Guys, I’m conflicted.
On one hand, I simply don’t want the college football season to end. For all its struggles, the 2020 campaign has been a historic one for the pure dominance of its Canadian contingent, and it’s been a pleasure to highlight that. On the other hand, with just two weeks left until Bowl season begins, I’m running out of unique ways to introduce these segments.
In the interest of both of those points, let’s cut to the chase and check out the best and brightest Canadians from Week 14 NCAA action.
Top of the Class
1. MLB Amen Ogbongbemiga, SR, Oklahoma State Cowboys (Calgary, Alb.)
Last week, I suggested Amen Ogbongbemiga too often gets lost in the shuffle and overlooked despite his high quality of play. This week, the senior linebacker simply made himself impossible to miss.
Not only was he this week’s top Canadian performer, Ogbongbemiga was also the best linebacker in all of college football according to Pro Football Focus, recording a dazzling 92.9 PFF grade that rose to a near perfect 97.7 on plays against the run.
Sure, Ogbongbemiga made 12 tackles. That type of production has become normal for him, but where he really stood out was in forcing turnovers. Against Texas Christian University, the ferocious Calgarian ripped the football loose from the opposition not once, not twice, but three times.
It wasn’t enough to give his team the win but it did set a new team record and showed off Ogbongbemiga’s physicality, dogged persistence and desire. As his final season as a Cowboy comes to a close, this game will be his crowning achievement and the performance people in Stillwater, Oklahoma will remember for a long time.
2. WLB Jesse Luketa, JR, Penn State Nittany Lions (Ottawa, Ont.)
Ottawa’s Jesse Luketa’s ascension to the starting lineup for struggling Penn State might be most optimistically described as a mixed bag, but the athletic Canadian linebacker certainly came to play against a terrible Rutgers team.
Luketa managed 10 tackles, a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery Saturday, leading his defensive unit to their best performance of the season. Struggling in coverage as of late, the once highly-recruited junior managed to hold his own and wasn’t targeted for the first time all season, a major step in the right direction.
While some prognosticators have suggested the Nittany Lions may have finally turned a corner this week, so too has Luketa. His overall PFF grade of 77.7 was his best of the year by a wide margin and easily secures him a place on the podium.
3. RB Chase Brown, SO, Illinois Fighting Illini (London, Ont.)
Ho-hum, Chase Brown makes the Top of the Class once again.
Over the last few weeks, the London native’s excellence has become almost routine as he’s risen to become Illinois’ feature runner. It was another solid across the board performance in a tough loss to Iowa.
Brown ran the ball 18 times for 83 yards and caught two passes for 15 more, producing what has become a routine stat-line for him and a PFF grade of 75.6. What was again most impressive was that Brown has yet to show a gaping weakness in his game. He may not be a home run hitter, but Brown can do whatever else you ask of him.
Notes on the Margin
SS Jonathan Sutherland, JR, Penn State Nittany Lions (Ottawa, Ont.)
While Jesse Luketa was the headline-grabbing starter, he wasn’t actually Penn State’s highest-graded Canadian on Saturday. That honour, with a narrowly better grade of 77.9, goes to fellow Ottawan Jonathan Sutherland.
Sutherland was left off my podium because he took considerably fewer defensive snaps than his counterpart — just 25 — but he still deserves the honourable mention here. On what was by far his most coverage-heavy defensive performance as a substitute, Sutherland lined up absolutely everywhere and didn’t allow a catch on two targets.
He finished with three tackles and one pass break-up in a successful outing as a substitute, proving once again that he’s more than just a special teams demon.
MLB Geoff Cantin-Arku, SO, Syracuse Orange (Levis, Que.)
Overall, it wasn’t the performance that Cantin-Arku was likely hoping for as the Orange fell to No. 2 Notre Dame in what is likely their last outing of the season. His low PFF grade keeps him well away from this week’s podium. Still, it seems remiss not to mention a player who recorded two sacks against a team that will almost certainly be playoff bound.
Cantin-Arku has shown effectiveness as a blitzer all season and Saturday was his second two-sack performance on the year. That it came against an elite opponent and an elite offensive line deserves even more praise. While he was occasionally overpowered and out-maneuvered, the star sophomore showed flashes of brilliance when asked to spy quarterback Ian Book. Look out for the Levis native next year.
