College football helmet stickers: Week 1's top impact players
There’s a lot of unique features to like about college football uniforms. There’s the classic get-ups from schools like Notre Dame and Alabama to the stylish, ever-changing equipment put out by programs like Oregon.
But one minute detail that often gets overlooked nowadays are the helmet decals featured by teams like Ohio State and Florida State. It uses a reward system to honor players who have special performances or made impact plays with a sticker to put on one’s helmet. The more plays you make, the more stickers you accumulate.
This season, NCAA.com will install the same system. Every Sunday we will choose three standout players from the weekend to earn “stickers” for their team. Let’s see who has the most decorated helmet at the end of the season.
Houston – Brandon Wilson (cornerback/kick returner)
Coming into the season and its high-stakes opener with No. 3 Oklahoma, the biggest question mark plaguing No. 15 Houston was its inexperienced secondary.
Well, the young Cougars did their job, providing excellent coverage downfield and limiting the big play ability of Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield. Senior Brandon Wilson, Houston’s lone returnee from its 2015 back unit, led the charge with a team-best 10 tackles and one pass breakup.
But it wasn’t in pass coverage where Wilson made the greatest impact in the Cougars’ Week 1 33-23 shake up win. That instead came on a 109-yard missed field goal touchdown return to provide all the momentum Houston needed.
Down 19-17 in the third quarter, Oklahoma lined up for what would have been a lead-taking 53-yard field goal from Austin Seibert. But the attempt fell short and Wilson, who was lined up deep in case of a return opportunity, reached high to grab the incoming ball – barely keeping his foot in bounds – and raced to the opposite end zone.
Wilson went untouched for 109 yards with his greatest obstacle coming in hurdling his own teammate down the sideline.
The kick six served as a nine-point swing and was the turning point of the game. On Oklahoma’s ensuing offensive drive, the Sooners fumbled, which led to another Houston score.
That’s what you call a game-changing play.
Georgia – Nick Chubb (running back)
Well it didn’t take long for Nick Chubb to get reacclimated to playing at full speed, did it?
The junior running back rushed for 222 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries in No. 18 Georgia’s 33-24 victory over No. 22 North Carolina Saturday and what was his first game back since going down with a knee injury last October.
The Bulldogs struggled at times on offense as Greyson Lambert and Jacob Eason rotated in and out at quarterback to mixed results. But Chubb was the key to Georgia’s attack and averaged nearly seven yards a carry.
There was no hesitancy by Georgia coach Kirby Smart in letting Chubb run early and often, as the running back had eight hand-offs on the Bulldog’s first two drives. He opened the game’s scoring on Georgia’s second drive with a two-yard touchdown.
Chubb then delivered the dagger with three minutes, 45 seconds left in regulation by taking a pitch for a 55-yard touchdown on Georgia’s first play from scrimmage on the drive. Chubb ran through three would-be tackles before outracing UNC’s lone remaining defender, showing the burst that was so apparent before his 2015 season came to an end.
Chubb’s Saturday performance was his third-career 200-yard game. Welcome back.
Clemson – Mike Williams (wide receiver)
Chubb wasn’t the only star to return to the field Saturday and put last year’s injury behind him.
Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams was back as Deshaun Watson’s No. 1 receiver and shined with a career-high 174 receiving yards and career-high tying nine catches in No. 2 Clemson’s close 19-13 win over Auburn.
Williams’ 2015 season came to an end after he caught a touchdown and fractured part of his neck while colliding with the goal post on the Tigers’ first drive of the season. While he was a vital part of Clemson’s offense, the Tigers still cruised all the way to a spot in the national championship game.
Now with Williams back for Watson and a talented unit, the sky is the limit for the Tigers in their dreams of returning to title contention. Williams’ 2016 debut only justified that.
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Watson and Williams connected on numerous back-shoulder catches against Auburn in crucial third down situations. In a game with not a whole lot of scoring, Williams’ reliability helped move the chains ahead of Clemson’s two touchdown drives as well as milk the clock late in the game. In fact, eight of Williams’ nine receptions were good for first downs.
Plan on hearing Williams’ name a lot again this season.
2016 helmet sticker leaders: Clemson (1), Georgia (1), Houston (1)
(Photo credits: Mark J. Rebilas and Brett Davis | USA TODAY Sports Images)