NCAA Football News

5 Takeaways from Lane Kiffin's Debut at Alabama

ATLANTA — So far, so good for new Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

The Crimson Tide survived a scare from West Virginia, topping the Mountaineers 33-23 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.

Kiffin's offense racked up 538 yards and 6.6 yards per play under the direcion of quarterback Blake Sims, who played the entire game as Florida State transfer Jake Coker stood with his helmet in hand on the sideline.

"You know, the guy's a really good coach now," head coach Nick Saban said. "You guys need to fess up to that. Most places that don't like him, it's because he left, and they were mad because he left. They weren't mad because of anything he did while he was there."

What were the five biggest takeaways in Kiffin's debut? Our list is in this slideshow. 

Begin Slideshow

Everett Golson's Return, New Weapons Give Notre Dame Pop It Needs on Offense

After consecutive three-and-outs, Brian Kelly's hunch that his rebooted spread offense was ready to score points by the bushel looked like wishful preseason thinking.

The explosive run game? Went backwards on series one. That dynamic passing game? Golson looked slow to pull the trigger on series two. 

But after trading punts early in Saturday afternoon's game, the Irish put their foot on the gas pedal and blew away Rice with 576 total yards in a 48-17 victory in rain-soaked Notre Dame Stadium. 

After sitting out the 2013 season following a highly publicized academic transgression, Golson did his best to make up for lost time. The veteran quarterback produced five total touchdowns, throwing for two and running for three in the blowout victory. 

"Obviously, the story was that Everett Golson was electric," Kelly said after the game. 

Golson's three rushing touchdowns put him in elite company, joining Jarious Jackson and Heisman Trophy-winner Paul Hornung as the only Irish quarterbacks to run for three scores in a game. And to think, his 41 yards on 12 carries was fairly modest compared to the numbers he put up in the passing game.

Golson completed 14 of 22 throws for 295 yards and two touchdowns. The big play potential that Irish fans had hoped to see with Golson behind center was everything Kelly advertised, with Will Fuller scoring on a 75-yard bomb and C.J. Prosise scoring on a 53-yard heave. (Prosise dropped another 50-plus yard touchdown pass, the ball bouncing off his chest after an impressive scramble by Golson.)

"Golson's just an amazing, amazing quarterback," Rice head coach David Bailiff said after the game, comparing the quarterback he saw on the field Saturday to the one who played in 2012. "You can tell he’s matured. You can tell he’s studied the game."

That work off the field was probably what made Kelly the happiest. After playing with happy feet in the spring game and looking a little bit uncomfortable early Saturday, Golson showed complete mastery of the offense, able to keep things alive with his feet while looking downfield to attack.

"I was happy to see him have success," Kelly said. "He had a great confidence about him for the last four to five days, and he carried himself with a great deal of confidence...There's a confidence that he carries with him that is starting to emanate, and that's going to only get better and better as he gains confidence." 

The same can be said for Golson's diverse set of weapons. Even without DaVaris Daniels, the receiving corps provided more than a few big plays. Fuller showcased the speed that makes him an elite vertical weapon while also making three catches on underneath balls. 

Five different receivers made catches of 25 yards or longer. Senior tight end Ben Koyack got down the field. Slot receiver Amir Carlisle's 32-yarder looked natural after his transition from running back. Even with a fractured thumb, Corey Robinson got loose for a 25-yard catch. 

That kind of pick-your-poison passing game makes it tough for opposing defenses to key in on any one receiver. 

"I kind of alluded to it. I don't think we're going to have one particular guy eat up all the catches," Kelly said. "The identity of this team is that it's not one guy, it's going to spread all across the board."

That certainly applies to the ground game that was unleashed. Looking to find a balance for a three-headed depth chart, Cam McDaniel, Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston each averaged over five yards a touch, with Bryant leading the way with 71 yards and a touchdown. 

Add in 58 yards by Malik Zaire on his first collegiate snap, and the Irish ended up running for 281 yards on 42 carries, their best output since running all over Miami in 2012. 

For one week, all seem happy in a crowded depth chart where everyone deserves playing time. 

"We're trying to figure that out," Kelly said of his balance in the backfield. "We don't have an exact science, I wish I was that smart. We're really trying to figure out how to get them the carries they all deserve, but also keep them in the flow of the game." 

Jumping out to a big lead is a good way to do that. Outside of Rice tying the game in the first quarter at 7-7, the Irish offense led the charge, scoring double-digit points in every quarter, possessing the ball for over 30 minutes while keeping remarkable balance with 281 yards rushing and 295 passing. 

As the young Irish defense learns on the job, the Irish offense showed an ability to pace this team. After one impressive win, it looks like Notre Dame will finally play to the blueprint many expected when Kelly was hired to come to South Bend. 

What a difference a quarterback makes. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

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Rice vs. Notre Dame: Game Grades, Analysis for Fighting Irish

Everett Golson had 600 days off between games. Instead of spending a week shaking off the rust, he stepped onto the field at Notre Dame Stadium in Week 1 and instantly looked to be in midseason form.

The Fighting Irish easily dispatched the Rice Owls, 48-17, on Saturday. With a lopsided score like that, it's easy to point out all the good things the Irish did. But it wasn't all puppy dogs and rainbows. As with any Week 1 game, the Irish have some things to work on before they host Michigan next week.

