Stetson Bennett threw for 368 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, a revamped defense didn’t miss a beat, and No. 3 Georgia looked very much like a team intent on defending its national championship with a 49-3 rout of No. 11 Oregon on Saturday in Atlanta.
Bennett completed 25 of 31 passes with two touchdown throws and ran for another touchdown before calling it a day in the third quarter of the season opener, the Bulldogs leading 42-3 and having thoroughly ruined the debut of Oregon coach Dan Lanning.
After spending the last three years as Georgia’s co-defensive coordinator, Lanning got a look at his former team from the opposing sideline in a game played before a predominantly red-clad crowd at the home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.
One awful performance into his head coaching career, Lanning saw just how far the Ducks have to go.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson and the Bruins stumbled early but scored 38 unanswered points after trailing in the second quarter of a 45-17 win over Bowling Green.
Sept. 3, 2022
Bennett, a former walk-on who led a run to Georgia’s first national title since 1980, returned for a sixth college season with a firm grip on the starting job after battling for playing time most of his career.
Bennett picked up where he left off in last year’s College Football Playoff, when he was offensive most valuable player of both the semifinals and the title game victory over Alabama.
He started his final season with a career high for passing yards.
“It’s always good to go in being the guy,” Bennett said. “It was pretty cool.”
Bennett guided the Bulldogs to the end zone on all six possessions he played. He ran for a one-yard score and tossed touchdown passes of four yards to Ladd McConkey and 18 yards to Adonai Mitchell.
There were some questions about Georgia’s defense, which had five players off the 2021 unit selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Any doubts were quickly put to rest by a swarming group that looked very much like last year’s defense for the ages, making life miserable for new Oregon quarterback Bo Nix.
“One of our mottos is, ‘No one in our end zone,’ ” said Georgia safety Christopher Smith, who had an interception.
Nix transferred to Eugene after starting at Auburn the last three seasons. He immediately found himself facing a team he lost to three times while playing in the Southeastern Conference.
Make it 0-4. Nix was picked off twice, and the only offense he could muster led to Camden Lewis’ 35-yard field goal late in the second quarter. Nix completed 21 of 37 attempts for just 173 yards.
“That locker room is hurting a little bit,” Lanning said. “But they’re ready to grow.”
Florida 29, No. 7 Utah 26
Anthony Richardson ran for three scores in his second career start, including a two-yard scamper with 1:25 remaining, and the Gators (1-0) upset the defending Pac-12 Conference champion Utes (0-1) to get the Billy Napier era off to a rousing start.
Richardson was the best player on the field most of the night. He really showed up down the stretch, although linebacker Amari Burney was the guy who sealed the victory for Florida.
Burney intercepted Utah quarterback Cam Rising’s second-down pass into the end zone with 17 seconds remaining. That set off a wild celebration that surely will last long into the night.
“Someone had to make a play,” Burney said. “It happened to be me.”
Richardson took a knee from there, and the Gators stormed the field to revel in their 33rd consecutive victory in home season openers. That’s the longest current streak in the nation.
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Richardson ran 11 times for 106 yards and was never stopped for a loss. He completed 17 of 24 passes for 168 yards and played turnover-free football.
“He’s going to get his [NFL payday],” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “He’s 6-4, 230 and runs like a 4.3. He’s a terrific player.”
Richardson’s best play? He had an electrifying two-point conversion early in the fourth quarter that put the Gators up 22-19. He juked former Florida teammate Mohamoud Diabate with a pump fake and then sprinted right by fellow Utah linebacker Lander Barton before throwing a strike to Ja’Quavion Fraziers in the back of the end zone.
Utah answered and took the lead briefly, but Richardson did it again. He moved the chains with a third-down throw and again with a fourth-down run, both of which set up his game-winner.
Rising moved the Utes in position to steal one on the road for a team that entered the season with its highest preseason ranking in school history. But Rising’s last pass was his most important — or costly — of the night.
“It wasn’t Cam’s best throw,” Whittingham said. “I’m sure he’d like that back, but he played great.”
Rising completed 22 of 32 passes for 216 yards, with a touchdown and the turnover. He also ran for 91 yards.
Tavion Thomas had 115 yards rushing and a score for Utah, which caught a break when it rained about two hours before kickoff and erased whatever advantage Florida had with sweltering summer heat and humidity.
No. 2 Ohio State 21, No. 5 Notre Dame 10
C.J. Stroud threw two touchdown passes and Ohio State’s revamped defense gave its vaunted offense time to find its groove as the Buckeyes (1-0) beat the Fighting Irish (0-1) in Columbus, Ohio.
