It was an interesting opening night of college football. Let’s review.
1. South Carolina lives up to hype.
No, Jadeveon Clowney didn’t wreak havoc on North Carolina in the Gamecocks’ 27-10 win. Clowney, just getting over a stomach virus and clearly slowed by the hot weather (or his conditioning is still in preseason form), wasn’t a factor. But No. 6 South Carolina got some solid performances from others. The defense was strong, holding North Carolina to 293 total yards of total offense, including 99 on the ground. Offensively, the Gamecocks don’t have Marcus Lattimore, but they do have Mike Davis, who rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries. Davis ripped off a 75-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to ice the win. The always-dangerous Ace Sanders is also gone, but wide receiver Shaq Roland hauled in a 65-yard touchdown pass from Connor Shaw just three plays into the game. Talk about a big start to the season. Shaw (11-20, 149 yards, 1 touchdown) and Dylan Thompson each threw touchdown passes. So to recap: Clowney isn’t Clowney yet, but the overall defense looked good against what should be a good North Carolina offense this season, and Davis and Boland are worthy replacements for Lattimore and Sanders. Plenty to like from South Carolina on Thursday.
2. Mississippi passes first test.
We all figured Mississippi-Vanderbilt was going to be a close one. It was. Mississippi rallied for the 39-35 win, avenging last season’s gut-wrenching 27-26 loss in Oxford. Jeff Scott ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run with 1:07 to go to win it. Hugh Freeze has Mississippi fans excited after his latest highly ranked recruiting class. Expectations are sky high. Getting a win over a rising Vanderbilt program on the road is a nice start to the season for the Rebels. But there’s a long way to go and the SEC schedule promises to be unforgiving.
3. Game of the night: Fresno State vs. Rutgers
If you stayed up until the very early morning and watched the conclusion of Fresno State-Rutgers, you were rewarded. Fresno State prevailed 52-51 in overtime, a game that had both teams gain more than 500 yards in total offense. After the Bulldogs scored a touchdown and converted the extra point to take a 52-45 lead on their first possession of overtime, Rutgers responded with a touchdown. But head coach Kyle Flood made the bold decision to go for the two-point conversion and the win. The pass was incomplete and the Bulldogs had the wild win. Also, check out the video game statistics: Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova was 26-41 for 348 yards and five touchdowns and Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr was 52-73 for 456 yards and five touchdowns. The Bulldogs also had three players with double-digit receptions. Davante Adams had 14 for 148 yards and two touchdowns, Isaiah Burse had 13 for 118 yards and Josh Harper had 14 for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
Completions and incompletions . . .
-- Kent State, fresh off an 11-win season, watched head coach Darrell Hazell leave for Purdue in the offseason and almost watched Liberty pull off the upset on its home field Thursday night. Star running back Dri Archer left the game early after injuring his leg. Kent State has Bowling Green, which beat Tulsa 34-7 on Thursday night, next and then trips to No. 12 LSU and Penn State.
-- Indiana and Minnesota need to take big steps this season as each tries to gain positive traction in the Big Ten. Indiana beat Indiana State 73-35 and Minnesota beat UNLV 51-23 on Thursday night.
-- I’m interested in Central Florida this season. The Knights beat Akron 38-7 Thursday night as Blake Bortles threw for three touchdowns and a career-high 314 yards. We’ll learn more soon as Central Florida plays at Penn State on Sept. 14.
-- A lot of factors go into schools switching conferences. Winning is obviously very important. Connecticut was upset when it didn’t get an invite to the Big Ten or ACC. Well, UConn should be upset after a 33-18 loss at home to FCS school Towson on Thursday night. That won’t help UConn when the next wave of conference expansion starts up.
-- USC has been known lately as a quarterback school. In Thursday night’s 30-13 win at Hawaii, No. 24 USC rushed for 192 yards and threw for 172 yards. Star receiver Marqise Lee did have eight catches for 104 yards.