ATLANTA -- Christion Jones became the first Alabama player since at least the 1940s to have two returns for touchdowns, Vinnie Sunseri brought back an interception for another TD, and the top-ranked Crimson Tide overcame a sluggish offensive performance to beat Virginia Tech, 35-10, on Saturday.
Jones scored on a 72-yard punt return less than 2 minutes into the game, then scooted loose on a kickoff for a 94-yard touchdown that led the Crimson Tide (1-0) to a win that could’ve been much tougher to start its quest for an unprecedented third straight national title.
For good measure, the junior receiver also hauled in a 38-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter to blow it open against the Hokies (0-1), who largely shut down AJ McCarron and Alabama’s highly touted offense.
The Tide had just 97 yards total offense at halftime but were up 28-10. McCarron & Co. contributed only one of those TDs, and that came when they worked with a short field after a wobbly Virginia Tech punt.
Sunseri stymied a brief bit of momentum Virginia Tech had after Trey Edmunds broke off a 77-yard touchdown run, cutting Alabama’s early lead to 14-7. The Hokies held on defense, but Logan Thomas telegraphed a pass over the middle, Sunseri stepped in to make the pick and, without breaking stride, took it all the way to the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown.
Virginia Tech’s last glimmer of hope faded after Cody Journell booted a 39-yard field goal late in the first half. On the ensuing kickoff, Jones appeared to be stopped short of his own 30. Then, suddenly, he burst out from a pack of would-be tacklers and was gone. The return left Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer — whose program was long known for its stellar special teams — waving his cap and shaking his head in disgust.
Alabama finally put together an impressive offensive series late in the third quarter, capped by McCarron’s scoring pass to Jones. Still, the Tide managed just 206 yards on offense, far shy of its 445.5-yard average last season.
McCarron was photographed arriving in Atlanta wearing a boot on his right foot, reportedly because of an ingrown toenail, and he looked a bit off after being the nation’s top-rated passer last season. There was an interception — he had only three all of last season — and also a penalty for intentional grounding. He finished 10-of-23 for 110 yards.
T.J. Yeldon rushed for 75 yards on 17 carries, but the Tide finished with just 96 yards on the ground.
No. 2 Ohio State 40, Buffalo 20
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Second-ranked Ohio State got off to a quick start. After that, it was a bit scary.
Braxton Miller threw two touchdown passes before fighting leg cramps and Jordan Hall ran for two more scores to lead the Buckeyes to a 40-20 victory over Buffalo on Saturday in the season opener for both teams.
The Buckeyes, striving for a crisper start from coach Urban Meyer’s debut in 2012, led 23-0 after the first quarter before the Bulls made things interesting. Joe Licata threw two TD passes and linebacker Kahlil Mack returned a Miller interception 45 yards to make it 30-20 in the third quarter.
Miller was sidelined a second time with cramps and sub Kenny Guiton promptly tossed a 21-yard TD pass to Chris Fields.
Hall had a career-high 159 yards rushing, scoring on runs of 37 and 49 yards.
Miller was 15 of 22 passing for 178 yards with TDs of 47 yards to Devin Smith and 7 yards to Chris Fields. He also ran for 77 yards on 17 attempts, although he twice went to the sideline with cramps.
Licata completed 19 of 32 passes for 185 yards and two scores with one interception, with Branden Oliver gaining 73 yards on 26 carries for the Bulls, who were playing Ohio State for the first time ever.
No. 3 Oregon 66, Nicholls State 3
EUGENE, Ore. -- Marcus Mariota threw a touchdown pass and ran for two additional scores and the No. 3 Oregon Ducks made easy work of lower-tier Nicholls with a 66-3 victory in the season opener on Saturday.
Mariota, who set an Oregon record with 38 touchdowns last season as a redshirt freshman, completed 12 of 21 passes for 234 yards before sitting after the third quarter when the Ducks had built a 45-3 lead.
Mariota also ran for 113 yards for his second career game with more than 100 yards rushing.
