Ball State’s Justin Hall slips past Eastern Michigan’s defense during their game at Scheumann Stadium Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. (Photo: Jordan Kartholl/The Star Press)
MUNCIE, Ind. — When Justin Hall became a part of the Ball State football program, he knew he was going to play early, play hard whenever he was out on the field and devote himself to getting better whenever he was off of it.
The Georgia native didn’t need practices or games to instill that confidence in himself. All those years growing up playing basketball with his older brother and his older brother’s friends did that. Because although Hall’s older brother has three years on him, Hall said by about his eighth grade year he was catching up to those now-high schoolers who used to always be far better than him at everything.
And so, that’s how Hall has played for the Cardinals, with confidence and a mindset of, “I’m ready to compete against anyone.” And accolades, from freshman All-American recognition to All-Mid-American Conference nods, have followed.
►RELATED: Once again, Ball State football finds itself with momentum in Mid-American Conference play
But all that praise, in and of itself, isn’t the only reason the senior wide receiver has the chance to hold a special pace in BSU history by the time his college career ends. Hall, who originally thought he’d play basketball in college, has the chance to break a record currently held by KeVonn Mabon. By season’s end, Hall could become the Cardinals’ all-time leader in career receptions.
“I didn’t really set no goals … like being the leader, but that’s always something that’s in the back of my mind,” said Hall, who’s 18 receptions away from tying Mabon. “… Winning and trying to help my team win, really just helped me do that.”
Ball State head coach Mike Neu and wide receivers coach Alex Bailey could each see this potential in Hall before Hall ever stepped on the field for them, Neu watching Hall’s high school film and thinking, “We’ve got to get that guy.” Then there was that first fall camp at BSU, when Bailey saw Hall play fearlessly and Neu caught himself thinking, “Oh gosh, look out.” Then there was that game Hall’s freshman year at Illinois, hitch route Hall ran, pass Hall caught and touchdown Hall nearly scored that Hall, Bailey and Neu all still remember and had Neu saying, “Oh gosh,” again.
Bailey said it’s been the Cardinals’ philosophy since Hall arrived to get Hall in space, get him the ball and provide him with the opportunity to make plays. It’s a responsibility Neu said falls on himself and the offensive staff, with the lingering question being, “How many times can we get the ball in his hands?” Because, Neu said, “Every time it gets in his hands something good happens.”
INGLEWOOD, Calif. — It’s not a Los Angeles Chargers game without late-game dramatics. This time, they won, beating the New York Jets 34-28 after holding off a late New York drive to break their string of hard-luck, fourth-quarter losses.
With the win, the Chargers moved to 3-7 on the season, while the Jets fell to 0-10.
Once again, quarterback Justin Herbert was the star. He tied an NFL rookie record (set earlier this season by the Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow) with 37 completions, going 37-of-49 passing for 366 yards and three touchdown passes. He set a personal high for passing yards and a league rookie record for most games with at least three touchdown passes, as Sunday was the fifth time he has thrown three or more touchdown passes.
Many of those passes went to Keenan Allen, who set a franchise single-game record with 16 receptions. Allen gained 145 yards and hauled in a 13-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to put the Chargers up 31-13.
The Jets did add some anxious moments, as they came back from 18 down to have a chance to tie the game late. New York drove to the Chargers’ 32 with less than two minutes left. But unlike blown leads earlier in the season against the Denver Broncos (21 points), Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints (17), Jacksonville Jaguars (16, but eventually won) and the Kansas City Chiefs (11), the Chargers held, as they gave up a voluntary safety to provide the final margin. Therefore, the Chargers’ four losses while entering the fourth quarter with a lead didn’t become five.
Giddy secondary: The defensive secondary had to be the happiest players on the field. They bent but didn’t break, forcing three Joe Flacco incompletions on the final three plays of the drive to hold on to the victory.
QB breakdown: Herbert was amazing. He has had a lot of impressive performances, but this had to be the best. He had three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He looked poised and in control throughout, throwing for 277 yards in the first half. He threw touchdown passes to Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry.
