Newcomers lead Texas A&M past No. 15 Arizona State

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A year ago, Texas A&M could not have beaten No. 15 Arizona State the way it did on Saturday. Well, the Aggies probably couldn’t have beaten Arizona State at all in 2014, but definitely not this way. Because, a year ago, Texas A&M did not have John Chavis and it did not have Christian Kirk.

The Aggies used a fast, aggressive defense and the multidimensional Kirk to upend the Sun Devils, 38-17, in the Advocare Texas Kickoff at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Chavis, the high-priced defensive coordinator robbed away from LSU last December, guided a defense that ranked 97th nationally in yards per play and 111th in rushing into a strength – at least for one night. Behind All-America candidate Myles Garrett, Texas A&M forced eight sacks and two turnovers, limiting the Sun Devils to just 2.2 yards per carry and fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Bercovici to 25-of-40 passing for just 199 yards. Arizona State mounted only one sustained touchdown drive on the night – its first score came after a Kyle Allen fumble deep in Aggie territory – an eight play, 75-yard march that pulled the Devils to within 17-14 with 2:37 to go in the third quarter.

While the A&M defense did its job, freshman Christian Kirk carried the Aggies’ offense and special teams. A former five-star out of the Phoenix area, Kirk returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown to put Texas A&M up 14-0 with 12:51 in the second quarter, then put the game away for good with a 66-yard grab-and-weave with 3:45 to go in the game, giving the Aggies a 31-17 lead. After Texas A&M forced a turnover on downs deep in Arizona State territory on the ensuing possession, Tra Carson added a 10-yard insurance score with 1:38 remaining.

The sophomore Allen garnered the start for the Aggies and posted decent numbers – 15-of-26 passing for 198 yards and two touchdowns (he hit Carson for a 9-yard touchdown to open the scoring in the first quarter) and added a 12-yard touchdown run to put A&M up 24-14 – but committed two turnovers and was victimized by a swarming Arizona State defense. Head coach Kevin Sumlin turned to true freshman Kyler Murray for much of the night and he answered by dancing for 69 yards on six carries to go with 4-of-9 passing for 49 yards and an interception.

Arizona State successfully bottled up the Texas A&M running game for much of the evening – Carson gained 96 yards on 29 carries, and will have 29 lumps to show for it tomorrow morning – and Murray’s speed and elusiveness proved a successful antidote.

As dominant as the Arizona State front was, though, Texas A&M was even more so, limiting the Sun Devils to 92 yards on 41 carries. Overall, Texas A&M outgained Arizona State 425-291 and held the Sun Devils to 5-of-19 on third downs.

Texas A&M entered the season a dark horse to contend in the SEC West and beyond, and rewarded that faith Saturday night. And considering so many of tonight’s key pieces – Chavis, Murray, Kirk – are still feeling themselves out, here’s the scariest thought of the night: Texas A&M will probably get better from here.

No. 8 Florida does just enough to top rival Miami and kickoff 2019 college football season

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College football is finally, and officially, back.

In their first meeting in six years, No. 8 Florida did just enough to escape Orlando with a hard-fought 24-20 comeback victory over in-state rival Miami to kick off the 2019 season. Like many other Week 0 meetings too, the game had a bit of everything even if sharp play throughout was not one of them.

Turnovers, bone-headed penalties and a number of incredible touchdown scampers all served as highlights for the very first FBS game of the year and one that could set the tone for both programs in good ways and bad over the coming few months.

Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks was good early and late even if he was just so-so in the middle against a feisty ‘Canes defense. He wound up throwing for 254 yards, two touchdowns and two picks (with a rushing score as well) in the win, looking every bit like a player who may be better than a year ago but is playing behind a ton of new faces along the offensive line.

Wideout Kadarius Toney had the early highlight of the night when he weaved and spun out for a 66 yard touchdown catch while tailback Lamichael Perine was all over the field in rushing for 42 yards and catching a team-high six passes for 25 yards and a score as well.

If only Dan Mullen’s squad would have been able to hold onto the ball the final scoreline might not have looked so close. UF turned the ball over four times total, leading to quite a few appearances from the new-look Miami turnover chain.

That aggressive ‘Canes defense was as advertised for most of the contest even if they came up a bit short. While everybody knew that unit would hold up their end of the bargain, it was the offense that was the more pleasant surprise — and encouraging longterm development for new coach Manny Diaz. Quarterback Jarren Williams was sharp early and didn’t seem rattled at all by the stage in throwing for 214 yards and a touchdown. He did trail off a bit after halftime but considering the offensive line he was playing behind (one that gave up 10 sacks), it was still a fairly nice debut behind center and lends more credence to the thinking that Miami is the team to beat in the ACC Coastal.

