Texas 34, Iowa State 14
There were four 2012 draft prospects playing at the line of scrimmage in the game between Texas and Iowa State. The Longhorns feature inside linebacker Keenan Robinson, outside linebacker Emmanuel Acho and defensive tackle Kheeston Randall. Iowa State has a highly regarded offensive tackle in Kelechi Osemele. Of those four pro prospects, Osemele looks like the best player.
Playing at left tackle, Osemele had a very good game against Texas. While he is listed at 6-foot-6, 347-pounds, he looks lighter than that because he carries the weight extremely well. Osemele is an excellent athlete at his size and is a very good perimeter blocker. On a number of spread option plays, he did a good job of getting downfield to hit blocks. Osemele made blocks on cornerbacks, linebackers and safeties. Iowa State featured a lot of runs going behind him that went for decent gains. The rest of the Cyclones' offensive line had a lot of struggles, but he was assignment sound.
One thing that stands about Osemele is how quick he is. He fires out of his stance and accelerates downfield to hit blocks. Osemele had no problems mirroring against speed rushes that came at him, and bull rushes were ineffective. Also, he did not allow any pass pressures all game. Osemele did have one mistake with a false start in the second quarter.
Right now, Osemele looks like a late first or early second-round pick. He has very long arms, and given the type of athlete that he is, it wouldn't be surprising if you hear that some teams believe he could stay at left tackle in the NFL. I think a better fit would be on the right side where he has the potential to be a top-notch right tackle. Osemele has gotten a good amount of hype from his school and some in the media. Against Texas, it looked warranted.
After Osemele, the next highest rated player in this game would be Randall. The 6-foot-5, 305-pounder is considered to be a second-round pick. Even though he only recorded one tackle in the game, Randall was pretty disruptive. He has a good get-off and on a number of plays, busted into the backfield to wreck the play for Iowa State.
Randall showed good athletic ability and pursuit skills in running laterally across the field to tackle a wide receiver on a screen pass. On one play, Randall was in route to potentially getting a sack, but he was held and taken down by the guard. Iowa State was called for holding on the play. On a similar play, Randall broke into the backfield to tackle the running back, but he ripped off the ball carrier�s helmet and was called for a face mask.
Most view Randall as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defense for the NFL. That would probably be his best fit. In a 4-3 defense, he would probably have to be a three-technique defensive tackle, but he doesn't have the production for that position. In four games this season, he has a total of five tackles with zero sacks and zero tackles for a loss. The game against Iowa State shouldn't change his draft status.
Acho had a good game against Iowa State. He was active and around the ball throughout the contest. He had good run defense on the perimeter and made a number of good tackles. He also recorded a nice splash play with a sack by coming on a delayed blitz up the middle of the defense and chasing down the quarterback.
For the game, Acho finished with eight tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack. The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder has a nice combination of size and strength. He would probably fit best as a Sam (strongside) linebacker in a 4-3 defense. Acho is on the fringe of being a late second day or early third-day draft pick.
Robinson also had a quality showing against Iowa State. He did a good job of manning the middle and flowing to the perimeter on a lot of the Cyclones' stretch running plays. On one of those plays, Robinson ran up to the line of scrimmage, worked his way through a pile and tackled the ball carrier for a gain of a yard or two. As he was bringing down the running back, Robinson got his hand on the football and forced it out of the back's hands. However, Iowa State recovered the fumble.
For the season, Robinson has 27 tackles with one tackle for a loss, three passes broken up and a forced fumble. The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder led Texas in tackles last year, but is trailing Acho and defensive back Kenny Vaccaro this year. Robinson needs to raise his production in order to stay as a second-day pick.
Texas safety Blake Gideon had a good game. The senior was all over the field with eight tackles, one sack and one interception. The interception was an intelligent play by him. Having read the eyes of the quarterback and seeing the pass was going to be thrown on a short slant, Gideon jumped the route and made a nice, leaping catch. After snatching the ball, he ran 43 yards before being tackled.
Gideon's sack came on a blitz around the edge on which he caused initial pressure turning the corner. As the quarterback stepped up and scrambled away from Gideon, he cut up field and chased down the quarterback for a loss of five yards. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder is considered to be a third-day draft pick, and his game against Iowa State will help him to make the case to be drafted.
