The 2020 college football season opened for eleven Atlantic Coast Conference teams last week.
Miami opened the week with an impressive 31-14 win over UAB while Pittsburgh and Louisville also handled their non-conference foes. The Panthers defeated Austin Peay and the Cardinals used a big second quarter on the way to a win over Western Kentucky.
In conference action Clemson left little doubt as to why the Tigers entered the season as the nation’s top-ranked team by cruising past Wake Forest. Notre Dame made history in its win over Duke as the Irish won a conference game for the first time in the 123-year history of football at the school.
Georgia Tech and North Carolina also posted wins to open conference play.
‘Canes Roll to 31-14 Triumph in Opener
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Trusted veterans Cam’Ron Harris and Brevin Jordan got plenty of support from a pair of new faces to help Miami roll to a 31-14 triumph over UAB in the season opener for the Hurricanes Sept. 10 at Hard Rock Stadium.
UAB, which downed Central Arkansas 45-35 in its season opener on Sept. 3, lost for the first time this season.
Harris scored on a four-yard run with 4:02 remaining in the third quarter and Jordan caught a short pass from newcomer D’Eriq King from four yards out on the final play of the period for what proved to be the final points of the game.
Jose Borregales booted a 25-yard field goal earlier in the quarter as the Hurricanes extended its 14-7 halftime lead to 17-7 which proved to be more than enough for the Blazers to recover from.
UAB’s Spencer Brown scored on a six-yard run with 6:19 to go in the third to pull his team to within 17-14. But it was all Miami from that point.
The visiting Blazers took the early lead in the game when they recovered a muffed punt and turned it into points two plays later when quarterback Tyler Johnson threw a 16-yard scoring strike to Austin Watkins. Matt Quinn connected on the conversion gave UAB the 7-0 lead with 2:40 remaining in the opening period.
The lead quickly evaporated when Harris ran for a career-long 66-yard touchdown run just over one minute later for the first of his two touchdowns on the night. The scoring jaunt came on a fourth-and-one situation.
King, a redshirt senior who transferred from Houston, gave the Hurricanes the lead for good by scoring on a 12-yard run with 10:04 left in the half that put Miami in front 14-7. The play capped a six-play, 64-yard drive that saw King escape a would-be tackler and finding Dee Wiggins on the sideline for 11 yards before providing a key downfield block for Harris on a 15-yard run before running the ball in himself on the very next play.
Miami finished the game with 492 yards of total offense and its defense forced the Blazers to punt 11 times in the game.
Harris led the Hurricanes with 134 yards rushing on 17 carries and the two touchdowns. He also added four pass receptions for 10 yards to finish with 144 yards on the day.
King completed 16 of 24 passes for 144 yards and one touchdown in his Miami debut. The former Houston standout also ran the ball 12 times for 83 yards.
Jordan, meanwhile, finished the day with three receptions for 51 and the one score.
Linebacker Bradley Jennings led the Miami defense with six (2 solo) tackles on the night while safety Amari Carter and Nesta Jade Silvera, a defensive lineman, each had five total tackles in the game.
Heralded graduate transfer Quincy Roche (Temple) tallied four (3 solo) tackles, including the first sack of his Miami career.
Brown finished with 74 yards on the ground on 16 carries to lead the Blazers in that department. UAB finished the game with just 80 yards rushing in the game.
Johnston split time at quarterback with Bryson Lucero. Johnston finished with 150 passing yards after completing 15 of 24 passes and Lucero added 55 yards (4-11).
Despite the loss to the Hurricanes Myron Mitchell and Noah Wilder both had career days for UAB.
Mitchell finished with eight catches for 117 yards on the day. Both were career-highs, while Wilder notched a career-high 15 (7 solo) tackles.
Top-Ranked Clemson Showcases Offense
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne provided the spark and the Clemson proved why it is the top-ranked team in the nation as the Tigers opened the season with an impressive 37-13 win over Wake Forest on Sept. 12 in Winston-Salem.
It was the sixth straight win to open a season for Clemson.
Lawrence scored Clemson’s first touchdown of the season for a second straight year when ran in from two yards out to cap a nine-play drive that covered 92 yards. He added a one-yard burst later in the period to extend the Clemson lead to 14-0.
It marked the first time in his career he had multiple rushing touchdowns in a game.
Lawrence, who is expected to be the No.1 pick in next year’s NFL Draft, ended the 2020 opener with 351 passing yards on 22 of 28 passing. He threw a 12-yard scoring pass to tight end J.C. Chalk with 1:21 left in the first half to extend the Clemson lead to 24-0. It was the first score of Chalk’s career.
Etienne finished the game with 106 rushing yards on 16 carries. He scored on a two-yard run in the third quarter that pushed the Clemson lead to 34-3 at the time.
It was the 18th 100-yard rushing performance in Etienne’s career in Death Valley and surpassed the previous school record of 17 100-yard games held by Wayne Gallman (2014-16).
