There were high expectations for Jalen Hurts ahead of kick off in Norman, Oklahoma on Sunday night. The previous two starting quarterbacks for the Sooners had gone on to win the Heisman. Can Hurts become the third?
He answered in emphatic style, guiding Oklahoma to a 49-31 win over Houston. The win ignited the “Hurts for Heisman” campaign and proved that Oklahoma will once again have a strong claim for the final four.
Of course it’s early days. It would be foolish to get carried away by a week 1 win over AAC opposition. However, such was the incredible dominance of Hurts that it’s hard not to.
Houston 31 Jalen Hurts 36
The writing was on the wall for the Cougars from the opening Oklahoma drive. After a dominant defensive display from Kenneth Murray Jr forced a Houston 3 and out, the Jalen Hurts show began.
Trey Sermon showed his own promise with a 31 yard run, before Hurts connected first with Charleston Rambo, then found Jeremiah Hall for a 14 yard touchdown. It would be the first of 6 for the senior quarterback.
The second came courtesy of a QB sneak, before he showcased his arm talent in finding the wide open Ceedee Lamb for a 45 yard touchdown.
Despite D’Eriq King opening his touchdown account for the season, plus a Dalton Witherspoon field goal, Houston still trailed 21-10 at the half.
It was game over by the end of the third quarter. Hurts found Rambo just inside Houston territory, and the speedster took it to the house for a 56 yard score. Another two rushing touchdowns for Hurts had the score at 42-17.
Tanner Mordecai replaced Hurts in the 4th quarter as Oklahoma cruised to victory. Hurts ended the night with 508 total yards. It was a performance that impressed and excited the college football world.
“We did some really good things out there tonight, but there were a lot of things we can improve on” Hurts said of his performance per ESPN. In a terrifying final comment for the rest of college football he said: “We’ve got to take that next step”.
Has Oregon ducked out of Championship contention already?
Oregon were a pre-season dark horse for the College playoff final four. Their season opener against Auburn of the SEC was seen as the ultimate opportunity to prove their worth. Bo Nix and the Auburn Tigers had other ideas.
For 40 minutes of football, it looked like Oregon were set to start the season with success. CJ Verdell and Darrian Felix rushing touchdowns either side of a Justin Herbert passing touchdown to Spencer Webb, had the Ducks up 21-6.
Herbert showed the athleticism, and arm talent, that have made him a potential number 1 pick in the draft on the touchdown. He extended the play with his legs, giving Webb time to find the end zone, before unfurling the pass that made it 14-3.
Nix, the first freshman starting QB in a season opener for Gus Malzahn, led the comeback charge for the Tigers.
He took advantage of some defensive confusion to find Eli Stove for a touchdown, his first career score, to make it 21-13. Joey Gatewood made a superman dive for a TD, making it 21-20.
On the final drive, Nix made a running play on 4th and 3 to pick up a first down. With just 0:09 left, he evaded pressure in the pocket to fire a pass to Seth Williams at the 1. The wide receiver picked it out the air, kept his balance and stepped in the end zone for the game winning score.
“When the game is on the line, you’ve got to make plays” said Malzahn of Nix per ESPN “and that’s the one thing he showed.”
Tennessee toppled as Georgia State spring surprise
Jeremy Pruitt’s first season in charge at Tennessee ended with a disappointing 5-7 record. The Vols paid big money for assistant coaches over the summer. Saturday proved money can’t buy you everything.
Georgia State sprang the first big surprise of the 2019 season. The Sun Belt team, coming off a 2-10 season, defeated a power 5 program for the first time in their history.
After a back and forth game, Tennessee took the lead 23-21 early in the 4th quarter. However touchdown runs from Tra Barnett and senior quarterback, Dan Ellington, gave the Panthers a 35-23 lead. Despite a late, late, Jarrett Guarantano touchdown for the Vols, Georgia State hung on for a 38-30 win.
A fired up Coach Elliott mocked Tennessee’s conference in the Panthers locker room.
“They say the SEC just means more. Today’s game meant more to us!”
The SEC just means more….defeats
Tennessee weren’t the only team letting the “best conference” down in week 1. Whilst Alabama, Georgia (who defeated SEC rival Vanderbilt), LSU, and Texas A & M all posted big wins, there were several SEC surprises.
Ole Miss were stifled and held to just 173 yards of offence, in a 15-10 defeat to Memphis.
South Carolina lost to North Carolina on Mack Brown’s return to coaching. The Gamecocks held a 20-9 lead at the start of the fourth. However, true freshman quarterback Sam Howell found the end zone twice to give the Tar Heels a 24-20 victory.
Kelly Bryant accounted for over 400 yards in his Missouri debut, but the Tigers fell to a shock defeat against Wyoming. Ball security was a huge factor in the game, with Mizzou turning the ball over 3 times. A 27-3 second quarter for the Cowboys proved to be the difference maker.
Two hot seats that keep getting hotter
After last season, where FSU failed to reach a bowl game, Willie Taggart is one of the coaches that faces intense scrutiny. A ferocious defence and electric offence early in their game against Boise State had Seminoles fans dreaming of success.
However, 23 unanswered points from a Boise team led by freshman Hank Bachmeier, leaves more question marks over Taggart’s tenure. They should win next time out when UL Monroe visit Tallahassee but face tough games at Virginia, Clemson, and Florida. These are games that could determine Taggart’s fate.
It feels like Chip Kelly has a longer leash at UCLA, however he needs to see some success soon. The Bruins offence featured some unmistakable Chip Kelly traits, with plenty of pre-snap motion, on Thursday night.
They couldn’t make it work as quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson struggled. DTR completed just 8-26 passes with two interceptions as the Cincinnati Bearcats won 24-14.
Kelly is one of the highest paid coaches in the whole of college football. The Bruins need to see some bang for their buck, and soon.
The battle for RB1
It’s no secret that there are some incredible running backs in College Football this season. There are some wild differences of opinion as to which one is the undisputed RB1.
Clemson’s Travis Etienne was the first to stake his claim on Thursday night. He rushed for 205 yards and 3 TDs as the reigning National Champions opened up their defence with a 52-14 win over Georgia Tech.
Next up was Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor. He may have “only” rushed for 135 yards but he also had 48 receiving yards on his way to a 4 TD night.
Although he didn’t find the end zone, Georgia’s D’Andre Swift rushed for 147 yards at a whopping 9.2 yards per carry. The Bulldogs opened up with a 30-6 win over Vanderbilt.
All three were overshadowed by the performance of Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard. He leads everyone in rushing yards after steaming to 221 yards and 3 TDs, as the Cowboys beat Oregon State 52-36.
The Fighting Irish bring week 1 to a finish
Notre Dame began their bid to return to the College Football Playoffs with a trip to Louisville on Monday night. Quarterback Ian Book threw for one touchdown, and ran in another, as the Fighting Irish emerged 35-17 winners.
It was a night dominated by the ground game as the two teams combined for almost 500 rushing yards. After a dismal 2018 campaign, new Lousiville head coach, Scott Scatterfield, has given Cardinals fans new hope after a greatly improved performance. The defence looked tougher, and the offence was entertaining with Jawon Pass at quarterback.
Louisville played Notre Dame close for most of the first half. However, they came off worse from back to back to back fumbles late in the second quarter, and never recovered from the touchdown that gave the Fighting Irish a 21-14 lead at the half.
Louisville welcome Eastern Kentucky to Cardinal Stadium next Saturday night, in a week 2 slate that is dominated by a mouth watering clash between LSU and Texas.
Feature Image Credit: Associated Press