Iowa State cornerback Leonard Johnson had a rough game against Texas. He was called for a questionable late hit penalty, and was quiet for most of the game with three tackles and a pass broken up. In the fourth quarter, while making a tackle in run support, Johnson went helmet to helmet with a teammate. He was responsive but was carted off the field.
It turns out that Johnson was fine after going through a series of medical tests. He is expected to play in the Cyclones' next game, against Baylor. Johnson is considered to be a fringe second day or third-day draft pick.
Auburn 16, South Carolina 13
The game between South Carolina and Auburn was the Melvin Ingram show, despite the fact that Ingram's Gamecocks lost to Auburn. The senior defensive end/defensive tackle continued his recent hot play of getting to the quarterback, and also continued his season long habit of creating splash plays. He was a one-man gang against Auburn.
To start the game, Ingram had a good tackle at line of scrimmage to stop Auburn running back Michael Dyer. All game, Ingram played tough against the run. He held up at the point of attack, and pursued downfield on runs away from him. His motor was running non-stop, and he didn't take a play off.
Ingram's first sack came when he rushed from the defensive tackle position. Ingram lined up between the guard and center. Off the snap, he charged upfield. Just as the center went to engage him, he ripped off a wicked spin move and flew by the center. As quarterback Barrett Trotter stepped up in the pocket to avoid Ingram, he showed impressive agility by reaching out and grabbing Trotter. Ingram held Trotter in place with one arm and took a step into the quarterback before taking him down with force.
The 6-foot-2, 276-pound Ingram was close to another sack in the second quarter. He ran down Trotter, who was outside the pocket, and the quarterback threw the ball away. Ingram's pressure caused an intentional grounding penalty because the ball didn't cross the line of scrimmage. They reviewed the play and decided the penalty was incorrectly called.
The next sack from Ingram was a very impressive rush. He charged up the field against the left tackle, slammed him into the chest of the left tackle and rocked him off balance. Ingram then burst to the inside to run down Trotter.
Just a minute before halftime, Ingram recorded an interception on a fake field goal. He read the fake perfectly and dropped back into man coverage on the primary receiving option. Ingram cut in front of the receiver to pick off the pass just inside the five-yard line. He returned it about five yards before being tackled.
Early in the third quarter, Ingram recorded his next sack. He started the play in run containment, but saw that Trotter was taking a deep drop to throw the ball downfield. Ingram was unblocked and he ran down Trotter in a hurry. Ingram showed impressive closing speed.
It was the best game statistically for Ingram in his career. He recorded 11 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 4.5 tackles for a loss, one interception and multiple quarterback pressures. Ingram showed his versatility when he recorded one sack from defensive tackle and two sacks from right defensive end. This game pushes Ingram's draft stock towards the top of the second round. It wouldn't be surprising if he gets into the conversation for the first round.
Defensive end Devin Taylor did not have much of an impact against Auburn. He had three tackles with a couple of pressures on the quarterback. Taylor (6-7, 260) has size and speed, but did not have the kind of production he seems capable of. Taylor looks like a second day pick if he enters the 2012 NFL Draft, but would probably be better served returning for his senior season and entering the 2013 NFL Draft. This year, Taylor has been overshadowed by Ingram and freshman Jadeveon Clowney.
South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore had a quality game in run support with eight tackles. He had good coverage and did not give up any plays of significance in pass coverage. There was a bad play where Gilmore could have made a key block on an interception return but dodged making a block on an offensive lineman. That lineman then forced a fumble that was recovered by Auburn. Gilmore at least could have tried a cut block on the big linemen rather than running downfield and looking for someone else to block. It was a play that screamed 'soft'.
After that play, Gilmore showed the ability to play some physical football with a nice hit on a running back. He blasted through the legs of the back and dumped him on the ground head first. Gilmore also had a jarring hit on a receiver in the fourth quarter that knocked him out of the game. The mixed game shouldn't affect his draft status as a pick in the latter half of the first round.
Star South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery showed why he is a special player on one play against Auburn. On a 50-yard touchdown catch, Jeffery flew down the field. The cornerback had good coverage, but Jeffery out-leaped him for the catch at the 16-yard line. He fought off the corner starting at the 10-yard line. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Jeffery shoved and dragged the corner for eight more yards before diving into the end zone for a score.
