DALLAS (FWAA) Each week during the 2021 season, we will highlight the notable performances of first-year players and head coaches leading up to the selection of our annual Freshman All-America Team and the Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach of the Year Award presented by Chris Doering Mortgage. Here are the top performances from Week 3, the weekend of Sept. 18:
FIRST-YEAR PLAYERS: THE FRESH FOUR
Jaxson Dart, QB, USC (6-3, 215, Kaysville, Utah): 30/46, 391 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT; 6 rushes, 32 yards
Dart led the Trojans to a 45-14 victory over Washington State Saturday as USC got its first conference win of the 2021 season. The young quarterback's debut was certainly less than customary, as he was forced to step in early for third-year starter Kedon Slovis, who left the game in the first quarter with an upper body injury. The true freshman masterfully led a Trojan team less than a week removed from former head coach Clay Helton, setting a program record for most yards thrown by a quarterback in his debut. With Slovis expected to practice this week, Dart could challenge for the QB1 spot on USC's roster.
TreVeyon Henderson, RB, Ohio State (5-10, 215, Hopewell, Va.): 24 rushes, 277 yards, 3 TD
Henderson provided a much-needed spark for an Ohio State attack than struggled to get off the ground early before beating Tulsa, 40-21. The true freshman showcased a whole grab bag of skills, ranging from power to agility to plenty of breakaway speed in the Buckeyes' victory. Henderson's 277 yards rushing Saturday were the most by an Ohio State freshman in 49 years. The young workhorse will look to keep rolling next week against Akron at home.
Sean Tucker, RB, Syracuse (5-10, 210, Owing Mills, Md.): 13 rushes, 132 yards, 4 TD; 3 receptions, 121 yards, 1 TD
Tucker continued to impress Saturday with five total touchdowns in a 62-24 beatdown of Albany. The true freshman also became the first player in program history to have at least 100 yards rushing along with 100 yards receiving. Tucker, who also currently has the second-most yards rushing of all FBS freshman, will look to help improve the Orange to 3-1 Friday against Liberty before conference play begins the following weekend.
Deion Smith, WR, LSU (6-3, 198, Jackson, Miss.): 5 receptions, 135 yards, 2 TD
Smith helped the Tigers get ahead early and never look back as LSU thumped Central Michigan, 49-21. The speedster's explosive day was highlighted by a spectacular touchdown catch over a Chippewa defender. The true freshman will look to keep the hits rolling in Week 4 as the Tigers start conference play Saturday at Mississippi State.
STEVE SPURRIER FIRST-YEAR COACHES
Blake Anderson, Utah State: Anderson led the Aggies to their first 3-0 start since 1978 with Saturday's 49-45 win against Air Force. Utah State scored 15 unanswered points after trailing 45-34 with less than ten minutes left in the game. Calvin Tyler Jr. broke off a 61-yard touchdown run to take the lead before a recovered Falcon fumble on the ensuing drive sealed the victory for Anderson's squad. The Aggie air attack had its way all night, generating 448 of the team's 628 total yards.
Josh Heupel, Tennessee: Heupel's Volunteers also bounced back with strength following a tight loss to Pitt a week prior, walloping Tennessee Tech by a score of 56-0. Tennessee's passing game saw an uptick in production after Heupel decided to start senior Hendon Hooker, who finished 17-of-25 passing for 199 yards and 3 TD. Hooker also singlehandedly outrushed the Golden Eagles with 64 yards rushing and a touchdown. The Volunteer defense allowed just 179 yards of total offense and intercepted for passes in the win.
Steve Sarkisian, Texas: Texas wasted no time proving that its Week 2 loss to Arkansas was behind it as the Longhorns shut out Rice, 58-0. Sarkisian gave junior quarterback Casey Thompson the starting nod early in the week following a less-than-impressive performance by Hudson Card in Week 2. Thompson finished 15-of-18 passing for 164 yards, two touchdowna and an interception. Sophomore running back Bijan Robinson had another exemplary week to the tune of 127 yards rushing and 3 TD.
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