Week 1 Wrap

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No. 9 Notre Dame shuts down Louisville in season-opening 35-17 win

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No. 9 Notre Dame (1-0) spoiled the start of the Scott Satterfield era at Louisville (0-1) by shutting down the Cardinals in the second half Monday night in Louisville. Since being knotted up at 14-14 after the first quarter, the Fighting Irish outscored the home team 21-3 the rest of the way for a 35-17 win to start the new year.

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book gave the Irish the lead just before halftime, making up for a lost fumble just a few plays prior to that. Book lost a fumble one play after the Irish recovered a Louisville fumble. But the third fumble in three successive plays gave the ball right back to Notre Dame, and Book capitalized with an 11-yard run with 17 seconds left before the halftime break.

Book then added to the Notre Dame lead with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Tremble midway through the third quarter. With the Irish defense getting a handle on Louisville quarterback Jawon Pass and the Cardinals unable to sustain the energy and momentum they ha din the first quarter, Notre Dame started to pull away. After Louisville resigned to settling for a 42-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to cut the Notre Dame lead to 28-17, the Irish delivered what was essentially the knockout blow with Jahmir Smith‘s one-yard touchdown run at the end of a 12-play, 75-yard drive.

There were some glimpses of improved football by Louisville that Satterfield can take into practices for next week. Among the chief areas of concern should be ball control. Louisville lost three fumbles. Last season, Satterfield’s Appalachian State was among the best teams in the nation in handling the football with just 10 fumbles all season long, and just five lost fumbles all year. Louisville was much more of a mess handling the football, ranking 125th in the nation with 23 fumbles and 10 fumbles lost. It may not happen overnight, but Satterfield should be able to find ways to improve how his players hold on to the football relatively quickly. Pass scored both Louisville touchdowns on the ground, but has room to improve with his passing accuracy (10-of-24 for 127 yards).

Notre Dame had some shaky moments early on with the defense as Louisville was showing some new looks with their offense, but the Irish calmed things down a bit and started locking down on the Cardinals offense after the first quarter. The defense in South Bend should once again be pretty solid against most of their opponents. As seems to be the biggest concern in the Brian Kelly era is will the defense be good enough when up against some of the nation’s best programs. We don’t need to worry too much about that just yet, although a road trip to Georgia is approaching pretty quickly (Sept. 21).

Next up for Notre Dame is a home date with New Mexico, coached by former Fighting Irish head coach Bob Davie. Whether Davie coaches his team this weekend remains in question as the former Irish coach recovers from a health scare from over the weekend. Davie coached at Notre Dame from 1997 through 2001 after serving three seasons as the defensive coordinator for Lou Holtz. This weekend would mark Davie’s first game as a coach back in South Bend if he is able to make the trip and coach for New Mexico. Davie was 35-25 as head coach at Notre Dame, with a 0-3 bowl record.

Louisville will host Eastern Kentucky, an FCS opponent, in Week 2.

UNC coach Mack Brown wins first college football game since Thanksgiving 2013

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It’s been a long time coming for UNC head coach Mack Brown. In his first game on the sidelines since the 2013 season, Brown coached his Tar Heels to rally past South Carolina in the Belk College Football Kickoff Game in Charlotte, 24-20. It is the first time Brown has won a game since a Thanksgiving game between Brown’s Texas Longhorns and Texas Tech in 2013. On top of that, Brown got the win against his former assistant Will Muschamp, who was once named the head coach in waiting at Texas under Brown.

South Carolina had a 13-3 lead in the second quarter and took a 20-9 lead into the fourth quarter. But UNC kept grinding away and the defense rattled Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley. Bentley was intercepted twice in the final minutes of the game, both times by Myles Wolfolk, and he fumbled the football on the final play of the game. That ball was returned for a touchdown, but the game was already cemented in the win column for UNC.

For UNC, it was really the defense that led the way. South Carolina had just three third-down conversions in 13 tries and every possession after going up 20-9 ended with a punt or turnover the rest of the game for South Carolina.

Freshman quarterback Sam Howell got the start for UNC and he was solid in his Tar Heel debut. Howell passed for 245 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. Running back Javonte Williams went over the century mark to out-rush his South Carolina counterpart Tavien Feaster.

And here’s a fun little nugget. Brown has now won three consecutive games at UNC. Brown left UNC for Texas after the 1997 season, after UNC had gone 10-1 in the regular season. That season ended on a three-game winning streak with victories for UNC over Clemson, Duke and Virginia Tech (in the Gator Bowl, years before Virginia Tech was an ACC member). However, Brown did not coach the Tar Heels in the Gator Bowl because he left for Texas after accepting an offer from the Longhorns.

Brown will look to score his fourth consecutive win at UNC next week when UNC hosts Miami in an ACC Coastal Division matchup. Miami was off in Week 1 after opening their season against Florida in Week 0 (and losing to the Gators).

South Carolina will hope to get in the win column next week with a home game against Charleston Southern.

New Choke at Doak: Boise State scores 23 unanswered points to top Florida State

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For one half, it looked as though Florida State (0-1) might be able to get their season started on a strong note, but the Boise State Broncos (1-0) added another power conference school to their list of defeated teams on Saturday. Boise State came back from a 31-13 deficit to top the Seminoles in Doak Campbell Stadium Saturday afternoon. Boise State’s 33-31 victory included a shutout by the defense in the second half.

