Clemson's Andre Ellington was one of the stars of football's first weekend
The names and faces change, but sometimes the results don’t.
At least that’s what people in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Eugene, Ore., learned after the first weekend of college football. Alabama looked near-invincible in defending its national championship. Dee Milliner, Trey DePriest and T.J. Yeldon stepped into starring roles in the Crimson Tide’s rout of Michigan.
On the West Coast, Oregon’s plug-and-play system of quarterbacks continued with redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota, who was 18-of-22 for 200 yards and three touchdown passes in his debut against Arkansas State. We didn’t even see the full extent of Mariota’s running ability, meaning perhaps Chip Kelly’s quarterback conundrum was easier to figure out than he let on.
Not every team found such easy answers. Oklahoma struggled at UTEP late Saturday night, and four teams lost to FCS foes (Pittsburgh to Youngstown State, Memphis to UT Martin, Middle Tennessee to McNeese State, Idaho to Eastern Washington).
It was a busy first weekend in college football -- and it’s not even over. Here’s our Three and Out recap of the first week so far.
MOVING THE CHAINS
|Alabama and Coach Nick Saban appeared ready to defend their BCS championship in the win over Michigan|
No let up at Alabama. With a 41-14 win over Michigan, the Crimson Tide dashed any questions it could defend its BCS championship with so many new starters on defense. Alabama keeps replacing NFL draft picks with NFL draft picks. Michigan tested corner Dee Milliner a few too many times as Milliner, a part-time starter last season, finished with an interception and four pass breakups. In place of Heisman finalist running back Trent Richardson, freshman T.J. Yeldon rushed for 111 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown, amassing a good portion of that after the catch. Meanwhile junior battering ram Jalston Folwer rushed for 67 yards on eight carries.
Clemson’s no-Sammy offense. The Tigers were without suspended receiver Sammy Watkins, but Clemson displayed an embarrassment of riches on offense. Andre Ellington rushed for 231 yards for an average of 8.9 yards per carry. DeAndre Hopkins caught 13 passes for 119 yards and a miraculous go-ahead touchdown catch through interference. And though quarterback Tajh Boyd threw a second half interception, Boyd did enough through the air and on the ground to break through the field goal-laden stalemate to win 26-19.
Special season for Ohio? The Bobcats may be eying a signature season after a win at Penn State on Saturday. Weakened by transfers and breaking in a new coach, Penn State was vulnerable, but don’t lose sight of how convincing Ohio’s win was. The Bobcats outscored Penn State 21-0 in the second half, including drives of 82, 70 and 93 yards. Quarterback Tyler Tettleton delivered, completing 31 of 41 passes for 324 yards with two touchdowns. During the regular season, Ohio will play one team that had a winning record in 2011, and that’s at Marshall, a non-conference opponent that went 7-6.
Penn State. Unfortunately for Penn State, this was probably a sign of things to come. The Nittany Lions rode the emotion of returning to the field to jump to a 14-3 halftime lead on the arm of Matt McGloin. But Penn State couldn’t sustain that level of play. Ohio used demoralizing drives against Penn State’s strongest unit, its defense, in the second half to pull away. If this is the result against the runaway MAC favorite, what’s in store against the Big Ten schedule? Or Virginia on the road next week?
Florida. The Gators showed little indication this season would be any different form last year’s 7-6 effort. Coach Will Muschamp refused to hint at his starting quarterback right up until the first snap when Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett both broke the huddle. Brissett took the first quarterback snap, but Driskel was the quarterback during the fourth quarter and later in crunch time. The quarterback rotation eased no questions as the Gators were tied at 14 until 6:03 remaining in the third quarter. Mike Gillislee saved the day with 148 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the 27-14 win. That might not be enough to defeat Texas A&M and Tennessee on the road the next two weeks.