We'll point out all the good, the bad and everything in between from Notre Dame's Week 1 victory over Rice.

Box score via NCAA.com

Notre Dame Game Grades Positional Unit First-Half Grade Final Grade Pass Offense A- A- Run Offense B+ A- Pass Defense C+ B- Run Defense B- B+ Special Teams B- A- Coaching A A-

Pass Offense

This was the one area most people were chomping at the bit to see. Could Golson get over his 60-day layoff between games? How would the older Golson handle his return to Notre Dame? Pretty well, it turns out.

He threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns in three quarters of work. He also distributed his passes to seven different receivers.  

What kept us from giving Notre Dame's passing offense a straight A? Perfect passes that were dropped by receivers.

 

Run Offense

Golson made his mark on the running game too, with 41 yards and three more touchdowns on 12 credited attempts. As the game progressed, Notre Dame began showcasing its amazing depth at the running back position. Solid showings in the first half were easily enough for a B-plus mark, but the running game really began to shine in the second half.

When it was all said and done, Notre Dame had piled up 281 total rushing yards spread among five players. Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston both had 71 yards, while sophomore quarterback Malik Zaire broke open for 56 yards on his first-ever play from scrimmage. All five rushers for Notre Dame had at least 40 yards.

Good luck to any team trying to stop that.

Pass Defense

With five suspensions in the wake of an investigation into alleged academic fraud, the Notre Dame secondary was depleted enough. Add in an injury to defensive captain Austin Collinsworth, and all of a sudden, there are some major questions.

The inexperienced defense acquitted itself decently enough to earn an overall B-minus on the afternoon. After a shaky first half that saw Rice score 10 points directly off broken Notre Dame coverages, the secondary stiffened enough to bump up the grade a bit in the second half.

Still, we're talking about a Rice offense that was clearly overmatched in nearly every aspect of the game. If Notre Dame can't improve quickly on defense, the combination at Michigan of Devin Gardner and Devin Funchess will have a field day picking apart the Irish next Saturday in South Bend.

 

Run Defense

Rice was able to put up 141 rushing yards on the Notre Dame defense. There were also enough solid run plays for the Owls, particularly on third down, to frustrate more than a few Notre Dame fans.

The defensive line did a decent job of plugging up holes, but on the occasion that an Owl did make it past the line, linebacker support was lacking at times. Covering a scrambling quarterback was also a problem, as Driphus Jackson averaged 5.5 yards per carry for 61 yards and a long of 19.

In the end, however, Notre Dame kept Rice's running game out of the end zone. That's worth enough extra credit to earn a B-plus on the day.

 

Special Teams

Notre Dame was particularly bad on special teams last season. As just one example, the Irish ranked 80th in the nation in punt returns in 2013.

But it's a new year, and clearly special teams was a point of emphasis this past offseason. The Irish averaged 24.5 yards on two kick returns and 16 yards on five punt returns. The special teams unit also set up the offense with short fields early in the game, giving Golson several perfect opportunities to build on some early successes.

Kyle Brindza's badly missed field goal in the first half, however, keeps the grade for special teams lower than it otherwise would have been. Brindza did make up some ground in the second half, finishing 2-of-3 on the day with a long of 36 yards.

 

Coaching

What is there to say about Brian Kelly and his staff? Pretty much everything went according to the script. New offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock and new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder did everything right—or at least didn't do anything glaringly wrong.

The staff quickly found holes in the Rice defense, and adjustments were made to counter some of the early offensive successes from the Owls.

As the game got out of hand in the second quarter, we would have liked to see Golson come out a little earlier. After all, there was no need to risk an injury, and everyone was anticipating Zaire's first action in relief. Kelly and staff got away with it, so we won't penalize them too much.

 

Unless otherwise noted, quotes or references to quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.

Follow Bleacher Report's National College Football Featured Columnist David Luther on Twitter!

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Is Notre Dame a Top 10 Team?

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish came out with a 48-17 win over the Rice Owls in Week 1 of the 2014 season. Quarterback Everett Golson made his return to the field firing on all cylinders. Bleacher Report college football analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss how good this team really is. How well do you think this program can do this year?

 

Watch the video and let us know.

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Oregon Ducks Reveal Uniforms for Game vs. South Dakota

The Oregon Ducks are always releasing new uniforms for their players, and they've done exactly that for their season opener.

For Saturday night's game against the South Dakota Coyotes, the Ducks will wear these uniforms with white helmets, white jerseys and apple green pants.

[Twitter]

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LSU vs. Wisconsin: Live Score and Highlights

Wisconsin 7, LSU 0 ; Early 1st Quarter

Perhaps the biggest nonconference game in Week 1 takes place Saturday night in Houston, as the No. 13 LSU Tigers take on the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers. 

A full box score for tonight's game can be found here, courtesy of NCAA.com.

The game in its entirety can be seen on ESPN at 9:15 p.m. ET. 

Bleacher Report appreciates you tuning in with us. Stick around for game updates, analysis, social media and much more! 

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Devin Funchess Gives Michigan Hope for Strong 2014 Season

It might have been just one game against Appalachian State, but Devin Funchess—the wide receiver—looks like one of the most dynamic players in the college game.

The former tight end for Michigan has made the full-time switch to wideout and exploded on Saturday. With seven receptions against the Mountaineers, Funchess collected 95 yards and three touchdowns for the Maize and Blue.

