Football was officially back at the weekend. No, we’re not talking about the NFL. There were 20 CFB fixtures to enjoy before Sunday’s NFL opening games.
Miami blew UAB away on Thursday night by 55-3. This game passed many fans by, as it clashed with the curtain raiser between Kansas City and Houston at Arrowhead. In fact, just 8,000 fans were in attendance at Hard Rock, with the stadium permitted to hold a maximum of 13,000 spectators. It was a great start for the Hurricanes and their new QB D’Eriq King, who showcased his dual threat abilities. King threw for 144 yards and a touchdown, running for a further 83 yards and another score. However, it was the ‘Canes running back, Cam’Ron Harris, who came away with the plaudits. Miami was 120th in the nation in rushing in 2019, but Harris showed no sign of allowing last year’s failures to hold him back. The Junior had 134 yards from just 17 carries, and 2 touchdowns. The highlight of the night was a 66 yard Harris touchdown run on 4th and 1 to level the scores early in the game. It was Harris’ longest TD run of his career, and an indication of the dominance that was to come in the game.
Any Given Saturday
There were expected wins in the early Saturday games for West Virginia, North Carolina and Appalachian State. Sun Belt teams Arkansas State and Louisiana clearly didn’t read the CFB script, delivering shock wins over Kansas State and Iowa State respectively. With 40 seconds left and down by 3, Lane Hatcher delivered a touchdown throw to Jonathan Adams Jnr for his third score of the day. This gave the Red Wolves an unexpected victory over the Kansas State Wildcats.
Sun Belt Surprises
Another CFB shock came in Ames, where the ACC’s Iowa State fell to the Louisiana Rajin’ Cajuns. Brock Purdy had a poor opening show for the Cyclones, completing 45.7% of his passes for just 145 yards. All of Iowa State’s points came in the 2nd quarter, with an impressive Louisiana defense holding firm against the favourites. The moment of the game came at the top of the 4th quarter, when Cajun returner Eric Garror took a punt 83 yards back to the house for a touchdown to give his Sun Belt side a 10 point lead. The result was Louisiana’s first victory over a ranked team since 1996. There could be no finer tribute to coach DJ Looney, who tragically died in the off-season aged just 31.
The Sun Belt wasn’t finished there. Coastal Carolina, heavy underdogs at Kansas, came out 38-23 winners over the Jayhawks. Pooka Williams is the heartbeat of the Kansas offense. However, he was limited to just 67 yards from 12 carries, and the Jayhawks suffered as a result. Kansas entered the game with no less than 40 players absent. The program had 3 positive coronavirus tests in the week leading up to their first CFB fixture of the season, but the reason for all absences is still unclear. The surprise win for the Chanticleers left the Sun Belt with a 3-0 record over ACC favourites.
ND go ACC
Notre Dame’s first fixture as an ACC team ended in victory. The Fighting Irish defeated Duke 27-13. Notre Dame were stronger in all three phases of the game. Ian Book threw for 263 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, but it was Kyren Williams who stole the show. The sophomore running back had 112 yards and 2 TDs from 12 carries. The Duke defense managed to sack Book 4 times, but could not stop Williams running through them. Transfer QB Chase Brice was the understudy to Joe Burrow in Baton Rouge last year. In his Duke debut, he threw for 259 yards. A lack of wide receiver talent resulted in no receiving TDs for the Blue Devils, but Brice ran for a score himself.
Late Night CFB Drama
Georgia Tech provided another CFB surprise, defeating Florida State in a close 16-13 victory. It was a disappointing start for new Seminoles coach Mike Norvell. For the Yellow Jackets, it was their first ACC road win to open the season since 1996. Florida State’s offense never really got going, with deep threat WR Tamorrion Terry limited to just 52 yards. Georgia Tech’s Jeff Sims, a former Florida State commit, threw two first half interceptions, but later enjoyed 277 passing and 64 rushing yards. Sims decommitted just days after Norvell’s appointment in Tallahassee, and his decision to move on appears vindicated. Asante Samuel Jnr had Florida State’s two interceptions, and showed once again why he is so highly rated by NFL Draft scouts.
Louisville has one of the most exciting offenses in college football, and started their campaign with a 35-21 victory over Western Kentucky. Surprisingly, star WR Tutu Atwell was third in reception yards for the Cardinals with 78 yards from 7 receptions. Braden Smith and Dez Fitzpatrick had 110 yards each, with Fitzpatrick enjoying a 70 yard 3rd quarter TD reception from Micale Cunningham.
Heisman candidates Trevor Lawrence, Spencer Rattler and Sam Ehlinger all started their 2020 campaigns in the late kick offs. Clemson, Oklahoma and Texas all strolled to simple victories, with their QBs stealing the limelight.
Lawrence and Clemson saw off Wake Forest, albeit with an unconvincing second half performance. The Tigers were ahead 14-0 in the 1st Quarter thanks to two Lawrence rushing TDs. At half time and with the score 27-0, a blowout was on the cards. However, the Demon Deacons reduced the deficit in the second half, the game ending 37-13. Dabo Swinney will hope that his #1 ranked side are able to dust off the cobwebs in time for their game with stronger opponents. Luckily, they don’t take on Notre Dame until 8th November.
Spencer Rattler dazzled in his first start as the Oklahoma Sooners signal caller. The Rattlesnake had an easy day at the office, dispatching Missouri State 58-0. In the first half, he amassed 290 yards and 4 TD passes. Rattler shocked onlookers with his arm strength, something Lincoln Riley has been waxing lyrical about his sophomore’s talent for some time. Rattler was replaced by Tanner Mordecai in the second half, the hallmark sign of a job well done.
Finally, we come to Sam Ehlinger. The Texas Senior declared that the Longhorns were back after last year’s Sugar Bowl. On this evidence, he could well be right. Of course, Texas was expected to sweep an inferior UTEP aside with ease. They did. Ehlinger dominated from the outset, opening with a 78 yard touchdown pass to Joshua Moore with the first play of the game. Ending with a 75.8% pass completion rate, 426 yards and 5 TDs, Ehlinger made an opening statement for the Heisman Trophy in style.
Football is back. Drink it in. Saturdays are for rushing too.
Tom Scott @5yardcollege