Aaron Murray, Andy Dalton, Baylor, Boise State, Casey Pachall, Danny O'Brian, De'Anthony Thomas, Gary patterson, Georgia, Jacory Harris, Jarrett Lee, Jerry Kill, Kellen Moore, Lamar MIller, LeMichael James, Les Miles, LSU, Maryland, Matt Barkley, Miami, Minnesota, Oregon, Robert Griffin, Robert Woods, Stephen Morris, TCU, USC
We’ll start most recent and move backwards:
Maryland 32 – Miami 24
The debut of two coaches at respective schools seemingly headed in opposite directions produce a fantastic ACC conference opener. Maryland dominated this game, but the stout red zone defense of Miami kept Maryland to 1 touchdown in 6 trips (along with 4 field goals, a missed attempt, and an interception in the end zone). Keep an eye on Maryland this year because their offense should be fun to watch. They’re currently operating a similar style to Oregon – constant no-huddle hurry up offense that attempts to run as many plays as possible and wear down defenses. Instead of operating it through an elite running back, Maryland runs it through sophomore quarterback Danny O’Brian, who turned in an excellent performance – 31/44 348 yards 1 TD 1 INT. Still this team needs better red zone work (particularly being able to run the ball when in the red zone which they simply could not do) and an improved defense if they want to make a run at the ACC championship.
Miami fought through their 8 suspended players and being fairly dominated early to take the lead on several occasions. Sophomore running back Lamar Miller was explosive, including a 41 yard score where he simply blew through the middle of the Maryland defense. Their demise must be credited to sophomore quarterback Stephen Morris, who was stepping in for suspended quarterback Jacory Harris. Morris was excellent at times, but critical turnovers essentially derailed the team. Most of his mistakes looked the part of inexperience which he will gain if he keeps the job, but his pick six when Miami was attempting to drive was brutal to watch (he needed to throw it before the receiver turned, not after he had turned and alerted the corner to the incoming pass).
Baylor 50 – TCU 48
I guess TCU forgot it was a dominant defense in the blinding light of Robert Griffin III. Griffin was simply unstopable. 21/27, 359 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs, and tack 38 yards on the ground and a 15 yard reception. He was incredible in the pocket, ruthless in his ability to attack down field, and TCU had no answer for him all night. The only bad thing that could be said about his performance was his late fumble that set up a go ahead field goal after TCU had stormed back behind new quarterback Casey Pachall. Pachall was equally impressive in his debut replacing Andy Dalton. He was 25/39 251, 4 TDs 1 INT and a touchdown run. He didn’t really shine til the fourth quarter, down 47-23 when he brought the Horned Frogs all the way back to lead 48-47 with only 4 minutes remaining. Unfortunately for TCU, Griffin had one more drive left to finish an amazing performance. TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson faulted his defense after the game, correctly. “You can’t let six balls be thrown over your head and expect to win,” he stated. He also reminded the press corp around him that “[he’s] been telling [the press corp] for almost six months that [he’s] not be very happy with the defense.” Probably an understatement given that his team had not allowed so many yards and points since very early in his tenure. TCU has a way to go if they wish to return to dominating the Mountain West… and speaking of the Mountain West…
Boise State 35 – Georgia 21
A friend of mine keeps declaring “Kellen Moore is a winner,” and if nothing else he certainly is that. Besides that he’s a remarkably poised senior quarterback who continues to rack up big wins. Having derailed Oregon’s season two years back, and Virginia Tech’s the year before, they set their sights on humble Georgia of the SEC. Georgia didn’t have an answer for Boise. Moore had several accomplishments this night, including his 100th career NCAA touchdown pass, but nothing was more impressive than his opening drive in the 2nd half, where he stormed Georgia’s defense going 7-7 for 69 yards before handing the ball off for a 7 yard touchdown run, putting the Broncos up 21-7.
For Georgia, this is not how they wanted to open up the season. Aaron Murray, Georgia quarterback clearly misses A.J. Green, despite not using him particularly well his last season. He struggled to complete passes, going 16/29 for 236. The biggest concern for Georgia should be the struggles of the offense, which has been mostly overturned aside from Murray. New wide receivers and running backs have not meshed with Murray yet. Though there’s talent, this group may take a while to get going. If they’re not ready when the SEC comes to town, they could be in trouble.
LSU 40 – Oregon 27
Two teams with national championship aspirations yielded something of a bland game. There was a lot of scoring, but in general both offenses looked out of synch, particularly Oregon. Oregon started off slowly and regressed when star running back LeMichael James went down with cramps. He would not be the only victim of the weather this night, as several Oregon players struggled to remain on the field – slowing the offense down and playing into the dominant SEC defense of LSU. Factor in the sloppy play that led to four turnovers, including back to back fumbles by freshman De’Anthony Thomas, killed their chances as LSU’s offense converted them into 20 points. LSU offense didn’t look particularly strong either, with substitute quarterback Jarrett Lee going 10/22 98 yards and 1 TD. They were stronger on the ground, where their larger offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage and racked up 175 rushing yards and 3 scores. Still, this is how Les Miles has won at LSU and won a national championship. Strong defensive efforts with minimal mistakes from the offense. If he can get just enough production out of the offense, his team is tough to contend with and they showed that to Oregon this week.
USC 19 – Minnesota 17
In a score that should basically surprise everyone, USC had to squeak by a resilient Minnesota team. It didn’t start that way, as USC roared out of the gates, taking a 19-3 half time lead on 3 Matt Barkley strikes to wide receiver Robert Woods (more on that connection later). Minnesota mounted a comeback on two scoring drives while shutting down the powerhouse USC offense. USC managed to hold the Gophers off through ball control and pinning them down at their own 9 with only 2 minutes to play. Despite the loss, this is an impressive comeback by Minnesota, who could have easily folded in the Coliseum to a superior team. It shows that new head coach Jerry Kill has some coaching chops and can be a leader to these kids. He’ll need to prove himself on the recruiting trail if he want’s to turn the program around. For USC, the story was all about Barkley and Woods, who connected for 17 passes to the tune of 177 yards and 3 scores. That’s more than half of Barkley’s total yards (34/45, 304, 3 TDs, 0 INTS). It reminds me of Brandon Marshall’s 20 receptions and how I could only keep thinking “why don’t they just triple him at this point?” The USC defense looked solid, but Minnesota’s offense wasn’t particularly imposing. If the Trojans want to improve this year, they’ll need to do so on defense because their offense certainly looks potent enough.