Michigan State QB Payton Thorne
Michigan State redshirt freshman QB Payton Thorne did not necessarily break out in the sense that he now looks to be a star. With 22 completions on 39 attempts for 325 yards, three touchdowns, and a pick, Thorne was not quite out-of-this-world good. For a freshman taking over late in the season, though, he looked every bit the part.
If nothing else, Thorne was letting it rip down the field. He had no reservations about testing the Penn State defense and trying to see what he could get away with. The results were a bit mixed, but that kind of attitude out of a freshman is exactly what the coaching staff should want to see.
It’s also worth noting that Thorne had been seeing some time before Saturday’s game against Penn State. He threw a total of 45 passes against Ohio State and Indiana, unfortunately resulting in a sub-6.0 yards per attempt mark with just two picks. Those struggles only make his triumph against Penn State all the more sweet, though, as it proves his issues earlier in the year did not hold him back from letting loose when he needed to.
Unfortunately for MSU, they still lost, but at least Thorne showed some baseline to be the starting QB in the future. Thorne was a three-star dual-threat back in MSU’s 2019 signing class, so they’re likely hoping he can build from this performance next year and step up as the clear starting QB.
Pitt RB Vincent Davis
Vincent Davis is no stranger to the Pitt offense. All throughout the year, he’s received a handful of carries per game. Typically, the sophomore back clocks in for about 30-60 yards as a contributor, though he’s never really been the main guy. On Friday, he finally was.
On 25 carries, Davis ripped off 247 yards, hitting just under 10 yards per carry. He only found the end zone once, but the fact that he was so consistently picking up chunk yardage to allow the rest of the offense to put points on the board was more than enough contribution.
The craziest part of Davis’ performance is he was the most productive player in the game. No, not just among skill players, but even among QBs. Both QBs in the game fell just below 240 yards, making Davis’ 247 yards reign supreme. It’s pretty rare that a non-QB takes the crown for yards in a game, but Davis was able to make it happen against the Yellow Jackets.
The school already announced they will not be participating in a bowl game, so we will not see any more Davis in 2020. HC Pat Narduzzi and the rest of the staff will surely be hoping Davis can continue this into next year. Seeing as Pitt’s run game was a bit of a disaster all year, Davis included, this was the exact kind of performance the team was looking for headed into the new season.
Ball State WR Justin Hall
Ball State senior WR Justin Hall was instrumental in leading Saturday’s comeback against Western Michigan. With the Cardinals down seven in the fourth quarter, Hall reeled in a 55-yard score to tie the game up at 27 all, eventually setting up for a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation. In total, Hall finished with 10 catches for a whopping 175 yards and two scores. From beginning to end, the man was unstoppable.
Prior to Saturday’s game, Hall had only cleared the 100 yard mark two other times in 2020. He also had just one score to his name the entire season, which came in the opener and Ball State’s only loss of the year against Miami (OH).
On the one hand, it’s great for Hall that he could end his senior season with such a banger. Many players do not get to go out on a high note. On the other hand, it’s a bit unfortunate that Hall did not have more games like this one earlier on to really kick his potential NFL status into high gear. Hall could still latch on as a camp invite, but at 5-foot-9 and 186-pounds, it may be an uphill battle.
That said, Hall could also return to school. A new ruling this year due to COVID allows players to reclaim this season of eligibility, so a player like Hall may want to take advantage of that. Expect a decision from him on that front following Ball State’s potential (and likely) bowl game.
Coastal Carolina WR Jaivon Heiligh
Javon Heiligh has been a staple for the Coastal Carolina offense all year long. Throughout 2020, he has posted multiple games of over 100 yards and has scored multiple times on a couple of occasions. Heiligh had never done both in the same game until this Saturday, however.
Not only was this Heiligh’s first game with over 100-yards and multiple scores, but he also notched a season-best in yardage. In total, Heiligh grabbed 11 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns, helping lead the way for a close win over Troy.
In fact, it was Heiligh who brought in the go-ahead score. With about 30 seconds left, Heiligh snagged a 23-yarder to put Coastal Carolina ahead by four following the extra point. Troy was not able to respond with any points on the following drive, leading to yet another Coastal Carolina win to keep their undefeated streak going.
Coastal Carolina has one more game lined up against Louisiana, who are also ranked in the Top-25. This match should make for a high-octane affair, which would be prime for another Heiligh performance such as this one.