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Small-School College Stars for Week 9

Week 9 of the College Football season brought great performances from many different players from many different schools. Although Cincinnati sent shock waves through the college football world with their second-straight dominant performance, here are five performances that deserve more time in the spotlight:

Nick Starkel, QB, San Jose State

Stats vs. New Mexico: 34/47 passing, 467 passing yards, 9.9 YPA, 5 TDs, 72.8 QBR

The San Jose State Spartans have gotten off to a solid 2-0 start this year after defeating New Mexico, 38-21, in large part thanks to transfer QB Nick Starkel, who has arrived at his third school in the past three years. In Week 9, the 6-3, 214-pound senior had a game that was reminiscent of his performance for Texas A&M in the 2017 Belk Bowl against Wake Forest. Against New Mexico, Starkel compiled 467 yards through the air on 34 of 47 passing for five touchdowns against no interceptions. The start of the game for the journeyman QB did not look very promising, as his passes were all over the place and he wasn’t reacting terribly well to the pressure the Lobos’ defense was throwing at him; however, after that first series, Starkel would go on to torch the Lobos’ secondary with an array of beautiful deep balls. He also nickel-and-dimed the Lobos and exposed some of the holes in their short to intermediate coverages. Starkel’s most impressive throw of the day was to sophomore wideout Isaiah Hamilton -- Starkel was able to drop the ball between the corner playing man coverage on Hamilton and the safety who was playing over the top in order to put the Spartans up two touchdowns in the second quarter. Starkel’s performance was so good in Week 9 that he earned Manning Award Star of the Week and Davey O’Brien Award’s Great 8 honors for Week 9. Starkel gives the Spartans a chance to be a surprise player in the Mountain West if he can build upon this performance.

Austin Trammell, WR, Rice

Stats vs. Southern Mississippi: 7 receptions for 143 yards, 20.4 YPC, 3 TDs

Even though Rice only threw the ball 17 times in its 30-6 win over Southern Mississippi, 5-10, 185-pound senior wideout Austin Trammell was on the receiving end of seven of those passes. Each time Trammell caught the ball, he was able to make something happen. It didn’t matter if it was a short out route or a fade, he was able to expose whoever was covering him. Rice ran the ball 50 times in this game, but that did not stop Trammell from having a huge impact when he was able to get the ball. Trammell’s first TD of the game did not really look like it was going to be a score at first. Trammell ran a quick out route that should’ve been good for just a first down until the corner tried to go for the interception, which led to the senior wideout being able to run for a 72-yard touchdown. Furthermore, Southern Mississippi had a chance to knock Trammell out of bounds, but he showed impressive balance to stay in and put Rice up 10-0. Trammell is quickly turning into a red-zone threat and go-to receiver in the Owls’ offense. He has a team-leading five touchdown receptions through two games to go with being the leading receiver in yardage and receptions on the team. Rice has not usually been known to produce wideouts with gaudy stats, but Trammell can certainly change that if he continues to shine like he has through two games.

Trey Ragas, RB, Louisiana

Stats vs. Texas State: 19 rushes for 131 yards, 6.9 yards per carry, 3 TDs, 1 reception for 8 yards

Louisiana has been one of the better teams in the Sun Belt Conference this season, and a lot of their offensive success has come from a primarily run-oriented offense. In a 44-34 shootout victory over Texas State, this run-first offense was on full display as the Ragin’ Cajuns ran the ball 50 times in this one due to Texas State’s inability to make clean tackles. Louisiana has generally used a split backfield with senior running backs Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas. While Mitchell has put up some bigger performances this season, it was Ragas who put on a show against Texas State in Week 9. Despite standing at only 5-10, the 230-pound senior back was nearly impossible to bring down as he averaged 6.9 yards per carry. Each time Ragas got a carry, it seemed like Texas State needed multiple defenders in order to bring him down. This inability to tackle the senior running back led to Ragas getting the bulk of the carries (19), and he made sure to make the most of his opportunities. Ragas’ role in the offense was especially huge in this game as he played a huge role in helping the Ragin’ Cajuns to control the tempo and not allow Texas State to build any sort of momentum whatsoever. The senior may have only had a long of 17 yards on the day, but he was still able to get chunks of yardage on every touch he got. This alone would be effective in tiring out the Texas State defense and opening up more opportunities to break tackles and rush for big gains. Despite the fact that Ragas may not be having the season he did as a sophomore, he is still helping Louisiana win games with this run-first mentality.

Charles Hicks, LB, Wyoming

Stats vs. Hawai’i: 4 total tackles, 3 solo tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, 1 INT

After a tough loss to Nevada in Week 8, especially for the defense, Wyoming’s poor defensive performance could’ve easily carried over to Week 9 against a Hawai’i team that put up 34 points against Fresno State a week earlier; this was not the case, as Wyoming shut down the Rainbow Warriors, giving up only a single touchdown in a dominant 31-7 victory. The defense was flying all over the field, and one particular player who stood out was 6-3, 228-pound sophomore linebacker Charles Hicks. Wyoming dialed up the pressure on numerous occasions throughout the game. On Hicks’ first sack, he came on the blitz and nobody was able to move quick enough to block him from getting to the QB. Furthermore, on the lone interception of the game, Hicks was in the right spot at the right time, which allowed him to get the pick off a really nice deflection and nearly take it back to the house for six points. Wyoming’s defense still gave up some yardage on the night, but Hawai’i had to work very hard to move the ball. It always seemed that players like Hicks were ready for whatever the Rainbow Warriors tried to throw at the Cowboys’ defense. The Cowboys ended up with five sacks on the night with Hicks accounting for two of them. Hicks was the Mountain West Conference Player of the Week for Week 9, and the sophomore still has room to grow.

Bee Jay Williamson, DB, Louisiana Tech

Stats vs. UAB: 10 total tackles, 5 solo tackles, 5 assisted tackles, 1 PD, 1 forced fumble, 2 INTs

Louisiana Tech got all it could handle in Week 9 against the UAB Blazers, as it took two overtimes to secure a 37-34 victory, the Bulldogs’ fourth this season. There was not a ton of defense in this game but the Bulldogs got plenty of help from one player in particular in the form of sophomore defensive back Bee Jay Williamson. The 6-1, 185-pound DB played a huge role in helping Louisiana Tech limit the damage from UAB’s offense in regulation. On Louisiana Tech’s lone defensive score of the game, Williamson made a move that would usually be frowned upon by coaches: lateraling the ball. On third-and-5 with a little over seven minutes to go in the second quarter and LTU holding a meager 3-0 lead, Williamson picked off an errant pass by the UAB QB. Williamson could have easily just gotten tackled and let the LTU offense take over. Instead, Williamson pitched the ball back to teammate Khalil Ladler, who took the pitch all the way to the end zone for a touchdown. On a day in which LTU had a hard time stopping the Blazers’ offense, this would prove to be a huge score. Williamson wasn’t done there, either. He would go on to have another interception and a forced fumble on the day, becoming one of only nine players since 2000 to have 10 total tackles, 2 INTs and a forced fumble in one game. Without Williamson’s contributions, this game would have certainly gone another way.

Sources: ESPN, YouTube, Twitter