Top 10 single-game performances from ACC players in 2016
The Pro Football Focus analysis team grades every play of every college football game involving an FBS opponent, meaning we were witness to a long list of impressive individual performances this season.
Which ones stood out the most? We ranked the top 10 single-game showings in the ACC from the 2016 season:
1. Lamar Jackson (Louisville) vs. Charlotte, 78.5 grade
Jackson set the tone for a Heisman-caliber season by laying eight first-half touchdowns on an entirely overmatched Charlotte defense in Week 1. The Cardinals’ tempo terrified the 49ers, who were unable to live with Jackson’s arm and athleticism. He shredded them through the air, completing 17 of 24 attempts for 286 yards and six touchdowns, ending the game with a QB rating of 150.7. In total, Jackson misfired on only three occasions, throwing a couple passes away and seeing another dropped. Louisville was good enough to rip off large chunks through the air, but Jackson also got his fill on the ground. Carrying 11 times, he collected 120 yards, two touchdowns, and four broken tackles. Squeezed into just 30 minutes, Jackson had the luxury of taking in his own highlights at halftime.
2. QB Deshaun Watson (Clemson) vs. South Carolina, 92.8
Watson’s Week 13 outing against South Carolina was probably the best pure passing performance in the nation this year. Clemson’s signal-caller was absolutely locked in, pulling off a string of incredible throws. His touch can make jaws drop and send a tingle down the spine. Missing only two throws (Watson was 26 of 32, but had four passes dropped), he shattered the Gamecocks’ resistance, picking them apart to the tune of six touchdowns and 343 yards. He was virtually flawless, throwing with poor location on just one occasion. Even then, his receiver had a chance to make a play, only managing to tip it into the arms of a defender to take some of the gloss off of the performance. Overall, though, this was Watson at his elite best.
3. CB Cordrea Tankersley (Clemson) vs. Virginia Tech, 84.7
Teams were offered a less-than-subtle reminder to throw away from Cordrea Tankersley in the ACC Championship game. Testing him is futile. Faced with a season-defining game, Tankersley asserted his elite status with a dominant display. He is a ballhawk of the highest caliber, who is also capable of competing physically. Targeting Tankersely nine times appeared naïve, and the standout corner punished the mistake, allowing only two catches for 23 yards, two interceptions (including one to seal the game), and a further pass deflection. There is little the man cannot do.
4. DE Harold Landry (Boston College) vs. Wake Forest, 94.0
Landry is an enigmatic pass-rusher, capable of both quiet spells and unblockable periods. In the latter form, he can set an offensive game-plan ablaze. Landry could certainly be accused of torching Wake Forest right tackle Ryan Anderson, blasting the woodland to ash with the fire of his performance. In just 38 pass-rushing snaps, he amassed three sacks, a hit, and six hurries, testing the very limits of PFF’s grading scale. On one series, with Wake Forest in the two-minute drill, he logged three consecutive pressures on speed rushes. Unsatisfied with making Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford’s simply miserable, Landry also set about undermining the Demon Deacons’ run game. He succeeded, collecting three tackles for a loss (two in short yardage) and a further stop close to the line of scrimmage. This was truly a complete display from Landry in Week 13.
5. CB Jaire Alexander (Louisville) vs. Clemson, 86.3
Facing a group of playmakers feared across the conference, Louisville’s star sophomore shutdown an entire side of the field in Week 5. Clemson’s top two receivers (Deon Cain and Mike Williams) suffered a joyless game against Alexander, finding themselves powerless to stop him picking off a pair of passes. In total, Alexander allowed only one first down, picked off two passes, and forced a further pair of incompletions. Considering the strength of opposition and gravity of the occasion, Alexander’s performance was incontestably exceptional.
6. WR Amba Etta-Tawo (Syracuse) vs. Connecticut, 89.9
A human highlight reel in 2016, Etta-Tawo had been marginalized as a bit-part player at Maryland only a year earlier. He bettered his receiving totals from 2015 (20 catches, 215 yards, two TDs) in only his fourth game as part of the Orange, tearing Connecticut to shreds with big play after big play. Etta-Tawo’s physicality at the catch point in Week 4 was simply superior. There have been few more dominant performances from a wideout. When all was said and done, he totaled 12 catches for 270 yards and two touchdowns. The Huskies were powerless to prevent vertical gains even with safety help, as Etta-Tawo amassed both scores and 170 of his yards on downfield throws. He is no stranger to blowing teams away, capping his college career with a sweet swan song (13 catches, 178 yards, five TDs). With draft season approaching, how early will an NFL team gamble?
7. LG Wyatt Teller (Virginia Tech) vs. Duke, 86.0
The Hokies’ strategy involves setting a physical tone up front, and no guard in the nation is better at setting the example than Wyatt Teller. Monstrously powerful, Teller feasts in Virginia Tech’s power ground attack. In-line, he is capable of shifting the sturdiest of nose tackles vertically on combo blocks. Nose tackles must detest the force he applies on down blocks, completely eliminating backside pursuit. Yet his power does not come at a huge cost to movement skills. Far from lumbering, Teller is precise, instinctive, and under control when required to pull and lead. He illustrated his inhuman strength against Duke in Week 10, depositing the Blue Devils’ defensive end on the other side of the field on one memorable power run. It was one of many dominant blocks that day. Oh, and he was also perfect in 35 pass-protecting snaps.
8. HB Dalvin Cook (Florida State) vs. UNC, 83.3
No back instils more excitement in a standard outside zone handoff than Dalvin Cook. Any play can become a big play, whether or not it is well blocked. Cook served up a treat of a performance against North Carolina in Week 5, proving his dynamism in space. He was lethal in the open field, slashing the Tar Heels on the ground and in the air. Cook carried the Seminoles for a period, ending the game with 28 rushing attempts for 130 yards, three touchdowns, and six broken tackles. He added a further seven catches for 106 yards and his seventh broken tackle of the game. In this mood, few are close to Cook’s class.
9. WR Mike Williams (Clemson) vs. Pittsburgh, 86.4
The ACC sure has some specimens at the wide receiver position, and Mike Williams might be the most engrossing. Returning from surgery never appeared so easy, as Williams seamlessly seized the opportunity to become Clemson’s primary wideout. Opposing defensive coordinators must have watched his first contest against Auburn and responded with a tinge of hopelessness. He is simply unstoppable at times, as he was against Pittsburgh in Week 11. Williams’ performance was absurd. He caught 15 passes (from 16 targets) for 202 yards and a touchdown. Tormenting the Panthers’ secondary throughout, Williams added another MVP-level performance to a growing résumé.
10. HB/KR T.J. Logan (North Carolina) vs Georgia, 76.4
The Tar Heels already have a stud returner in slot wideout Ryan Switzer, offering them a quandary. Ultimately, though, T.J. Logan staked a conclusive claim for the kick-return spot with some incredible moves against Georgia in Week 1. He simply could not be corralled, picking up 170 yards on his five returns, including a 95-yarder to the house. That’s a fair contribution from any role player, yet Logan’s work was not done. He added a couple big plays in the ground game, totaling 80 yards (65 after contact) on six carries, with one score and three broken tackles. Logan conducted a clinic in all-purpose play.