In a game that the Wolverines needed to win, Funchess came up huge, as SportsCenter notes:

As for the significance of Funchess' performance, it was the first time he was wearing the No. 1 on the field. ESPN Stats & Info notes the history behind the number for the program:

Maybe it was the switch to receiver. Or maybe it was the change to jersey number No. 1 for the 2014 season. Whatever it was that caused it, it's clear that a switch has been on for Funchess heading into his junior season.

As a sophomore, Funchess contributed with 49 catches for 748 yards, six touchdowns and an average of 15.6 yards per catch as a tight end. In one game as a receiver, he's proved why the switch was made.

Following the season opener, Funchess spoke confidently about his ability, per Brendan F. Quinn of MLive.com:

His size certainly makes him a matchup nightmare. But as a tight end last season, the most receptions he had were capped at seven—a mark he already eclipsed on Saturday.

But Saturday's might not be the only stage where Funchess plays in the future. After breaking out as a tight end last season, his name is already coming up on the list of wide receivers with NFL potential.

Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News and Michael Schottey of Bleacher Report pass along their thoughts on the wideout:

Now that his abilities have been spread out on the field, it's clear that he can become a much more explosive player for Michigan. Unfortunately, a wide receiver is only as good as his quarterback in most situations.

Luckily, the connection between Funchess and quarterback Devin Gardner is working, as Mike Huguenin of NFL.com notes:

Funchess will be Michigan's go-to receiver this fall, and he and Gardner -- who was 13-of-14 for 173 yards and the three TDs -- looked in sync against App State, whose secondary was an issue heading into the season. It also helped Gardner that the running game, which was an embarrassment last season, came up huge Saturday: 350 yards, with two tailbacks (sophomores Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith) reaching the 100-yard plateau.

Here's the kicker: All of that production came against App State. Sure, it was a notable game because of the history between the two programs, but similar production will be a necessity in Week 2 for the Wolverines.

While the Mountaineers head off to face Campbell, Michigan's next destination is in South Bend to face Notre Dame. With the huge game on tap, Funchess will be the go-to receiver and have heightened expectations.

By his post-game remarks, it's clear that Funchess believes he will be a massive factor in Michigan's success. As his potential and production finally start to match up, the 2014 season might be a special one for the Wolverines if Funchess continues to shine.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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North Carolina's Elijah Hood Uses Truck Stick on Liberty's Justin Guillory

North Carolina running back Elijah Hood wasn't going to let a defensive back stop him in the open field.

During the first half, Hood used the truck stick to blow through Liberty cornerback Justin Guillory. The Tar Heels held a 21-15 lead at halftime.

[Vine]

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Ameer Abdullah vs. FAU: Final Stat Line, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

A Heisman Trophy can't be won in the opening game of the season, but Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah did about as much as a Heisman contender could possibly do to strengthen his campaign against Florida Atlantic.

The senior running back rushed for 227 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries in the Cornhuskers' 55-7 win over the Owls on Saturday.

It was the 18th time Abdullah passed the century mark, which ranks him first among active players in FBS and third in school history, per the Omaha World-Herald:

This game was largely over by halftime, with Nebraska carrying a 31-7 into the third quarter. Much of the Cornhuskers' offensive success could be attributed to Abdullah. Through the first two quarters, he had a whopping 178 yards on 16 carries, per Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star:

That total was the second-highest for Abdullah in a single game, and he still had two more quarters to go. He eventually beat out his previous single-game best, which was 225 yards against Illinois on Oct. 5, 2013:

Also worth noting is that Abdullah passed 3,000 career yards rushing, becoming the eighth player in school history to do so, per Eric Olson of The Associated Press:

He is now seventh in Nebraska's record books, per Dan Hoppen of Husker Online:

Abdullah didn't warrant mention on ESPN's Heisman Watch before Week 1 got underway, but that could change by next week. Chad Withrow of 104.5 The Zone in Nashville, Tennessee, thinks that the Nebraska star could slowly get voters on his side as the year goes on:

You'd think that a player couldn't do much for his Heisman chances when playing FAU. The Owls went 6-6 last year and gave up 162.2 yards per game.

However, the way Abdullah dominated the FAU defense can't be ignored. He averaged a first down every time he ran the ball. That's astounding when you have 20-plus carries. You couldn't help but to watch that game and begin picturing Abdullah in New York City for the Heisman presentation:

Keeping up a pace like this is nearly impossible for Abdullah, but Saturday was a small taste of what he can do in 2014. Expectations were big coming into the season, and so far, he's well on pace.

Before the season, the senior spoke about what he wants to accomplish in Lincoln, per USA Today's Paul Myerberg:

I know it sounds stupid, but a lot of people envision it but they don't believe that they can go out and be an Academic All-American, be one of the top backs in the country and be a shining example for the Big Ten. It means a lot. You never know what kind of history you're writing. You never know who's going to tell your story. Just the fact that my story is maybe a story that may be told, you know, in the future.

With Nebraska playing McNeese State next week, Abdullah has the chance to drop another massive rushing performance. After that, the real test will begin.

If he averages 100-plus yards per game and Nebraska either wins the Big Ten or comes close to winning the conference, then Abdullah could very well transition from Heisman outsider to Heisman favorite.