Amari Rodgers led Clemson receivers with five catches for 90 yards.
K.J. Henry, a Winston-Salem native, had one of Clemson’s six sacks on the night. He and the rest of the Tiger defense held the Demon Deacons without a touchdown until 2:34 remaining in the game.
Nick Sciba kicked field goals of 39 and 42 yards earlier in the half to account for Wake Forest’s other points in the game.
Quarterback Sam Hartman completed 11 of 21 passes for 182 yards in the game. He was sacked four times in the contest. Backup quarterback Mitch Griffis threw the only touchdown pass in the game for Wake Forest. He connected with Taylor Morin on a 1-yard pass late in the game. It was the first TD pass of Griffis’ career and was the first scoring reception for Morin, who finished with nine catches for 93 yards in the game to lead Wake Forest in receiving.
The Demon Deacons were limited to just 37 rushing yards in the game. Christian Beal Smith led the way with 29 yards on 11 carries and teammate Kenneth Walker added 19 yards on six carries.
History Made in South Bend
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – It took more than 100 years but Notre Dame finally collected its first-ever conference win with a 27-13 win over Duke on Sept. 12 in front of 10,097 fans inside Notre Dame Stadium.
Kyren Williams, a sophomore running back, ran for 112 yards and added 93 additional yards through the air to lead the Irish offense.
Williams became the first Irish player in 25 years to have at least 90 yards rushing and receiving in the same game. It was the first career start for Williams.
Duke grabbed the early lead on its second possession of the game. Charlie Ham’s 29-yard field goal gave the Blue Devils a 3-0 lead with 7:01 left in the first period.
Williams scored his first touchdown of the game at 10:39 of the second quarter when he ran in from one-yard out to give Notre Dame the lead. The Irish would never relinquish that lead.
Ham connected on his second field goal, this one from 30 yards away, with 3:20 left in the half and Notre Dame’s Jonathan Doerer’s 48-yard field goal as time expired put the Irish in front 10-6 at the intermission.
Williams ran in from 26 yards out for his second score of the game midway through the third period as Notre Dame extended its lead to 17-6.
The pesky Blue Devils would not go away quietly. Quarterback Chase Brice rushed in from two yards away to help Duke close to within 17-13 with 2:19 remaining in the third period.
Ian Book connected with Avery Davis for a 17-yard scoring pass in the final quarter and Doerer added a 34-yard field goal to close the scoring for the Irish.
Book through for 263 yards on 19 of 31 passing for the Irish.
Deon Jackson led the Blue Devils with 52 yards rushing while Brice, who completed 20 of 37 passes for 259 yards, chipped in with 20 yards on nine carries.
Kelley’s Boot Lifts Tech Past ‘Noles
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Mother Nature did her best to slow Georgia Tech and Florida State’s defense shut down the Ramblin’ Wreck for two quarters. But in the end neither was enough.
Jude Kelley booted a 32-yard field goal with 8:32 to go in the game gave Tech its first lead of the game and the GT defense the rest as the Yellow Jackets opened the season with a 16-13 win on Sept. 12.
The start of the game was delayed because of lightning and was stopped again in the first half. The two delays lasted one hour and 48 minutes and took more than five hours to complete.
After falling behind 10-0 in the first half Georgia Tech began its comeback when Jordan Mason ran in from 19 yards out and Kelly connected on the PAT to pull to within 10-7 with 6:13 left in the third quarter.
FSU responded later in the period when Parker Grothaus booted a 53-yard field goal for a 13-7 advantage with 1:04 remaining in the quarter.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Yellow Jacks.
Malachi Carter tied the game when he scored on a 15-yard pass from Jeff Sims with 13:17 left in regulation. The PAT was blocked by the ‘Noles and the two teams were tied setting the stage for the dramatic finish.
On the ensuing FSU possession Ryans sacked Blackman and causing a fumble that was recovered by linebacker David Curry and returned 19 yards. Four plays later Kelley booted what proved to be the game-winner.
Florida State had taken its 10-0 lead in the first half on a three-yard pass from James Blackman to Keyshawn Helton midway through the first quarter. A 37-yard field goal from Grothaus with 1:36 left in the first quarter pushed the Seminole lead to 10-0.
Sims, a true freshman, racked up 341 yards of total offense in his collegiate debut. He completed 24 of 35 passes for 277 yards and the TD pass to Carter. Sims, who was picked off twice in the first half, also ran for a game-high 64 yards on 13 carries for the Yellow Jackets. Mason chipped in with 54 yards for the victors.
Carter led Georgia Tech with 66 yards on six receptions and teammate Jalen Camp caught five passes for 57 yards.
Tech amassed 438 yards of total offense on the day compared to 307 for the Seminoles.
