The first college football weekend of 2016 has come and (mostly) gone. Within minutes — seconds, actually — we were reminded why we spent the past eight months missing it so much.
With so much action happening around the country, we here at CBS Sports want to get you caught up on all the noteworthy things that happened — both the good and not so good.
What were the highlights from Saturday of Week 1? What were the moments some programs want to forget? We hash out the best and worst below.
Winner: Pitt running back James Conner. If you don’t know Conner’s incredible story regarding his battle with cancer, you can take a few minutes and rectify that now. In short, Conner fought and beat Hodgkin’s lymphoma in time to return to the field in Week 1 against Villanova. That alone is noteworthy. Conner didn’t have his most prolific game with 17 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown, but the fact he’s even on the field is a miracle. Big ups to Conner on his return, and here’s hoping for a long and healthy life.
Loser: Mississippi State. The Bulldogs were a 28.5-point favorite against South Alabama but were stunned 21-20 in Starkville, Mississippi, after kicker Westin Graves missed a 28-yard field goal. Preceding that was a nine-play, 71-yard drive for the go-ahead touchdown with under a minute remaining by the Jaguars. Suffice to say, the post-Dak Prescott era is not off to a good start for Dan Mullen. And because we notice these things, allow us to point out that South Alabama’s acronym is USA, meaning a win for the Jaguars is clearly a win for America.
Winner: Houston’s playoff aspirations. Oh, boy. If the #Houston4CollegeFootballPlayoff hype train wasn’t at full speed ahead before, it most certainly is now. (As is the #Houston4Big12 train.) Beating Oklahoma 33-23 wasn’t some fluke; the Cougars absolutely dismantled the Sooners. They beat ’em at the line of scrimmage on both sides, out-played them in space and out-coached them. As long as Houston keeps winning, their playoff hopes will keep rising. It will still take a lot for those hopes to be realized, but the conversation is no longer able to be dismissed.
Loser: Oklahoma’s pass defense. It’s a good thing Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. kept overthrowing his receivers, otherwise the Cougars would have scored another two or three touchdowns. The Sooners’ secondary simply got torched for 321 yards. Houston’s wideouts were getting open down the field, burning guys one-on-one, and a clean pocket didn’t exactly bail out those defensive backs. Bad news: Houston isn’t the best passing team Oklahoma is going to face this year. Uh-oh.
Winner: Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts. Looks like Alabama’s quarterback battle is over — and it’s neither Cooper Bateman nor Blake Barnett who took over. Instead, it was Hurts, a true freshman who wasn’t even considered to be in the top two of the quarterback battle as of last week. All Hurts did was finish with 150 total yards and four touchdowns. His 39-yard rollout touchdown pass to ArDarius Stewart began the rout that resulted in a 52-6 win for the Tide. Not bad for a player who lost a fumble on his first snap from scrimmage.
Loser: Les Miles’ job security. LSU’s 16-14 stunning upset to Wisconsin was indeed unexpected, but the problems plaguing the Tigers were all too familiar: a one-dimensional offense with no real passing attack, poor decision-making, lethargic stretches. These are just a few of the things that’s kept LSU from getting back to SEC and national title contention. Looking back, Miles, who was this close to losing his job last November, probably should have made a change at offensive coordinator last offseason instead of retaining Cam Cameron. Now it looks like that decision could cost Miles if LSU continues to struggle, even with a Heisman Trophy-caliber running back like Leonard Fournette.
Winner: Good FCS teams. Hey, who says all FCS teams are cupcakes? Washington State found out — for the second season in a row, mind you — what happens when yo schedule a quality FCS opponent, falling to Eastern Washington 45-42. In the Big 12, Iowa State yet again fell victim to good Missouri Valley Football Conference teams by losing to Northern Iowa 25-20. Even South Dakota State gave TCU a run for its money before the Horned Frogs pulled away to a 59-41 victory. Overall, FCS teams remain at a decisive disadvantage in the win-loss column, but every year a few top-notch FCS teams show the gap between them and the big boys isn’t so big.
Loser: Kentucky’s blown lead (to a former assistant). It’s one thing for Kentucky to lose its home opener to Southern Miss. It’s another for the Wildcats to blow a 35-10 lead to the Golden Eagles in a devastating 44-35 loss. Oh, and they allowed it to happen against Southern Miss offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson … who was Kentucky’s OC this time last year … and who led his offense to 554 total yards. That has to sting, and Wildcats coach Mark Stoops’ leash just got that much shorter.
Shannon Dawson just got a Gatorade bath at Commonwealth Stadium … after lighting up the UK team that fired him.
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_AJC) September 4, 2016
Winner: Georgia Tech’s 4th-and-19 conversion. College football’s first Saturday got off to a thrilling start thanks to Georgia Tech’s 17-14 win over Boston College. What’s that … thrilling? Georgia Tech? Boston College? Why, yes, and allow us to explain: Down 14-10 with 2:35 to go, the Yellow Jackets faced a 4th-and-19 — a nearly impossible play by itself, let alone for a triple option offense. But coach Paul Johnson drew up some of that magic of his and Tech converted a 22-yard pass from Justin Thomas to Qua Searcy. Later that drive, Georgia Tech scored the go-ahead touchdown. A triple-option team keeping a drive alive through the air? #BelieveIt.