De’Anthony Thomas ran for 128 yards and two more touchdowns for Oregon in the debut of new head coach Mark Helfrich. Helfrich, the team’s former offensive coordinator, was promoted when Chip Kelly left the Ducks in January for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
No. 8 Clemson 38, No. 5 Georgia 35
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Tajh Boyd threw for three touchdowns and rushed for two others, Clemson’s defense sacked Aaron Murray four times and the eighth-ranked Tigers stung No. 5 Georgia 38-35 Saturday night.
Boyd had scoring passes of 77 yards to Sammy Watkins, 24 yards to Zac Brooks and 9 yards to Stanton Seckinger. Boyd also added TD runs of 4 and 2 yards to win the lone matchup of top 10 teams in college football’s opening weekend.
The Tigers took the lead for good, 31-28, on Chandler Catanzaro’s 24-yard field goal in the third quarter. Georgia had a chip-shot try for a tying kick on its next possession, but couldn’t get if off after Nathan Theus’ bad snap .
Two series later, Boyd led a 12-play, 87-yard TD drive that ended with tight end Seckinger tip-toeing the sidelines to get in.
Georgia’s Todd Gurley ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
No. 7 Texas A&M 52, Rice 31
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel served his suspension for No. 7 Texas A&M in the first half on Saturday against Rice.
In the second half he hit the ground running — and apparently running his mouth, too — as he threw three touchdown passes and scrambled for 19 yards and the Aggies wrapped up a lopsided 52-31 win over the Owls.
He was suspended until halftime for what the school said was an “inadvertent” violation of NCAA rules involving signing autographs.
His first touchdown of the season came on a 23-yard pass to Mike Evans on A&M’s next drive. Manziel scrambled for eight yards on third-and-7 on the play before the score and appeared to mimic a signing motion while talking to a Rice defender after getting up from the tackle.
He drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a touchdown throw in the fourth quarter when he was jawing with the defense again and then pointed at the scoreboard. He was replaced by Matt Joeckel on A&M’s last drive.
Joeckel started at quarterback for A&M and threw for 190 yards and a touchdown to help the Aggies lead 28-21 at halftime. Manziel came in on Texas A&M’s first offensive play of the second half and the Aggies capped his first drive with a 44-yard field goal.
Manziel was being investigated for allegedly accepting money for autographs from memorabilia brokers, a violation of NCAA rules that could have led to a much longer suspension.
No. 10 Florida 24, Toledo 6GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Mack Brown had a career day, Jeff Driskel was efficient and No. 10 Florida opened the season with a 24-6 victory over Toledo on Saturday.
Brown ran 25 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Driskel completed 17 of 22 passes for 153 yards and a score. And Florida’s defense, which ranked fifth in the country in 2012, looked every bit as good as last year’s version despite losing eight starters and its coordinator.
The Gators controlled both lines of scrimmage, opening holes for Brown and keeping steady pressure on Toledo’s experienced spread offense. It was exactly the style of play Florida has become known for under third-year coach Will Muschamp. No flashiness. Few highlight-reel plays. But a win in the end. It was Florida’s 24th consecutive season-opening victory, the second-longest active streak in the country. Only Nebraska (27) has a longer current run.
No. 13 Oklahoma State 21, Mississippi State 3
HOUSTON -- J.W. Walsh threw for 135 yards and ran for another 125 and a touchdown to lead the No. 13 Oklahoma State Cowboys to a 21-3 win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Texas Kickoff Saturday.
Walsh finished 18 of 27 after relieving starter Clint Chelf on the Cowboys’ third series. Jeremy Smith rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries for Oklahoma State (1-0), which piled up 432 yards on offense after struggling for most of the first half.
Tyler Russell 10 of 16 for 133 yards before being helped off the field and taken to the locker room in the third quarter after being brought down on a scramble. Dak Prescott replaced Russell, throwing for 89 yards on seven of 17 passing. LaDarius Perkins rushed for 50 yards on 16 carries and caught three passes for 52 yards for the Bulldogs (0-1).
No. 14 Notre Dame 28, Temple 6
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Tommy Rees threw a pair of 32-yard touchdown passes to DaVaris Daniels, a 66-yard scoring pass to Troy Niklas and Notre Dame had three quick scoring drives en route to a 28-6 victory over Temple on Saturday.