The top-five opening matchup was a homecoming for first-year Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman, a former Buckeyes linebacker who has made a meteoric rise to lead the Fighting Irish at 36 years old.
Freeman dropped to 0-2 as a head coach after losing a bowl game just weeks after being named Brian Kelly’s successor.
In the first regular-season meeting of the storied programs since 1996, the Irish hung with the high-scoring Buckeyes for most of three quarters, frustrating Heisman Trophy finalist Stroud and putting together a couple of first-half scoring drives.
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Sept. 3, 2022
But Ohio State’s defense, too generous against the run last season, put the clamps on the Irish and new starting quarterback Tyler Buchner in the second half.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day turned over his defensive staff in the offseason, bringing in Jim Knowles from Oklahoma State to be coordinator.
The Irish managed just 253 yards and punted on their last six possessions. Tommy Eichenberg had two of Ohio State’s three sacks.
Miyan Williams ran for 84 yards and a touchdown in 14 carries for the Buckeyes, and TreVeyon Henderson had 91 in 15 attempts.
Playing mostly without star wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who took a hard hit on the first series, Stroud threw for 223 yards.
No. 1 Alabama 55, Utah State 0
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young passed for five first-half touchdowns and also ran for 100 yards and a score, and the host Crimson Tide (1-0) rolled to an opening victory over the Aggies (1-1).
Alabama began its quest for national title redemption with a not unexpected start-to-finish domination of six-touchdown underdog Utah State. Less anticipated: Young’s runs.
Known primarily as a passer with a penchant for scrambling and buying time, Young flashed his running ability more than he ever did last season, including a 63-yarder down the left sideline. He also spread the ball around to Alabama’s new set of playmakers, with two touchdown passes to both Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton and Traeshon Holden and some handoffs to Jahmyr Gibbs.
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Young ran five times for 100 yards after netting zero yards thanks to sacks last season with a previous long run of 16 yards. He also completed 18 of 28 passes for 195 yards before exiting one drive into the second half after his touchdown run.
The Crimson Tide outgained the Aggies 559-136 in total yards.
No. 6 Texas A&M 31, Sam Houston State 0
Haynes King threw for a career-high 364 yards and three long touchdowns to lead the Aggies (1-0) to a win over the Bearkats (0-1) in College Station, Texas, in a game that included an almost three-hour weather delay.
King, who was named the starter after beating out two others in camp for the job, threw touchdown passes of 66, 63 and 43 yards. King also threw two interceptions in an inconsistent performance in his return after breaking his leg in the second game last season.
Ainias Smith had six receptions for a career-high 164 yards with two touchdowns to help Texas A&M pick up the victory.
The Aggies were up 17-0 at halftime when the game was suspended because of lightning in the area.
No. 8 Michigan 51, Colorado State 7
Cade McNamara had a lackluster performance that was made moot by a dominant defense as the Wolverines (1-0) routed the Rams (0-1) in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The Big Ten championship-winning quarterback started the opener and is scheduled to sit at the beginning of the Hawaii game next week when J.J. McCarthy gets a shot to take the first snap.
McNamara started one-for-five passing and finished nine for 18 for 136 yards, a total boosted by a short pass he threw that Roman Wilson turned into a 61-yard touchdown early in the first quarter. McCarthy made the most of his limited opportunity to play, running for a 20-yard score and completing all four of his passes for 30 yards.
Michigan’s defense, which had seven sacks and an interception, contributed to the flurry of scores with a 45-yard touchdown off a fumble recovery early in the third quarter.
No. 9 Oklahoma 45, Texas El Paso 13
Dillon Gabriel passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, and the Sooners (1-0) rolled past the Miners (0-2) in Norman, Okla., for Brent Venables’ first career victory as a head coach.
Venables was a full-time assistant for the previous 26 years in stints at Kansas State, Oklahoma and Clemson. He took over after Lincoln Riley left to take the USC job.
Gabriel, a transfer from Central Florida, connected on 15 of 23 passes for 233 yards. Eric Gray rushed for 102 yards, Brayden Willis caught two touchdown passes and Marcus Major rushed for two scores for the Sooners.
No. 10 Baylor 69, Albany 10
Blake Shapen completed 17 of 20 passes for 214 yards with two long touchdowns and had a nifty dive into the end zone for another score on the final play of the first half as the Bears (1-0) opened their season with a victory over the FCS Great Danes (0-1) in Waco, Texas.
Gavin Holmes, a sixth-year Baylor wide receiver who missed all of last season because of a foot injury, returned a punt 72 yards for a score. Monaray Baldwin had two touchdowns — on a 47-yard catch for the Bears’ first score before adding a 50-yard reverse run after halftime.
