Last night saw the return of college football and for some fan bases it was a night that gave credence to their preseason optimism and for others last night was reality slapping them across the face. Fifteen teams opened up their seasons last night. There was one interesting loss (I’m hesitant to call it an upset) as Eastern Washington beat the University of Idaho by 17. But I didn’t watch that game, I only watched three. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what this post is about. This post is about what I observed in the three games I watched last night. So let’s get to it after the jump with a conference and season opening match-up between two teams from the SEC.
This was a chance for South Carolina to prove that the actually belonged in the top ten. On the opposite side of that same coin it was a chance for Vanderbilt to prove that they were no-longer an automatic win in a SEC team’s schedule, and prove that the SEC is as deep as ESPN says it is. And to my surprise the Commodores not only kept pace with the Game Cocks, they took a 13-10 lead with 9:58 left in the third quarter.
Despite his shoulder injury, Game Cock’s
quarterback running back Marcus Lattimore led his squad on a to a game winning Touchdown drive that gave the Game Cock’s a four point lead with 4:35 left in the ball game. Theoretically that should have been enough time for James Rodgers to lead the Commodore’s down the field for a game winning touchdown. Hell it probably would have been if it wasn’t for a blown none-call on pass interference the Commodores probably would have scored that touchdown with about two minutes left on the clock.
Final: #9 South Carolina 17-Vanderbilt 13
The Take: For the longest time Vanderbilt has been the punching bag of the SEC and one of three perennial bottom feeders who hardly ever put up a fight against the elite of the league, the lack of up-ward mobility in the SEC was one of the reasons I thought the SEC was overhyped. After last year’s bowl appearance and their tough fight last night, against one of the toughest SEC teams to play the last decade, help lend credence to the argument that the SEC is the most talented and deepest league in the FBS.
I don’t think you should read too much into South Carolina’s performance last night. They still have a ton of talent and are a very well coached ball club. The Game Cocks walked into a hostile environment and played against a team (and a fan base) trying to prove that they are not the easy win that they used to be. Basically the Game Cocks were placed in a tough situation .
I must admit that I was kind of rooting for Rice in this ball game. Even though a Bruin loss might have made the conference look bad, it would have been worth it for the entertainment value of a BruinsNation meltdown. And that looked like that entire scenario was going to materialize as the Bruins decided that their 19-0 lead was unnecessary. Rice rapidly scored 17 points and all of the sudden things didn’t look so rosy for in powder blue and gold.
Jonathan Franklin broke the game open in the second quarter with a 78-yard touchdown run, this put the Bruins up 29-17. And then the final two minutes of the first half happened, the Bruins and Owls each scored a touchdown bringing the score to 35-24. The third quarter was rather quite as neither team scored, but that all changed in the fourth quarter. Jim Mora watched his offense explode for 14 points and the game became the blow-out that everybody expected.
Final: UCLA 49-Rice 24
The Take: The changeover from Rick Neuheisel to Jim Mora Jr. was most visible in the defensive style of play. Last season the Bruins were infamous for their slack coverage (they’d leave a yard or two between the defender and the wide receiver). None of that was present last night as the Bruins played hard nose aggressive style of defense that yielded only 184 passing yards; granted they gave up 174 yards on the ground but that’s the risk you take when you aggressively defend the pass and blitzing. If the running back gets past the Blitzers and into the secondary your defense is going to have a bad time.
As for Rice they played hard. Harder than I’ve seen them play in the past and it was refreshing to see the Owls not look like a dear in the headlights after the Bruins went up 19-0. So there is hope for those Owl faithful in the future as this team looks like it’s finally started to figure how to play tough against more talented opposition.
In the battle of the Cougs there was a many storylines going into this game; Mike Leach’s return to coaching in the college ranks, Jeff Tuel’s first start since the Oregon State game last season, BYU trying to prove that they are better than they looked last year, and Bronco Mendhall’s adapting to being the Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator. And at first things looked like they were going well for WSU as they marched right down the field and turned the ball over on a Jeff Tuel interception. And things only rapidly went down from their as BYU scored a TD on the ensuing possession. In fact WSU wouldn’t score until there was a 4:28 left in the second quarter. BYU ended up out scoring WSU 17-6 in the second quarter. The second half was full of more WSU offensive inefficiencies and turnovers as BYU scored 13 points.
Final: WSU 6-BYU 30
The Take: In the end the Cougars won.
Okay in all seriousness WSU’s defense didn’t play as horribly as I was expecting them too and the offense vastly underperformed. Jeff Tuel didn’t run as much as he used to and that made him less effective than he has been in the past. Tuel would throw it into tight coverage resulting in interceptions and more often than not incomplete passes and dead drives. Also, if you had told me before the game that WSU’s defense would hold BYU to 30 points I would have thought they would have been in a close loss OR even won the game.
As for BYU they played one hell of game and their defense played better than they did last season after all this is the same squad that got slammed by Utah last year. For BYU fans that should be an encouraging sign that Bronco Mendenhall is adapting to his role as the defensive coordinator and head coach. BYU’s offense continued to perform BYU’s offense has historically preformed.