There are lot of unique features to like about college football uniforms. There’s the classic get-ups from schools like Notre Dame and Alabama, and 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.
Mississippi State – Nick Fitzgerald (quarterback)
It didn’t take long for Texas A&M’s College Football Playoff hopes to be dashed. And at the hands of the Aggies’ demise in a 35-28 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday was Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald.
While Mississippi State has had a down year (4-5) and has a lot to work out on its defense, Fitzgerald continued to show promise as he finishes his first year as a starter.
Fitzgerald threw for 209 yards and a pair of touchdowns and ran for 182 yards and two more touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs to an upset over the then-No. 4 ranked Aggies.
He first set the tone of the game less than three minutes into the first quarter with a 74-yard run to give Mississippi State a quick 7-0 lead in front of the home crowd at Starksville. Fitzgerald then had a pair of touchdown connections with Fred Ross in the second quarter and the Bulldogs took a commanding 28-14 lead into the half.
Mississippi State never trailed Saturday.
Fitzgerald has quietly become one of the nation’s most dangerous dual threats under center and is one of only three quarterbacks to have run for more than 800 yards so far this season (839 yards, eight touchdowns).
There’s still a significant learning curve with his decision making through the air – he’s thrown nine interceptions – but if Saturday’s performance against Texas A&M was any indication, there’s a lot to be excited about with the sophomore signal caller.
Texas – D’Onta Foreman (running back)
Is there anyone hotter than D’Onta Foreman right now?
The Longhorns back rushed for a career-high 341 yards and three touchdowns to lead Texas past Texas Tech in a 45-37 shootout. That standout performance came after the junior was a one-man wrecking crew the previous week with 250 yards in a top 10 upset win over Baylor.
While more teams around the nation continue to transition toward a two- or three-man rotation at running back, Foreman took the brunt of the carries (33 of 50) and only grew stronger as the game wore on.
Two of his three touchdown runs came in the second half to extend the Longhorns’ slim lead over the Red Raiders. The final blow came on his 74-yard touchdown run when he broke a tackle, lost a shoe near the line of scrimmage and finished the long run downfield to give Texas a comfortable 15-point advantage.
Foreman has now reached the century mark in each of his eight games of action this year – his lowest total was 124 against Kansas State – and he’s had five multi-touchdown games this season.
The Longhorns are now on a two-game winning streak after dropping four of its previous five contests. Foreman’s consistency has been the driving force in this mini revival in Austin.
Alabama – Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama defensive back)
Replacing a senior captain and All-American candidate in a defensive secondary is no easy task. But if there’s any program that’s capable of doing so without missing a beat, it’s No. 1 Alabama.
That’s exactly what the Tide have to do for the rest of the season after safety Eddie Jackson was ruled out for the rest of the season with a leg injury, forcing sophomore cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick to rotate to that back slot.
One week into the move and it’s paid off greatly for Alabama.
Alabama outlasted LSU 10-0 Saturday in Baton Rouge in a game that was scoreless until two minutes into the fourth quarter.
That’s when Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts led a 90-yard drive in which he finished with a 21-yard touchdown to break the ice. It was an impressive drive, but then the key was to prevent a back-breaking response from the Tigers offense to level the score once more.
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There was no rebuttal from No. 13 LSU. Less than a minute later, Fitzpatrick picked up his fourth interception of the year to reinforce confidence on the Alabama sideline and give its offense a chance to kill more time and clinch the victory.
Fitzpatrick’s final stat line included three tackles, one pass breakup and that key fourth quarter interception, his fourth of the season.
The whole Tide defensive unit deserves praise for holding LSU to just 125 yards of total offense, but extra kudos goes to Fitzpatrick for his quick adjustments.
2016 helmet sticker leaders: Washington (3), Alabama (2), Clemson (2), Louisville (2), Oklahoma (2), Arizona State (1), Arkansas (1), Florida State (1), Georgia (1), Houston (1), LSU (1), Louisiana Tech (1), Michigan (1), Mississippi State (1), North Carolina (1), North Carolina State (1), Ohio State (1), Penn State (1), Stanford (1), Tennessee (1), Texas (1), Texas A&M (1), Western Michigan (1), Wisconsin (1)
(Photos courtesy of Mark Zerof, Michael C. Johnson and Matt Kartozian | USA Today Sports Images)