 28 yards and 3 TD in ECU debut in 52-38 home W over ODU
  • Isaiah Burse - Fresno State - 13 catches for 118 yards, and 3 punt returns for 47 yards in 52-51 home W in OT over Rutgers

  • Todd Gurley - Georgia - named SEC offensive player of the week - 12 carries for career high 155 yards and 2 TD rushing in tough 38-35 road L to Clemson
  • Geremy Davis - Connecticut - 5 receptions for 100 yards in 33-18 home L to Towson
  • Trey Edmunds (I think those are dreads) - Virginia Tech - 20 carries for 132 yards rushing, including 77-yard TD, in 35-10 L to Alabama
  • Shaquille Murray-Lawrence - UNLV - 108 yards rushing on just 4 carries in 51-23 road L to Minnesota
  • Darius Joseph - SMU - 11 receptions for 103 yards in 41-23 home L to Texas Tech

  • Sam Ojuri - North Dakota State - 10 carries for 127 yards rushing in 24-21 road W over Kansas State
  • Jordan Harris - Bryant - 6 catches for 127 yards, including gains of 45 and 10 yards on drive for late game-winning FG, in 17-16 home W over Holy Cross
  • Dominique Swope - Georgia Sourthern - 100 yards and 2 TD rushing on 17 carries in 77-9 blowout home W over Savannah State
  • Gus Johnson - Stephen F. Austin - 24 carries for 110 yards and 1 TD rushing, also 4 catches for 35 yards in 50-40 road L to Weber State

For the first time and probably not the last time this season the house of dread is the end zone at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, SC. There were 5 TD by players with dreads in Clemson's 38-35 victory over Georgia. And considering 3 of those came in the 1st quarter, it's kind of disappointing there were only 5. Sophomore RB Todd Gurley scored 2 of the 5, on runs of 75 yards (photo below) and 12 yards. Sophomore RB Keith Marshall had a 4-yard TD run for the Bulldogs. For Clemson junior WR Sammy Watkins had a 77-yard TD reception, and sophomore RB Zac Brooks scored on a 31-yard reception.


Todd Gurley may have been named SEC offensive player of the week, but the head dread for Week 1 is a different SEC RB - one that actually led his team to victory. I'm talking about Mississippi senior RB Jeff Scott, who gained 163 total yards (which is more than Gurley had by the way) in a thrilling 39-35 SEC road victory over Vanderbilt. Scott rushed for 138 yards on 12 carries and caught 4 passes for 25 yards. Almost half of those total yards came when Ole Miss needed them the most, as he dashed 75 yards for the winning TD (photos below) with 1:07 remaining in the game.

I like that Jeff hasn't jumped the gun with his dreads. He's just letting them grow on their own; and it has taken a while, but they're finally starting to sprout out of his helmet. Trying to join the big boys in the SEC, Ole Miss has been doing some great things in recruiting lately (I guess that means they'll be going on probation soon); so this victory could be only the beginning of a really great season.


Some of the games definitely worth watching include Florida-Miami, the other Miami-Kentucky, South Carolina State-Clemson, ODU-Maryland, Southeast Missouri State-Mississippi, and the big one in the SEC as Georgia hosts South Carolina. And don't forget a key game in the SWAC - Alabama State-Jackson State - on tape delay late Staturday night.

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