Originally Published: September 5, 2010

Week 1 does its job

By Andrea Adelson

We waited more than seven months for the first whistle, for all the heart-stopping and sometimes heartbreaking moments that go with the start of a new season.

Nothing about Week 1 disappointed: Eye-popping plays, superstar players and careless mistakes were made -- a tantalizing appetizer for all the football yet to come.

Shall we start in Ann Arbor? No coach went into the season with more on the line than Michigan's Rich Rodriguez. Uncertainty has engulfed a once-proud football program, and Rodriguez made sure it stayed that way until just before the start of the Connecticut game. He refused to name a starting quarterback, hinting only with a mysterious smile that he had a pretty good idea of who would give his team the best chance to win.

[+] Enlarge
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesRyan Katz and the Oregon State offense had a tough time with TCU's defense.

Pretty good turned into magnificent, as quarterback Denard Robinson proved to be a one-man unstoppable force, gouging the Huskies' defense for 197 yards rushing in a 30-10 victory. Robinson's play gave Wolverines fans everywhere the hope that has been so desperately missing from a program reeling from two straight losing seasons.

Hope found its way to South Bend, too. Brian Kelly began his Notre Dame career with a 23-12 win over Purdue, setting the stage for a huge Week 2 matchup against the Wolverines. It was not exactly pretty, though. The Irish never really played the full spread offense that Kelly has come to master and had more carries than pass attempts.

But the Irish did run the hurry-up, and Dayne Crist was efficient and proficient at it, going 19-of-26 for 205 yards and a touchdown. The Irish may have identified a new star in running back Cierre Wood, who averaged 8.3 yards a carry. Their defense, so maligned in 2009, looked much-improved as it shut down what was supposed to be a newly reinvigorated Purdue offense behind Robert Marve.

There were the usual mistakes that often plague the first week of the season. The center-quarterback exchange looked as complicated as a calculus problem. Florida, North Carolina and Oregon State were among those hurt the worst because of these breakdowns. It cost No. 24 Oregon State a chance to mount a tying drive late in a 30-21 loss to No. 6 TCU.

No. 4 Florida looked totally incoherent on offense without Tim Tebow. The Gators had eight total fumbles and lost three in an ugly 34-12 win over Miami (Ohio). Questions linger over whom the Gators will turn to in short-yardage situations with Tebow gone. Meanwhile, John Brantley went 17-of-25 for 113 yards and two touchdowns, a line that rarely finds a place in any Gators offense.

Plenty of other teams had their struggles. No. 14 USC, which was supposed to have revamped its defense under guru Monte Kiffin, struggled to beat Hawaii 49-36 on Thursday night. No. 7 Oklahoma gave up 421 yards to Utah State in a 31-24 win that came down to the wire.

No. 21 LSU inexplicably allowed a decimated North Carolina team back into a game that was seemingly out of reach at halftime. The Tigers failed to score in the second half, and the Tar Heels chipped away at a 20-point deficit despite missing 13 players.

T.J. Yates threw for 412 yards and brought No. 18 North Carolina down to the 6 with a few seconds left and a chance to win. Two passes went through the hands of receivers, allowing LSU escape 30-24, but not without unsettled doubts about coach Les Miles. North Carolina gave us the gutsiest performance of the weekend in the near upset.

Oh, but there were upsets. North Dakota State beat Kansas 6-3 in a shaky debut for new coach Turner Gill. But the big one came in Oxford, Miss., where Jacksonville State pulled one of the biggest stunners in recent memory, erasing a 21-point halftime deficit to beat Ole Miss 49-48 in double overtime.

You want to talk about gutsy? How about Gamecocks freshman quarterback Coty Blanchard throwing a 30-yard touchdown pass on fourth down in the second overtime? How about coach Jack Crowe going for the two-point conversion and the win? How about Blanchard converting again, finding Calvin Middleton through more gridlock than the 405?

The unexpected always happens. Week 1 just gave us a tasty morsel of the road ahead. Now the stage is set for one of the biggest weekends in college football history.

Get ready for Miami-Ohio State, Penn State-Alabama, Florida State-Oklahoma and Michigan-Notre Dame. Week 2 is nearly here.

Armed and dangerous

By Bruce Feldman
ESPN The Magazine

One of the best things about the start of a new college football season is the emergence of stars; Week 1 was all about the first-time starting quarterback.

That shouldn't have been a huge surprise -- at two major programs (the Florida Gators and Texas Longhorns), new quarterbacks (John Brantley and Garrett Gilbert) debuted.

Instead, though, all the buzz on Sunday morning is about Denard Robinson of the Michigan Wolverines. This guy is so much more than his catchy nickname -- "Shoelace," because he plays without them tied. He's one of the biggest reasons I think Michigan will be a Top 25 program this season.

Connecticut Huskies coach Randy Edsall probably agrees.