Special-teams issues: The win covered up a blocked punt on the first series of the game, repeating the pattern from the previous week’s loss to the Miami Dolphins. The Jets converted the blocked punt into a touchdown to take an early 6-0 lead.
USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg breaks down the latest Amway Coaches Poll.
Look to the SEC for evidence of college football’s offensive evolution. In 2009, the conference had just one quarterback average more than 220 passing yards per game. So far this season, the league has three passers averaging more than 337 yards per game.
It’s a quarterback-driven sport, and the production at the position has never been better. Here’s a look at the best of the best — the 10 top quarterbacks in the Football Bowl Subdivision during a 2020 season when two dozen or more passers are under consideration.
1. Kyle Trask, Florida
It’s a sign of Trask’s production that the senior’s three touchdowns against Arkansas were his lowest single-game output of the season. He’s still sitting at an FBS-best 31 scores on the season, five more than the two quarterbacks tied in second, and has a shot at setting several SEC passing records despite playing a shortened season.
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask (11) throws the ball during his team’s game against Arkansas at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. (Photo: Brad McClenny, Gainesville Sun)
2. Justin Fields, Ohio State
Thirty-two FBS quarterbacks have thrown three interceptions in a game this season. One, Ole Miss sophomore Matt Corral, threw six in a loss to Arkansas. So Fields isn’t alone in his three picks in the Buckeyes’ 42-35 win against Indiana, even if the giveaways were striking for their rareness: Fields had tossed just three in his entire college career heading into the weekend.
PLAYOFF ANALYSIS: Winners and losers from the first ranking release
TIDE ON TOP: Alabama leads first College Football Playoff committee ranking
3. Mac Jones, Alabama
Jones played until midway through the third quarter of Alabama’s 63-3 win against Kentucky, staking the Tide to a 42-3 lead with 230 yards and a pair of touchdowns, before giving way to true freshman Bryce Young. Jones leads all Power Five quarterbacks with five or more starts in completion percentage (77.1%), yards per throw (12.1) and efficiency rating (205.1).
4. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Lawrence’s return was delayed one week after Saturday’s game against Florida State was postponed due to COVID-19. After missing the Tigers’ previous two games after a positive test of his own, it’ll have been 35 days since his last appearance (against Syracuse on Oct. 24) when Clemson and Lawrence face Pittsburgh this weekend.
5. Zach Wilson, Brigham Young
Wilson tossed four touchdowns in 16 attempts in a 66-14 win against North Alabama, giving him 26 scores in 237 attempts through nine games. Among all quarterbacks with at least 20 touchdowns, his rate of one for every 9.1 throws ranks second nationally behind Trask, who is averaging one for every 7.9 passes.
6. Michael Penix Jr., Indiana
The way Penix has carried Indiana to the top half of the Amway Coaches Poll — and nearly to a miraculous comeback win against Ohio State — is
Reid posted nine tackles (seven solo) and a sack in Sunday’s 27-20 win over the Patriots.
Reid took down Cam Newton in the fourth quarter to record the first sack of his career. The 2018 third-round pick also posted his highest tackle count since Week 2, putting together a solid fantasy day. Reid is averaging 6.3 tackles per game this season and is on pace to record 100 tackles for the first time in his career.
Oregon fans have known for years Justin Herbert is for real.
Now, following lots of unfounded draft scrutiny, the nation sees what Ducks fans have seen all along.
The former Ducks starting quarterback has been performing better than expected as the Chargers starting quarterback, becoming one of the frontrunners for Offensive Rookie of the Year in the process. However, his play wasn’t resulting in wins due to a poor Los Angeles second-half defense, missed field goals, and failed trick plays.
But, Sunday Herbert’s fortune finally turned around as Herbert won his first career NFL game as the starter by defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars 39-29.
Herbert threw for 347 yards passing, three touchdowns, and even ran for a touchdown to go with 66 rushing yards. It was his third start of the season where he threw for 300 yards.
