A Defensive End Is Michigan State's Best Offense

Each week, Football Outsiders recognizes the most outstanding college linemen, defenders and other darkhorses from the previous weekend who are habitually overlooked in the hype for that other award (whatever it's called). These are the Lowsmen.

SHILIQUE CALHOUN • DT, Michigan State.
Words can't really express how bad Michigan State's offense is right now – statistically, the Spartans are 114th in total offense and 118th in yards per play after playing Western Michigan and South Florida – which comes with the territory when you put your offense in the hands of Jim Bollman. Because who needs offense, am I right? Through two games, Shillique Calhoun has already found the end zone three times from the middle of the defensive line, which not only makes him the Spartans' leading scorer: It gives him more touchdowns than the entire MSU offense, which has only managed to score two. Against South Florida, Calhoun hit paydirt twice, on a four-yard fumble return in the second quarter and a 56-yard interception return in the third, effectively supplying the final margin in a 21–6 win. (Farther down the box score, he also recorded two tackles for loss.) Meanwhile, the offense finally punched in its first score of the day in the fourth quarter, taking advantage of a short field to chew nearly five minutes off the clock in the course of moving 33 yards.

The Cougars obliterated the school rushing record with 550 yards against Texas, so thoroughly humiliating the Longhorns' blue-chip defense that Mack Brown fired his defensive coordinator immediately after the game. A public shaming on that order leaves plenty of credit to go around, and a very large share of it has to go to the starting five up front – Michael Yeck, Broc Stringham, Ryker Mathews, Solomone Kafu and Terran Alletto – as well as reserves Kyle Johnson and De'Ondre Wesley, both of whom came off the bench to make key blocks on touchdown runs.


Out of that group, only Mathews and Kafu boasted starting experience coming into the season, and there was no indication in BYU's opening day loss at Virginia that this is going to be a regular thing. But for one night, at least, Texas's relatively long-in-the-tooth defensive line was overmatched from start to finish.

There is no resisting the narrative pull of an offense so prolific it threatens to destroy an opposing coach's career in a matter of hours. But the Cougars' resident headliner still resides on the other side of the ball, and for anyone who actually watched the game he was every bit as visible as his offensive counterparts in the course of racking up eight tackles, one sack and four quarterback hurries. Texas' offense went three-and-out four times in the first half, and was never in position to threaten BYU's lead in the second.

Easley didn't make much impact in the final stats (he was credited with one tackle against Miami, for a short loss), but his presence was abundantly clear on the field, and in Miami's production: Despite the win, the Hurricanes finished with just 212 yards of total offense, their worst output since September 2009, including just 50 yards rushing on 1.8 per carry. The Canes made every effort to feed their star sophomore, Duke Johnson, but on 21 carries—a new career high—he managed 59 yards with a long of twelve. Between the tackles was a black hole wearing No. 2.

Not to be outdone, Perryman was all over the field against the Gators, and subsequently the box score: He led both teams with 13 total tackles (nine solo, four assists) and kicked off the turnover party by forcing the first of four Florida fumbles on the first possession of the game; the Canes' first touchdown followed from the short field less than three minutes later. For his efforts, he was awarded with a nod as on of the ACC's defensive players of the week and a thorough highlight video set to some generic hip hop.

Smith, a junior college transfer playing in just his second game, lived up to his four-star recruiting hype by recording three of the Wildcats' six sacks against Miami (Ohio), making him the most dominant player in a dominating, 41–7 rout that snapped a 10-game losing streak against FBS opponents. As a team, Kentucky held the RedHawks to 122 total yards – the fewest its yielded to an FBS offense this century, or that Miami has gained – and did not allow consecutive first downs on any drive. Miami's only points came on a fumble recovery/return by its own defense.

So, yes, Miami is only a random MAC also-ran. In this case, after allowing 35 points in an opening day loss to Western Kentucky, you take the positives where you can get them. Especially when your next game is against Teddy Bridgewater.

DAMANTE HORTON • CB, Washington State.
Horton picked off two passes against USC, both of them critical to the Cougars' upset: The first he took to the house for Washington State's only touchdown of the game; the second slammed the door on the Trojans' comeback bid late in the fourth quarter. Not long ago, those two plays alone might have made him a household name in a monumental upset fueled by the overachieving Cougar defense, which held the Trojans to their lowest point total at home (7) since 2001 and their lowest passing total (54 yards) in even longer. Under the circumstances, nobody could hear his name beneath chants of "Fire Kiffin."

Sacrificing his own personal well-being to the greater goal of beating UTEP, Carrier lived up to his name Saturday with 41 carries for 291 yards and four touchdowns, capped by the decisive score in overtime to give the Lobos a 42–35 win on the road. Forty-one carries set a new career high, eclipsing last year's 39-carry performance against Air Force en route to setting the Mountain West's single-game rushing record, but given that New Mexico only attempted seven passes in a neck-and-neck game, Carrier might want to go ahead and reserve a permanent seat in the ice bath.

The Lowsman Trophy Watch was created by Robert Weintraub. Want to nominate a player for the Lowsman? Drop us a line.

Matt Hinton writes about college football for Football Outsiders and SB Nation's Football Study Hall. Follow on Twitter, @MattRHinton.