Auburn is a young team that does not have a lot of players for the 2012 draft. One of the few is safety Neiko Thorpe. He is a mid-round prospect who has been one of the few bright spots on Auburn's defense this season. Thorpe (6-3, 191) had a mixed game. He benefited from South Carolina playing quarterback Stephen Garcia and recorded an interception that he returned 20 yards. Thorpe threw a terrible deep ball down the middle of the field. The ball was overthrown and he had a head start on the receiver and the cornerback. Thorpe ran the ball down, and turned around for a quality return.
Otherwise, Thorpe missed some tackles in pass coverage and did not defend the run especially well. This game shouldn't impact his stock too much, as the interception was thrown to him and his run defense wasn't anything special.
Alabama 38, Florida 10
The game between Florida and Alabama featured a number of future NFL draft picks.
Florida Gators senior quarterback John Brantley got things started well for Florida, throwing a bomb to sophomore receiver Andre DuBose for a 65-yard touchdown pass. DuBose beat Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick off the snap. He got by Kirkpatrick with straight foot speed down the field, and the pass was thrown perfectly by Brantley. Alabama safety Robert Lester was late coming over to help, and Florida jumped out to a 7-0 lead off their play from scrimmage.
Brantley beat Lester again on the next possession for a 30-yard reception to senior wide receiver Deonte Thompson. Later, they hooked up again for another third-down conversion on the drive, but it ended in a field goal. Minutes later, Brantley had a good third-down conversion on a crossing route to DuBose, who juked Kirkpatrick out of an open-field tackle. At halftime, Dubose had two catches for 89 yards and a score, while Thompson had two catches for 43 yards.
The Alabama defense kept Gators senior running back Chris Rainey in check on Saturday night. He finally broke loose, having spun off a tackle to get downfield, with a nice 25-yard catch to the Alabama 15-yard line just before halftime. Rainey had five runs for -3 yards rushing at halftime, but had caught three passes for 32 yards. He finished the game with just four yards rushing on 11 carries.
In the second quarter, Alabama defensive end/outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw took over the game. First, he blasted by left tackle Xavier Nixon to make a big tackle for a loss. A couple of plays later Upshaw was blocked, but then got in front of a dump-off pass from Brantley, taking it back 45 yards down field for a go-ahead touchdown.
On an interior rush just before halftime, Upshaw recorded another sack, beating the guard to take down Brantley for a loss of 10 yards. The hit knocked Brantley out of the game with a leg/knee injury; it could be season-ending. He was 11-of-16 for 189 yards with a touchdown and an interception in less than one half against Alabama. Brantley was a potential late-round pick, but a season-ending injury could send him to the undrafted free agent ranks.
Upshaw provided proof that he is a first-round pick with a dominant game against Florida.
Alabama's offense was carried by star running back Trent Richardson. He started the game with some tough running to lead Alabama to a field goal. He had 34 yards on five carries in the first possession of the game. Richardson (5-11, 224) continued to move the ball for Alabama throughout the first half including a 22-yard screen pass to help set up a Crimson Tide touchdown. At halftime, the senior had 77 yards on 15 carries with one reception for 22 yards.
The Alabama offensive line did an excellent job controlling the line of scrimmage. Left tackle Barrett Jones was very good, as was right tackle D.J. Fluker. Center William Vlachos was called for a holding penalty that took the Crimson Tide out of a first-and-goal and into a third-and-long, but made up for it with a big block to spring Maze for a big gain on a screen. The drive was capped off by Richardson running in from 6-yards out.
In the second half, Richardson continued to churn out yardage. Early in the fourth quarter, he broke off a 36-yard touchdown run. Richardson started that run up the middle of the defense and broke out to the sideline. For the night, he totaled 184 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns. The season that Richardson is putting together has him as a top half of the first-round pick.
Senior wide receiver Marquis Maze had one catch for 18 yards in the first half. However, Maze (5-10, 180) returned a kickoff 70 yards in the first quarter to set up Alabama in prime field position. He finished the game with two receptions for 36 yards.
Other prospects of note were reasonably quiet. Safety Mark Barron had a quality game and was around the football. The early struggles by Kirkpatrick and Lester hurt their stock with the way they struggled with a speed receiver.
Be sure to check out our Monday Morning Draft column this week. Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones spoke with WalterFootball.com about his former teammates and provided some good insight into them.