Blackman, who started the 24th game of his career, ended the day completing 23 of 43 passes for 198 yards and one touchdown. La’Danian Webb led FSU on the ground with 39 yards in his FSU debut and running back Jashaun Corbin led the receivers with eight catches for 55 yards.
No. 18 Tar Heels Downs Orange
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Javonte Williams ran for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter as a slow-starting North Carolina overcame plenty of mistakes earlier in the contest to defeat Syracuse 31-6 in an empty home stadium.
It was the season opener for both teams.
North Carolina, which was ranked No. 18 in the preseason Associated Press poll, opened the scoring in the first period on an 11-yard pass from Sam Howell to Garrett Walston with 10:49 remaining in the period.
Syracuse’s Andre Szmyt booted a 37-yard field goal with 10:43 left in the first half the first points of the game for the Orange. He added a 24-yard kick in the third quarter to pull his team to within 7-6.
It was all North Carolina after that.
Grayson Atkins’ 31-yard field goal extended the UNC lead to 10-6.
Williams scored on runs of one, six and six in the final period of play for the Tar Heels. He finished with 57 yards rushing on 14 carries for the Tar Heels. Teammate Michael Carter led all ball carriers with 78 yards on seven carries and he added 60 yards on six pass receptions for 138 yards of total offense in the game.
Quarterback Sam Howell completed 25 of 34 passes for 295 yards and the one TD pass. He was sacked twice by the Orange.
Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito completed just 13 of 31 passes for 112 yards in the game and was sacked seven times by the Tar Heels. He was also the leading rusher for Syracuse with 30 yards on 16 carries in the game. Jawhar Jordan was held to just 26 yards on 14 carries in the contest.
Panthers Claw Governors 55-0
PITTSBURGH, Penn. – Kenny Pickett threw for one touchdown and ran for another at Pittsburgh scored on each of its first six possessions on the way to a convincing 55-0 win over Austin Peay on Sept. 12 at Heinz Field.
It was Pitt’s first shutout since 2014. The two teams agreed to play 10-minute quarters in the second half after the Panthers had rolled to a 42-0 halftime lead.
Pickett finished the game with 14 completions on 20 pass attempts for 277 yards. He completed passes to seven difference receivers in the game.
Pitt started the game with a Paris Ford interception of an Austin Peay pass that set up the first Panther score on a 1-yard plunge by Daniel Carter. Pickett capped Pitt’s next drive with a 68-yard pass to Shocky Jacques-Louis and then scampering in from six yards out moments later.
Freshman Jordan Addison was Pickett’s favorite receiver on the day. Addison caught seven passes for 35 yards.
DJ Turner, who scored on a 51-yard pass from Pickett on Pitt’s third possession, led the Panther receivers with 76 catches on two catches and Jaylon Barden caught one pass for 68 yards.
The Governors, the defending co-champions of the Ohio Valley Conference, were held to just 137 yards of total offense. Jeremy Oatsvall completed seven of 18 passes for 96 yards in the game and backup QB Kam Williams completed nine of his 15 passes for 40 yards in the game. AP was held to just one yard rushing by the Panthers.
Cunningham Sparks Cardinals Past Hilltoppers
LOUISVILLE, Ken. – Micale Cunningham threw for three touchdowns and added another of his own on the ground as Louisville opened the season with a 35-21 triumph over in-state rival Western Kentucky on Sept. 12 at Cardinal Stadium.
The visiting Hilltoppers opened the scoring when Gaej Walker scored on a one-yard run following a fumbled snap on a punt attempt by the Cardinals.
But Louisville regrouped nicely and scored on four of its next five drives, including three scores in the second quarter to build a 28-7 halftime lead.
Cunningham complete a 14-yard pass to tight end Ean Pfeifer that tied the game with 10:57 remaining in the first period.
The high-scoring second period saw Cunningham score on a 14-yard run and teammate Javian Hawkins running in from 19 yards. Cunningham later hooked up with Marshon Ford on a short pass of two yards to close the first half.
Louisville held a 337-120 lead in total offense at the intermission and finished the game with 487 yards of offense compared to just 248 for the Hilltoppers.
Cunningham finished the game with 343 yards through the air after completing 19 of 34 passes and the three touchdowns.
Dez Fitzpatrick and Braden Smith both caught four passes for 110 yards in the game for the Cardinals. Fitzpatrick scored on a 70-yard pass play in the third quarter. Tutu Atwell finished with seven catches for 78 yards. Ford caught two passes for three yards and the 28-yard scoring reception was the lone catch in the game for Pfeifer.
Tyrrell Pigrom, a graduate transfer from Maryland, completed 10 of 23 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown and added a team-high 68 yards rushing on 17 carries in the game.
Jahcour Pearson caught five passes for 67 yards to lead WKU in that department. Mitchell Tinsley added three catches for 38 yards. He scored on a 12-yard pass from Pigrom with just over five minutes left in the game that proved to be the final points.
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.