Freshman Focus: Week 12

Ohio State running back Dallan Hayden
Ohio State running back Dallan Hayden
USC head coach Lincoln Riley
USC head coach Lincoln Riley

DALLAS (FWAA) – Each week during the 2022 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 12, the weekend of Nov. 19:


Barion Brown, WR, Kentucky (6-1, 166, Nashville, Tenn.): 10 receptions, 145 yards, 1 TD

Brown kept the Kentucky offense moving with several spectacular plays against a vaunted Georgia defense in a 16-6 loss. The true freshman won several deep one-on-one matchups, hauling in passes of 47, 42, and 31 yards. Brown also set a career high in receiving yards. He and the Wildcats (6-5) will try to finish the regular season with a sweet win over bitter rival Louisville.

Dallan Hayden, RB, Ohio State (5-10, 195, Memphis, Tenn.): 27 rushes, 146 yards, 3 TD; 2 receptions, 10 yards

Hayden ducked, dodged, and ran through Maryland tacklers all game en route to a 43-30 win. Struggling in the pass attack, Hayden helped Ohio State avoid the upset and keep its share of the top spot in the Big Ten East. The true freshman set career highs in both touchdowns and yards rushing in the win. The Buckeyes (11-0) will look for another big week from Hayden in their heavyweight home clash with Michigan this Saturday.

Damien Martinez, RB, Oregon State (6-0, 216, Lewisville, Texas): 22 rushes, 138 yards, 2 TD

Martinez’s second multi-touchdown game this season lifted Oregon State over Arizona State, 31-7. The walk-on true freshman, who leads all Pac-12 freshmen in rushing yards, bruised through Sun Devil defenders all afternoon. It was the Beavers’ (8-3) second win over Arizona State since 1972. Oregon State will need another strong week from Martinez and the ground attack when Oregon’s staunch defensive front visits Corvallis.

Benjamin Morrison, S, Notre Dame (6-0, 179, Phoenix, Ariz.): 1 tackle, 3 INT

Morrison posted multiple interceptions for the second time this season and Notre Dame shut out Boston College, 44-0. The true freshman became the first Fighting Irish (8-3) defender with three interceptions in a single game since 2010. Morrison’s interceptions were well rewarded, too, as they set up 17 points. The ball hawk will look for another eye-popping performance this weekend against USC’s high-octane passing attack.


Sonny Dykes, TCU: Dykes’ Horned Frogs remained undefeated and became the first Big 12 team to start 11-0 in the College Football Playoff era with a 29-28 win over Baylor. Quarterback Max Duggan furthered his case for Heisman contention, leading TCU on consecutive fourth-quarter scoring drives to set up a last-second fire-drill field goal for the win. Duggan completed 24 passes for 327 yards, a touchdown and an interception while adding 50 yards and another score on the ground. TCU will look to finish its first perfect Big 12 regular season in school history against Iowa State this weekend.

Dan Lanning, Oregon: The Ducks kept themselves in contention for the Pac-12 title game with a gritty 20-17 win over then-No. 10-ranked Utah. Lanning’s defense picked off Utah three times and did not allow any points in the fourth quarter. Far from full health, quarterback Bo Nix posted 287 passing yards, a touchdown, and an interception on 25 completions. Oregon (9-2) will clinch a spot in its conference championship game with a win at Oregon State on Saturday.

Brent Pry, Virginia Tech: Pry’s Hokies snapped a seven-game losing skid and upset Liberty, 23-22, on the road. Running back Jalen Holston led Virginia Tech (3-8) with 26 rushes for 99 yards and three touchdowns, the last of which became the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. Pry’s defense recovered two fumbles and limited Liberty to four third-down conversions in 12 attempts. The Hokies will try to avoid finishing last in the ACC Coastal division with a win over Virginia this weekend.

Lincoln Riley, USC: Riley’s Trojans solidified themselves as the Pac-12’s chief hope for the College Football Playoff and toppled then-No. 16-ranked UCLA, 48-45. USC (10-1) produced 649 total yards of offense and picked off UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson three times. Caleb Williams threw for 470 yards with three total touchdowns and an interception, and Austin Jones added 120 yards rushing with two scores on the ground. USC will try to enter the Pac-12 Championship Game as a one-loss team by beating Notre Dame this weekend.

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