The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from college football's opening night
Published: Friday, 29 August 2014 10:20
by Zach Barnett
The Good: New offensive coordinators. We wrote last night about what Texas A&M did to South Carolina and touched on what a masterpiece new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital called in his first regular season game at the helm (Spavital technically debuted in the Aggies' Chick-fil-A Bowl defeat of Duke on New Year's Eve). Kenny Hill was darn near perfect in his first start, connecting on 44-of-60 passes for 511 yards with three touchdowns, becoming one of six players in SEC history to throw for 500 yards in a game. Aggie running backs carried 31 times for 165 yards and four scores. A full dozen players caught passes. The Aggies scored 52 points (the most a Steve Spurrier team has allowed at South Carolina), achieved 39 first downs, gained 680 yards (a South Carolina opponent record), posted only one three-and-out, and did not turn it over.
Across the country, new Rutgers offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen guided Rutgers to 496 total yards (281 passing, 215 rushing) with 22 first downs and 41 points in a 41-38 win over Washington State in Seattle. That's a 35 percent improvement over the Scarlet Knights' 2013 total offense average, a 33 percent gain in yards per play (7.09 versus 5.29), a 50 percent leap in yards per pass attempt (10.4 versus 6.9), a 35 percent gain in yards per rush (5.0 versus 3.7) and, most importantly, a 55 percent gain in scoring output. Heck, Gary Nova's first pass of the entire season was a 78-yard touchdown. That was the least Rutgers thing possible a year ago.
You've done it once, gentlemen. Now you just have to repeat that 11 more times.
The Bad: New head coaches. It.... it wasn't pretty. Let's start in Atlanta, where Bryan Harsin's Boise State team provided perhaps the best performance of the three head coaching debuts on Thursday night. The Broncos played Ole Miss to a 7-6 score through three quarters, intercepted Bo Wallace three times in the first half, outrushed Ole Miss 135-71, but it wasn't enough. The dam broke wide open in the fourth quarter as the Rebels scored 28 unanswered points before Boise State tacked on a cosmetic score for a 35-13 final.
At Louisiana-Monroe, the Warhawks' camouflage uniforms somehow made Wake Forest's offense turn completely invisible. Dave Clawson's gained five first downs, rushed 27 times for a long of nine yards and a net of minus-3 (the seven sacks allowed accounted for much of that), committed eight penalties, converted three of 14 first down chances and scored its only touchdown on a blocked punt return in a 17-10 loss. Perhaps worst of all, Wake's second longest drive of the night traveled all of 16 yards.
Finally, a 100-minute weather delay prolonged a miserable debut for Derek Mason at Vanderbilt. The 'Dores rolled triple sevens: seven points, seven penalties and seven turnovers. Vanderbilt's only touchdown came thanks to a bad snap on a Temple punt inside its own end zone. Commodore passers completed only 16 of 34 passes for 224 yards with three interceptions, compounded by the fact that Vandy rushers combined for 54 yards (a long of 14) on 29 carries with five total fumbles (four lost).
The good news here for Harsin, Clawson and Mason is that the arrow should point up from here. In fact, all Mason had to do was look across the sideline. One year ago, first-year Temple head coach Matt Rhule lost his opener 28-6 to Notre Dame en route to a 2-10 debut season lowlighted by consecutive losses to Fordham and Idaho. And now he's on a two-game winning streak, beginning year two with a 30-point win over an SEC team.
The Ugly: If you play football in a televised game and step on to the field of play, there are cameras on you. That means you won't get away with this, Eastern Illinois linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill.