Brian: Did the Eagles chances for a good-to-great season improve greatly over college football's first weekend? Or is it still too soon to tell? We'll have more on that question tomorrow.
It is hard, however, not to get just a tad bit more excited about the Eagles chances in 2009 after the first full weekend of college football. Simply put, our 2009 opponents didn't exactly set the college football world ablaze this past weekend. The Eagles' opponents went 4-6 this past weekend, with Florida State set to play later tonight. Let's say that again. 4-6. That pathetic mark includes an 0-4 record against BCS conference competition and a Virginia loss to I-AA William & Mary. Only two of those four wins (Clemson over MTSU and Notre Dame over Nevada) came against FBS teams.
Here’s a look at the good, the bad and the very, very ugly of our 2009 opponents' week 1.
Clemson 37, Middle Tennessee State 14. This game was over as early as the opening kickoff, when C.J. Spiller returned the game’s opening kickoff 96 yards for a Tigers touchdown. Jacoby Ford added two scores in the first half, including a 61-yard punt return, to increase the Tiger lead to 30-7 at half. Spiller was taken out of the game in the first half after suffering a hamstring/foot injury, but he should be good to go for next week’s game at Georgia Tech. Speaking of that game, that should be a huge test early for this young Tigers team and will prove whether the Tigers will be a factor in the Atlantic Division race.
Notre Dame 35, Nevada 0. Jimmy Clausen threw touchdown passes of 70 and 88 yards to Michael Floyd to power Notre Dame past Nevada 35-0. The shutout was the first Irish shutout since 2002. The defense did allow 5.5 yards per play, but the Wolf Pack offense only managed to go 2 of 12 on third and fourth downs. Next week’s game against Michigan (31-7 winners over Western Michigan) should be a good litmus test to see just how good this Irish team truly is.
North Carolina 40, The Citadel 6. The Tar Heels shook off a slow start to power their way over The Citadel 40-6. The Tar Heels amassed 375 yards of total offense, including 118 yards on the ground from Shaun Draughn. UNC QB T.J. Yates threw for 114 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. "There's definitely some things we can work on in the passing game, but our running game was absolutely awesome," Yates said. North Carolina travels to UConn this Saturday as the conference tries to better their 0-4 mark against BCS competition.
Baylor 24, Wake Forest 21. The Deacons lost this game on turnovers, as Riley Skinner threw three interceptions and Baylor converted a total of 4 Wake Forest turnovers into 10 points. The score ballooned to 24-7 late in the third quarter as the Bears took a page from Jim Grobe’s playbook. Robert Griffin threw a backwards pass to RB Ernest Smith, who then found a wide open Lanear Simpson for a 33-yard touchdown pass. Wake Forest mounted a late fourth quarter comeback, but in the end, it was too little, too late. Wake hosts Stanford at home this week. The Cardinal is coming off a 39-13 opening weekend win over Washington State.
Alabama 34, Virginia Tech 24. Somehow the Tide was losing this game at half. Alabama used a punishing run game and capitalized on a couple Hokie special team mistakes to take down the ACC representative in the Chic-Fil-A Kickoff Classic for a second straight year. Tyrod Taylor and the Hokie offense picked up where they left off last year. The Hokies, who ranked 103rd in total offense and 111th in passing offense nationally a season ago, managed 91 yards through the air on 9 of 20 passing. Taylor also rushed for -26 yards on 10 carries. The Crimson Tide defense held Ryan Williams to 71 yards on 13 carries. While the Hokies have a week to regroup as they host Marshall at Lane Stadium this Saturday, the natives are getting restless with the Hokies’ offensive production. And that offense will have to improve by leaps and bounds throughout the season if Virginia Tech expects to three-peat.
Arizona 19, Central Michigan 6. The Wildcat defense was successful in shutting down senior Chippewa QB Dan LeFevour, who only managed 108 yards on 18 of 31 passing and threw one interception. “LeFevour's highlight came when he ran for a 5-yard touchdown with 12:21 to go, cutting Central's deficit to 16-6. But the Chippewas botched the two-point conversion when LeFevour fumbled the snap in the shotgun.” The Chippewa rushing attack only managed 74 yards on 20 carries. CMU will need to regroup in week 2 but it won’t come easy as the Chippewas travel to East Lansing to play Michigan State in week 2.
Kent State 18, Coastal Carolina 0. Yes, the Golden Flashes won, but it wasn't pretty by any means. Senior running back Eugene Jarvis ran for 141 yards and a touchdown to lead Kent State past I-AA Coastal Carolina. Halftime score: Kent State 2, Coastal Carolina 0?! Kent State insisted on moving the ball throw the air in the first half and was met with very limited success. New starting quarterback Giorgio Morgan had a forgettable debut, throwing a pair of interceptions and no touchdowns. It was the first shutout for Kent State since 1994.
William & Mary 24, Virginia 16. Umm. So much for the newly-installed Virginia spread offense. After Virginia QB Vic Hall scampered into the end zone on a 34 yard score for the first score of the game, it was all downhill from there for the Cavaliers. The Tribe scored 19 unanswered points, including 13 in the second half, to knock off UVA in Charlottesville. Virginia turned the ball over seven times, including 3 INTs from James Sewell, and the Cavaliers offense was kept off the scoreboard in the second half. This has to be one of the most surprising results from week 1, and the road doesn’t get any easier for UVA. The Cavs host No. 17 TCU this week, then travel to Southern Miss (who trounced Alcorn St. 52-0) and North Carolina to wrap up the month of September. If the Cavaliers don’t improve and improve fast, they could be staring at a 0-4 start and be looking for a new coach before the season is out.
South Carolina 7, NC State 3. Another opening night game for the Wolfpack against South Carolina, another loss. In what had to be the ugliest game of the opening weekend, defenses dominated in a 7-3 South Carolina victory. NC State’s Toney Baker fumbled for the first Wolfpack play from scrimmage to set up the only touchdown of the night. All-ACC QB Russell Wilson looked unsettled and seemed to be looking to pass and not use his legs even when pass protection broke down early. What have we learned, JPG? "Tom O’Brien’s an exceptional coach in the second half of the season but at some point, November Tom (6-2 at State) needs to meet September Tom (3-7). State’s 0-3 in openers under O’Brien, and he’s 6-7 in openers going back to his 10-year stint at Boston College." The loss drops O’Brien’s record to 11-15 at State.
California 52, Maryland 13. Cal QB Kevin Riley threw for nearly 300 yards and 4 touchdowns as the No. 12 Cal Bears routed an outmatched Maryland Terrapin team. "These guys are learning on the run," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said of his inexperienced team. "We have got to make it as best as we can. I told them in the locker room, we have to look at this game and learn from it." Terp RB Da’Rel Scott had the teams only touchdown and finished the game as the Terps leading rusher (13 carriers, 90 yards) and leading receiver (3 receptions, 31 yards). Maryland kicker Nick Ferrara scored on field goals of 26 and 42 yards. Maryland hosts a good CAA South team in James Madison this week. As Duke, Virginia and Temple proved this weekend, nothing is guaranteed against the CAA South.