Wisconsin 48, Nebraska 17
Wisconsin hosting Nebraska was a prime draft matchup of a good offense against a defense featuring a few good draft prospects. The Wisconsin Badgers feature an offensive line filled with NFL talent. Junior left tackle Ricky Wagner, sophomore left guard Travis Frederick, junior center Peter Konz, senior right guard Kevin Zeitler, and senior right tackle Josh Oglesby have paved the way for a devastating ground game this season; allowing Badgers junior running back Montee Ball to be a touchdown machine in
2011. The line has also done a good job in pass protection for senior quarterback Russell Wilson and wide receiver Nick Toon. Wisconsin played a lot of soft teams early in the year, so Nebraska was the first real test for the Badgers this season.
Nebraska's defense has a potential first-round pick in defensive tackle Jared Crick. He has been a tough run defender and good pass rusher. Crick has recorded 9.5 sacks in each of the past two seasons. Next to him is a quality tackle in junior Baker Steinkuhler. In the NFL, both Crick and Steinkuhler would be better fits as five-technique defensive ends in a 3-4 defense. That became evident with how they played against Wisconsin.
That future fit for the NFL was clear in the game as Crick and Steinkuhler were constantly blocked off the ball by the Badgers� line. Wisconsin's offensive line had a dominant game against Nebraska's front seven. They opened up running holes all game and provided fabulous pass protection. Crick (6-6, 285) and Steinkuhler (6-6, 290) don't have the bulk or the strength to hold up against interior offensive linemen who outweigh them by roughly 30 pounds. They definitely should move to the outside at the NFL level. The Badgers were able to run up the middle at them all game.
Behind them is a potential first-round pick in cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and a second-day pick in linebacker Lavonte David. David got the game started with a blitz up the A-gap to sack quarterback Russell Wilson and force a punt from the Badgers. Later in the second quarter, David had another sack.
In the run game, David had some good tackles, but he also had some plays where he struggled to get off a blocks from the Badgers� big linemen. Overall, David was one of the few Nebraska defenders who provided some big plays. It was a horrible game for the Nebraska defense, and David was one of the few exceptions who played a quality game for the Cornhuskers.
Dennard was beat by Badgers wide receiver Jared Abbrederis for an 18-yard pass play. Dennard did not have a horrible game as the Badgers really exploited the other cornerbacks, but he did not step up with any big plays.
In the first half, Wilson made a bunch of big plays for the Badgers. He made plays with his feet, but also made big throws downfield. Wilson threw the ball accurately, and kept the Nebraska defense off balance. Ricky Wagner was called for holding, taking away a touchdown run by his signal caller. Wilson was 12-of-16 for 233 yards and two touchdowns.
In the second quarter, Toon made a fabulous 38-yard catch, out-leaping two defenders to come down with a big reception. Later, he came up big with a third-down catch despite tight coverage to extend a critical drive. Wilson capped it with a 26-yard touchdown throw to Abbrederis.
On the next possession, Wilson hooked up with Toon for a 46-yard touchdown. Toon ran a deep post and beat cornerback Ciante Evans for the score. In the first half, Toon caught four passes for 94 yards and one touchdown. He did not record a catch in the second half as the Badgers went heavy on the ground, but it still was a good tape to help him look like a mid-round pick.
Wilson finished the game completing 14-of-20 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns. If it weren't for his size (5-11, 201), he would be a legitimate pro prospect with his arm, mobility, and playmaking ability. Wilson could still contend to be a late-round pick.
Montee Ball ran the ball well in the first half with 12 carries for 51 yards and two touchdowns. For his first, he plunged into the end zone from a couple of yards out. In the second quarter, Ball scored from three yards out. He ran the ball hard and churned out some tough yards.
In the second half, Ball helped move the ball down the field, and Wilson capped off a drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. Ball ended another third quarter drive by running through three tackles for a 4-yard touchdown. It was a very impressive powerful run. On his fourth touchdown of the night, Ball was behind a big pile, but was able to reverse field to break away from the pack and run into the end zone from 15-yards out.
For the game, Ball finished with 151 yards rushing on 30 carries with four touchdowns. The junior running back has a fabulous blend of power and burst to be a bell-cow back in the NFL. Ball (5-11, 220) looks like a second-round pick or possible late first-rounder if he available in the 2012 NFL Draft.
