If the Clemson Tigers were happy when freshman running back James Davis returned to camp after a short absence in late August, they're overjoyed now.
Davis' minor AWOL fiasco during fall camp was miles away from everyone's mind when Clemson played host to the No. 17 Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday night. The 6-foot, 205-pounder played a bigger role than anyone could have predicted, racking up 101 yards on 19 carries, and for his efforts has been named the Rivals.com National Freshman of the Week.
"I never thought I would get the football that many carries in the first game," Davis said. "I thought five or six carries, maybe. But with what happened tonight, my expectations are a little higher, and fans' expectations will be higher."
And though Davis didn't put any points on the board himself, he was instrumental in the upset victory. The most crucial carries for Davis came in the fourth quarter. Clemson starting quarterback Charlie Whitehurst was woozy on the sidelines after taking a helmet-to-helmet blow. The Tigers' last drive had stalled out after a couple of first downs. With only 3:40 to play, Clemson was down to its last chance. So Davis did what he had to do - he told running backs coach Burton Burns to get him the ball.
"I just told Coach (Burton) Burns I could handle it, and I told him I was used to carrying the football a lot and in these types of situations," Davis said.
"You've got to do it now," Burns told Davis. "If you say you want it, you've got to do it."
And Davis did it, taking Clemson from its 42 to the A&M 25 on eight consecutive carries. The rest is history as Tigers kicker Jad Dean nailed his sixth field goal of the game as time expired to give Clemson a 25-24 upset victory.
"I'm very proud of James," Burns said. "He's still growing right now, and it's a long season, so he will continue to make progress every week. But tonight he made a giant step in the right direction for us."
Other freshmen of note: • Texas true freshman running back Jamaal Charles rushed for 135 yards and one touchdown in the Longhorns' 60-3 romp over UL-Lafayette. Henry Melton, the 6-3, 270-pound back, added 65 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. • Arizona State freshman running back Keegan Herring continued the trend of big debuts in the backfield. Herring logged 134 yards and one touchdown against Temple in only 12 carries. • Arkansas running back Felix Jones piled up 137 yards on just eight carries, including an 80-yard scamper for a score, in a 49-17 win against Missouri State. Fellow freshman Darren McFadden added 70 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. • DeSean Jackson started his freshman season in a big way for California. He bracketed the Golden Bears scoring efforts, catching a 31-yard touchdown pass from Nate Longshore to start off the scoring and later returned a punt for 49 yards and another score in the fourth quarter. Longshore broke his leg later in the game, though, and second-stringer Joseph Ayoob had a terrible day under center, so keep an eye out for the depth chart change that is sure to come at the Golden Bears quarterback position. • Bowling Green redshirt freshman Corey Partridge had a huge day in the Falcons 56-42 loss to Wisconsin. Leading the team in both receptions and yards, Partridge racked up eight catches for 160 yards and a touchdown. • Michigan true freshman Kevin Grady had a big day backing up Michael Hart at running back against Northern Illinois. The former five-star prospect tallied 42 yards on nine carries and scored one touchdown. He also caught one pass for 16 yards. • Mississippi State redshirt freshman Keon Humphries caught five passes for 98 yards and two TDs in a 38-6 win over Murray State. • Penn State's Justin King and Derrick Williams had big games in their freshman debuts. King had a big run from the receiver position, rumbling for 61 yards. Williams caught three passes for 38 yards and returned a kick 14 yards. • Shonn Greene was yet another freshman who had a big debut game. The Iowa running back posted 116 yards and one touchdown against Ball State in Iowa City on Saturday.
Editor's note: Each week, Rivals.com will honor the nation's top freshman, culminating at the season's conclusion with the National Freshman of the Year Award, won by Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson a year ago.