The reigning Big 12 Conference champion Bears have a six-game winning streak, matching fourth-ranked Clemson for the longest active among FBS teams. The Tigers open their season Monday night against Georgia Tech.
No. 13 North Carolina State 21, East Carolina 20
The Wolfpack (1-0) edged the Pirates (0-1) in Greenville, N.C., after East Carolina missed an extra-point try with 2:58 left and a 41-yard field-goal attempt with five seconds remaining.
East Carolina was in position to hand N.C. State a surprising loss when the Pirates got the ball back late down 21-20, not to mention offer Owen Daffer a shot at redemption after he pulled what would have been the tying PAT wide left after Rahjai Harris’ short touchdown run.
Holton Ahlers’ keeper set Daffer up with a makable field goal in the final seconds, but he missed this one wide right to stun a once-rowdy crowd.
North Carolina State quarterback Devin Leary, the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, passed for 211 yards and a touchdown, but he threw a costly interception with about five minutes left that set up East Carolina’s late touchdown drive.
Ahlers threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns for the Pirates.
No. 16 Miami 70, Bethune-Cookman 13
Henry Parrish rushed for 108 yards and three touchdowns, Tyler Van Dyke passed for two more scores, and the Hurricanes (1-0) beat the Wildcats (0-1) in Mario Cristobal’s debut as Miami coach.
The Hurricanes finished with seven rushing touchdowns. Thaddeus Franklin rushed for two scores.
Gilbert Frierson had an interception return for a score, while Xavier Restrepo and Michael Redding III caught the touchdown passes from Van Dyke — who completed 13 of 16 passes for 193 yards.
No. 18 Wisconsin 38, Illinois State 0
Braelon Allen had a 96-yard touchdown scamper for the longest run from scrimmage in Wisconsin history and John Torchio had a school-record 100-yard interception return as the Badgers (1-0) opened the season with a rout of the Redbirds (0-1) in Madison, Wis.
Wisconsin’s longest run from scrimmage before Allen’s was James White’s 93-yard burst in a 51-3 triumph over Indiana in 2013. Torchio broke the record previously held by Joe Ferguson, who scored on a 99-yard interception return in a 59-10 victory over Utah State in 2017.
Allen ended up with 148 yards and two touchdowns in 14 carries.
No. 19 Arkansas 31, No. 23 Cincinnati 24
KJ Jefferson threw for 223 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another 62 yards and a score to lead the Razorbacks (1-0) past the Bearcats (0-1) in Fayetteville, Ark.
Jefferson ran for the first touchdown of the game in the first quarter, threw a jump-pass touchdown to Trey Knox in the second and found Jadon Haselwood for another score in the third.
Arkansas running back Rocket Sanders ran for 117 yards in 20 carries. Knox caught six passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
Ben Bryant, a transfer from Eastern Michigan, was 26-for-43 passing for 325 yards and two touchdowns with one interception for Cincinnati.
No. 20 Kentucky 37, Miami (Ohio) 13
Barion Brown returned the second-half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, Keidron Smith’s fumble return less than a minute later set up another score, and the Wildcats (1-0) pulled away to defeat the RedHawks (0-1) in Lexington, Ky.
Mark Stoops’ 60th victory tied him with Paul “Bear” Bryant as the Wildcats’ winningest coach in 10 seasons with the program. But Kentucky needed those game-changing plays to make it happen after leading only 13-10 at halftime behind several missed opportunities deep in Miami territory.
The Wildcats quickly snatched momentum after the break as Brown dashed left, found a seam and turned the corner down the sideline for the big score just 13 seconds in.
No. 21 Mississippi 28, Troy 10
USC transfer Jaxson Dart directed three consecutive touchdown drives in the first half to help the Rebels beat the Trojans in Oxford, Miss., in the opener for both teams.
Ole Miss built a 21-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes on drives of 82, 68 and 83 yards and was never seriously threatened. Dart was 18 for 27 for 154 yards, with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Malik Heath to cap the opening series of the second half.
Transfer Zach Evans rushed for 130 yards in 20 carries as Ole Miss finished with 433 yards of total offense.
“That’s a good thing to be 1-0. Jaxson did a good job, especially early,” Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin said. “The story line was defense and the running game on offense. You want to play great in every area for four quarters, so we will find a way to turn a poor second half into something positive.”
Jon Sumrall lost in coaching debut for Troy. Gunnar Watson threw for 275 yards.
