The Alabama defense turned in a dominating performance, the Florida State special teams endured a terrible night, and one of the most anticipated opening games in college football history went to the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
Damien Harris ran for a touchdown and blocked a punt, and Jalen Hurts chipped in with a scoring pass on a night that basically required the sophomore quarterback to make no major mistakes, leading Alabama to a 24-7 beatdown of No. 3 Florida State on Saturday at Atlanta’s new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Alabama picked off a pair of passes by Deondre Francois in the second half, snuffing out any hopes of a Florida State comeback. Throw in a blocked punt, a blocked field goal and a fumble recovery on a kickoff return, and there was really no path to victory for the Seminoles in the first matchup ever between two teams in the top three of The Associated Press preseason rankings.
The Tide led 10-7 at halftime, catching a huge break in the closing seconds when the officials didn’t call a pass interference penalty on Tony Brown while defending Francois’ pass into the end zone for Nyqwan Murray. When Florida State attempted a 37-yard field goal on the next play, Minkah Fitzpatrick leaped up to make the block on the final play of the half.
Appearing deflated, Florida State never got anything going over the final two quarters. Levi Wallace and Mack Wilson both had interceptions, and Francois’ night ended with him being helped off the field — putting no weight on his left knee — after being sacked from behind by blitzing safety Ronnie Harrison. Francois immediately grabbed at his knee, and after being treated for several minutes on the turf, he wrapped his arms around a couple of trainers and hobbled off the field.
With the Tide still clinging to that three-point lead, the game was essentially decided by a seven-play sequence toward the end of the third quarter. Backed up in his own territory, Logan Tyler’s punt was smothered by Harris, racing in from the left side, and Dylan Moses fell on it at the Florida State 6.
The Seminoles made an impressive stand, forcing Alabama to settle for Andy Pappanastos’ 25-yard field goal.
It was all for naught when, on the ensuing kickoff, Keith Gavin muffed the ball in the end zone, picked it up, ran into one of his own men, and then fumbled on a hit by Moses. Keith Holcombe recovered at the 11, and Harris ran up the middle for a touchdown on the very next play, splitting two would-be tacklers at the 5.
Maryland 51, at No. 23 Texas 41: Tyrrell Pigrome threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score before leaving with an injury as the Terrapins spoiled Longhorns coach Tom Herman’s debut.
Maryland led 27-7 in the second quarter, and then held off a Texas rally to snap a 17-game losing streak to ranked opponents, the third-longest streak among Power Five teams.
Maryland’s D.J. Moore had 133 yards receiving and a touchdown.
The Longhorns scored three non-offensive touchdowns — an interception return and blocked kick return by Holton Hill and a 91-yard punt return by Reggie Hemphill-Mapps. But those highlights couldn’t deliver a win for Herman, who was brought from Houston to replace Charlie Strong after three straight losing seasons.
Texas had its same old problems, giving up a special teams touchdown, missed field goals and a defense that was physically battered all game and give up big plays.
Shane Buechele passed for 375 yards for Texas.
at No. 5 Clemson 56, Kent State 3: Kelly Bryant passed for 236 yards and a touchdown and ran for 77 more yards in his first game as the Tigers’ starting quarterback.
Bryant has the hefty responsibility of replacing Deshaun Watson behind center for the defending national champions. The junior, who had thrown just 22 passes in his career for Clemson (1-0) in mop up duty, showed he could both run and pass.
Bryant had a perfectly placed 61-yard touchdown pass to Deon Cain on his second drive. He mirrored Watson’s running ability, taking off for a 47-yard run after all his receivers were covered. And he showed the “swag” that coach Dabo Swinney promised to fans skittish about Watson’s departure.
at No. 6 Penn State 52, Akron 0: Saquon Barkley racked up 226 total yards and two touchdowns to lead the Nittany Lions to the season-opening win.
Although it rained heavily early in the game at Beaver Stadium, a soggy field and leaky Akron defense couldn’t slow Penn State’s pair of Heisman Trophy candidates. They combined for 371 total yards and four scores in the first half to put the game out of reach.
at No. 7 Oklahoma 56, Texas El Paso 7: Baker Mayfield passed for 329 yards and three touchdowns in one half of action to help the Sooners win in a rout.
Mayfield completed 16 straight passes to start the game. He didn’t miss until just under four minutes remained in the second quarter and completed 19 of 20 overall.
The Sooners rolled up 676 yards of offense in their first game under head coach Lincoln Riley. The 33-year-old was promoted from offensive coordinator after Bob Stoops stepped down in June.
