Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:
Jalen Watts-Jackson, S, Michigan State (NCAA): Surely you’ve seen the play by now, but you may not know anything about the player who finished it. Michigan was ahead 23-21 with 10 seconds left against cross-state rival MSU and was being forced to punt. The Wolverines’ punter couldn’t handle the snap and lost the ball, which landed in the hands of Watts-Jackson, who ran it back 38 yards for a touchdown as time expired. Unfortunately, Watts-Jackson dislocated his hip during the play and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher while the celebration went on around him. That injury will sideline him for the rest of the season. Watts-Jackson is a redshirt freshman safety who doesn’t start for the Spartans, and in Saturday’s 27-23 victory he didn’t record a tackle or any other stats before that fumble recovery and score. With one play, he became a legend in East Lansing and a likely ESPY nominee, plus he kept MSU’s undefeated record intact and kept them in the national championship playoff picture.
Isa Abdul-Quddus, SS, Lions (NFL): Another Michigan-based DB who made his biggest impact on special teams, except this time we’re not talking about a team with realistic championship aspirations. Late in the fourth quarter against the Bears on Sunday, with the winless (0-5) Lions behind on the scoreboard and lined up to punt, Abdul-Quddus (the upback in Detroit’s punt formation) reportedly made the call to audible to a fake punt. He took the snap and ran for 30 yards, and Detroit eventually got a field goal out of the drive. The Lions would go on to win 37-34 in overtime. Abdul-Quddus also had seven tackles.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama (NCAA): The Crimson Tide’s 41-23 win over Texas A&M on Saturday was a defensive highlight reel. Alabama had three pick-sixes, two of them by freshman “Star” Fitzpatrick. (Star is basically the nickelback position in Nick Saban’s defense.) In the first quarter, Fitzpatrick’s 33-yard INT return was the first score of the game; in the fourth quarter, his 55-yard pick-six was the last TD of the day.
Mike Mitchell, FS, Steelers (NFL): Down to their third-string quarterback and clinging to a five-point lead over the Cardinals on Sunday, the Steelers were in trouble when Arizona drove into the red zone midway through the fourth quarter. Mitchell ended the threat when he intercepted QB Carson Palmer in the end zone, and Pittsburgh went on to a 25-13 upset win. Mitchell also had a fumble recovery during the game.
Marwin Evans, SS, Utah State (NCAA): The senior Evans had a hand in two of the Aggies’ eight takeaways in Saturday’s 52-26 upset win over Boise State, forcing one fumble and getting one interception, which he returned 90 yards for a touchdown at the end of the first half.
Reshad Jones, FS, Dolphins (NFL): Miami’s defense was dominant against the Titans on Sunday, kicking off interim head coach Dan Campbell’s tenure with a 38-10 statement victory. The game was still within reach for Tennessee in the third quarter when Jones picked off rookie QB Marcus Mariota and took it back 30 yards for a TD. Jones finished with eight tackles.