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Blake Sims Debuts for Alabama: Final Stat Line, Analysis and Twitter Reaction

It's rare for a national title contender to trot out a first-time starter at quarterback in Week 1, but that's exactly what Alabama head coach Nick Saban opted for when he named Blake Sims the starting signal-caller prior to the Crimson Tide's opening salvo against West Virginia.

Sims, who came into the game with just 39 pass attempts despite his status as a fifth-year senior, performed admirably in a surprisingly tough 33-23 victory. Here is the final stat line for Sims, whose role as the starter figures to be a major point of contention for 'Bama as long as he has the job:

Saban gave Sims the nod over Florida State University transfer Jacob Coker, who's battled Sims for the starting job throughout the summer and is still very much in contention for the starting job.

Saban offered an explanation for the surprise choice of Sims at starter via ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough, citing his experience and comfort in the offensive system:

Both guys have done really well in fall camp and there’s still a quarterback competition on our team, I don’t think there’s any question about that. But we needed to get our team ready to play this game with the most knowledge and experience, which Blake Sims has been in the system longer, is a little more comfortable and plays with a little better rhythm.

Alabama, of course, has national title aspirations once again, which puts the pressure on Sims to perform right out of the gate if he wants to keep the starting job. Saban will have no reservations if he thinks Coker gives the team a better chance of winning.

Sims wasn't spectacular, but he did just enough for his team to win.

Bleacher Report's own Marc Torrence noted that former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron showed Sims some love before the game began:

Marquavius Bennett of The Anniston Star liked the way Sims took control of his players, which doubles as a referendum on his knowledge of the offense:

Despite a few egregious misses, Sims was solid in the first half, completing 15 of 19 passes for 165 yards after two quarters of play. However, the majority of those completions came on short, simple passes that didn't do anything toward stretching the Mountaineer's defense.

ESPN's Edward Aschoff couldn't find a good reason for Sims to not play into the second half:

Sims continued to move the ball efficiently in the third quarter by stringing together short- to medium-length passes, although it was clear that running backs Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon were the real stars of the show. Of course, Sims adds an extra dimension to the offense with his legs.

His bruising running did manage to (perhaps unfairly) get West Virginia in trouble in the third quarter, as SB Nation points out:

Despite the solid stat-line, Sims was still a very polarizing figure among 'Bama fans:

This tweet from C.J. Fogler sums it up best:

It should be noted that Sims often honed in on wide receiver Amari Cooper, who finished with 12 catches for 130 yards. In fact, only three 'Bama players caught multiple passes on the day. For the Crimson Tide to have continued success on offense, Sims will have to do a better job of spreading the ball around and making defenses regard every skill player as a potential threat.

Football writer Christopher Walsh noted in the third quarter that Sims had yet to hook up with highly-regarded tight end O.J. Howard:

When he did finally target Howard, it didn't end well, per Torrence:

Coker did eventually get into the game, but it was just a cameo appearance to kneel the ball and wind down the clock.

It's not a dream start for Sims, but recent history shows it's something Alabama can work with for now.

McCarron himself started off the 2013 season for 'Bama going 10-of-23 for 110 yards, one touchdown and one pick—and that was with a couple years of starting experience under his belt. The Crimson Tide beat Virginia Tech comfortably in that contest, and McCarron followed up the shaky start with a fantastic four-touchdown game against Texas A&M.

It may take a similar leap in production against Florida Atlantic for Sims to gain a stranglehold on the starting job, but recent history shows that the Crimson Tide can pull out victories without extraordinary quarterback play. He doesn't have the same amount of job security as McCarron, and that pick definitely hurt him. But expect Sims to see the majority of snaps in Week 2.

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Georgia's Todd Gurley Takes Kickoff Return 100 Yards for Touchdown vs. Clemson

Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley is known best for his work on offense, but it was his play in the return game that stood out on Saturday against the Clemson Tigers.

In the first half, Gurley returned this 100-yard kickoff all the way to the house for the touchdown, helping the Bulldogs tie the game at 21-21.

[Instagram, h/t The Big Lead]

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Everett Golson vs. Rice: Final Stat Line, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

After an entire year off, Everett Golson showed the college football world exactly what they missed in his return under center for Notre Dame. Unfortunately, Rice was on the other end of his explosive showing.

Golson made his first start for the Fighting Irish after being suspended for the 2013 season due to a violation of the honor code. In Notre Dame's season opener, Golson broke out for 295 passing yards, 41 rushing yards and five total touchdowns—three rushing and two passing.

After missing his presence on the field last year, coach Brian Kelly was pleased with his quarterback on Saturday. Kelly spoke about his performance, per Adam Shear of Fox 28:

Golson was also awarded the game ball following the contest, via Notre Dame Football:

The result was a 48-17 demolishing of Rice, one that was highlighted by a 75-yard passing touchdown in the first half. Notre Dame Football and Tyler James of Notre Dame Insider break down the pass to Will Fuller:

SportsCenter also let the young quarterback know he was sorely missed by the sports world:

Along with his arm, Golson also showed off the wheels that helped the Irish reach the 2012 BCS National Championship Game.

After rushing for 298 yards during his lone season at quarterback for Notre Dame, Golson proved he can still roll outside of the pocket. With his 41 yards, he compiled three crucial touchdowns with his legs to separate from Rice.

