CFB roundup: Alabama and Ohio State roll to win while Iowa State, Nebraska struggle
Justin Fields threw four touchdown passes and ran for a score in his first game for Ohio State and the fifth-ranked Buckeyes rolled over Florida Atlantic 45-21 on Saturday in Columbus during a season opener for both teams.
Fields, the five-star transfer from Georgia, made it look easy early, engineering touchdowns on Ohio State’s first four drives. Despite some occasional rookie mistakes that caused the Buckeyes’ offense to sputter in the second and third quarters, Fields finished 18 for 25 for 234 yards and a 51-yard touchdown run.
Tight end Jeremy Ruckert caught two touchdown passes, and Binjimen Victor and Chris Olave also had scoring grabs.
Meanwhile, Florida Atlantic had trouble generating anything good until putting together a 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter for its first touchdown of the game.
Chris Robison finished 22 for 34 for 178 yards for the Owls. FAU was held to just 22 yards on the ground by a revamped Ohio State defense that was coming off a down season.
No. 2 Alabama 42, Duke 3: Tua Tagovailoa threw for 336 yards and four touchdowns as No. 2 Alabama overcame a sluggish start to blow out Duke 42-3 Saturday in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
Returning to the stadium where they won the Southeastern Conference title last December and the national championship two seasons ago, the Crimson Tide (1-0) was held scoreless in the first quarter — which happened only one time in 2018.
But the Blue Devils (0-1) merely delayed the inevitable.
Tagovailoa, whose brilliant sophomore season ended with a bit of a thud, put his tight ends to good use. The left-hander hooked up with Miller Forristall on a 27-yard touchdown pass and then went to Major Tennison for a 1-yard score
Alabama’s dynamic receiving corps also got in on the fun. DeVonta Smith hauled in an 8-yard TD pass and Jerry Jeudy broke loose for a 21-yard score.
Jerome Ford and Brian Robinson Jr. ran for the Tide’s other TDs.
No. 3 Georgia 30, at Vanderbilt 6: Jake Fromm threw for 156 yards and a touchdown, and third-ranked Georgia opened the season Saturday night routing Vanderbilt 30-6.
The Bulldogs won their 20th opener in 23 seasons and stayed perfect to kick off coach Kirby Smart’s fourth season. They also easily won their 14th straight against the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division in their first league game to open a season since 1995.
It sure didn’t feel like a road trip with fans taking advantage of a holiday weekend to paint the stadium Georgia red. The Bulldogs rewarded them by scoring a touchdown on their first three possessions, giving the fans plenty to start celebrating early.
D’Andre Swift ran 16 times for 149 yards, and Brian Herrien added 65 and a TD run as the Bulldogs rolled up 326 yards rushing. Georgia finished with a 481-225 edge in total offense, and the Bulldogs also had two sacks and recovered a fumble.
at No. 6 Louisiana State 55, Georgia Southern 3: Joe Burrow tied an LSU single-game record with five touchdown passes before halftime and No. 6 Tigers held a multi-touchdown lead for all but the first six minutes in a 55-3 victory over Georgia Southern on Saturday night.
Unleashing a new spread offense, the Tigers (1-0) scored 21 points in the first quarter — something they never did in any quarter last season. Their point total was the most in a non-overtime game since scoring 63 against New Mexico State in 2014.
Directing his unit with pace and precision, Burrow completed 23 of 27 passes for 278 yards without an interception before being subbed out after LSU’s first possession of the second half, which ended with a field goal. That drive marked Burrow’s last chance to break the LSU mark of five touchdowns in a game set by Zach Mettenberger in 2013.
at No. 7 Michigan 40, Middle Tennessee State 21: Shea Patterson threw three touchdown passes in the first half and No. 7 Michigan went on to beat Middle Tennessee 40-21 Saturday night.
The Wolverines unveiled their new-look offense and showed they have a lot of work to do with the ball. Patterson lost a fumble on the first play of the game and the senior quarterback had one of the team’s two fumbles in the second half.
Asher O’Hara ran for an 18-yard TD after Patterson’s early fumble to give the Blue Raiders a 7-0 lead. O’Hara threw a 2-yard pass for a score to Jarrin Pierce after Lavert Hill fumbled on a punt return to pull them within 10 points late in the first half.
Michigan made it 40-14 with Dylan McCaffrey’s 6-yard run late in the third quarter and Ben Van Sumeren’s 1-yard run with 6:37 left.
Patterson was 17 of 29 for 203 yards with TD passes to Tarik Black, Nico Collins and Sean McKeon. McCaffrey completed both of his passes for 17 yards and ran for 42 yards along with a score. Standout receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones was not in uniform for the Wolverines, sitting out with an apparent injury.
at No. 10 Texas 45, Louisiana Tech 14: Sam Ehlinger threw four touchdown passes and No. 10 Texas rolled past Louisiana Tech 45-14 on Saturday night, giving coach Tom Herman his first season-opening victory in three years with the Longhorns.
