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College Football 2012 – Week One Recap

Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

After an off-season filled with scandal and controversy, seeing college football back on the field was a welcome sight. While early season games for Top 25 teams often feature blowouts of lesser opponents (and we certainly had several of those), this week we were also treated to a pair of matchups between Top 25 teams as well as some outstanding individual efforts. Some questions were answered, other teams now have even more. Here is a recap of all the action in the Top 25 this weekend.

#1 Southern Cal 49, Hawaii 10

Matt Barkley hit receiver Marquise Lee for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, and the top-ranked Trojans never looked back. Lee caught 10 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown and also had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as Southern Cal rolled over a Hawaii squad coached by Norm Chow, the offensive mastermind behind USC’s juggernaut of the early 2000’s. Barkley, the early season Heisman favorite, didn’t disappoint with 372 passing yards and four touchdowns in the rout. Penn State transfer Silas Redd was the game’s leading rusher with 55 yards and a touchdown.

#2 Alabama 41, #8 Michigan 14

If anybody thought that Alabama might be down a bit after losing so many key players to the NFL, this game should have dispelled that myth. Despite having to replace most of its top playmakers on defense, the Crimson Tide dominated the Michigan offense all night and kept dynamic playmaker Denard Robinson in check, forcing three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and holding him to just 27 rushing yards. With a stellar defensive effort setting up Alabama with good field position much of the night, the Crimson Tide jumped out to a 31-0 lead in the second quarter. Bama quarterback A.J. McCarron managed the game well, throwing for 199 touchdowns and two touchdowns without an interception. In the game, Alabama outgained the Wolverines 431 to 269.

#3 Louisiana State 41, North Texas 14

Touted juco transfer quarterback Zach Mettenberger’s debut didn’t quite live up to the hype (19/26 for 192 yards, one touchdown and an interception). But the Tigers’ running game more than picked up the slack. Kenny Hilliard rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns to lead an LSU offense that racked up 316 yards on the ground. North Texas, meanwhile, was held to just 219 total yards. Odell Beckham, Jr., who took over return duties for the dismissed Tyrann Mathieu, returned one punt 70 yards for a touchdown and had another 76-yard return negated by a penalty.

#4 Oklahoma 24, Texas-El Paso 7

Texas-El Paso returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the first quarter, but special teams miscues (three missed field goals and a failed fake punt that gave OU a short field) of their own ended their chance to upset the highest ranked team they had ever hosted. Mike Stoops’ retooled Sooner defense gave up a few big runs (UTEP running back Nathan Jeffery busted off a 71-yarder and finished with 177 yards), but held UTEP to just 48 passing yards and kept the Miners offense off the scoreboard. The Oklahoma offense never found any rhythm and only led 10-7 after three quarters before two late scores provided the final margin of victory. Heisman candidate Landry Jones and the OU offense were unable to sustain drives all night (two Sooners’ touchdowns came on 60+ yard plays; the other came when they had a short field); 10 of the Sooners’ 15 drives went for 28 or fewer yards.

#5 Oregon 57, Arkansas State 34

Freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota didn’t appear to have any first game jitters for Oregon, going 18/22 for 200 yards and three touchdowns. Running back De’Anthony Thomas had 119 total yards and three touchdowns in limited action as the Ducks offense showed that it hadn’t missed a beat with the loss of Darron Thomas and LaMichael James. Oregon found the end zone on its first seven possessions of the game to jump out to a 50-3 lead in the second quarter before giving way to second and third teamers in the second half. Playing against Oregon’s backups, the Red Wolves scored on their last three possessions of the game to provide a final score that might look closer than the game actually was.

#6 Georgia 45, Buffalo 23

After losing its top two rushers during the offseason, Georgia had big question marks about its running game. But the Bulldogs may have gotten some answers after freshman Todd Gurley rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. He also returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score.  Quarterback Aaron Murray also added 258 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Georgia’s defense, playing without three suspended starters, struggled somewhat in their first test, giving up almost 200 rushing yards and 70 plays to a Buffalo team coming off a 3-9 season. However, the Bulldogs defense buckled down in the second half, holding the Bulls to just 29 total yards in their first six possessions after halftime.