The Fighting Irish shared one of the rushing scores on Twitter that gave the team an 11-point lead in the second quarter:

Golson's production also put him in elite company in the history of the program, as Michael Bertsch of Notre Dame Insider points out:

While it wasn't entirely the Everett Golson Show on Saturday afternoon, the Irish faithful were certainly happy to see him back. Following a 9-4 season that saw the team go 1-3 against ranked opponents, having Golson in the backfield makes the team much more complete.

Fans were not the only ones coming away impressed with Golson's showing against Rice. Several analysts shared their thoughts on the performance, including Matt Fortuna of ESPN and Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

As for Doug Gottlieb of CBS Sports, he was happy to see the young man getting a second chance:

Golson has clearly made the most of that second chance and is putting Notre Dame on his back. While it is still early in the season, the Irish look like a much more complete team with him under center.

For now, the Irish are still ranked No. 17 in both the Associated Press and Amway polls. If Golson and the entire team continue to put together performances like the one against Rice, this could be another special season for the fans in South Bend.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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WVU vs. Alabama: Score and Twitter Reaction

Alabama survived a tough challenge from West Virginia and escaped with a 33-23 win in the Georgia Dome.

The Mountaineers did a good job moving the ball as quarterback Clint Trickett impressed with 365 passing yards against a normally stout defense. Receiver Kevin White also helped out with nine receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown. 

This caused problems for the Crimson Tide defense, but the offense picked up the slack thanks to 538 yards of total offense. Alabama had the ground game working in this one as T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry combined for 239 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Blake Sims was solid in his first start at quarterback, going 24-of-33 for 250 yards and an interception. Amari Cooper was clearly the go-to option on the day with 130 receiving yards on 12 catches in the winning effort.

Few expected this game to be even close, especially considering this graphic by ESPN Stats and Info:

However, defense ruled the first quarter as the two teams were only able to come through with a field goal each to stay tied 3-3 through the first 15 minutes of game time.

Alabama was able to get its first touchdown of the season on an impressive run by Yeldon from 15 yards out, as described by Patrick Claybon of WIAT 42 in Alabama:

This capped off a 14-play, 95-yard drive to get the first lead of the game. Most expected the Crimson Tide to start getting on a roll and pull away from there, but it simply did not happen.

The Mountaineers were able to answer right back on the next drive, going 75 yards in just two minutes and 13 seconds. They were able to tie the game at 10-10 thanks to an impressive catch by Kevin White in the end zone. Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee was impressed:

At this point, ESPN's Paul Finebaum was one of many surprised by the close score:

After Yeldon got on the board for the second time in the game with a one-yard touchdown run, West Virginia was once again able to answer immediately, this time on the ensuing kickoff. Mario Alford took it back 100 yards to tie the score at 17-17:

Alabama ended the half with a 41-yard field goal to take a 20-17 lead and controlled possession for much of the game to that point, but the team was still disappointed. Head coach Nick Saban discussed his thoughts going into intermission:

Instead of switching to Jacob Coker at halftime, Saban stuck with Sims at quarterback. Edward Aschoff of ESPN provided his thoughts on the senior's performance:

This did not matter too much early in the third quarter as the running game was able to take care of business. This time it was Henry, who came through with an impressive 19-yard run to get into the end zone and take a 27-17 lead.

Bryan Fischer of NFL.com and College GameDay each provided their thoughts on the impressive run by the 6'3", 241-pound running back:

West Virginia hung around with some long drives in the second half orchestrated by Trickett. As Kevin Weidl of ESPN noted, the quarterback performed well all game:

Unfortunately, the Mountaineers had to keep settling for field-goal attempts and remained behind on the scoreboard. Even with a few more chances late, they could never tie the game and ended up with the narrow loss.

The effort certainly will not go unnoticed, as Lost Letterman was one of many impressed by the Mountaineers:

They fought hard but could not get enough points to pull of the massive upset over the No. 2 team in the country.

After a disappointing end to last season, Alabama is hoping it can bring home another national championship with a loaded roster on both sides of the ball. The problem is the SEC West is just as good as ever, and teams like Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M are all capable of beating the Tide when playing well.

Saban was once again short with his words after the game:

If this squad wants to play itself into the inaugural College Football Playoff, it will have to perform better than it did in this opening game. This will hopefully begin next week with a home game against Florida Atlantic.

On the other hand, this defeat could be considered a moral victory for unranked West Virginia. The Mountaineers will try to keep the momentum going against Towson next week before what could be a good year in the Big 12.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Rice vs. Notre Dame: Score and Twitter Reaction

Everett Golson picked up where he left off—scoring big touchdowns with his arm and his feet and leading Notre Dame to victory.

The 17th-ranked Fighting Irish resumed the Golson era with a bang on Saturday night, topping the Rice Owls by the score of 48-17 at Notre Dame Stadium for the team's 2014 opener.

The Irish held a 28-10 halftime lead and blew it open in the second half en route to 576 total yards—281 of which came on the ground. 

Returning to the field for the first time since missing the entire 2013 season, Golson showed no signs of rust and made big play after big play to lead Notre Dame to an easy win against an overmatched opponent. He finished 14-of-22 passing, accumulating 295 yards through the air and scoring five total touchdowns.

In what was Golson's first game action since the 2013 BCS title game, Notre Dame planned on easing the senior quarterback back into the fold.