Oklahoma. Blame the late start (10:30 p.m. Eastern, 8:30 p.m. local time). Blame the odd road trip to El Paso. Either way, the Sooners limped to a 24-7 win over UTEP on Saturday. Before taking a third-quarter lead, Oklahoma was probably lucky to never fall behind the Miners. UTEP missed three field goals through three quarters, Oklahoma had two kicks blocked and UTEP failed on a fake punt attempt in the fourth to set up an Oklahoma touchdown. Miners running back Nathan Jeffery, who gashed the Sooner defense for 177 yards, also left the game in the second half with injury.
Geno Smith, West Virginia. The Mountaineers’ quarterback passed for 232 yards and four touchdowns against Marshall, which isn’t terribly surprising. What was eye-opening was his efficiency (32 of 36) and his performance in the run game (eight carries, 65 yards with a 28-yard touchdown run). Smith led scoring drives on seven of nine possessions, with one of those non-scoring drives ending on downs at the Marshall 2. Smith completed passes to six different receivers.
Denard Robinson, Michigan. Robinson will have opportunities to recover, but this game will leave a mark. Robinson was a non-factor in the ground game with 27 rushing yards on 10 carries and struggled just the same in the passing game, completing 11 of 26 passes for 200 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Good news for him: He won’t play Alabama every week.
Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State. The 6-2, 244-pound junior had been part of a running back duo with Edwin Baker the last two seasons, but he needed no one to spell him against Boise State. On Friday, Bell carried 44 times -- more than anyone carried in a single game all of last season -- for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Bell also caught six passes for 55 yards.
354. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez passed for a career-high 354 yards with five touchdown passes in a 49-20 win over Southern Miss. The most notable storyline for the game was who wasn’t on the field for Nebraska and Martinez’s emergence. Running back Rex Burkhead, the cornerstone of the Huskers offense, left with an MCL sprain after only three carries (one of which was a 57-yard TD run).
0. Boise State failed to score an offensive touchdown for the first time since Sept. 27, 1997 when the Broncos were shut out by Washington State. Boise State was a member of the Big West that season and in only its second year in Division I-A. The coach? Houston Nutt.
0. Speaking of Washington State and no touchdowns, the Cougars were limited to a mere two field goals Friday in a 30-6 loss to BYU. It was the first time a Mike Leach-coached team failed to score a touchdown since a 12-3 loss to TCU on Sept. 16, 2006.
THREE THINGS WE HAD TO SEE TO BELIEVE
• Notre Dame and Navy playing in Dublin’s soccer palace Aviva Stadium.
• Names on Penn State jerseys.
• The new rule requiring players to leave the game for a play if their helmets are removed.
THREE UGLY SCORES
• Oklahoma State 84, Savannah State 0
• Maryland 7, William & Mary 6
• FAU 7, Wagner 3
BEST GAMES NEXT WEEK
• Washington at LSU
• Nebraska at UCLA
• Georgia at Missouri
BURIED ON THE DEPTH CHART
Nevada’s backfield. The Wolf Pack has long been excited about the potential of quarterback Cody Fajardo. It looks like he’s going to deliver as a sophomore. Fajardo completed 25 of 32 passes for 230 yards and rushed for 99 yards including a 49-yard touchdown in the 31-24 upset at Cal. Not to be upstaged, running back Stefphon Jefferson rushed for 149 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner in the final minute. It had the look of the best Nevada backfield since Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua, who also defeated Cal in September on the way to a 13-1 season in 2010.
Pittsburgh loses to Youngstown State. Paul Chryst did not distinguish himself in his first game as Pitt’s coach. The Panthers lost in convincing fashion, 31-17, to Youngstown State of the FCS. Pitt never led in the game as the Penguins were able to put together long, sustained drives against against the Panthers’ defense. Making matters worse, Todd Graham, who spurned Pitt for Arizona State, led the Sun Devils to a 63-6 win over Northern Arizona on Thursday.