USC 48, Arizona 41
Heading into the game, USC quarterback Matt Barkley had to be excited to against the Arizona defense. The Wildcats feature the worst defense in the PAC-12, and Barkley could use a good game after a tough loss to Arizona State a week ago.
The game started as planned for USC. Barkley and sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods got USC on the scoreboard quickly. Woods caught a short 2-yard pass and broke into the open field. Nobody came close to him, and he raced 82 yards for a touchdown.
All day, Barkley was moving the ball through the air. He was taking what the defense gave him on short and intermediate passes with an occasional deep ball mixed in. Late in the first quarter, Barkley threw a strike to wide-open receiver Marquis Lee for a touchdown pass. Lee was open running down the middle of the field, and Barkley hit him perfectly.
Barkley threw another short touchdown pass and led a field goal drive just before halftime. By halftime, he had 301 yards passing and three touchdowns. In the third quarter, Barkley picked up where he left off. He fired a rope downfield to Woods for a 28-yard touchdown pass. Woods ran a skinny post, and Barkley helped him by pump-faking away from Woods to pull a safety a few steps out of the middle of the field.
After Arizona scored to make it a 14-point game, Barkley aided their comeback effort with an interception on a slant pass. It was his one mistake of the day. The ball was thrown off the mark and too far in front of the receiver. The interception led to an Arizona touchdown and a USC lead that was down to seven points.
Barkley and USC answered. He tossed a 45-yard pass to Lee to the one-yard line. Barkley kept it and plunged the ball in himself a play later. It was a clutch drive to answer the score of Arizona.
The junior signal caller had some beautiful passes to hit receivers on their back shoulder along the sideline, as well as some perfectly thrown balls on slants in the middle of the field. Barkley set a single-game USC record for passing yards, besting the old mark set by Carson Palmer. Barkley completed 32-of-39 passes for 464 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.
Arizona's defense is weak, but Barkley exploited them like he should. His tape against the Wildcats definitely helps him as a potential top-five pick in the draft.
With Barkley having a big game, there was no way that left tackle Matt Kalil could have had a bad game. Kalil kept Barkley's jersey clean, giving him plenty of time to deliver passes downfield. The elite left tackle cruised to an easy game. Kalil (6-7, 295) looks like a sure-fire, high first-round pick.
Arizona quarterback Nick Foles (6-5, 240) had a good game overall and fought his tail off against USC. He entered the game completing 70 percent of his passes for 1,447 yards with 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions. The big-armed pocket passer looks like a second-rounder.
Foles� first interception of the season came partway through the first quarter. It was a horribly overthrown pass in the middle of the field. USC standout safety T.J. McDonald dove and came up with his first interception of the season.
Later in the first quarter, Foles threw another high pass in the middle of the field. The ball again was way over the head of his receiver and dropped into the waiting arms of McDonald for his second interception of the quarter.
Later, McDonald had a massive hit that shook him up, causing him to leave the game briefly. In the final minute of the third quarter, Carey went through McDonald and a pile of Trojans to finish off a 16-yard run. McDonald also caught an onside-kick attempt from the Wildcats in the fourth quarter. He looks like a fringe first-round pick, but his game against Arizona should help his stock.
After those turnovers, Foles was able to get into more of a rhythm throwing the ball, and as the game went on, he got better and better. Foles moved the ball consistently and methodically down the field. He tossed a short four-yard touchdown pass to fullback Taimi Tutogi. Later in the second quarter, Foles threw another touchdown pass. He dumped the ball to his outlet running back, Ka'Deem Carey, who avoided a tackle and ran 27 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. Foles moved the ball, but his turnovers were huge factors in Arizona falling behind by so much.
In the third quarter, Foles continued to move the ball. He led an 18-play, 93-yard drive that finished with Carey plunging in from a yard out. Early in the fourth quarter Foles stayed hot with a 13-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Juron Criner. The Trojans had been doubling the star Arizona receiver, but he finally had one-on-one coverage and beat it with a slant. Foles threw a perfect pass for Criner to snatch out of the air for a big score.
Foles kept gunning the ball all over the yard and didn't quit. He led another touchdown drive through the air, capping it with a fabulous play. At the 4-yard line, Foles dropped back to pass, but scrambled due to a lack of open receivers. He spun around and saw a receiver running open along the back of the end zone. Foles fired a fast ball by the hands of a few defenders to wide out Austin Hill for a score.