"Denard Robinson's going to make people look bad," Edsall told reporters after the game.

Indeed. The team Robinson took it to is a well-coached, physical squad that returned eight starters on D and had been picked by some as a BCS bowl team. This wasn't an FCS team or MAC or Sun Belt bottom-feeder.

I'll stop short of saying that Robinson will transform a team that hasn't been to a bowl game in a couple of years into a BCS title contender this season. But he makes the Wolverines dangerous, and as long as he can stay healthy, they will be a handful for anyone in the Big Ten.

To read the rest of Bruce Feldman's blog, click here. Insider

No quit in Heels

By Heather Dinich

ATLANTA -- By the time North Carolina linebacker Quan Sturdivant had joined his teammates around 10:30 p.m. at their hotel Friday, most of the Tar Heels were already asleep.

Sturdivant, who had just learned Friday afternoon that he had been deemed eligible to play in Saturday night's game against LSU, was one of the few recognizable names on North Carolina's quickly revamped defense, which was missing seven starters as a result of ongoing investigations into possible academic fraud and improper contact with agents.

The Tar Heels' entire starting lineup had been shuffled for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff, one of the biggest games of college football's opening weekend. Their roster was filled with new faces and dependent upon teenagers fresh out of high school. North Carolina's staff burned at least eight redshirts it had no intention of burning two weeks ago, and there were walk-ons who had never played in games before. Yet despite the lack of any continuity in the personnel department, North Carolina somehow managed to establish an identity in its exciting 30-24 loss to LSU.

This is a team that doesn't quit -- no matter who is playing.

"We were depleted as is, and we had some guys go down during the game," quarterback T.J. Yates said. "We had guys who have never played before -- ever -- coming out of high school ball playing against one of the top teams in the country. I'm just so proud of all my teammates stepping up.

To read the rest of Heather Dinich's story, click here.

TCU makes statement

By Ted Miller

ARLINGTON, Texas -- TCU pushed Oregon State around inside the palatial Cowboys Stadium. No getting around that. The sixth-ranked Horned Frogs rushed for 278 yards, which was more than the Beavers' 255 total yards. Oregon State ran just 51 plays; TCU 81.

"Still," the glum head shakes from the Beavers said afterward. They had the ball and a chance with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter, but they made their biggest error of the evening. A miscommunication on a shotgun snap from senior center Alex Linnenkohl to sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz, who was making his first career start, sailed over a surprised Katz's shoulder, which forced Katz to kick the ball through the end zone for a safety.

Those would be the final points -- and the last time the Beavers touched the ball -- in a 30-21 defeat.

"I'm disappointed that we didn't give ourselves a chance on the drive at the end," Beavers coach Mike Riley said.

What happened was this: Oregon State, down seven points, had a first down on its 18-yard line. A draw play was called. Katz saw something he didn't like. He tried to change the play. Linnenkohl didn't get the message and snapped the ball.

The Horned Frogs got two points and the ball, and they didn't give it back.

"The safety was a big deal," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "You go up by nine, and you play the game a lot different."

To read the rest of Ted Miller's story, click here.

The biggest return

By Justin A. Rice
Special to ESPNBoston.com

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Sitting in the Alumni Stadium press box on Saturday afternoon, Sister Barbara Anne Hallman sported a gold Notre Dame wristwatch and a Mark Herzlich button over her heart.

"This is who I'm rooting for," the 75-year-old Franciscan nun from South Bend, Ind., said with a hand covering the button featuring the Boston College linebacker. Herzlich returned to the field for the first time Saturday since being diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing's sarcoma.

"I don't remember the last time I missed a [Notre Dame] game," she continued. "It's worth it."

A cancer survivor herself, Hallman wrote to Herzlich two days after he was diagnosed in May 2009. They have remained friends, and BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo made good on his promise to fly Hallman to the Eagles' home opener, a 38-20 victory over Weber State in front of 35,168 fans.

"That was my goal," Herzlich said of making Hallman miss her first Notre Dame game in roughly 60 years. "She can catch it right now. I think they're beating Purdue 10-3. It was awesome that she got to come out.

"[DeFilippo] always follows through, and he got her out here."

Herzlich, who had a metal rod inserted in his leg last fall after being declared cancer-free, incessantly talked about his goal of finally running through Alumni Stadium's tunnel again -- the timing of which became uncertain when Herzlich hurt his foot before training camp. Last week, Herzlich practiced in pads for the first time since the 2008 Music City Bowl.

When No. 94 finally did sprint out of the tunnel on 9/4 -- as in Sept. 4 -- Hallman was at the lip of the tunnel watching.

"He's such a good man," a blurry-eyed Hallman said. "A lot of good has come from Mark having this problem. Mark had to pay the price, and the rest of us have been the recipients of his hard work."

To read the rest of this story, click here.


You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?