“We need to get him into the game, have some success early on with him and get him into the flow of the game,” coach Brian Kelly said, per Lamond Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I think once he starts to get comfortable playing the game at a fast pace, then we’ll just call the game like we normally would.”

They eased him in, all right. Golson's first two series were short three-and-outs. But on the third drive, the quarterback took it upon himself.

He orchestrated a 47-yard drive that was capped off by his 11-yard scamper into the end zone that put Notre Dame up 7-0. That began an offensive surge that would push the Irish to a big first-half lead.

Rice generated much more offensive success than its final score would indicate, and much of the Owls' success came early. In fact, the only first-half touchdown for Rice came immediately after Golson's touchdown.

Junior Owls quarterback Driphus Johnson, who finished 13-of-24 for 163 yards, led his team down the field for a 26-yard touchdown to Zach Wright to tie things up at seven apiece.

Some 12 seconds later with one throw, Golson got the Irish's lead back, per Notre Dame Football:

Golson connected with Will Fuller for the longest pass of his career, a 75-yard bomb as the wide receiver shed a tackler while dancing into the end zone. 

Rice had no immediate answer for Notre Dame's score this time, and the Irish smelled blood as the second quarter wound down. Although the Owls cut the lead to 14-10 midway through the second, that just got the Irish going again. Golson wound up capping off an 86-yard drive with another rushing touchdown. 

When Jackson was intercepted on the very next drive and Golson answered with a 53-yard touchdown bomb to C.J. Prosise, it was 28-10 before halftime, and Rice was on the ropes. 

Dave Miller of National Football Post was impressed with Golson's return:

Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated had fun with the quarterback's success:

Golson was nearly perfect on the day, but it was surprising to see his receivers fail to come up with a few of his passes, as CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli noted:

As important as it was for Irish fans to see Golson making his usual athletic plays in the pocket, throwing downfield and escaping for rushing gains, it was even more crucial to see how he came out in the second half.

And the senior came out as you would expect. Golson orchestrated a six-minute drive early in the third to add another Kyle Brindza field goal. Quickly thereafter, the quarterback turned a short field into another rushing touchdown.

Suddenly, it was 38-10 late in the third quarter—time for his night to come to an end and for the backups to get some playing time.

Golson's three rushing touchdowns put him in the history books, per Michael Bertsch of Notre Dame:

Rice didn't get much of anything going in the second half offensively—Notre Dame dominated the line of scrimmage and sent blitz packages at the Owls backfield to thwart their attack as the game wore on. 

The Owls did score a long, 53-yard touchdown late from quarterback Tyler Stehling to wideout James Mayden to cut the deficit to 41-17, but Notre Dame's second-teamers soon answered with a touchdown drive.

By the end of the second half with Notre Dame wrapping up a win, the story of the noticeable artificial turf was generating as much attention as anything else, per NFL.com's Albert Breer:

But the players didn't mind the turf as much as the scoreboard, which showed a resounding Notre Dame victory. It wasn't one of the team's tougher tests on its upcoming schedule, but the Irish still came out with a lopsided victory and had plenty of success on both sides of the ball.

Any Notre Dame fans who worried about Golson not returning to his form of old can rest easy. In fact, he may never return to that level, because so far in 2014, he's playing even better than in 2012.

Alongside that, it was a strong performance overall from Notre Dame as it looks to build momentum heading into a brutal schedule.

The tests start coming quickly for the Irish, who host Michigan on Saturday at home. With a win over the rival Wolverines, Notre Dame could start generating some serious talk just as it did two seasons ago. 

Things don't get any easier for the Owls, either. They travel to face Texas A&M, who were big winners over South Carolina on Thursday. 

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Ohio State Football: How Buckeyes Offense Must Adjust After Struggles vs. Navy

After throwing the first interception of his college career, J.T. Barrett decided to have a conversation with himself.

"I was like, 'J.T., you knew you shouldn't have thrown it. But you still threw it,'" the Ohio State quarterback recalled. "'Now you gotta make up for it.'"

And while Barrett did just that in the first start of his college career, throwing for 226 yards and two touchdowns—and yes, one interception—in Ohio State's 34-17 victory over Navy on Saturday, a self-induced pep talk won't be enough to save the Buckeyes in Week 2.

Because while the Midshipmen made for more of a headache than anything else in a game that was closer than the final score indicated, Virginia Tech won't be as forgiving to an inexperienced OSU offense when the Hokies come to Columbus next week.

A young quarterback thrust into the spotlight and an offensive line still searching for its starters both contributed to a Buckeyes offense that Urban Meyer admitted was still without an identity in Ohio State's season opener. Whether the Buckeyes will be able to find one by next Saturday remains to be seen, but Meyer at least now knows what he's working with in what unexpectedly has become one of the biggest challenges of his coaching career.

 

Breaking Down Barrett

It was tough to grade Barrett after the first start of the redshirt freshman's college career, considering that as expected he wasn't asked to do anything too demanding. But nevertheless, Meyer attempted to, giving Braxton Miller's replacement a passing, albeit unspectacular, mark.

"J.T., I thought, did OK. I'd grade him a B," Meyer said after the game. "Every new player's going to have a certain amount of mistakes."