In the game, Foles was 41-of-53 for 426 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. It was a gritty performance from him.
USC did a good job of limiting Criner in the game. He had one catch for six yards at halftime. The second half was hardly better as he finished the game with three catches for 28 yards and a touchdown. Criner (6-4, 210) looks like an early second-round pick.
Michigan State 10, Ohio State 7
The main NFL draft focus of the game between Michigan State and Ohio State was in the trenches. Ohio State features the top center in the nation, Mike Brewster, while Michigan State has one of the top defensive tackles in the nation, Jerel Worthy. Unfortunately, they did not battle each other very much.
There was one play where Brewster single blocked Worthy and kept him at the line of scrimmage on a pass rush. Otherwise, Worthy typically lined up as a three-technique defensive tackle, while Brewster was usually working on the nose tackle. Both players had good games.
Brewster is strong, athletic, and intelligent. He had only one real mistake in the game, when he and a guard got crossed up on an interior blitz to allow a sack on quarterback Braxton Miller. Brewster blocked a linemen, but didn't pull off quick enough to pick up the delayed blitz.
Otherwise, Brewster was dominant in run blocking. He constantly was opening and sealing holes for his ball carriers. Brewster was very good in pass protection and did a good job of sliding to get blocks on multiple defenders. Unfortunately, Brewster did not get much help from his guards, as they struggled all game.
Worthy produced probably his best game of the season. He recorded a sack and was close to getting a few more. To get things started, Worthy had a good rush where he flew by the guard and ran straight down at Miller. However, the quarterback side-stepped Worthy to avoid a sack on that play.
Shortly later, Worthy destroyed a guard and tackle to tackle a running back in the backfield. Worthy followed that with a tremendous sack. Miller took the snap and was going to hand the ball off, but Worthy sacked him before he could even extend his arm. Worthy timed the snap and flew by the guard to bear hug Miller and wrestle him to the ground. Worthy was a disruptive force and Ohio State pulled one guard, Marcus Hall, who Worthy was dominating, from the game.
Worthy needed this game as his stock had been on the decline. He did not have a very good game against Notre Dame, and his conditioning looks off with the amount of snaps he spends on the sideline. There is no doubt that Worthy has a lot of potential, but he needs to become more consistent in order to be taken in the top 20.
Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins entered the game as a potential second-day pick, but he did not have a very good game against Ohio State. He was 20-of-32 for 250 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The touchdown came on a roll out where he tossed a pass to wide receiver B.J. Cunningham for a 33-yard touchdown.
Cousins completed passes, but was not producing big plays in the passing game, definitely leaving some points on the field. To their credit, the Ohio State defense did play a solid game.
One of Cousins' interceptions wasn't really his fault. He threw a fade pass to the back corner of the end zone. His receiver did not give a very good effort at going up and getting the ball. It was tapped back up into the air by the defensive back, and an Ohio State defender came down with the loose ball.
Cousins has a good arm and is a quality game manager, but his anticipation needs to improve. Too often, he is throwing passes a second late and the opening is no longer there. The senior Cunningham (6-2, 223) continued his strong senior season with nine catches for 154 yards and a score. He looks like a solid mid-rounder.
Arkansas 42, Texas A&M 38
Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill needed to have a big game after a second-half collapse against Oklahoma State. Tannehill entered that contest as a potential second-day pick, but after making some critical turnovers to let the Cowboys make a comeback win, Tannehill looked more like an early third-day selection.
Tannehill started the game with a run of 26 yards. He had a zone read and kept the ball himself and burst into the secondary for a good gain. He started with some short efficient passes to contribute to a couple of touchdown drives.
Late in the first quarter, Tannehill laid a ball out for wide receiver Jeff Fuller downfield. The ball was thrown short and intercepted. While it wasn't a good pass, Fuller gave a terrible effort at breaking up the pass. Fuller could have fought for the ball but allowed the catch to be made before making the tackle.
Tannehill was accurate and efficient in the first half, while the Aggies' running game dominated Arkansas. On a few good passes to Fuller, Tannehill led an 80-yard touchdown drive at the end of the second quarter. Fuller had a nice hands catch reaching out waist high to grab a ball. In the first half, Fuller had six receptions for 50 yards. Tannehill was 15-of-19 for 179 yards with an interception. He didn't have to do much as the Aggies' ground game was overwhelming.