Throughout the game, Herbert showed his impressive physical tools and arm strength that convinced the Chargers to select him with the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
His most impressive throw being a 70-yard bomb to Jaylen Guyton to tie the game at 29.
Then, he got the job done in the redzone with his legs diving for a five-yard score to taker a seven-point lead.
Many national pundits, NFL players and former Oregon teammates were impressed by Herbert not just Sunday, but how he was performed all season.
What to watch for: It’s Justin Herbert vs. Gardner Minshew — if Minshew plays, that is. He might be benched in favor of Mike Glennon. Herbert recalled facing Minshew in college, when he was at Oregon and Minshew was under center for Washington State. It’s an interesting battle of young QBs. Per research by the Elias Sports Bureau, Herbert needs 285 passing yards to have the fifth most in a player’s first five career games. And Minshew is coming off five consecutive games with 40-plus pass attempts, the longest streak in Jaguars history. — Shelley Smith
Bold prediction: The Jaguars will tie an NFL record by allowing the Chargers to score 30-plus points. That would mark the sixth consecutive game in a single season in which they’ve allowed 30 points. The Chargers have scored 58 points in their past two games, and as Herbert gets more comfortable, he’ll thrive against a Jaguars defense that struggles to rush the passer. — Mike DiRocco
Stat to know: Jacksonville running back James Robinson has 569 yards and four touchdowns from scrimmage this season, both second among rookies (TDs is tied for second).
Injuries: Jaguars | Chargers
What to know for fantasy: Dak Prescott was the only quarterback to outscore Herbert in Weeks 4-5 (the Chargers were on bye last weekend). See Week 7 rankings.
Betting nugget: Anthony Lynn is 5-14-1 ATS as a home favorite since becoming the Chargers’ coach in 2017. Read more.
DiRocco’s pick: Chargers 35, Jaguars 18
Smith’s pick: Chargers 27, Jaguars 14
FPI prediction: LAC, 71.7% (by an average of 7.8 points)
Matchup must-reads: Jaguars’ Marrone won’t rule out sitting Minshew … Young Chargers hope bye week helps them blast off under Herbert … Marrone: No plans to fire DC Wash … Bye week shift might be a (rare) good break for the Chargers … Aaron Lynch ending retirement to join Jaguars
It’s late October and I’m still not sure what normal feels like. The Big Ten is back — as is the Mountain West — and college football feels more … complete. That’s true. It feels like the season is more of a reality. But there’s another reality, too. The reason the Big Ten started this late is because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and all signs points to our country heading in the wrong direction and straight into yet another wave of the virus. That backdrop combined with the Big Ten’s return has created a complex juxtaposition and it’s hard to have enough bandwidth for all of it.
But college football’s more fulfilling schedule is still a good thing. The return of the Big Ten was eventful and being able to dive into all of it is what makes this so fun. While there were more games on Saturday than there have been at any other point in 2020, the Big Ten took front and center for this week’s overreactions. So let’s get to them.
The Trevor Lawrence-Justin Fields race is on
Indeed, college football’s season feels more complete with the Big Ten making its debut this weekend. But, really, the drama is in the much-anticipated Heisman race between Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. In a 52-17 throttling of Nebraska, Fields was nearly perfect: 20-of-21 passing for 271 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 54 yards and a score. Despite the blowout, Nebraska’s defense didn’t play terribly; Ohio State is just that gifted. Fields delivered on his much-anticipated first game back and it’s now officially time to add him to the Heisman fold with Lawrence and Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. Fields and Lawrence are going to jockey for which one should be the top pick in next spring’s draft, too. Game on.