Franchione, Coker are winners. Texas State coach Dennis Franchione (formerly of Alabama and Texas A&M) and UTSA coach Larry Coker (formerly of Miami) were winners in their returns to major college football. Texas State made easy work of Houston (13-1 last season) with a 30-13 win on the road. And Coker’s Roadrunners defeated South Alabama 33-31 in both teams’ first game as FBS members. It was Coker’s first FBS win since 2006 and Franchione’s first since 2007.
THREE NEW FACES
Duke Johnson, Miami. The Hurricanes’ heralded freshman running back rushed for 135 yards on seven carries, including touchdowns of 54 and 56 yards to lead a comeback effort against Boston College.
Everett Golson, Notre Dame. The latest starting quarterback for Brian Kelly was a serviceable 12 of 18 for 144 yards with a touchdown (and a red zone interception) in a 50-10 win over Navy.
Brett Hundley, UCLA. The Bruins’ redshirt freshman quarterback completed 21 of 28 passes for 202 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for touchdowns of 72 and 78 yards. Could this be the end of UCLA’s quarterback woes?
THREE QUOTES OF THE WEEK
• “The #BigEast will be a better football conference on the field next year than it has ever been!”
-Big East senior associate commissioner Nick Carparelli (via Twitter) following outgoing conference member Pitt’s loss to Youngstown State. Incoming Big East members Memphis and Houston lost to UT Martin and Texas State, respectively, Saturday.
• “They don’t have a bunch of slow dudes like they used to.”
-South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier on Vanderbilt.
• “That kid looked pretty good didn’t he? He was drilling them tonight. I remember seeing Darron’s (Thomas) first starts and how happy and excited he was after plays. Marcus was having the time of his life out there tonight and jumping around.”
-Oregon OL Carson York on QB Marcus Mariota.
THREE DISMISSED SEC PLAYERS WHO WERE NOT MISSED
Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee. Junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson stepped in for the star receiver to catch a 41-yard touchdown pass and run for a 67-yard score in the 35-21 win over NC State on Thursday. Zach Rogers added a 72-yard touchdown catch. Both victimized the Wolfpack’s cornerback David Amerson, a Thorpe Award finalist last season, in the process.
Isaiah Crowell, Georgia. Bulldogs freshman running back Todd Gurley accounted for three touchdowns (two rushing and one 100-yard kickoff return) in the 45-23 win over Buffalo. Gurley rushed for 100 yards on eight carries, including a 55-yard score in the fourth quarter.
Tyrann Mathieu, LSU. Mathieu’s playmaking ability in the secondary will be missed, but Odell Beckham at least filled the gap on special teams by returning a punt 70 yards for a touchdown in the 41-14 win over North Texas.
THREE BIG TEN TEAMS THAT DODGED EMBARRASSMENT
Wisconsin. The Badgers needed a fourth-and-1 stop in the final minutes to preserve a 26-21 win over Northern Iowa. The Panthers of the FCS scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to put a scare into Wisconsin.
Iowa. The Hawkeyes never led against the defending MAC champion Northern Illinois until Damon Bullock ran for a 22-yard score with 3:35 remaining. Iowa, a team with two new coordinators, dodged not only a MAC loss but also another instance of the Iowa running back curse. Bullock finished with 151 rushing yards.
Minnesota. In the wee hours of the morning Friday, the Gophers defeated UNLV 30-27 in triple overtime. The Rebels went 2-11 last season.
THREE “WHAT THE..?” MOMENTS
Florida. To wrap up a 14-penalty game against Bowling Green, the Gators were called for an offsides while trying to take a knee to run out the clock.
Boston College. The Eagles needed to call a timeout before their first offensive play against Miami. It must have worked as it resulted in a 41-yard pass play.
Kent State. The Golden Flashes picked up a muffed punt and returned it 58 yards the wrong way. Only one thing stopped Kent State from scoring a touchdown on itself: Opponent Towson tackled Andre Parker before reaching the end zone.
by David Fox