In the third quarter, Tannehill was kept in check as Arkansas controlled the ball. Tannehill did have an interception dropped. The pass was tipped off the hands of a receiver and right into the arms of a defender who dropped the ball.
Tannehill completed a nice pass on an out route to Fuller in the fourth quarter. It was a physical play from Fuller who did a good job of holding onto the ball with a defender hitting him quickly. Tannehill kept the drive going with a huge 6-yard run on 3rd-and-4. It was a smart play where Tannehill avoided a tackle to get the yardage he needed for the first down. The next third down saw Tannehill get stuffed on a run, but he led A&M to three points and a 38-35 lead in the fourth quarter.
Arkansas took the lead back, and Tannehill and the Texas A&M offense was stopped. For the game, Tannehill was 25-of-35 for 247 yards and one interception. Fuller had nine receptions for 82 yards. This game shouldn't help or really hurt Tannehill's stock, but Fuller's stock could take a hit for his poor effort on the interception and his lack of game-changing plays.
It was interesting that Texas A&M started the game featuring junior running back Christine Michael instead of senior running back Cyrus Gray. Michael showed his skills by leading the Texas A&M offense throughout the first half.
Michael started with a 48-yard touchdown run. It looked like a run that was going nowhere as Michael looked like he was almost going down, but he kept his balance and raced downfield into an open secondary. Later in the first quarter, Michael plunged into the end zone again from four yards out.
The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Michael made a beautiful run where he spun off an attempted tackle and jetted into the secondary. Michael raced into the end zone for his third touchdown of the game on a 29-yard run. Michael ran hard in the first half. He runs with very good body lean and balance. Michael has a good burst to the hole and to break into the secondary. In the first half, Michael ran for 128 yards on 14 carries with three touchdowns.
Michael was stripped of the ball by linebacker Byron Jones in the second half. It came when Michael had the ball slapped from behind. He was the holding the ball high like he should, but it got away from his body and that allowed Jones to knock the ball out.
In the rest of the second half, Michael did a good job running the ball. He carried the Aggies' offense, and Arkansas had no answer for him. For the game, Michael ran for 230 yards on 32 carries with three touchdowns and that one fumble. Despite his fumble, Michael's performance should push his draft stock up.
Gray (5-10, 198) came into the game and had some good runs including a 20-yard run up the middle of the Arkansas defense. Gray got into the end zone also on a 1-yard run where he ran to the corner of the end zone. Gray had a similar touchdown run to his first score just before halftime. He ran for the corner again after getting some good seal blocks. In the first half, Gray ran for 59 yards on 10 carries with two touchdowns.
In the second half, Gray did not get a lot of opportunities and he finished the game with 95 yards on 17 carries with his two scores. If Michael stays as the lead back, Gray's stock could take a serious hit. Gray entered the game looking like a third-rounder, but if Michael is the lead back the rest of the year with Gray as the change-of-pace backup, that could push Gray into the third day of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Cornerback Coryell Judie missed last week's game against Oklahoma State, and it would have been a good matchup to see Judie against Cowboys receiver Justin Blackmon. Entering the game, Judie is a fringe first- or second-round pick. Judie had a nice pass breakup early in the game. He had tight coverage with a receiver running straight downfield.
Later in the first quarter, Judie came clean on a corner blitz and chased down quarterback Tyler Wilson for a sack. The next play, Judie stumbled in a break and was beat for a 21-yard catch on 3rd-and-19.
Early in the second quarter, Judie was called for a pass interference. It was on a deep pass where Judie and the wide receiver were both pushing and fighting with each other for position to make the catch. The ball was slapped away by Judie, but the officials called him for a penalty. There was a lot of contact and it came from both players.
Arkansas junior quarterback Tyler Wilson had a huge game passing against the A&M secondary, but that was not at the expense of Judie. Wilson typically threw away from Judie, and it looked like Judie had good coverage overall. His status should be unchanged.
Wilson (6-3, 215) is a pocket passer. When given time to throw, he has the ability to pick a defense apart. He completed 30-of-51 passes for 509 yards and two touchdowns with zero interceptions. This is his first year as a starter so he should return for his senior season. If he does he could be one of the top quarterbacks in the 2013 NFL Draft class.