OLB DK Bonhomme, SO, Indiana Hoosiers (St. Catharines, Ont.)
DK Bonhomme has earned the trust of his coaching staff and a regular spot in Indiana’s rotation, but his performances this season have been hit or miss. That’s not all the Canadian’s fault as he continues to learn technique and adjust to the positional demands of being converted to an edge defender role. Unfortunately, though, while his team upset Wisconsin, Bonhomme produced a big miss in Week 14.
In 27 snaps of action, Bonhomme made two tackles and generated a pressure but struggled positionally. While he flashed with a great screen read on one occasion, Bonhomme couldn’t quite find his footing in coverage and finished with a PFF grade of 41.4, the worst of all 20 players who helped shut down the Badgers.
This is merely a bump in the road on a very bright career trajectory for the outside linebacker, but Bonhomme has yet to string together consecutive strong performances even as his role grows with the Hoosiers. It’s all part of the learning curve of college football, but Bonhomme knows that this is one class he has to ace.
PK Gabe Siemieniec, SR, Louisiana Tech: Five kickoffs, 281 yards, 56.2 average, one touchback
TE Theo Johnson, FR, Penn State: 24 offensive snaps
CB Patrice Rene, SR, North Carolina: 31 defensive snaps, three tackles
DE Mohamed Diallo, SR, Central Michigan: 59 defensive snaps, two tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, one quarterback hit, two hurries
P Jake Julien, SR, Eastern Michigan: One punt, 38 yards
LG Sidy Sow, JR, Eastern Michigan: 80 offensive snaps, one pressure allowed
REC Damian Alford, FR, Syracuse: 12 offensive snaps
LT Matthew Bergeron, SO, Syracuse: 67 offensive snaps, one pressure allowed, one penalty
OLB Tyrell Richards, JR, Syracuse: 16 defensive snaps, one quarterback hit, one hurry
FS Ben Labrosse, FR, Syracuse: One defensive snap
REC Terrell Jana, SR, Virginia: 37 offensive snaps, one reception, seven yards
DE Akheem Mesidor, FR, West Virginia: 51 defensive snaps, six tackles, one hurry
FS Alonzo Addae, SR, West Virginia: 70 defensive snaps, six tackles
REC Josh Palmer, SR, Tennessee: 71 offensive snaps, four receptions, 36 yards
LT Alaric Jackson, SR, Iowa: 68 offensive snaps, one sack allowed, one pressure allowed, one penalty
SS Sydney Brown, JR, Illinois: 34 defensive snaps, three tackles
DE Daniel Joseph, SR, NC State: 48 defensive snaps, two tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss
WLB Enock Makonzo, JR, Coastal Carolina: 60 defensive snaps, four tackles, one tackle for loss, two hurries
REC Nick Mardner, SO, Hawai’i: One offensive snap
DT Daniel Okpoko, SO, San Diego State: Two defensive snaps
LB Nick Wiebe, SO, Oregon: 16 defensive snaps, two tackles
REC Ajou Ajou, FR, Clemson: Five offensive snaps
REC John Metchie III, SO, Alabama: 62 offensive snaps, four receptions, 58 yards
DT Alex Dumais, SO, Fresno State: 49 defensive snaps, three tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, two hurries
LS Keegan Markgraf, SR, Utah: Special teams only
Rostered but not dressed: RB Chuba Hubbard, JR, Oklahoma State / OL Jack Taylor, FR, Western Michigan / FS Woodly Appolon, JR, Northern Illinois / DL Cade Cote, FR, Central Michigan / DE Geri Theodore, FR, Toledo / REC Barron Miles Jr, FR, Nebraska / REC Malick Meiga, FR, Penn State / DT Lamar Goods, FR, Florida / OL Patrick Davis, SR, Syracuse / DE Wilt Gabe II, SO, Coastal Carolina / REC Ezechiel Tieide, SO, Boston College / OL Leif Magnuson, FR, Arizona / QB Cameron Fietz, JR, Arizona / DE Paris Shand, FR, Arizona / LT Dontae Bull, JR, Fresno State / LB Kenny Mestidor, FR, UCLA / DB Henry Kimmins, FR, Washington State