Texas had started each of the past two seasons with losses to Maryland, but had no trouble overwhelming the Bulldogs from Conference-USA in this one. Ehlinger was coolly efficient from the start with scoring passes on three of Texas’ first four possessions.
Devin Duvernay caught nine passes and Ehlinger’s first touchdown, and Brennan Eagles caught touchdowns of 28 and 25 yards in the second and third quarters.
at No. 15 Penn State 79, Idaho 7: Sean Clifford completed 14 of 23 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 15 Penn State over Idaho 79-7 on Saturday.
Making his first career start, Clifford chipped in 57 rushing yards on seven carries and hooked up with receiver KJ Hamler for scoring strikes of 36 and 21 yards.
Journey Brown and Noah Cain both added a pair of touchdown runs while Ricky Slade, Devyn Ford and Nick Eury each ran for scores. Jake Pinegar kicked two field goals and Jordan Stout made another for Penn State (1-0). Will Levis threw a touchdown pass to tight end Brenton Strange in the fourth quarter.
at No. 20 Iowa 38, Miami (Ohio) 14: Nate Stanley threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns, Mekhi Sargent ran for 91 yards and a score, and No. 20 Iowa beat Miami (Ohio) 38-14 in their season opener on Saturday night.
The Hawkeyes got off to a slow start, but that was erased by the consistent ground game and some big plays from Stanley, who finished 21 of 30 in Iowa’s sixth straight season-opening win.
“(Sargent) is more decisive (and) you can see he’s a lot more confident out there,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “From the sideline (the run game) looked pretty good. It looked more like what we’re shooting for. I thought all the backs that were in there ran decisively.”
Iowa opened the scoring with a 21-yard field goal by Keith Duncan, but trailed in the second quarter after RedHawks quarterback Brett Gabbert — brother of NFL quarterback Blaine Gabbert — picked apart the Iowa secondary on a 77-yard scoring drive. Gabbert finished 17 of 27 for 186 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
The Hawkeyes used a combination of Sargent and Toren Young on the ground and Stanley finding 10 different receivers to counter and slowly pull away. Sargent had 14 carries and Young finished with nine for 48 yards and one touchdown.
at No. 21 Iowa State 29, Northern Iowa 26 (3 OT): Sheldon Croney Jr. scored from a yard out in triple overtime after the Cyclones had to rally to avoid the upset. La’Michael Pettway had a pair of touchdown catches for Iowa State (1-0), which barely survived the season’s first major upset after entering the year ranked for the first time since 1978.
Croney fumbled near the goal line on the second-to-last play of the game. But quarterback Brock Purdy sprinted from the backfield to recover it at the 1 and set up the game-winning plunge.
After the teams traded field goals in the first overtime, Purdy found Pettway — a graduate transfer from Arkansas in his Iowa State debut — in the back of the end zone. But Northern Iowa pulled even at 23-all after freshman Will McElvain scrambled long enough to free up Trevor Allen for a 7-yard TD catch.
Iowa State forced Northern Iowa into a field goal to start triple overtime, and Purdy completed three straight passes before pulling off what might end up being remembered as a season-saving recovery.
The Cyclones were the second ranked team to win an overtime game against an FCS opponent. Auburn held off Jacksonville State 27-20 in 2015.
McElvain finished with 228 yards passing and a touchdown in his collegiate debut. Purdy threw for 278 yards, and Deshaunte Jones caught 14 passes for 126 yards for Iowa State.
No. 22 Syracuse 24, at Liberty 0: Abdul Adams, Jarveon Howard and Moe Neal ran for touchdowns and No. 22 Syracuse spoiled a most unusual debut for Hugh Freeze as Liberty’s coach with a 24-0 victory on Saturday night.
Still recovering from back surgery for a herniated disk on Aug. 16 and a staph infection, Freeze coached from a hospital bed in the coaching box. The school said he was in communication with his coaches and players during the game and that the bed was used to support his healing back. Freeze addressed the team before the game via video hook-up, again at halftime and was to after the game as well.
He couldn’t have liked much of what he saw.
Stephen Calvert threw two interceptions, as many as Freeze had said the fourth-year starter had thrown in all of fall camp, and was sacked eight times by a defense that returned players responsible for 34 sacks last season, the most in the football subdivision.
at No. 24 Nebraska 35, South Alabama 21: The Cornhuskers scored two defensive touchdowns and one on special teams, bailing out a sluggish offense against the Sun Belt Conference opponent.
The five-touchdown favorite Huskers led only 14-7 at halftime and totaled just 66 yards in the second half. But their defense had five takeaways, the biggest one Eric Lee Jr.’s 38-yard interception return for a touchdown, and JD Spielman ran back a punt 76 yards to make it a three-touchdown game early in the third quarter.