That sounds about right, considering that the majority of Barrett's pass attempts were of the shorter, safer variety. He did hit an 80-yard touchdown to a wide-open Devin Smith toward the end of the third quarter giving Ohio State the final lead of the game, but his one big play on the day was essentially negated by his one big mistake—the aforementioned interception that gave Navy the ball back as the Buckeyes were threatening from the Midshipmen 8-yard line in the second quarter.

Starting the first game of his college career on less than two weeks notice, you couldn't have asked for much more from Barrett than the 12-for-15, 226-yard, two-touchdown, one-interception stat line that he posted to go along with his team-high 50 rushing yards. But what the box score didn't show—and what everybody inside of M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore saw on Saturday—was the reality of the Buckeyes' quarterback situation for the now ongoing season.

Unlike in his first two seasons in Columbus, when all Meyer needed was a quick quarterback counter play to escape most jams, Ohio State no longer has that luxury as Barrett is admittedly not the freak athlete who made Miller the two-time reigning Big Ten MVP. Nor does he have the body of a Tim Tebow or experience of Chris Leak or Alex Smith, putting Meyer in a nearly unprecedented situation for his 13-year head coaching career.

The only other time that the two-time national champion head coach found himself starting a freshman at quarterback came in 2010, when a Florida team in flux was forced to play tight end Jordan Reed and running back Trey Burton behind center. The results weren't pretty, either, with the Gators amassing an 8-5 record in what was ultimately Meyer's final season in Gainesville.

That doesn't mean much for Barrett, who obviously has more ability as a passer than both Reed and Burton, but that doesn't change the fact that he's still just one week into the official start of his college career. Nor does it change that while he may be effective with his intermediate throws, Barrett is not the dynamic runner Miller was, nor will he be able to bail the Buckeyes out with the cannon-of-an-arm possessed by his predecessor.

So without the physical tools or experience of Miller, how can Barrett make the most of his opportunity? The answer likely lies in building up enough trust with his short throws that his coaching staff will be comfortable calling for more long ones, hoping that they result in plays like the touchdown to Smith and not the one big blemish on Barrett's college debut.

 

Lingering Line Questions

Compounding the complication when it comes to evaluating Barrett's first start was the less-than-stellar play of an offensive line, which is still clearly trying to find its footing as it replaces four multi-year starters. Only one sack allowed and one penalty showed up in the box score, but Meyer didn't pull punches when he expressed frustration with the revamped unit's unspectacular debut.

"I was very disappointed," Meyer said of his offensive line. "There's been a standard set for the offensive line play for many years, and it's really been enhanced by our offensive line coach, Ed Warinner, the last two years. It didn't resemble an offensive line at Ohio State."

That's not all that surprising, considering that of the four players called upon to replace Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley, Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall on the Buckeyes' front five, only sophomore right guard Pat Elflein has seen significant snaps in his college career. Center Jacoby Boren and Darryl Baldwin have both only been backups up until this season, while left guard Billy Price is a redshirt freshman who was still a defensive lineman this time a year ago.

Even more so than Barrett, the Ohio State offensive line's inexperience was apparent on Saturday, as it left little time for the freshman quarterback to search down the field for open targets. Barrett's lone interception came on play when he was forced to quickly avoid an oncoming defender, before he floated a bad pass into the hands of Midshipmen safety Parrish Gaines.

"We made some mistakes and didn't play as well as we would've liked," Warinner said of his unit. "A lot of young guys and some things happened."

For the better part of the first 45 minutes of the game, there wasn't a lot of cohesion to be found, and Ohio State opted to spend the second quarter rotating Price with converted defensive lineman Joel Hale. Unsurprisingly, the Buckeyes offensive line did appear to click right around the time that Barrett found Smith with 4:10 left on the clock in the third quarter, which was a big reason why Ohio State scored 28 of its 34 points in the second half.

"We settled in and I thought we played really well in the second half," Warinner said. "We started to control the line of scrimmage better. We went back to the starting lineup in the second half, and I thought they did a great job."

 

Where To Now?

Although Navy gave the Buckeyes a solid scare, the talent mismatch between the two teams ultimately proved to be too much for the Midshipmen to handle. That won't be something that Ohio State can fall back on next week, however, as Virginia Tech is as good as anybody on the Buckeyes' schedule, outside of defending Big Ten champion Michigan State.

That could prove especially problematic on offense for OSU, which now finds itself without Miller's big-play ability to bail it out of sticky situations. At the very least, the Buckeyes can take solace in knowing that Barrett knows that he's not the next Miller, and he's not trying to be as he attempts to put his own spin on the Ohio State offense.

"You come in after Braxton, people expect you to do some crazy stuff," Barrett said. "I'm not Braxton. I'm J.T. I just need to go out there and play my game."

And as for the offensive line, its success could ultimately be what matters most to the Buckeyes—not just next week, but for the rest of the 2014 season. While Barrett may not have amazed in his debut, his line could have made him look a lot better, which it may need to do against the Hokies if 1-0 Ohio State is going to move to 2-0 on the season.

"We wanted to open it up a little bit more in the first half, and we didn't. It wasn't because of [Barrett], it was because with our offensive line, we had a couple of mistakes in there, some penalties, a sack. We just can't do that," Meyer said. "Obviously with the team we have playing next, we have a lot of work to do."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Florida State vs. Oklahoma State: Live Score and Highlights

Florida State 17, Oklahoma State 7 -- 3:57 2nd Quarter

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Appalachian State vs. Michigan: Game Grades, Analysis for the Wolverines

Brady Hoke passed. 