Forty-nine points is not the most No. 18 Michigan has scored under coach Jim Harbaugh, but it almost feels like it. Saturday’s 49-24 win over No. 21 Minnesota was the most fun watching a Wolverines offense in a good, long while. A lot of that has to do with quarterback Joe Milton. The Michigan coaching staff raved about Milton in the offseason and the initial returns look the big, athletic, strong-armed quarterback has the steak, not just sizzle. Milton was an efficient 15-of-22 passing for 225 yards and a touchdown while connecting with nine different pass-catchers. He also added 52 yards rushing and another score. There was nothing too flashy; offensive coordinator Josh Gattis did a nice job of keeping everything within reach for Milton. There were plenty of moving pockets and opportunities for Milton to show off his athleticism. There were also moments of clear brilliance. Milton would make a “wow” throw or show off deceptive speed for a player his size. He’s a weapon, even if Michigan didn’t completely unleash him. There’s a missing piece component to his game that could take Michigan to another level — which is important given
ARLINGTON, Texas — Justin Turner launched a first-inning homer Saturday in Game 4 of the World Series, surpassing Los Angeles Dodgers legend Duke Snider for the most postseason home runs in franchise history.
Turner’s 420-foot drive to center field off Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough gave him 12 postseason homers for his career and three since Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.
Turner, a pending free agent, became the first player to hit first-inning home runs in consecutive World Series games. On Friday night, he homered to left field off righty Charlie Morton in the first inning of Game 3.
The only other players with multiple first-inning homers in the same World Series, regardless of the game, are Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman in 2019 and Mickey Hatcher for the 1988 Dodgers.
Corey Seager followed with a solo homer off Yarbrough in the third, giving him 11 for his postseason career. His eight home runs in this year’s playoffs are second only to Randy Arozarena, whose fourth-inning homer gave him a record nine in a single postseason.
Seager’s shot made the Dodgers the first team in postseason history to hit multiple homers in seven consecutive games.
If there’s one silver lining that can be taken from the Vikings’ dreadful 40-23 loss to the Falcons on Sunday, it’s that rookie receiver Justin Jefferson had another huge day. The 21-year-old LSU product shined in the second half, continuing to establish himself as an emerging star in the NFL and a beacon of hope for this franchise.
Jefferson caught nine of 11 targets for 166 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 341 yards and three scores over his past two outings as U.S. Bank Stadium. Those happen to be the two biggest games by a rookie (in terms of receiving yards) over the past three seasons.
After a down week in Seattle (three catches for 23 yards), Jefferson got back to his big-play ways against the Falcons. He recorded gains of 49, 35, 19, 18, and 17 yards on the day. As usual, he did it an a variety of ways, winning on deep balls, intermediate routes, and short routes. Jefferson once again displayed his full repertoire: route-running, contested catches, speed, and YAC ability.
With his third 100-yard game of the season (all coming in the past four weeks), Jefferson has tied Hassan Jones and Sammy White for third among rookies in Vikings history. Only Anthony Carter (5) and Randy Moss (4) had more 100-yard receiving games as rookies, and Jefferson still has ten more games to play.
Jefferson is one of just four players in NFL history to surpass 100 receiving yards three times in their first six games.
Speaking of Moss, take a look at the leaders for receiving yards through a player’s first six games in Vikings history:
Justin Jefferson: 537 (2020)
Randy Moss: 527 (1998)
Stefon Diggs: 506 (2015)
Not only is Jefferson on pace to break Moss’s Vikings rookie record of 1,313 receiving yards, he’s on pace to break the NFL record of 1,377 held by Anquan Boldin. With 537 yards in six games, Jefferson is on pace for 1,432.
Talk about a hot start. Jefferson’s play has made him one of the early frontrunners for the offensive rookie of the year award, along with quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert and fellow wideout CeeDee Lamb.
But Jefferson isn’t just putting up big numbers for a rookie. He’s currently third in the NFL in receiving yards, although he’ll likely fall to fifth or sixth after the two games on Monday. Jefferson’s two most recent performances at home are two of the four highest single-game receiving efforts in the league this year.
The Vikings are 1-5 and all but eliminated from playoff contention. It’s been a disastrous start to the 2020 season. But Jefferson at least provides a reason to keep watching and hope that brighter days are around the corner.
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