Mark Andrews had career highs of seven catches and 134 yards, all in the first half. Jeff Badet, a transfer from Kentucky, added 91 yards on four catches as the Sooners warmed up for a showdown next weekend at No. 2 Ohio State.
Walter Dawn Jr. ran for 56 yards and UTEP’s only touchdown.
at No. 12 Auburn 41, Georgia Southern 7: Jarrett Stidham threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score in his Auburn debut.
The Tigers used a smothering defense to overcome three turnovers — including a fumble returned for a touchdown — plus an injury to tailback Kerryon Johnson and the absence of top runner Kamryn Pettway. Pettway, wide receiver Kyle Davis and backup quarterback Sean White all were held out for undisclosed reasons in the opener for both teams.
The news got worse when Johnson pulled up short on what appeared destined to be his second long touchdown of the first half. He left with an apparent right hamstring injury and didn’t return after gaining 136 yards with a 60-yard touchdown scamper.
Stidham scored on a 14-yard run and passed for 19-yard touchdowns to Ryan Davis and Will Hastings. He finished 14-of-24 passing for 185 yards with an interception in a much-anticipated debut.
at No. 15 Georgia 31, Appalachian State 10: Freshman Jake Fromm led three first-half touchdown drives after starting quarterback Jacob Eason hurt his left knee, helping Georgia beat Appalachian State. Fromm completed 10 of 15 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Eason was injured on a late hit in the first quarter and needed help leaving the field.
Fromm threw a 34-yard scoring pass to Javon Wims for his second of three straight touchdown drives in the first half. Chubb and Michel gained momentum as an undersized defense for Appalachian State appeared to wear down.
No. 16 Louisville 35, Purdue 28: Lamar Jackson threw two touchdown passes and had 485 total yards, helping Louisville escape with the win in Indianapolis. The mistake-prone Cardinals’ snapped a three-game losing streak.
Jackson, of course, was the difference. He went 30 of 46 for 378 yards and ran 21 times for 107 yards. He also moved into the top five in school history in TD passes and yards rushing.
And when Louisville needed the defending Heisman Trophy winner to be at his best in the fourth quarter, he didn’t disappoint. Jackson hooked up with Dez Fitzpatrick on a 20-yard score with 9:01 remaining to give the Cardinals a 32-28 lead then drove them into field goal position on the ensuing possession to make it a seven-point game.
Purdue couldn’t rally in coach Jeff Brohm’s debut, losing its eighth straight.
at No. 18 Miami 41, Bethune-Cookman 13: Malik Rosier passed for 217 yards and three touchdowns in his debut as the Hurricanes’ full-time starting quarterback, while Mark Walton ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the victory.
Rosier completed 17 of 28 passes for Miami (1-0), which scored on five of its first six possessions. He spread the ball to nine different receivers and went 12-for-14 in one stretch in his first start since Oct. 31, 2015. Braxton Berrios, Lawrence Cager and Darrell Langham had touchdown catches for Miami.
Larry Brihm completed 22 of 35 passes for 212 yards for Bethune-Cookman, which got a field goal on the game’s opening drive and found itself in a 3-3 tie after one quarter.
at No. 19 South Florida 31, Stony Brook 17: Quinton Flowers threw for 186 yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns to help South Florida shrug off a slow start.
Tyre McCants’ 65-yard TD reception put USF (2-0) ahead for good with 11:23 remaining. Mazzi Wilkins’ interception set up a late TD that ended any hopes for Stony Brook (0-1) to rally for an upset. Darius Tice scored on runs of 1 and 14 yards for the Bulls.
Stony Brook led 10-7 at halftime and put themselves into position to pull off a shocker when Stacey Bedell swept left end on a 54-yard TD burst that made it 17-all with just over 13 minutes to go.
Flowers was 19 of 32 passing with two TDs and one interception. He also led USF in rushing with 67 yards on 18 attempts.
at No. 20 Kansas State 55, Central Arkansas 19: Jesse Ertz threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns in only three quarters of work for Kansas State.
Byron Pringle had three catches for 121 yards and a score, and Isaiah Harris had three catches for 118 yards and a TD, as seven Wildcats reached the end zone. That helped them overcome a shaky night by their rebuilt defense and give coach Bill Snyder another season-opening win.
The 77-year-old Snyder, who had treatment for throat cancer in the offseason, looked as energetic as ever in his familiar purple wind breaker, barking at players and officials alike all night.
Hayden Hildebrand threw for 198 yards and a touchdown for Central Arkansas, one of the top teams in the Football Championship Subdivision. Carlos Blackman added 114 yards on the ground.