The 14th-ranked Irish jumped to a 14-0 lead on a pair of three-play drives on its opening two possessions and appeared headed for a blowout. But when the Notre Dame offense stalled, Temple squandered a pair of scoring chances, with Jim Cooper Jr. missing a pair of field goals. An unsettled feeling settled in at Notre Dame Stadium when Kenny Harper scored on a 1-yard run to cut the lead to 14-6. The Irish regained control, however, with Niklas’ TD with 43 seconds left in the half.
The victory by the Irish (1-0) was the 200th career win for coach Brian Kelly. The Owls (0-1) fell to 2-76 all-time against ranked opponents.
No. 15 Texas 56, New Mexico State 7
AUSTIN, Texas -- David Ash threw four touchdown passes and ran for another as the No. 15 Texas shook off a slow start to roll over New Mexico State, 56-7, on Saturday night.
Ash threw two interceptions in the second quarter and the Longhorns’ new up-tempo offense stalled as the Aggies took a 7-0 lead. Ash then connected on touchdown passes of 54 and 66 yards to John Harris and Daje (duh-jay) Johnson in the final two minutes of the first half.
In the third quarter, Ash turned a scramble into a 55-yard touchdown and passed to Malcolm Brown for a 74-yard score. After falling behind, Texas (1-0) scored 35 points on 15 snaps and finished with a school-record 715 total yards with Ash accounting for 434.
Andrew McDonald was 32-of-46 passing with one touchdown, but also had two turnovers for the Aggies (0-1), who went 1-11 last season.
No. 16 Oklahoma 34, Louisiana Monroe 0
NORMAN, Okla. -- Trevor Knight rushed for 103 yards on 13 carries and threw three touchdown passes - two to Jalen Saunders - in his first start and No. 16 Oklahoma beat Louisiana Monroe, 34-0, on Saturday night.
Oklahoma gave Coach Bob Stoops his 150th career win, putting him seven behind Barry Switzer on the Sooners’ career coaching wins list. Oklahoma is 5-0 under Stoops in August games and 14-1 in home openers, having lost only to Texas Christian in 2005.
Knight became the first Oklahoma quarterback to rush for 100 or more yards in a game since Jason White had 117 yards rushing against Kansas on Oct. 13, 2001.
Louisiana Monroe upset then-No. 8 Arkansas on the road to open the 2012 season, but the Warhawks didn’t get untracked offensively against a revamped Oklahoma defense. The Warhawks crossed midfield only twice and recorded only nine first downs and 166 yards of offense.
No. 17 Michigan 59, Central Michigan 9
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Devin Gardner ran for two touchdowns and threw for another in the first half as No. 17 Michigan went on to beat Central Michigan, 59-9.
It was the highest-scoring opener for the Wolverines (1-0) since 1905, when they beat Ohio Wesleyan 65-0. They will face a tougher test against No. 14 Notre Dame next week at home in a prime-time game.
The Chippewas (0-1) fell behind 35-6 at halftime Saturday. After they gave up five straight TDs, Ron Coluzzi’s third field goal made it 56-9 with 3:12 left in the game. Gardner was 10 of 15 for 162 yards with a 16-yard TD pass to Jeremy Gallon and two interceptions. He ran for a 22-yard score midway through the first quarter when Michigan led by just four points and had a 4-yard TD on the ground late in the first half.
No. 18 Nebraska 37, Wyoming 34
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross each ran for more than 100 yards, Taylor Martinez passed for three touchdowns and 18th-ranked Nebraska survived two late turnovers to defeat Wyoming, 37-34, on Saturday night.
The Cornhuskers, who won their nation-leading 28th straight opener, scored on four of five possessions after trailing 14-10 early in the second quarter and then had to hang on as Wyoming made it a game to the end.
The Cowboys converted two late Nebraska turnovers into touchdowns to pull within 37-34 with 1:32 left. Nebraska recovered the onside kick after Brett Smith’s 47-yard TD pass to Robert Herron. Wyoming’s defense held, and the Cowboys got the ball back on their 6 with 1:07 to play, but time ran out on them before they could even get to midfield.