Aggie junior linebacker Sean Porter showed his pass rushing skills against Arkansas. Porter had two sacks against Oklahoma State, and added to his total with a sack in the second quarter. He had a good speed rush and cut inside to make an ankle tackle of Wilson as he stepped up in the pocket.
Porter had another sack in the third quarter after he beat the left tackle on a wicked spin move. A few A&M defenders were right behind Porter, but it was a very impressive speed rush from the junior. He now has 6.5 sacks in five games this season. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Porter looks like a good fit in a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker. He should probably return for his senior season to add weight and bulk for the NFL.
Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette missed another game with a hamstring injury. He missed the contest against Alabama last week. He entered the season as a second-day pick but now seems like a third-day pick.
One of the stars of the game was Arkansas senior wide receiver Jarius Wright. He had a massive performance and was Wilson's go-to receiver. Wright (5-10, 180) is undersized, but he runs good routes and has very good hands. The Aggie secondary had no answer to defend Wright when Judie didn't line up against him. The other cornerbacks and safeties were torched by Wright. He totaled 281 yards on 13 receptions with one touchdown. His one touchdown came when a ball was fumbled into end zone and Wright dived on the lose ball.
The massive game from Wright gives his draft stock a big boost. With the way that he dominated Texas A&M, Wright made the case for him to be a third-day draft pick. Teammate Greg Childs entered the contest having fallen from a second-day to a third-day draft pick because he hasn't produced this season coming off a knee injury in 2010. Childs had one catch for 19 yards in the game. The 6-foot-3, 217-pounder is clearly not back to his old form and his draft stock is falling rapidly.
Illinois 38, Northwestern 35
Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa returned to the lineup for his first game of the season at Illinois. Persa suffered a knee injury last November and did not play in the first month of this season. Perhaps their plan was to protect Persa, because Northwestern kept the ball on the ground throughout the first half. Last year, he completed 73.5 percent for 2,581 yards with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. Persa had a terrible offensive line, but he also needs to get the ball out much quicker as he was sacked 34 times last year. Persa (6-1, 210) looks like a third-day pick.
Persa started slow, but he made some clutch throws to give Northwestern a 14-10 halftime lead. He made a touchdown pass in the second quarter on a 6-yard pass to tight end Drake Dunsmore. Late in the second quarter, Persa got into the end zone again with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Ebert. It was a perfectly thrown fade pass from Persa. At halftime, Persa was 5-of-9 for 48 yards with two scores.
Early in the third quarter, Persa showed some of his special playmaking ability. He scrambled on a number of throws to complete passes and extend the drive. He capped it by lofting a perfect pass down the deep middle of the field for a 39-yard touchdown toss to Ebert. The wideout ran by Illinois safety Tavon Wilson on a deep slant.
On the next possession, Persa had some more impressive plays. He had a defensive end get all over his back, but Persa leaned over and the end flipped over him. He ran to the line and get popped by Wilson. On fourth down in that drive, he broke away from two defensive linemen to throw a pass downfield for a first down. He finished the drive with his fourth touchdown pass. A receiver came wide open in the corner of the end zone in busted coverage after Wilson bit on a fake. After his fourth touchdown pass, Persa was 10-of-14 for 123 yards and the four scores.
He didn't attempt another pass as he left the game in the fourth quarter due to an injury. It wasn't disclosed what the injury was. Persa's game is reminiscent of former 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia when Garcia produced some good seasons for San Francisco. Persa doesn't have the strongest arm, but he makes plays with his feet and gets the ball where it needs to be.
Wilson entered the game as a mid-rounder, but this performance hurt his stock. He gave up two touchdowns with coverage lapses. Wilson (6-0, 205) is a hard-hitter, but he is going to need some work on reading offenses and improving his anticipation.
Illinois senior wide receiver A.J. Jenkins had a massive outing. He carried the Illini offense. He helped move the ball well and provided some big plays downfield. Jenkins totaled 12 receptions for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Jenkins (6-1, 208) made the case for him to get drafted in the late rounds.
Northwestern defensive end Vince Browne entered the season as a second-day pick, but has been very quiet this year. That was the case again against Illinois. Browne did a quality job anchoring at the line of scrimmage in run defense, but he got no pass rush. There were critical plays where Illinois made passes downfield, and Browne was incapable of getting pressure on the quarterback. He looks like he should go in the middle of the third day of the 2012 NFL Draft.