Doug Nussmeier's offense passed. 

Greg Mattison's defense passed. 

OK, so the entire Michigan football team passed the first day of school by pummeling visiting Appalachian State 52-14 in front of 106,811 at The Big House on Saturday. 

Here are the marks for before and after recess. 

Class is in session for Team 135. 

Box score via NCAA.com

 

Pass Offense

During the first half, Devin Gardner could do no wrong. Well, he did wrong once; his single incomplete pass was his only mistake, if that's what you want to call it. The fifth-year senior hooked up with Devin Funchess thrice for touchdowns in the first half and finished the day 13-of-14 with 173 yards and a rating of 267.4, per the UM athletic department stats. 

Funchess, now donning the coveted No. 1 jersey, became the first Wolverines wide receiver to have a trio of six-pointers in the season opener. That's something Anthony Carter and Braylon Edwards never did. 

Shane Morris completed a great pass to Keith Heitzman late in the third quarter, but then he turned around and threw a pick. He finished 3-of-5 with 37 yards. His performance only slightly dings the overall grade. 

But as a whole, a high grade is absolutely appropriate. 

 

Run Offense

This one is kind of tricky. Sure, the Wolverines ran wild over the Mountaineers, putting up a combined 350 yards on the day. However, it took a few moments before things really got started. The final two quarters were all Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith, who combined for 285 yards. 

Smith had a pair of touchdowns, while Green had one. Green had a 62-yard trot; Smith had one for 61. 

But, the first half wasn't great. There's work to be done all around, but Green and Smith became the first running back duo to go for 100-plus each since 2007. That deserves a gold star or something like that. 

 

Pass Defense

Appalachian State's Kameron Bryant met Desmond Morgan once, which had to hurt. That knock pretty much set the tone for the defense, which allowed just 52 yards through the air during the first half. With depth players in the mix, the Wolverines gave up a touchdown to Simms McElfresh, who has one of the best names in college football. 

During his post-game presser, coach Brady Hoke said that he and the defense want that one back. Who can blame them? Other than the one score and a total of 127 yards surrendered, Team 135's pass defense looked stout. 

But again, one must consider the competition. It wasn't Ohio State, Notre Dame or Michigan State. We'll see what these guys are really made of next Saturday when they battle the Irish—and then later against the Spartans and Buckeyes. 

 

Run Defense

Giving up 153 yards on the ground to anyone is a no-no, especially when that "anyone" is one year removed from FCS play. The Wolverines were solid in the first half, allowing former 1,000-yard rusher Marcus Cox just 19 yards. 

The second half wasn't so great, but that was due to rotation. Hoke made sure to give reps to plenty of guys. You can bet that Mattison will have a talk with his defenders, who were gouged up the middle. 

 

Special Teams

Nothing special. But it's worth noting that Jabrill Peppers limped off the field after returning a punt. He'll be ready to go this week, says Hoke, who emphasized the non-serious nature of his star frosh's ankle injury. 

 

Coaching

Give these guys some credit—they've had to answer questions about 2007 for weeks. They put together a solid game plan that would have beaten a lot of Big Ten teams. Nothing is perfect, but Michigan's coaching staff was on the same page Saturday. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Unless otherwise noted, quotes or references to quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer. 

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Randy Gregory Injury: Updates on Nebraska Star's Knee and Return

Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory has exited the Cornhuskers' game against Florida Atlantic on Saturday with what appears to be a left knee injury.

KETV Omaha's Andy Kendeigh reported that Gregory was on the sideline with his knee in a brace in the first half:

In the second half, the star junior was in street clothes. Alex Lantz of the Lincoln Journal Star did feel that Gregory was moving around well:

After the game, ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman had an update:

It's entirely possible that Nebraska was simply being extra cautious with the player. At the time of writing, the Cornhuskers were up, 38-7, in the third quarter against the Owls. The team could afford to leave Gregory on the bench and feel confident about the result.

There's little doubt as to Gregory's importance for Nebraska. One of the best defensive ends in the country, he recorded 10.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss last season. That was enough to get him on ESPN's and USA Today's preseason All-American teams ahead of the 2014 campaign.

In order for the Cornhuskers to be contenders in the Big Ten West Division, they'll need Gregory healthy and back on the field.

Considering how Nebraska already had Saturday's game in control, it's a bit too early to begin panicking too much as to the extent of his injury.

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Nebraska's Jordan Westerkamp Makes Terrific Behind-the-Back Catch vs. FAU

The college football season just started, but Nebraska wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp has already put himself in the running for the best catch of the year.

During Saturday's game against Florida Atlantic, Westerkamp was running a route toward the sideline. After a defender tipped the throw from Tommy Armstrong Jr., Westerkamp improvised and somehow made the grab behind his back before tiptoeing out of bounds.

[Vine]

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Fresno State vs. USC: Live Score and Highlights

USC 31, Fresno State 7 — HALFTIME

USC has begun the Steve Sarkisian era, opening the 2014 season at home against Fresno State in dominating fashion by racing out to a 24-0 lead.

Stick with us for real-time updates and analysis, including some of the best pictures, videos, GIFS and tweets from this Golden State nonconference tilt.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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