The Alabama defense turned in a dominating performance, the Florida State special teams endured a terrible night, and one of the most anticipated opening games in college football history went to the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
Damien Harris ran for a touchdown and blocked a punt, and Jalen Hurts chipped in with a scoring pass on a night that basically required the sophomore quarterback to make no major mistakes, leading Alabama to a 24-7 beatdown of No. 3 Florida State on Saturday at Atlanta’s new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
This one was all about that dynamic Bama D.
And those not-to-special teams for the Seminoles.
Alabama picked off a pair of passes by Deondre Francois in the second half, snuffing out any hopes of a Florida State comeback. Throw in a blocked punt, a blocked field goal and a fumble recovery on a kickoff return, and there was really no path to victory for the Seminoles in the first matchup ever between two teams in the top three of The Associated Press preseason rankings.
The Tide led 10-7 at halftime, catching a huge break in the closing seconds when the officials didn’t call a pass interference penalty on Tony Brown while defending Francois’ pass into the end zone for Nyqwan Murray.
Brown never looked for the ball on the play, running into Murray as he tried to go for a scoring catch that would’ve given the Seminoles a lead. When Florida State attempted a 37-yard field goal on the next play, Minkah Fitzpatrick leaped up to make the block on the final play of the half, preserving the edge and prompting a chorus of boos from the FSU faithful as the officials trotted off the field.
Appearing deflated, Florida State never got anything going over the final two quarters. Levi Wallace and Mack Wilson both had interceptions, and Francois’ night ended with him being helped off the field – putting no weight on his left knee – after being sacked from behind by blitzing safety Ronnie Harrison.
Francois immediately grabbed at his knee, and after being treated for several minutes on the turf, he wrapped his arms around a couple of trainers and hobbled off the field.
It was a potentially crushing blow on a night that already went back enough for the Seminoles.
With the Tide still clinging to that three-point lead, the game was essentially decided by a seven-play sequence toward the end of the third quarter. Backed up in his own territory, Logan Tyler’s punt was smothered by Harris, racing in from the left side, and Dylan Moses fell on it at the Florida State 6.
The Seminoles made an impressive stand, forcing Alabama to settle for Andy Pappanastos’ 25-yard field goal.
It was all for naught when, on the ensuing kickoff, Keith Gavin muffed the ball in the end zone, picked it up, ran into one of his own men, and then fumbled on a hit by Moses. Keith Holcombe recovered at the 11, and Harris ran up the middle for a touchdown on the very next play, splitting two would-be tacklers at the 5.
(11) Michigan 33, (17) Florida 17: Quinn Nordin became the first Michigan kicker to make two 50-yard field goals in the same game, one of them in a go-ahead spurt after halftime, and the Wolverines defeated the Gators in Arlington, Texas.
The Gators had won 27 consecutive openers, the nation’s longest such streak, since a home loss to Mississippi in 1989.
Michigan trailed 17-13 at halftime before scoring three times in the first 6 minutes of the second.
After Karan Higdon’s 3-yard TD run capped a half-opening 75-yard, 10-yard drive, Ambry Thomas forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. That set up a 30-yard field goal by Quinn, who then made a 50-yarder after Michigan recovered another fumble.
Nordin made four field goals, including a 55-yarder in the first half. He missed two attempts wide right in the fourth quarter, one of those from 52 yards.
Florida’s only touchdowns came when Duke Dawson and CJ Henderson returned interceptions. Those came on consecutive throws by Wilton Speight in the second quarter.
(6) Penn State 52, Akron 0: Saquon Barkley had 226 total yards and two touchdowns to lead the Nittany Lions’ rout of the Zips in State College, Pennsylvania.
Trace McSorley was 18 for 25 passing for 280 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a score.
Although it rained heavily early at Beaver Stadium, a soggy field and leaky Akron defense couldn’t slow Penn State’s pair of Heisman Trophy candidates. They combined for 371 total yards and four scores in the first half to put the game out of reach.
(5) Clemson 56, Kent State 3: Kelly Bryant passed for 236 yards and a touchdown and ran for 77 more yards in his first game as Clemson’s starting quarterback and the Tigers defeated the Golden Flashes in Clemson, South Carolina.
Bryant has the hefty responsibility of replacing Deshaun Watson behind center for the defending national champions. The junior, who had thrown just 22 passes in his career for Clemson in mop up duty, showed he could both run and pass.
(7) Oklahoma 56, UTEP 7: Baker Mayfield passed for 329 yards and three touchdowns in one half of action to help the Sooners rout the Miners in Norman, Oklahoma.
Mayfield completed 16 straight passes to start the game. He didn’t miss until just under four minutes remained in the second quarter and completed 19 of 20 overall.
The Sooners rolled up 676 yards of offense in their first game under head coach Lincoln Riley. The 33-year-old was promoted from offensive coordinator after Bob Stoops stepped down in June.
(15) Georgia 31, Appalachian State 10: Freshman Jake Fromm led three first-half touchdown drives after starting quarterback Jacob Eason hurt his left knee, helping the Bulldogs defeat the Mountaineers at Athens, Georgia.
Fromm completed 10 of 15 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Nick Chubb ran for 96 yards, including scoring runs of 1 and 7 yards. Sony Michel added 87 yards rushing and a touchdown for Georgia in the opener for both teams.
(16) Louisville 35, Purdue 28: Lamar Jackson threw two touchdown passes and compiled 485 total yards, helping the Cardinals escape with a victory over the Boilermakers in Indianapolis.
Jackson went 30 of 46 with 378 yards through the air while running 21 times for 107 yards. He moved into the top five in school history on TD passes and yards rushing.
(18) Miami 41, Bethune-Cookman 13: Malik Rosier passed for 217 yards and three touchdowns in his debut as Miami’s full-time starting quarterback, Mark Walton ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns and the Hurricanes defeated the Wildcats in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Rosier completed 17 of 28 passes, and Miami which scored on five of its first six possessions. He spread the ball to nine receivers and went 12 for 14 in one stretch in his first start since Oct. 31, 2015. Braxton Berrios, Lawrence Cager and Darrell Langham had touchdown catches for Miami.
Maryland 51, (23) Texas 41: Tyrrell Pigrome threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score before leaving with an injury the Terrapins defeated the Longhorns at Austin, Texas, spoiling UT coach Tom Herman’s debut.
Pigrome had to be helped off late in the third quarter after twisting his knee, but freshman Kasim Hill came in and led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives in the opener for both teams.
Maryland led 27-7 in the second quarter, and then held off a Texas rally to snap a 17-game losing streak to ranked opponents, the third-longest streak among Power Five teams.
Maryland’s D.J. Moore had 133 yards receiving and a touchdown.
Shane Buechele passed for 375 yards for Texas.
(19) South Florida 31, Stony Brook 17: Quinton Flowers threw for 186 yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns to help the Bulls win in Tampa, Florida.
(20) Kansas State 55, Central Arkansas 19: Jesse Ertz threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns in only three quarters of work and the Wildcats won their opener at Manhattan, Kansas.
Liberty 48, Baylor 45: Stephen Calvert threw for 447 yards and three touchdowns and visiting Liberty spoiled Matt Rhule’s coaching debut at Baylor, stunning the Bears in Waco, Texas.
The Bears lost their seventh straight regular-season game since starting 6-0 last season, while a 19-game regular-season winning streak against nonconference opponents ended.
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.