The 2016 college football season kicked off this past weekend with an absolute bang, giving us a Week 1 to remember. There were record-breaking performances, unpredictable upsets, unbelievable plays along with some pretty hilarious gaffes. The Tide rolled, Houston bowled over Oklahoma and the Noles made the most impressive comeback since Britney Spears performance at the VMAs.
(Bonus: the tumultuous Florida State-Ole Miss gave us enough Jameis Winston memes to last us the rest of the season.)
But what really wowed was the maturity shown by a specific group of young bucks at various schools across the conferences. Here are a few performances by freshman that stood out.
Alabama QB Jalen Hurts
Alabama rolled right into the new college football season the way the left the old one: playing like a championship team. The Tide thoroughly routed USC Saturday night 52-6 and Hurts was a major key to Alabama’s success. The freshman quarterback threw two touchdown passes to ArDarius Stewart and ran for two more scores, a 6-yard run and a 7-yard run.
Hurts fumbled his first snap after replacing redshirt freshman Blake Barnett, who struggled in his first two drives despite being the youngest Alabama QB to start under Nick Saban. Hurts quickly recovered, finishing the game 6-11 for 118 yards and one interception. He also ran on seven of his 37 snaps and finished with nine carries for 32 yards. When the media asked Saban why he didn’t mention Hurts’ name in the QB competition discussion prior to the game, his answer was pure GOAT status.
— Emily Van Buskirk (@Emilnem) September 4, 2016
Michigan RB Chris Evans
Michigan destroyed Hawaii 63-3 in the Big Blue’s season opener Saturday. The 60-point margin of victory is the program’s largest since 1975. Freshman running back Chris Evans had a breakout performance, leading the team in rushing with eight carries for 112 yards and two touchdowns. He is just the third true freshman running back to eclipse 100 rushing yards in his Wolverines debut, joining Chris Perry (2000) and Walter Cross (1998). Evans’ lightining speed and nerves of steel make him a Jim Harbaugh player through and through. Expect to see Evans buoy Michigan to possible playoff heights.
Texas QB Shane Buechele
Charlie Strong showed the college football world why you don’t mess with Texas on Sunday night as the Longhorns upset Notre Dame 50-47 in double overtime. While sophomore QB Tyrone Swoopes was the hero, freshman quarterback Shane Buechle’s performance was equally impressive over the course of the game. Buechele is the first true freshman to start at QB for the Longhorns in the season opener since Bobby Layne in 1944. He is just the ninth true freshman to start at quarterback in a game in school history and the first since David Ash in 2011.
He finished 16-for-26 with 313 total yards of offense, two touchdowns and one interception. Buechle’s 72-yard touchdown pass to receiver John Burt in the third quarter is tied for the fourth longest by a freshman QB in Texas history.
Oregon LB Troy Dye
You don’t generally see defensive players make lists like this, but linebacker Troy Dye’s tackling prowess helped pave the way for Oregon’s 53-28 win over UC Davis. Dye recorded a 11 tackles, 4.5 for a loss and blocked a field goal, earning him Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. After his first game. In the very first week of college football. So there’s that.
Houston RB Duke Catalon
Lastly, a player who may not be a freshman on the surface, but he did play in his very first college football game for Houston on Saturday, aiding the Cougars in their exciting 33-23 victory over Oklahoma. Duke Catalon started his college football journey at Texas, where he redshirted his freshman year. He then transferred to Houston but was forced to sit out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.
The sophomore running back found the endzone for the first time in his career on a 15-yard screen pass from standout senior QB Greg Ward Jr. with 10:12 remaning in the first half. It was also Houston’s first touchdown of the season. While Ward Jr. stoe the show, Catalon lead the Cougars in rushing with 22 carries for 93 yards, providing a complimentray offensive effort to Ward Jr.’s 321 passing yards. Catalon also finished with four receptions for 29 yards.
Sports writer. Avid fan, former player, once-upon-a-time coach, reluctant referee. I do digital media things with my friends. I also jinx kickers. Bay Area born & raised.