Tailback DeeJay Dallas also contributed a nifty 50 yard touchdown as part of a 95 yard night on 12 carries while seven different receivers wound up catching a pass for a very new look offense.

The Hurricanes will still look back and think about all the ‘what if’s’ given the number of chances they had down the stretch in the fourth quarter but losing a close one to a top 10 team — even a rival like UF — doesn’t sting quite as bad when put in the perspective of last year’s disastrous run.

As for the victors, Mullen and company have to thank their lucky stars they escaped with the first win of the entire 2019 season in FBS given all the mistakes that were made. The Gators have plenty to clean up before the heart of their SEC slate approaches but it’s hard to fault the team too much for prevailing in a sloppy Week 0 meeting.

QB Jarren Williams off to a good start as Miami leads No. 8 Florida at halftime

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The 2019 FBS college football season is officially underway.

No. 8 Florida was aggressive early on but missed a number chances to really take control of their much-anticipated opener against rival Miami as the Hurricanes scored late to take a 13-7 lead going into halftime of the Week 0 matchup down in Orlando.

Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks had a solid start to the game with 96 yards through the air and a touchdown pass to Kadarius Toneywho did most of the work in shedding tackles and weaving his way 66 yards for the score. Yards were predictably hard to come by on the ground against one of the best front sevens in the country and the Gators recorded only 49 yards on 16 carries at the break.

The story of the game though will undoubtedly prove to be the Hurricanes much maligned offense. Starting freshman signal-caller Jarren Williams had his moments and didn’t seem rattled at all, throwing for 158 yards on 12-of-14 passing with a late touchdown to boot. He engineered a game-opening field goal drive for the first points of the season and seemed to really settle in as the clocked kept ticking as the ceiling for the program seemed to elevate with each passing series.

Of course it helps when you can lean on a feisty defense that forced two turnovers, breaking out the latest edition of the turnover chain on fumble recoveries by Scott Patchan and Shaq Quarterman.

While we were not treated to the most entertaining first half of college football all things considered… does it really matter? These two rivals are certainly setting the stage for the rest of the 2019 season and doing so in an aggressive manner with plenty on the line despite the low score.

Urban Meyer is in Florida gear. Miami has a new Turnover Chain. Welcome back college football!

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College football is back. Officially and absolutely back.

Yes the 2019 campaign is here in the sport that we all know and love and it has returned with a bang in Orlando as old rivals Miami and Florida kick off the 150 anniversary season. While the meeting between the Gators and Hurricanes is appetizing enough, we’re barely 30 minutes into the season and the two have already raised a few eyebrows around the country.

First off, let’s note that one Urban Meyer is at the game. It’s probably not all that surprising to hear considering the recently retired Ohio State head coach is now working for Fox Sports as an analyst. What is interesting is his choice of attire, in this case a Florida polo:

While some Gators fans are appreciative of him winning a pair of national titles in Gainesville, the ending did leave things a little sour so it will be interesting to see what kind of reaction the fan base has to their old coach showing up to watch his former assistant lead the program on Saturday night.

On the other sideline, it didn’t take long for Miami to breakout their newest edition of the famed ‘Turnover Chain.’ In this case the necklace is as gaudy as ever and quite a nod to the local area code. Defensive end Scott Patchan was the first of the season to be able to wear it when he recovered a fumble.

Welcome back college football, we’ve missed you for reasons like the ones above.

Miami CB D.J. Ivey suspended for opener, Florida adds four suspensions of their own

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A time-honored tradition in college football is underway: Florida-based schools announcing suspensions as their opening game kicks off.

On Saturday in Orlando, both Miami and Florida confirmed a number of players would miss the Week 0 opener at Camping World Stadium that is serving as the first FBS game of the 2019 season.

Confirming earlier reports, the Hurricanes announced that likely starting cornerback D.J. Ivey did not make the trip for a violation of team rules. Al Blades Jr. got the nod in his place opposite veteran corner Trajan Bandy against the Gators.

Scoring perhaps the first victory of the night over their rivals, Florida appeared to one-up the visitors from Coral Gables with not one but four suspensions. Safety Brad Stewart, wideout Rick Wells, defensive back Pat Moorer and defensive tackle T.J. Slaton were held out “for not living up to the Gators standard” but no specifics were issued.

The old in-state rivals are meeting for the first time since 2013 and will shift to an on-campus set in 2024 and 2025 as part of a recently confirmed home-and-home series.