West Virginia still playing pinball; more early Week 1 Snap Judgments
Snap Judgments from Saturday’s early slate. For more from SI.com check out our midday and evening Snaps, plus our game coverage of Alabama-Michigan, Auburn-Clemson, Ohio-Penn State, South Carolina-Vanderbilt, Washington State-BYU, NC State-Tennessee and Boise State-Michigan State and our full Top 25 review.
• No. 11 West Virginia 69, Marshall 34. Minutes after wrecking Clemson in the Orange Bowl to conclude his first season as West Virginia’s head coach, Dana Holgorsen walked into his postgame press conference, looked around and declared, “Yeah, that’s exactly how we draw it up, right?”
He might have said much the same thing after the Mountaineers’ 2012 season opener. We’ve just seen the last version of the Friends of Coal Bowl for the foreseeable future, and WVU made it a memorable one. Holgorsen’s war machine wound down the afternoon in Morgantown with 655 yards of total offense, almost perfectly balanced — 331 rushing and 324 passing. This first stat was achieved without the presence of running back Dustin Garrison, who is still recovering from a December ACL injury. Shawne Alston led the ground attack for the Mountaineers, amassing 16 carries for 123 yards and two scores. Andrew Buie trailed with 80 rush yards and one touchdown (and one monstrous block), Tavon Austin with 67 yards and quarterback Geno Smith with 64 yards and a rushing score.
Through the air, Smith put on close to a perfect performance, completing 32-of-36 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns. Backup Paul Millard got into the action late, throwing one touchdown and one interception. Stedman Bailey led the Mountaineers in receiving, with nine catches for 104 yards and two scores, followed by J.D. Woods, who caught seven passes for 75 yards and a score. Austin and KJ Myers hauled in additional touchdown grabs.
The defensive highlight of the afternoon came when linebacker Isaiah Bruce returned a fumble 43 yards for a score. Is it nonsensical to say this is the unit we’re most interested in tracking, development-wise? The Mountaineers’ offense is obviously potent, but these games will take a turn for the hair-raising once they get into conference play and face other formidable points generators. (Not that this will happen soon; the next scheduled opponents are James Madison and Maryland.) [RECAP | BOX]
• Notre Dame 50, Navy 10. The Fighting Irish blew by the Midshipmen for the second consecutive year in the most picturesque setting of Week 1. (Check out SB Nation’s gallery of Aviva Stadium photos, if you missed the early morning action on CBS.) Even without suspended quarterback Tommy Rees and 2011′s top rusher Cierre Wood, the Irish put on a showy win thanks mostly to Navy’s complete inability to slow its opponent’s ground attack. Sophomore Everett Golson acquitted himself decently with the little he was asked to do, completing 12-of-18 pass attempts for 144 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
Golson’s afternoon consisted largely of handing off to a number of backs not named Wood; the Irish finished with 490 yards of total offense, 293 of those from rushing attempts. They very nearly had two backs record 100-yard days; Theo Riddick finished with 107 yards on 19 carries and George Atkinson added 99 yards on nine carries. Each player scored two rushing touchdowns. Navy put up 341 yards of offense, but did its momentum no favors with five allowed sacks and four turnovers.
Defensively, the play of the game was defensive end Stephon Tuitt’s 77-yard fumble return. At 6-foot-6 and 303 pounds, he’s the biggest player ever to score a touchdown we cannot legitimately call a “Fat Guy Touchdown,” as he appears to be made entirely of rocks. Manti Te’o continued to do Manti Te’o things, adding a fumble recovery and an interception. [RECAP | BOX]
• Ohio 24, Penn State 14. All hail Tyler Tettleton, the American prince of alliteration! As mentioned in our MAC preview, the Bobcats are now heavy favorites to finish the regular season undefeated, with a beatable nonconference schedule and a conference slate that includes no opponents that finished 2011 with winning records. This being the MAC, however, tripping hazards do remain. Mark Blaudschun was in State College this afternoon for SI; here’s his account. [RECAP | BOX]
• Northwestern 42, Syracuse 41.The matchup that tore the J-school alumni of SI.com apart was quite a lot of fun to watch, for those few of us with nothing invested in the outcome. Where we saw an action-packed outing, our Wildcats- and Orange-loving colleagues ground their teeth over penalties, turnovers and sacks. Ryan Nassib put on an airshow for the Orange, with a 45-of-66, 479-yard, four-touchdown performance, but his efforts were ultimately in vain, as a late-hit call even our Northwestern brethren agree was highly questionable set up a final scoring drive by backup Wildcats substitute quarterback Trevor Siemian. [RECAP | BOX]
• No. 6 Georgia 45, Buffalo 23. And now, our favorite joke, told to San Jose State last night in slightly different form and destined to be repeated at least once an hour to a different team every weekend for the rest of the season: Can’t let Georgia hang around like that, Buffalo! Multiple defensive suspensions for the Bulldogs can’t excuse the 111 rushing yards allowed to Branden Oliver, but Georgia struck back with yet another brand-new tailback, fresh out of the box: Todd Gurley, a four-star freshman out of North Carolina, finished the day with 100 yards and two scores on eight carries while also returning a kick 100 yards for a touchdown. [RECAP | BOX]
• No. 18 Ohio State 56, Miami (Ohio) 14. BREAKING: An Urban Meyer-coached team did well against inferior competition from a non-AQ conference! You have read this far, much as we have written this far, just to see Devin Smith’s jaw-dropping one-handed touchdown catch. Here it is. Have a great afternoon. [RECAP | BOX]