Loser: Missouri’s offense. A West Virginia fumble in the second quarter gave the Tigers the ball inside the Mountaineers’ 10-yard line. Mizzou came away with zero points thanks to a 24-yard missed field goal. That’s pretty much all you need to know. The 462 yards of offense don’t tell the story; going 10-for-24 on third downs is closer to reality. The Tigers lost 26-11, and it wasn’t even that close. This could be a long, long season for first-year coach Barry Odom.
Winner: Penn State kicker Joey Julius. We here at CBS Sports are fans of all players who are hefty in stature. This is especially true when special teams players are involved, like Julius. At 5-foot-10 and 258 pounds, Julius is a big ol’ boy out there doing the Lord’s work. Like laying out folks on kick returns.
Oh yeah, that’s the stuff.
Loser: Bronco Mendenhall in his Virginia debut. Mike London didn’t exactly leave Virginia in a good place, but there could be some tough sledding ahead for new Cavaliers coach Bronco Mendenhall. In his debut, the Hoos lost to FCS Richmond 37-20. For context, it was 30-7 early in the fourth quarter. Adding insult to it all was that Virginia had just 38 yards on the ground at 1.8 yards per carry (including sacks). Mendenhall, to put it one way, has some work to do.
Winner: The ending to Texas State-Ohio. You’re darn right we’re talking about this. Games like these need more national recognition. Robby Kalland has a more in-depth look to the wild ending of the best game you didn’t see, but here’s the CliffsNotes version: Ohio held a 31-28 lead with less than a minute to play when Texas State scored a go-ahead touchdown. That set off the first of 17 points scored in the final 51 seconds — including a 75-yard touchdown by the Bobcats — to send the game to overtime tied at 38. From there, the two sides exchanged scores into the third overtime, where Texas State went with a double-pass back to quarterback Tyler Jones. Texas State won 56-54.
Loser: UCLA’s wide receivers. A lot is going to be made about UCLA’s 31-24 overtime loss to Texas A&M, specifically as it pertains to Josh Rosen’s comments last week about crowd noise at Kyle Field. Rosen certainly didn’t have a great day with three interceptions, but his shaky performance was far from his fault. UCLA’s young offensive line was completely mismatched against Texas A&M’s superior defensive front. That didn’t give Rosen a great pocket from which to throw. Rosen was also hurt by by wide receiver drops, which contributed to his poor stat line in more than one way. It also brought back a late would-be score. Rosen is going to hear about his comments, which is understandable, but the reality is he got little help from the skill guys around him.
Winner: Georgia running back Nick Chubb. You think Chubb’s healthy again? Oh yeah, he’s healthy. In his first game back from a knee injury that ended his 2015 season, Chubb showed why he’s still one of the best running backs in college football. In his first two carries against North Carolina, Chubb gained 20 yards. And when he needed to put to the game away, he scooted for a 55-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. In all, he rushed 32 times for 222 yards and two touchdowns in the 33-24 win. Welcome back, Nick. College football missed you.
Loser: This North Carolina safety. Look, usually nothing good happens in the shadow of your own goal post. This is especially true when you’re facing a 2nd-and-18. There just aren’t many play calls to get you out of that situation. Still, what … what is this? Just … why?
Officially, this play was recorded as “Mitch Trubisky pass complete to Elijah Hood for a loss of 4 yards for a safety.” There were so many things wrong with this, chiefly being Hood catching the ball in the end zone and then being pushed out of bounds.
Winners: Honoring Sam Foltz. The passing of Cornhuskers punter Sam Foltz following a July car accident rocked the program. Foltz, just 22, was killed along with former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler. On Saturday, Nebraska took the field for the first time since Foltz’s passing. As a tribute to Foltz, coach Mike Riley sent out 10 players, sans punter, and let the play clock run down to zero on the first punting opportunity.
Fresno State paid tribute to Foltz as well with a decal on the back of their helmets.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglianone, a friend of Fotlz’s, wore the deceased player’s No. 27 when he nailed the go-ahead kick in a 16-14 upset over LSU. Clearly, based on the reactions around college football today, Foltz meant a lot to a good number of people. That his memory was celebrated this much shows what kind of impact he had.
Loser: North Texas: Let me be clear, I’m not into kicking teams when they’re down. When things are bad, nobody knows more than the team itself. To reinforce the point is usually unnecessary. And things have been especially bad at North Texas for a while. So I hesitated to pile on when the Mean Green gave up a 46-yard touchdown. On a 3rd-and-45.
But, goodness, it’s right there…
SMU won 34-21.
Winner: Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams. Clemson’s 19-13 win over Auburn wasn’t pretty; in fact, it came oh-so-close to Auburn pulling a signature #blessed moment in Jordan-Hare. But the story of the game was the return of Williams after missing almost all of last season with a neck injury. In his ’16 debut, Williams caught nine passes for 174 yards, including a key third-down reception that extended Clemson’s drive just enough. He also showed off his ability to make contested catches, something Clemson did miss last year.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / College football winners and losers in Week 1: Alabama has its quarterback