Wild Finishes and Injuries Highlight Week 1 in College Football
Ohio State looked poised for another title run while some key injuries spoiled an opening weekend filled with exciting games and crazy endings. Here are some of the key story lines coming out of Week 1.
Ohio State Keeps Rolling
Cardale Jones and the Buckeyes picked up right were they left off, rolling to an impressive 42-24 win on the road at Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes rolled up 572 yards of offense on what was thought to be one of the nation's better defenses. Cardale Jones, the hero of Ohio State's playoff run last year, got the start over J.T. Barrett, who started most of last season before going out with a broken leg. Jones didn't have spectacular passing numbers (9/18 for 186 yards) but threw two touchdowns while rushing for 99 yards and another score.
But the story of the night was wide receiver Braxton Miller. The former quarterback showed why he was once a Heisman favorite, accounting for 140 total yards and two touchdowns. His 54-yard touchdown reception and 53-yard touchdown run made him the first Buckeye since Ted Ginn, Jr. in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl to have a 50+-yard touchdown run and reception in the same game.
The Hokie crowed was pumped at kickoff and the momentum carried Virginia Tech to a 17-14 halftime lead. But Ohio State came out of the locker room and quickly showed which was the better team, retaking the lead less than two minutes into the second half and rolling off 28 unanswered points.
On paper, this was the Buckeyes' only real challenge until a Nov. 21 matchup against No. 5 Michigan State. Ohio State looks poised for another playoff run and, at this offensive pace, several pages in the record books could be rewritten along the way.
Texas’ Downward Spiral is Picking Up Speed
Everybody knew that coach Charlie Strong faced a rebuilding project, taking over for a Texas team that had declined in the final years of Mack Brown’s tenure. But now one game into Strong’s second year, it’s obvious the Longhorns are, at best, stuck in neutral if not heading in reverse.
The same problems that plagued Texas last year were once again on display in its 38-3 loss at Notre Dame. An inexperienced offensive line failed to protect the quarterback or open running lanes. Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes continued to struggle, going just 7/22 for 93 yards, over half of which came on one play. He also managed just 17 rushing yards on 10 carries. Texas’ offense, which ranked 105th nationally last year, amassed just 163 total yards and eight first downs. The defense was equally inept, giving up 527 total yards and 30 first downs while allowing Notre Dame receivers to average 13 yards per completion.
Notre Dame is a good team, but not many people would consider them an elite one this year. So this blowout is an example that speaks volumes about how far Texas has fallen. The Longhorns used to compete with football’s best. But in the last few years, they’ve been humiliated by good teams and struggled to hang with even average ones.
There’s Never a Good Time for Injuries, but Week One?!
You always hate to see injuries to college players, but it's really no fun to see some big-name players go down with serious injuries this early in the year. Here are some of the big names injured this week who will miss significant time this year.
- Pitt running back James Conner, the defending ACC Player of the Year, was lost for the year with a torn MCL.
- Notre Dame running back Tarean Folston also went down with a season-ending knee injury in the Irish’s victory over Texas.
- BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, thought by some to be a dark horse Heisman candidate, fractured a bone in his foot during the Cougars’ win over Nebraska. To add insult to injury, the break happened away from any contact and comes after Hill’s 2012 and 2014 injuries were cut short by knee injuries.
- Terrel Hunt, the quarterback and lone offensive bright spot at Syracuse, will be gone for the rest of the season after tearing his Achilles.
- Defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes was UCLA’s leading tackler in the Bruins’ win over Virginia, but suffered a knee injury that will end his junior season before it really began.
- Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams, the Tigers’ leading receiver, left the field on a cart after suffering a fractured neck following a collision with the goal post in Clemson's win over Wofford. He left on a cart, but reportedly had a full range of motion at a local hospital and doctors are said to be confident he’ll make a full recovery. But what the timeline is for his football future remains uncertain.
- Arizona’s star linebacker Scooby Wright III, the reigning Nagurski Award winner, left the Wildcats’ game with a torn meniscus. If there’s a silver lining to this injury-plagued opening weekend, Wright’s injury is only expected to keep him out 3-4 weeks.
Big Ten Streaks Were Made to Be Broken
Aside from a handful of blowouts of FCS teams, Ohio State's win in Blacksburg and Northwestern’s upset of No. 21 Stanford, it was a rough weekend for the Big Ten. Minnesota couldn’t pull off the upset against No. 2 TCU while Wisconsin was routed by No. 4 Alabama. Indiana needed a missed two-point conversion to survive Southern Illinois. Purdue lost to Marshall. And Utah spoiled Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan debut with a 24-17 win over the Wolverines.
Most notable this weekend were the upsets that ended some of college football’s more impressive streaks. Temple upset Penn State, 27-10, to snap a 39-game winless streak against the Nittany Lions that dated back to 1941. And Nebraska saw it’s NCAA-best 29-game winning streak in season openers snapped on a Hail Mary loss to BYU.
(And no, the irony wasn’t lost on me that Nebraska had won on a virtually identical play in nearly the same spot two years ago.)
This was the first time ever that Nebraska, Penn State and Michigan all lost on the same opening weekend.
It Can Always Be Worse
As heartbreaking as Nebraska’s loss was, a couple of the Cornhuskers’ old Big 8 foes might have had things even worse.
After winning just 12 games in the last five years, Kansas football has hit bottom . . . and started digging. Trailing FCS South Dakota State 41-38, the Jayhawks marched to the SDSU 33-yard line and were attempting to line up to spike the ball and set up a potential game-tying field goal. But quarterback Montell Cozart fumbled the snap and time ran out on KU’s comeback bid. On paper this was Kansas’ easiest game of the season and, with just 53 players returning from last year’s 3-9 squad, a winless season in Lawrence is looking like a very real possibility.
Although they botched it, at least Kansas got the chance to run a play. Colorado wasn’t quite so lucky. Trailing 28-20 at Hawaii, the Buffs had driven to their opponent’s eight-yard line and were lining up for one final play. But the referees mishandled the ball and couldn’t get the ball spotted before time expired.
It’s one thing to lose because you fail to make a play; it’s something else when you’re never even given that chance.