Three things we learned from college football in Week 1
We're back, baby. College football returned, providing some exciting plays but also a reminder that it's Week 1. With everything going on in the country, a return to sports is what some people needed. Some teams surprised us, while others struggled to get going. One of the best parts about this weekend: the Group of 5 exposure.
Whether you're a fan of these teams or not, you can't complain that college football was there to watch. Good football can be found at any level, and we saw plenty of evidence proving that this weekend. Oh, and BYU faces Navy tomorrow. We're not done yet friends. For now, here are three things we learned from Thursday and Saturday.
Sun Belt surprises
Turns out the Sun Belt isn't messing around this year. It started Thursday, when South Alabama traveled to Hattiesburg, Mississsippi and made a statement with a 32-21 win over Southern Miss. The Jaguars didn't waste any time getting started, as Desmond Trotter found Jalen Tolbert, who turned a short pass into a 73-yard touchdown. Trotter finished the game with 299 yards and two touchdowns passing, while Tolbert caught just six passes, but turned them into 169 yards and two touchdowns. South Alabama won two games last year, but Steve Campbell might have them headed in the right direction. Same can be said for two other teams Saturday.
Both Texas State and Arkansas State lost their games this weekend, but they easily could have won. The Bobcats and quarterback Brady McBride took SMU to the brink before eventually falling 31-24. Turnovers ultimately cost them, but they gave themselves a chance. Jake Spavital's team won three games last year, but it looks like they'll beat that mark if this type of play continues.
The Red Wolves faced the defending AAC champions in Memphis, and turnovers also cost them. With Logan Bonner and Layne Hatcher battling it out at quarterback, some thought the Red Wolves offense might struggle the entire game. But it was the skill players that hurt them towards the end of the game. A simple completion turned into a fumble recovery for Memphis, and the next drive saw a 5'10" corner wrestle away a pass from a 6'5" receiver. That helped Memphis extend their lead from 27-17 to 37-17, and that was enough. Arkansas State needed to play a near perfect game, but came up short. However, the mistakes they made are fixable, and a team that's going to contend for the Sun Belt title now knows what they must do to win big games.
Marshall found their guy
An interesting offseason for the Thundering Herd resulted in starting quarterback Isaiah Green transferring. Until he didn't. Or did he? Green's status remains a question, but Marshall didn't have time to wait and figure it out. They moved on to a new guy, and the offense thrived Saturday.
Grant Wells made his first start for the Thundering Herd, and made quite the first impression. Throwing for 307 yards with four touchdowns, Wells did most of his damage in the first half against Eastern Kentucky. Marshall went up 38-0 at halftime, and cruised to a 59-0 win. Wells' impact on the game was evident, and while we don't want to overreact to a blowout over an FCS team, the offense appears to be more explosive with him running it. With Conference USA expected to already be competitive for the title, Marshall appears to add their name to the list.
Clock Management: kind of important
Seems self explanatory, right? Apparently not. Nothing went right for Middle Tennessee this weekend against Army, but the clock management mishap at the end of the first half tops the list. With 45 seconds and two timeouts left, the Blue Raiders faced 1st and goal in the red zone. Two plays were run, no timeouts were taken, and the clock ran out with Middle Tennessee scoring zero points. Rick Stockstill's been coaching for a long time, but that series wasn't his finest moment.
Middle Tennessee had plenty of issues Saturday, even without that issue. Army rushed for 340 yards (5.5 ypc) and five touchdowns on the Blue Raiders. Middle Tennessee only produced 184 total yards, and needed two quarterbacks to do it. Asher O'Hara got the start, but a combination of poor blocking and bad decisions forced him to the bench. Chase Cunningham took over but didn't change much. It was tough start for the Blue Raiders, and a great one for the Black Knights. Makes you think what Army could have done if they still were going to play Oklahoma this year.