No. 23 Wisconsin 45, Massachusetts 0
MADISON, Wis. -- Melvin Gordon ran for 144 yards, James White added 143 and No. 23 Wisconsin’s revamped defense pitched a shutout in coach Gary Andersen’s debut for a 45-0 win Saturday over Massachusetts.
Gordon and White padded their totals by each running for touchdowns of at least 51 yards for the Badgers, who didn’t stray far from their trademark rushing attack with the defensive-minded Andersen now pacing the sideline.
Joel Stave overcame a slow start at quarterback to connect with Jared Abbrederis for two long touchdown passes in the second half.
UMass was simply overmatched against the Big Ten’s three-time defending champion. The Minutemen are only in their second year as a major college program, and they had to play Saturday with running back Jordan Broadnax and tight end Rob Blanchflower out with injuries.
Stacey Bedell finished with 70 yards on 19 carries for UMass.
Eastern Washington 49, No. 25 Oregon State 46
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Vernon Adams passed for 411 yards and ran for 107 and the go-ahead score with 18 seconds left as Eastern Washington upset No. 25 Oregon State, 49-46, on Saturday to become the third FCS team to beat a ranked FBS team.
Adams overwhelmed the Beavers in a performance sure to attract attention around the nation. He threw for four touchdowns and ran for two, completing 23 of 30 passes despite leaving the game twice — once with cramping and a second time after taking a hard hit near the sideline.
Adams returned, though, and scored on a 2-yard run to put the Eagles up 49-46. It was the first time a team from the Football Championship Subdivision has defeated a ranked team from the Football Bowl Subdivision since James Madison beat Virginia Tech in September 2010.
Sean Mannion threw for 422 yards and Brandin Cooks had 13 catches for 196 yards for the Beavers.
Northern Illinois 30, Iowa 27
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Mathew Sims hit a 36-yard field goal with four seconds left and Northern Illinois rallied to beat Iowa, 30-27, on Saturday in the season opener for both teams.
Jordan Lynch threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns for the Huskies, who scored 10 points in the final 5:05 to record their first win over the Hawkeyes.
Northern Illinois cornerback Jimmie Ward intercepted Iowa’s Jake Rudock with 1:17 left. He brought it to the Hawkeyes 30-yard line, setting up the game-winning kick from Sims.
Rudock threw for 256 yards, a touchdown and two picks in his debut for Iowa, which lost its seventh straight game dating back to last season.
The Hawkeyes also lost their first opener since 2000.
Northern Iowa 28, Iowa State 20
AMES, Iowa -- David Johnson ran for a career-high 199 yards and two touchdowns and caught passes for two more scores to lead Northern Iowa past Iowa State 28-20 on Saturday night.
Northern Iowa, seeking a return to the FCS playoffs after a rare losing record in 2012, jumped to a 21-7 lead on a steamy Midwest evening and handed Iowa State its first season-opening loss in five seasons under coach Paul Rhoads. It was just the fifth victory for the Panthers in 28 games with the Cyclones, who are coming off two straight bowl appearances.
Iowa State drew to 21-20 on Cole Netten’s third-quarter field goals of 23 and 38 yards, the first of his career. But Johnson caught a short pass from Kollmorgen, slipped through three defenders and went 29 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter for an eight-point lead that held up.
Penn State 23, Syracuse 17
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Christian Hackenberg threw two touchdown passes in his first college game and the freshman led Penn State to 23-17 victory against Syracuse on Saturday.
Hackenberg went 22 for 31 for 278 yards with two interceptions and became the second freshman to start a Penn State opener at quarterback since 1910.
The 18-year-old blue chip recruit hit Eugene Lewis with a deep pass down the middle and the receiver reached into the end zone for a 54-yard score that made it 23-10 with 11:39 left in the fourth quarter. Hackenberg also hooked up with Allen Robinson on a 51-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Robinson, Penn State’s leading receiver last season, unexpectedly did not play in the first half, but finished with seven catches for 133 yards.
Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen got the start at quarterback for new Syracuse coach Scott Shafer, and finished 16 for 37 for 189 yards.
Air Force 38, Colgate 13
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Broam Hart and Jon Lee each went over 100 yards and scored twice to help Air Force open the season with a 38-13 win over Colgate on Saturday.
As they customarily do, the Falcons relied heavily on their ground game, amassing 409 yards. Lee finished with 130 yards and Hart added 101, becoming the first Air Force tandem to eclipse the 100-yard mark since 2009.
Backup quarterback Jaleel Awini was solid in relief of injured starter Kale Pearson as Air Force improved to 7-0 in openers under coach Troy Calhoun.
A young Air Force squad trailed the Raiders by a touchdown early, before scoring 38 straight points to take command of the game. Pearson was effective in running the option offense in his first career start, only to suffer what appeared to be a right knee injury on a running play late in the second quarter.
North Carolina State 40, Louisiana Tech 14
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Freshman Matt Dayes ran for 84 yards and three touchdowns to help North Carolina State beat Louisiana Tech 40-14 on Saturday in its first game under coach Dave Doeren.
Tony Creecy also scored for the Wolfpack (1-0), who scored the first 24 points with Doeren’s no-huddle offense and led comfortably all afternoon.
Still, an early left foot injury to starting quarterback Brandon Mitchell put a damper on the afternoon. Mitchell, who beat out Pete Thomas for the job during training camp, directed N.C. State to touchdowns on its first two possessions before leaving midway through the opening quarter.
Mitchell returned to the sideline late in the first half on crutches and wearing a protective boot.
Kenneth Dixon ran for 118 yards and a touchdown for the Bulldogs (0-1), who lost their first game under new coach Skip Holtz.
West Virgini 24, William & Mary 17
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Wendell Smallwood scored on a 2-yard run with 3:22 left and West Virginia needed a second-half comeback to beat William & Mary 24-17 on Saturday.
Houston transfer Charles Sims rushed for 120 yards and a score in his West Virginia debut and the Mountaineers mustered enough offense to earn their 10th straight win to start a season.
William & Mary’s Michael Graham threw for one touchdown and ran for another. The Tribe built a 17-7 lead but were held out of the end zone after halftime.
West Virginia’s Paul Millard made his first start at quarterback and threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Ronald Carswell late in the third quarter that tied the score at 17-17. After Smallwood’s touchdown, Darwin Cook intercepted Graham at the William & Mary 40, and West Virginia ran out the clock.
Boston College 24, Villanova 14
BOSTON -- Alex Amidon had 13 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown as Boston College recovered from a slow start to beat Villanova 24-14 on Saturday and win its first game under coach Steve Addazio.
Andre Williams ran for 114 yards on 23 carries for the Eagles (1-0), who won just twice last season and fired coach Frank Spaziani.
John Robertson ran for 94 yards and passed for 158 more for Villanova (0-1). Jamal Abdur-Rahman caught one TD pass and had a 47-yard touchdown run on a fake punt on the game’s opening drive. The Wildcats, a top 10 team in the Football Championship Subdivision, also led 14-7 before Boston College scored the next 17 points. The Eagles took the lead for good on a two-play drive that included a 36-yard pass to Bobby Wolford and a 24-yard run by Williams to make it 21-14.
Cincinnati 42, Purdue 7
CINCINNATI -- Munchie Legaux regained his job as the starting quarterback and had a solid showing on Saturday, throwing for a touchdown and running for another in Cincinnati’s 42-7 victory over Purdue — the Boilermakers’ worst opening loss in 17 years.
Legaux’s dual-threat performance highlighted a game featuring new coaches and a new league — Cincinnati (1-0) in the American Athletic Conference. The Bearcats were sharp their first time under Tommy Tuberville.
Legaux was back at quarterback because incumbent Brendon Kay has been limited by a sore passing shoulder. He was 13 of 20 for 146 yards. Purdue (0-1) got a whole new offense under Darrell Hazell, and it didn’t work. The Boilermakers took their most lopsided defeat since a 52-14 loss at Michigan State in 1996.