August was not a good month for college football. But what took place on the field Friday and Saturday showed that September will be much, much better.
The offseason was relatively uneventful until scandals engulfed Maryland and Ohio State.
At Maryland, offensive lineman Jordan McNair collapsed after a conditioning workout and later died due to heatstroke. The incident prompted an investigation, and the preliminary results of that investigation were so jarring that it prompted the university to accept legal and moral responsibility for McNair’s death.
But there’s more than one investigation at Maryland. Another was launched to investigate the football program after an explosive ESPN article suggested that the culture of D.J. Durkin’s program was “toxic.” In an interview with Good Morning America, McNair’s mother said she believes the culture ultimately contributed to her son’s death at the age of 19.
At Ohio State, Urban Meyer was suspended three games for his handling of assistant Zach Smith, who, among myriad misconducts that would result in most assistants across the country getting fired, has been investigated for abusing his wife on several occasions.
Those are the kinds of things that leave you feeling uneasy and wondering why you love college football so much.
But then the games show up, and you remember what you love so much about this silly, amazing sport.
It’s a sport where the aforementioned Terrapins can upset mighty Texas for the second year in a row, and wave a flag with their fallen teammate’s number in triumph.
It’s a sport where schools like Utah State and Appalachian State can fearlessly march into East Lansing or State College, and come so damn close to ruining the seasons of Michigan State and Penn State before they even got off the ground. App State lost in overtime. It was a game 11 years to the day after the Mountaineers’ upset of Michigan in 2007.
It’s a sport where Boise State’s defensive players, if they cause a turnover, get to sit in a massive throne on the sideline, where they’ll hilariously get fanned by teammates. Or where Tulane players now wear beads to celebrate the same accomplishment.
It’s a sport where you may find yourself cheering for Howard or Nicholls or James Madison, even if you know nothing about those schools or even where they are located. It’s just fun to see an FCS school knock off an FBS opponent.
So there is good in college football. Plenty of it. We just needed the games to remind us.
Kirk Ferentz: Congratulations on becoming the winningest coach in Iowa history, Kirk. The Hawkeyes led just 3-0 at halftime against Northern Illinois but scored 30 points in the second half to cruise to a 33-7 win on Saturday. The victory was Ferentz’s 144th at Iowa, the most of any coach at the school. After the game, right tackle Levi Paulson said there were some tears.
“Quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends — the whole nine yards. Everybody was crying,” Paulson told Hawk Central. “I think everybody realizes that the University of Iowa is a special place. The culture that Coach Ferentz has [built] and sustained over time is just second to none.”
T.J. Vasher: Look at this catch by the Texas Tech wide receiver. Damn.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 1, 2018
Unfortunately for Vasher and Texas Tech, Ole Miss cruised and beat the Red Raiders.
Cody Thompson: This punt block has to be seen to believed.
— BCSN (@BCSNsports) September 2, 2018
Thompson is officially credited with a three-yard punt return touchdown. It happened in the first quarter of Toledo’s 66-3 win over the Virginia Military Institute.
Keytaon Thompson: The Mississippi State QB made his first and potentially only start of the season on Saturday thanks to Nick Fitzgerald’s Week 1 suspension. He did not disappoint against Stephen F. Austin. Thompson threw for 364 yards, rushed for 109 yards and had seven total touchdowns. Five of them were passing and two were rushing.
Kyler Murray: The successor to Baker Mayfield did alright in Oklahoma’s drubbing of Florida Atlantic. Murray was a tidy 9-of-11 passing for 209 yards and two touchdowns in addition to rushing for 23 yards. He wasn’t needed for much of the latter part of the game after Oklahoma led 42-0 at halftime. The Sooners ended up winning 63-14 and looked every bit as formidable as they did a year ago with the Heisman winner at QB. That’s scary for the rest of the Big 12.
Kyler Murray is COOKIN pic.twitter.com/pCvS3kKcUI
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 1, 2018
The Iowa wave is back and it feels so good.
The best tradition in college football is back!
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 1, 2018
Kansas: A team that is so very familiar with this column over the years finds itself here again. We really thought Kansas would beat FCS opponent Nicholls on Saturday night but it was not to be. Even as Kansas recovered a fumbled Nicholls punt in the second half and also blocked a punt.
Nicholls kicked a field goal with 47 seconds left to force the game to overtime at 20-20. Kansas opened overtime with a field goal of its own but gave up a Nicholls TD to lose 26-23. The Jayhawks travel to Central Michigan and host Rutgers before Big 12 play begins. Both of those games looked winnable before Week 1. Now? Oh boy.
Nicholls beats Kansas. pic.twitter.com/dsNaZlZRIj
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) September 2, 2018
Kansas coach David Beaty’s comments after the game didn’t exactly inspire confidence either.
"[Our] team is going to continue to work towards the goals set…We knew going in that this was going to be a tough football team. We knew that it was going to take everything we had." – Beaty on Nicholls
— Kansas Football (@KU_Football) September 2, 2018
North Carolina: Things aren’t looking too good for the Tar Heels. Maybe because America is in decline.
OK, that sentence is a bad joke about Larry Fedora’s comments at ACC media days. But his Tar Heels lost 24-17 at Cal on Saturday in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. North Carolina was decimated by injuries in 2017 and is decimated by suspensions in 2018 for players selling team-issued shoes. Another terrible season in Chapel Hill could find Fedora on the hot seat.
Nebraska-Akron and South Dakota State-Iowa State: Both games were cancelled because of thunderstorms and no rescheduled dates were announced. They were the latest games delayed by weather on Saturday. Ohio State’s game vs. Oregon State was delayed at halftime, Texas and Maryland were delayed in the second half and so was West Virginia and Tennessee.
The game vs. Akron has been cancelled. We will open our season against Colorado next Saturday.
— Nebraska Huskers (@Huskers) September 2, 2018
Colorado State and New Mexico State: Week 1 still has two games to go and the Rams and Aggies are both 0-2. Colorado State has given up 88 points over the first two games in losses to Hawaii and Colorado. Both of those were in-state games as well. The Rams can’t use travel as an excuse like NMSU can. After losing to Wyoming in Week 0, New Mexico State traveled to Minnesota to lose on Thursday night. It could be a long season for the programs who each went to bowl games in 2017.
Texas Tech’s defense: This year was supposed to be different for the Red Raiders. With 10 returning starters on a defense that improved by 11 points per game in 2017, Tech was going to be a team that stopped opponents on a fairly regular basis. Ha. Ole Miss beat the Red Raiders 47-27 and had three touchdowns of over 30 yards. If Tech wants to be competitive in the Big 12, Week 1 has to be an aberration and not a regression to the mean established in previous seasons.
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