Mike Shula’s debut was successful in the end -- thanks to Shaud Williams.
Williams had 177 total yards and scored three touchdowns to lead Alabama to a 40-17 victory over South Florida after a shaky start Saturday in the opener for both teams at Birmingham, Ala.
“A lot of attention has been focused on me this week, but these guys are the ones who have been working hard and they’re the ones who went out there and made the plays,” Shula said.
Shula took over after an unsettling nine months at Alabama. Last year’s coach, Dennis Franchione, unexpectedly left for Texas A&M; in December.
Alabama settled on Washington State’s Mike Price, but he was fired before ever coaching a game with the Crimson Tide for his conduct at a strip club and hotel during a weekend golf tournament in Pensacola, Fla.
Enter Shula. The former Tide quarterback was hired in May despite having never been a head coach at any level.
Shula said win No. 1 was everything he thought it would be. His father, NFL coaching legend Don Shula, was in attendance, as was the rest of his family.
“That was special,” Mike Shula said.
No. 12 Tennessee 24, Fresno State 6 -- Casey Clausen threw two touchdown passes and Jabari Davis ran 44 yards for another score to lead the Volunteers over the Bulldogs in the season opener for both at Knoxville, Tenn.
Tennessee racked up 433 yards of total offense, the most since a six-overtime win over Arkansas last October, and 274 yards rushing behind a strong offensive line.
Cedric Houston led Tennessee with 161 yards in 19 carries. James Banks had seven catches for 80 yards and a touchdown to lead the receivers.
Fresno State’s Rodney Davis, who had a school-record 1,586 yards rushing last season, was held to 16 yards in 13 carries.
Coming off the disappointing 8-5 season, Tennessee did not sell out its home opener for the first time since 1974. The attendance was 103,860 in Neyland Stadium, where crowds normally exceed the 104,079 capacity and top 107,000.
No. 14 Louisiana State 49, Louisiana Monroe 7 -- Matt Mauck threw three touchdown passes in a 6 1/2-minute span to lead the Tigers over the Indians in the season opener for both at Baton Rouge, La.
Mauck, who sat out the last seven games of last season because of torn ligaments in his foot, completed 13 of 28 passes for 153 yards. He had one pass intercepted before being replaced by Marcus Randall in the third quarter.
Louisiana Monroe, 6-28 over the last three seasons, held the Tigers scoreless until the final 6:37 of the first half.
Florida 65, San Jose State 3 -- The Gators (1-0) blocked one punt to set up a touchdown, returned interceptions for two more, and quarterbacks Ingle Martin, Gavin Dickey and Chris Leak all threw touchdown passes in a rout over the Spartans (1-1) at Gainesville, Fla.
Jermaine McCollum blocked a punt at the Spartan two-yard line to set up Florida’s first touchdown.
Ran Carthon ran for a pair of two-yard scores and Kelvin Kight caught two touchdowns.
Martin completed 14 of 23 passes for 196 yards, and a 21-yard touchdown to Kelvin Kight. Leak, the highly touted freshman, went 10 for 14 for 111 yards and had a 16-yard touchdown pass to Kight.
The game was played before 90,011 fans at The Swamp, courtesy of a $55 million expansion project completed this month.
The crowd was the largest to see a football game in the state of Florida.
Mississippi 24, Vanderbilt 21 -- Jonathan Nichols kicked a 54-yard field goal with 3:52 left and the Rebels scored 10 unanswered points to defeat the Commodores at Nashville.
Eli Manning threw for one touchdown and a two-point conversion for the Rebels, but he fumbled twice and receivers dropped several passes. Vanderbilt sacked Manning twice and hit him repeatedly. Manning was 22 for 33 for 275 yards.
South Carolina 14, Louisiana Lafayette 7 -- Dondrial Pinkins passed for 185 yards and a touchdown to lead the Gamecocks over the Ragin’ Cajuns at Columbia, S.C. The win gave South Carolina Coach Lou Holtz 239 career victories to pass Woody Hayes for seventh on the all-time list.