Any easing of the anxiety at Memorial Stadium was temporary. South Alabama converted two straight turnovers into touchdowns to cut it to 28-21 and had the ball heading into the fourth quarter.
Things started turning for Nebraska when Cam Taylor hammered Jaguars quarterback Cephus Johnson, popping the ball loose, and Alex Davis picked it up at the goal line and stepped into the end zone for a touchdown.
Then, with South Alabama threatening from the Nebraska 12, Taylor stepped in front of Johnson’s pass and ran in back to midfield.
In season openers involving unranked teams:
— Dan Ellington threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score as 26-point underdog Georgia State upset Tennessee 38-30 on Saturday in one of the first stunners of the college football season. Georgia State (1-0) beat a Power Five opponent for the first time since this Sun Belt Conference school launched its program in 2010.
— True freshman quarterback Sam Howell threw for 245 yards and two touchdowns, Myles Wolfork had two late fourth quarter interceptions and North Carolina battled back to beat South Carolina 24-20 marking a victorious return to the sideline for Tar Heels coach Mack Brown. Howell capped second half drives of 98 and 95 yards with a 22-yard TD strike to Dyami Brown and a 17-yard scoring toss to Beau Corrales to give Brown his first win since 2013, when he coached at Texas.
— Hank Bachmeier tossed a third-quarter TD pass and Robert Mahone had a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth and Boise State rallied from an 18-point deficit to knock off Florida State 36-31 in a game moved from Jacksonville to Tallahassee with an earlier start time due to Hurricane Dorian. Florida State lost its season opener for the third straight time.
— Carter Stanley threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Daylon Charlot with 2:20 left in the game, and Kansas rallied for a 24-17 victory over Indiana State to avoid saddling new coach Les Miles with a devastating defeat in his debut. The Sycamores had clawed back from a 16-3 deficit to take the lead, but the Jayhawks’ senior quarterback calmly responded to adversity by leading his team to a go-ahead score.
— Patrick Taylor rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown, while defensive end Bryce Huff recorded a fourth quarter safety to seal Memphis’ 15-10 victory over Ole Miss. Huff’s tackle of Rebel quarterback Matt Corral with 6:42 left created the final margin. The safety was set up by a punt from Memphis’ Adam Williams to the Rebel 2 on the previous play.
— Graduate transfer Tommy Stevens passed for two touchdowns and ran for one in his first college start as Mississippi State defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 38-28 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Stevens, who was a backup at Penn State when Bulldogs’ second-year coach Joe Moorhead was the Nittany Lions’ offensive coordinator, completed 20 of 30 passes for 236 yards.
— Matthew McKay ran for two touchdowns and threw for another in his first start at quarterback to help North Carolina State beat East Carolina 34-6. The Wolfpack defense held the Pirates to 41 rushing yards on 29 attempts. Holton Ahlers threw for 168 yards for East Carolina in its first game under new coach Mike Houston.
— Virginia looks ready to live up to the preseason hype. Bryce Perkins threw for 181 yards and two touchdowns and the Cavaliers took advantage of a series of Pittsburgh miscues in a 30-14 victory. Perkins found Chris Sharp for a 2-yard score in the first quarter after Virginia blocked a punt and connected with Hasise Dubois on a 13-yard touchdown in the third quarter to give the Cavaliers just their second win over the Panthers since Pitt joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013.
— Quarterback Sean Chambers rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown, Xazavian Valladay had 118 yards and a score and Wyoming upset Missouri 37-31. It was the second upset win on the day by a Mountain West Conference team against a Southeastern Conference member.
Air Force 48, Colgate 7
Appalachian St. 42, ETSU 7
Arkansas 20, Portland St. 13
Baylor 56, Stephen F. Austin 17
Boston College 35, Virginia Tech 28
Eastern Michigan 30, Coastal Carolina 23
Illinois 42, Akron 3
Indiana 34, Ball St. 24
Iowa 38, Miami (Ohio) 14
Kansas St. 49, Nicholls 14
Kentucky 38, Toledo 24
Marshall 56, VMI 17
Maryland 79, Howard 0
Navy 45, Holy Cross 7
New Mexico 39, Sam Houston St. 31
Northern Illinois 24, Illinois State 10
North Texas 51, Abilene Christian 31
Ohio 41, Rhode Island 20
Old Dominion 24, Norfolk St. 21
San Diego State 6, Weber St. 0
Southern Methodist 37, Arkansas St. 30
Southern Mississippi 38, Alcorn St. 10
Temple 56, Bucknell 12
Texas Tech 45, Montana St. 10
Troy 43, Campbell 14
UTSA 35, Incarnate Word 7
West Virginia 20, James Madison 13
Western Michigan 48, Monmouth (NJ) 13
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.