Boise State freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier showed how tough he can be by taking a good number of hits from the Florida State defense early on in the game. He never got too rattled though and ended the day with 407 passing yards and a touchdown. Perhaps the most significant pass was when he found a wide-open receiver down the right sideline on a third-and-long to keep a pivotal possession alive late in the fourth quarter. Bachmeier and Boise state maximized their use of the clock as well, thus draining the energy of the Florida State defense as the game played on. The Broncos held the football for nearly 40 minutes. Boise State rushed for 227 yards against the Noles too, with Robert Mahone racking up 142 of those yards with a pair of touchdowns. His short touchdown run from the one-yard line early in the fourth quarter gave Boise State its first lead of the day.

Florida State got off to a good start to the game with three first-quarter touchdowns as Boise State couldn’t finish drives or hold on to the football. James Blackman ended his day with 314 passing yards but that damage was largely done in the first half. Once Florida State jumped out to their big lead, Boise State calmed down and started to change the tempo of the game in their favor. Florida State had just one possession that lasted more than four plays after halftime, and that one six-play drive traveled just nine yards. On Florida State’s final possession of the game, a fourth-down conversion by Blackman was called back for a holding penalty. Florida State was called for another penalty on the very next play, which was declined by Boise State and resulted in a turnover on downs. The Broncos could then work the clock with Florida State had just two timeouts to use.

Florida State clearly is still a program in need of getting better, and perhaps that work is even more loaded than anticipated for Willie Taggart in Year 2. Boise State racked up 627 yards of offense, showing Florida State’s defense absolutely has room for improvement. The offense going flat after the first quarter is not an encouraging sign either for the Florida State faithful. Meanwhile, Boise State will take a road victory against an ACC team and run with it.

The game was played in Florida State’s stadium after being relocated from Jacksonville with a hurricane on the move into the region. Florida State’s first official home opener will be next week against Louisiana-Monroe. Boise State will also be home next week for a game against Marshall.

Memphis hangs on to beat Ole Miss with strong defensive showing

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It may not have gone quite according to plan for Memphis, but a win over an SEC opponent is a good way to start the season regardless of how it happens. Memphis (1-0) used a good defensive effort and some gutsy play-calling in the fourth quarter to send Ole Miss (0-1) back home with a loss as the Tigers celebrated a 15-10 victory in the Liberty Bowl Saturday afternoon.

After taking a 13-0 lead into halftime, the Tigers stalled in the second half. The opening drive of the second half ended at the Ole Miss 28-yard line with Brady White having a pass intercepted. The mistake didn’t cost Memphis as Ole Miss turned the ball over on downs, but Memphis was forced to punt on the next possession and the Rebels got on the board with a field goal after that. Then, a questionable decision to go for it on 4th & 1 with a pass play cost Memphis. White’s pass was good for a three-yard loss, giving Ole Miss the ball at their 45-yard line. Ole Miss took advantage of the great field position by pulling within three points with a touchdown run by Scottie Phillips from the one-yard line at the end of a 10-play drive.

Memphis typically brings an offense capable of fireworks in any given week, but they were nowhere to be found in this matchup. Fortunately, for Mike Norvell and his program, the defense came to play. Ole Miss managed just one third-down conversion on 10 attempts and the Rebels were limited to just 173 yards. Memphis was not without their list of issues though, including penalties. Memphis was flagged for 10 penalties for 75 yards. The Tigers will very well get the offense on track in the coming weeks, however, but if the defense continues to play this way then Memphis may be a stronger candidate for the AAC championship and perhaps a spot in the New Years Six bowl lineup than predicted.

Ole Miss jumps into SEC play next week with a home game against Arkansas. Memphis will take on Southern.

No. 9 Auburn grinds out 21-16 win over No. 6 Washington, dealing Pac-12 early playoff punch

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No. 9 Auburn (1-0) managed to win a physical and defensive battle against the best the Pac-12 had to offer. The Tigers, fueled by three field goals by Anders Carlson and two key Washington turnovers took home a 21-16 victory over No. 6 Washington in Atlanta in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.

Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham completed 26 of 36 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown in the victory. Washington’s Jake Browning had a rough afternoon at times, but he did throw for 296 yards and a touchdown. Browning had one pass intercepted though, and a fumbled football in the third quarter from just outside the goal line came back to bite him and the Huskies.

Washington was primed to take a lead before the Browning fumble, but it was Washington’s defense that kept the game within reach for the entire game. Auburn could never find a true knockout blow against Washington until getting a game-winning touchdown on their last full possession of the game.

With Washington working their way to a 16-15 lead following a field goal, Stidham led the Tigers on a touchdown drive traveling 76 yards over 10 plays. JaTarvious Whitlow finished the drive with a 10-yard run, putting the pressure on Washington to find their way back to the end zone. Washington’s last chance on offense ended on a fourth down with 16 yards to go with Browning being sacked by Smoke Monday.

Much will be made about how this severely damages the Pac-12’s chances of getting a College Football Playoff representative at the end of the season, and it is understandable why that would be. Washington may have needed this win more than Auburn might, given the current standings of the SEC and Pac-12. The margin for error in the Pac-12 has been pretty thin the last few seasons, and a win against a top 10 team essentially on the road would have been a nice feather in the cap for the Huskies. But it’s just one game, and the entire college football season still pretty much has to be played. But Washington may not be able to afford another loss the rest of the season, where Auburn now has one of the top wins of the very early season.

Both Auburn and Washington will play their home openers next week against FCS competition. Auburn will host Alabama State, and Washington plays host to North Dakota.