Few things are better than a crushing stiff arm. October was a terrific month for the cruelest tackler counter and probably one of the best we’ve seen in recent memory.
On back-to-back weeks, we watched USC receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster deliver an authoritative stiff arm to Utah defensive back Dominique Hatfield and then Florida State’s Travis Rudolph toss Syracuse cornerback Corey Winfield en route to a 75-yard touchdown.
Thanks to Instagram and the Internet's affinity for mixing in legendary WWE commentator Jim Ross' voice to just about anything, the legends have only grown.
But which stiff arm was better? (Editor’s note: Leonard Fournette's stiff arm/left hook is ineligible.)
“Everybody was talking about the USC receiver doing it the week before,” Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey said, “but Travis’ was better.”
USC’s Darreus Rogers is taking up for his teammate.
“I’m going with my guy, JuJu Smith-Schuster,” he told our Kyle Bonagura on Tuesday.
Here’s the tale of the (video) tape on these two stiff arms:
Smith-Schuster on Oct. 24: Smith-Schuster saw Hatfield approaching and pointed right at the Utah cornerback. After the game, we learned Hatfield is a notorious trash talker, which is why Smith-Schuster felt compelled to “embarrass” Hatfield. Smith-Schuster slowed down, squared his body, then sent Hatfield flying into the USC bench.
“What he said to me was, ‘Don’t put me on ESPN. Why are you trying to put me on ESPN?’” Smith-Schuster said of Hatfield. “I’m like, ‘Dude, I’m just doing my job, trying to have fun.’ On the one play and I’m like, ‘OK, I’m just going to give you the stiff-arm and throw you out of bounds and then turn up.’”
Rudolph on Oct. 31: The Seminoles trailed 7-0 when Rudolph tracked down a long pass at the Syracuse 35. The catch came between two defenders, and he simultaneously avoided tripping over one while delivering a mild stiff-arm to dodge the other. He juked a fast-pursuing defender coming from behind, and then just before the 10-yard line he encountered Winfield, who nearly broke up the pass initially. Rudolph gave him a forceful shove, making Winfield do a complete 360. Rudolph then fought off another tackler to score a 75-yard touchdown.
“I split those two and out of my peripheral view I saw the guy try to come in and make a tackle. So I made him miss,” Rudolph said. “And I saw No. 11 trying to tackle me and I’m like ‘Nah I done did too much. I gotta score.’ So I stiff armed him and got in the end zone.”
Rudolph’s case: Rudolph was initially diplomatic about whose was better before nominating himself.
“That’s for you guys to decide, but in my opinion, yeah I definitely do,” he said, “especially because I scored.”
USC’s counter: Rogers respects that Rudolph’s was a touchdown, but it isn’t changing his mind because Smith-Schuster called his shot.
“He pointed at the guy, told him to ‘come get this work,’ gave him the work and kept running after the play,” Rogers said. “He did score, from Florida State, that was a great play, but when you tell somebody and they know they’re going to get this work, I mean, come on now. You’re letting him know beforehand, so I’m going to have to go with that one, but that’s also a great play from the dude from Florida State to finish that play, so big ups to him.”
Winner: While Rudolph’s was the more impressive play, the ruling is in favor of Smith-Schuster for his ice cold approach before, during and after the act. Smith-Schuster pointed out Hatfield and then sent him airborne. Then just as everybody was ready to move on, Smith-Schuster posted a video on his Instagram a few days later of Hatfield proclaiming Utah to be the best defense in the nation, only to follow it with clip of the stiff arm.