#7 Florida State 69, Murray State 3

Florida State scored the first time they touched the ball (a 47-yard punt return touchdown just 89 seconds into the game) and never looked back, rolling up 606 total yards on its overmatched FCS foe. The Seminoles scored seven rushing touchdowns and, after some first-game jitters early in the game, rolled to scores on their final eight drives in the second through fourth quarters. Florida State won’t face much more of a challenge as another FCS opponent—Savannah State, who lost 84-0 to Oklahoma State—comes to town.

#9 South Carolina 17, Vanderbilt 13

Marcus Lattimore showed no ill effects from the knee injury that ended his 2011 season, rushing for 110 yards and two touchdowns as the Gamecocks kicked off their season with their first conference win of the year. South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw suffered a bruised throwing shoulder and managed just 67 passing yards, but stayed in the game to rush for 92 yards. Vanderbilt held a 13-10 lead after three quarters, but was outgained 115-17—including Lattimore’s go-ahead one-yard touchdown—by the Gamecocks in the fourth quarter.

#10 Arkansas 49, Jacksonville State 24

Arkansas lost its top three receivers from last year to the NFL, but that didn’t slow down quarterback Tyler Wilson, who threw for 367 yards (a school record for a season opener) and three touchdowns as the Razorbacks gave interim coach John L. Smith his first win with the team. Jacksonville State actually led 14-7 early in the second quarter before Arkansas exploded to score touchdowns on six of its next eight possessions. Razorbacks running back Knile Davis, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury, returned to action with 70 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

#11 West Virginia 69, Marshall 34

West Virginia scored 70 points in last year’s Orange Bowl, and apparently picked up right where they left off.  West Virginia rolled up 655 yards and 69 points, its most in a season opener in school history.  Star quarterback Geno Smith threw for 323 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in just over three quarters of work. The senior broke Marc Bulger’s school records for career touchdown passes and completions in the win.  However, despite forcing two turnovers and returning a fumble for a touchdown, the Mountaineers’ new 3-4 defensive scheme remains a question mark after giving up 545 yards to Marshall. With the rescheduling required by West Virginia joining the Big 12, this is the last scheduled meeting between the state’s two FBS teams.

#12 Wisconsin 26, Northern Iowa 21

Northern Iowa scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to make the game interesting down the stretch, but the Badgers defense stiffened when it had to, knocking down a fourth-and-1 pass with the Panthers driving in Wisconsin territory late in the game. Heisman finalist Montee Ball rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown, while new Badgers quarterback Danny O’Brien had an efficient debut, going 19-of-23 for 219 yards and two touchdowns. This was Wisconsin’s 33rd straight regular-season non-conference win and 17th straight home win.

#13 Michigan State 17, #24 Boise State 13

Replacing two legendary quarterbacks, the signal callers for both teams struggled (no touchdowns and four interceptions combined). But Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell provided enough offense to carry the Spartans to victory.  The bruising running back carried the ball an eye-popping 44 times for two touchdowns and a career-high 210 yards, more than the entire Boise State offense gained on the night. Michigan State more than doubled the Broncos in total yardage and time of possession. However, the Spartans turned the ball over four times, missed a field goal and committed 10 penalties for ninety yards, allowing Boise State to stick around. The loss snapped Boise State’s six-game winning streak against BCS-conference foes.

#14 Clemson 26, Auburn 19

With All-American receiver Sammy Watkins serving the first of a two-game suspension, other Clemson players stepped up to lead the Tigers to a victory over Auburn for the second straight year. Running back Andre Ellington rushed for 231 yards and receiver DeAndre Hopkins had a school record 13 receptions for 119 yards and the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. Making his first start for Auburn, sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier had a beautiful 54-yard scoring strike early in the game, but struggled at times, finishing 11-of-27 for 194 yards, one touchdown and an interception.

#15 Texas 37, Wyoming 17

It took the Texas offense a while to wake up, but a 24-point outburst in the second and third quarter gave the Longhorns all they needed to get their first win of the season. The Longhorns’ quarterback controversy appears to be settled (at least temporarily), as Case McCoy did not see any action while David Ash finished 20/27 for 156 yards and a touchdown. But the big story for Texas’ offense was the running game. Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron both rushed for 100+ yards and had three touchdowns between them.

