Top 10 single-game performances from Group of Five players in 2016
While impressive individual game performances by players representing national powerhouses might get more publicity, there were plenty of extraordinary outings this year by players from the Group of Five too. Having graded every play of every college football game involving an FBS opponent, we can highlight which players’ individual games stood out the most.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 individual game performances by Group of Five players:
1. DI Ed Oliver (Houston) vs. Louisville, 90.4 grade
Houston’s Oliver burst onto the college football scene and has become not only the best true freshman interior defender, but also one of the best overall. However, it was probably not until he dismantled Louisville’s offensive line in a primetime Week 12 matchup that he received the national recognition he deserves. Oliver’s best game came against probably one of Houston’s toughest opponent as he recorded two sacks, one quarterback hurry and an astonishing three batted passes in pass rushing. In addition, he was a force to reckon with against the run as he recorded two run stops and forced a fumble on the play below.
2. HB Kareem Hunt (Toledo) vs. Western Michigan, 99.9 grade
Our All-Group of Five running back had an excellent season; even though he did not put up huge numbers because of the lack of carries, he was very efficient when he had the ball in his hands. Hunt saved his best for last as he was unstoppable in Week 13 against the soon-to-be MAC champion Western Michigan Broncos. Hunt ran for 205 yards and a touchdown in Toledo’s season finale; however, what is even more impressive is that he forced 17 missed tackles on just 21 carries and averaged 6.9 yards after contact.
3. WR Carlos Henderson (Louisiana Tech) vs. Massachusetts, 99.9 grade
Henderson had one of the best two-game streaks you will ever see as he had 558 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in Week 6 and Week 7. However, his Week 7 performance against Massachusetts alone is one for the ages. While the Louisiana Tech wide receiver had a not-that-impressive 12 catches in this game, he still recorded 326 receiving yards on these receptions. Furthermore, he was able to turn five of those passes into touchdowns while breaking 13 tackles in the process.
4. ED Trey Hendrickson (Florida Atlantic) vs. Ball State, 90.6 grade
There is a good case to be made for Florida Atlantic’s Hendrickson being the most underrated football player or at least edge defender at the college level. Hendrickson had an incredible senior season, yet he did not receive a lot of national hype. In fact, he was so dominant that he had multiple games that could have made this list. Even though he did not record a sack against Ball State, he tied his season-high of 11 pressures – which he achieved four times – in this game. Hendrickson racked up two quarterback hits and nine quarterback hurries in 34 pass rushing snaps on his way to cause Ball State left tackle Drake Miller some sleepless nights.
5. CB Mike Tyson (Cincinnati) vs. Purdue, 91.9 grade
Cincinnati’s Tyson has emerged as one of the best slot cornerbacks in the nation for his senior season. There is no breakout season without a breakout game and for Tyson that came in Week 2 against a Power-5 opponent in Purdue. The Cincinnati cornerback had as good a day against the Boilermakers as you can have at the position. He excelled in coverage as not only did he not allow a single reception on any of the four passes going his way, he also got his hands on the ball on all four occasions. Furthermore, he was able to turn three of those into an interception en route to allowing a passer rating of 0.0 in that game.
6. DI John Stepec (Toledo) vs. Ball State, 91.3 grade
Toledo’s Stepec has been one of the more balanced 3-4 defensive ends in the nation as he is equally effective against the run and when rushing the passer. He proved this once again in his best game of the season against Ball State where he had two quarterback hits, seven quarterback hurries and one batted pass on 36 pass rushing snaps. In addition, he made a stunning five run stops on only 22 plays, meaning that he basically made this game a nightmare for Ball State’s offensive line by himself.
7. WR Corey Davis (Western Michigan) vs. Ball State, 91.9 grade
Although Davis might have had a quieter season in 2016 than in his junior year, he was still able to have a couple dominant games. None was more impressive than his Week 10 performance in the win against Ball State. While we are used to the Broncos player going above 100 receiving yards, him gaining 272 yards through the air is newsworthy. That is what Davis did against the Cardinals, as he caught 12 of his 16 targets, including three touchdowns. Furthermore, he forced a season-high four missed tackles in that game.
8. CB Howard Wilson (Houston) vs. Cincinnati, 94.6 grade
Although the defense was a question mark for the Cougars before the season due to the departure of several key players, returning players, including Wilson, stepped up as early as September to make a statement about the unit. Wilson was excellent in coverage all season and was heavily tested in Houston’s Week 3 matchup against Cincinnati, but was able to make more plays than he gave up. He was the most targeted player in that game with 11 passes going his way, but he made Cincinnati pay. While he did allow six receptions for 67 yards, Wilson also had a pass breakup and two interceptions in that game.
9. TE Tyler Conklin (Central Michigan) vs. Oklahoma State, 87.7 grade
Central Michigan’s junior tight end made big strides in 2016 and this was evident already in Week 2 as he had more receiving yards against Oklahoma State than he had in his sophomore season. While his numbers may not be that impressive on the surface, Conklin played a crucial role in one of the biggest upsets of the season as Central Michigan beat the Cowboys on the road. Conklin caught seven of his nine targets in that game, gained 96 yards through the air and also caught two touchdowns.
10. LB James Alexander (Kent State) vs. Central Michigan, 93.2 grade
While Alexander did not have a particularly great season overall, he will probably remember his game against Central Michigan for a long time. He played well in all three facets of the game against the Chippewas as he earned his highest grade of the season. Alexander allowed only one reception (and even that went for just four yards) and recorded three quarterback hurries on just eight pass-rushing snaps. However, his best work came against the run as he kept re-routing running backs by beating blockers and finished with a season high of four defensive stops.