No. 24 Houston 37, Texas San Antonio 35 (3OT)
Houston quarterback Clayton Tune leaped over a defender to score on a 13-yard run, and the Cougars (1-0) escaped with a victory over the Roadrunners (0-1) in three overtimes in San Antonio.
Per NCAA rules for a third overtime, Tune’s winning run was a two-point conversion. UTSA was unable to match the score, as its final pass floated out of bounds.
Houston rallied from a 14-point deficit in the second half at the Alamadome to end UTSA’s 10-game home winning streak.
Roadrunners quarterback Frank Harris completed 28 of 43 passes for 337 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 63 yards and a score. Tune was 22 for 32 for 206 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 51 yards and a touchdown.
No. 25 Brigham Young 50, South Florida 21
Brigham Young had to wait out a 2½-hour weather delay to get its season started, then took just 11 seconds to score its first touchdown.
The Cougars scored 38 straight points in the first half and cruised to a victory over the Bulls in Tampa, Fla.
Wide receiver Puka Nucua scored on a 75-yard inside run on the first play from scrimmage of the game and added a second rushing touchdown. Christopher Brooks rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown as BYU dominated the line of scrimmage and ran the ball for 314 yards.
Jaren Hall was efficient, completing 25 of 32 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns. He completed passes to 12 receivers.
South Florida was sluggish out the gate. Gerry Bohanon, a highly touted transfer from Baylor, threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Max Tooley in the first quarter.
Plummer lifts Cal over UC Davis
Jack Plummer threw three touchdown passes in his debut for California, and Craig Woodson returned an interception for a score to help lead the Golden Bears to a 34-13 victory over UC Davis in Berkeley. The Golden Bears (1-0) shook off a rough start on offense with minus-one yard in the first quarter to improve to 11-0 all time against the Aggies (0-1). ... Jayden de Laura threw four touchdown passes, three to fellow transfer Jacob Cowing, and Arizona beat San Diego State 38-20 on a sizzling day to spoil the debut of Snapdragon Stadium. The Aztecs (0-1) waited two years for their new stadium to be built next to where 70,000-seat SDCCU Stadium once stood and then were embarrassed by the Wildcats (1-0) on a 100-degree day. ... Tanner McKee threw two touchdown passes to Michael Wilson, and host Stanford routed FCS Colgate 41-10 in a season opener for both teams. E.J. Smith, the son of former Dallas Cowboys star Emmitt Smith, had career bests with 118 yards rushing and five catches while running for two touchdowns to help the Cardinal end a seven-game skid that dated to last season. ... Transfer quarterback Cameron Ward threw for 215 yards and three touchdowns as host Washington State beat scrappy Idaho 24-17 in a season opener to win its 10th consecutive game in a long-running series.
In games elsewhere ...
Anthony Grant ran for 189 yards and two touchdowns, with the second one breaking a tie late in the third quarter and helping Nebraska go on to a 38-17 victory over North Dakota in Lincoln, Neb. The Cornhuskers (1-1) bounced back from their loss to Northwestern in Ireland last week and ended a seven-game losing streak with their first win since Oct. 2. The Fighting Hawks dropped to 0-1. ... Quinn Ewers passed for 225 yards and two touchdowns in his debut at quarterback for Texas, and the Longhorns rolled over visiting Louisiana Monroe 52-10 in a season opener. ... Deuce Vaughn rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown, and Kansas State ran its way to a 34-0 season-opening home victory over South Dakota. ... Donovan Smith came off the bench to throw four touchdown passes, Tahj Brooks ran for three scores, and host Texas Tech blew out lower-division Murray State 63-10 in coach Joey McGuire’s debut. ... Sean Tucker rushed for 98 yards and scored two touchdowns, one on a 55-yard catch-and-run, as Syracuse beat visiting Louisville 31-7 in both teams’ opener. ... Zion Turner passed for two touchdowns, and Connecticut cruised past FCS member Central Connecticut 28-3 in East Hartford, Conn., for coach Jim Mora’s first victory with the Huskies. UConn improved to 1-1. CCSU dropped to 0-1. ... Al-Shadee Salaam scored on a 22-yard run with 2:43 to play, lifting Rutgers to a 22-21 comeback victory over host Boston College in the schools’ season opener. ... Iowa’s defense came up with two second-half safeties, and the Hawkeyes opened the season with a 7-3 win over South Dakota State in Iowa City. … Nolan Henderson threw a pair of touchdown passes, and FCS member Delaware beat Navy 14-7 in Annapolis, Md. … Brennan Armstrong threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and host Virginia won 34-17 over Richmond in the season opener. ... Roman Hemby ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns to help Maryland win 31-10 over visiting Buffalo in the teams’ season opener.