#16 Virginia Tech 20, Georgia Tech 17 (OT)

Virginia Tech kicker Cody Journell kicked a 41-yard field goal as time expired to force overtime and then made a 17-yarder in the extra period to help the Hokies survive a scare from upset-minded ACC rival Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets had taken a 17-14 lead with just 44 seconds left before Virginia Tech’s star quarterback Logan Thomas moved the team 51 yards in 38 seconds to set up the tying field goal.

#17 Nebraska 49, Southern Miss 20

Taylor Martinez spent much of the summer working with a private coach to improve his footwork and throwing motion. And the results were immediately apparent as the Cornhusker quarterback threw for a career-high 354 yards and tied his career-best with five touchdown passes. For the day, Nebraska outgained the Golden Eagles 632 to 260 and a Husker offense that struggled to hold on to the ball last year had its first game without a fumble since 2009. However, there was a dark cloud over the win as Nebraska’s workhorse running back Rex Burkhead left the game with a sprained knee ligament after carrying the ball just three times for 68 yards and a touchdown. It is unclear just how severe the injury is or what it will mean for Burkhead’s future availability. The Cornhuskers have now won a nation’s-best 27 straight season openers.

#18 Ohio State 56, Miami (OH) 10

Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller made sure that Urban Meyer’s return to coaching was a successful one.  Running Meyer’s spread offense, the sophomore rushed for an Ohio State quarterback record 161 yards and a touchdown, while adding two more scores through the air.  Miller became just the fifth Big Ten player since 2000 to total 150+ yards rushing and passing in a game. After a slow start (48 yards in the first quarter), the Buckeyes’ offense rolled up 297 in the second and never looked back. Ohio State’s defense also got in on the action, holding the RedHawks to minus-1 yard rushing, forcing three second-half turnovers and returning a fumble recovery for a score.

#19 Oklahoma State 84, Savannah State 0

Oklahoma State fans will have to wait another week to find out just how good true freshman quarterback Wes Lunt (11/11 for 129 yards) really is, as most of the Cowboys starters were pulled after the first quarter with OSU already up 35-0. The Cowboys outgained Savannah State, which has won just four games in the last three years and was playing its first FBS opponent, 682 to 139 and tallied nine rushing touchdowns. Oklahoma State was a 67.5-point favorite coming into this game, the largest point spread in college football history.  However, that record might be short-lived as Savannah State travels to Tallahassee next week to take on #7 Florida State.

#20 Texas Christian BYE

The Horned Frogs will begin their first season in the Big 12 next week when they host Grambling State.

#21 Stanford 20, San Jose State 17

Stanford struggled in its first game without Andrew Luck, but got a go-ahead fourth quarter field goal to seal the win.  New quarterback Josh Nunes threw for just 125 yards and a touchdown as the offense struggled through much of the game. The Cardinal led 17-3 with less than 12 minutes to go, but San Jose State scored on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter to tie the game. However, in their next five possessions, the Spartans could manage just 43 total yards and turned the ball over twice, including a costly turnover that led to the Cardinal’s winning field goal.

#22 Kansas State 51, Missouri State 9

After struggling for three quarters, Kansas State exploded for 42 unanswered points late in the second half to put the game away. Although primarily known for his running ability, Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein showed he could get it done with his arm, going 19/28 for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Running back John Hubert added 152 yards and a touchdown on the ground as Kansas State rolled up 493 yards of offense while giving up 418 to a Missouri State squad that won just two games last year.

#23 Florida 27, Bowling Green 14

Senior running back Mike Gillislee had a career-high 148 rushing yards and two touchdowns as the Gators overcame a sloppy start to survive a strong Bowling Green upset bid. Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett both shared time at quarterback, with Driskel (10/16 for 114 yards and a touchdown) appearing to have a slight edge going into next week. The Gators were one of the nation’s most penalized teams last year, and committed 14 penalties for 106 yards in this one. The Falcons tied the game in the mid-third quarter, but missed field goals and shanked punts by Bowling Green allowed Florida to roll off 13 unanswered points in the game’s final 24 minutes.

#25 Louisville 32, Kentucky 14

Louisville running back Jeremy Wright rushed for 105 yards and three touchdowns as the Cardinals defeated their Bluegrass State rivals for the second straight year. Wright and backup Senorise Perry (108 yards) each individually had more yards on the ground than Kentucky had as a team (93). Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was nearly perfect for Louisville, completing 19 of his 21 passes for 232 yards and leading the Cardinals on drives of 99, 85 and 93 yards on their first three possessions.

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