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#Nuggets: True freshmen lead huge comebacks, a crushing Oregon loss and Mack is back


An absolutely crushing loss for No. 11 Oregon. Oregon flew to Dallas with a chance to, if not erase, at least exorcise a couple of demons in one game: the 2010 BCS National Championship loss to Auburn, and its 0-2 record inside AT&T Stadium. Instead, the Ducks are flying home with new ones.

Saturday night actually started quite well for the Ducks. They scored on their first possession and completely controlled the game early, running 23 plays for 176 yards and nine first downs. They led 14-3 in the first quarter and 21-6 in the third.

Basically, it was this.

Hidden within that lead were two massive blown opportunities, looming like plot points in a Stephen King novel you just knew were going to come back to haunt them. There was one trip to the Auburn goal line where Oregon dropped a third-and-goal pass, then missed a chip shot field goal. Then, in the second quarter, Oregon set up shop at the Auburn 9 after an 81-yard punt return but immediately fumbled it away on a botched backfield exchange. So, with their deficit 21-6 instead of 35-6, Auburn and true freshman quarterback Bo Nix started chipping away. An 11-yard pass from Nix to Eli Stove pulled Auburn within 21-13, and a 1-yard Joey Gatewood plunge made it a 1-point game with 9:48 left. Now trailing 21-20, Auburn forced a turnover on downs at midfield but punted it back, then forced an Oregon punt to take over at its own 40 with 2:05 to play, but the drive nearly ended before it began. A 4th-and-3 scramble by Nix went for three yards and two inches, putting Auburn at midfield with half its available time already gone. Heck, with 26 seconds left Auburn had a 3rd-and-10 at its own 39, meaning an incomplete pass would force a 56-yard field goal. That field goal proved unnecessary. Nix hit Seth Williams for 13 yards to pick up the first down, then hit him again for 26 yards, the score and the win.

For Oregon, it's hard to overstate how devastating this loss is for their national championship hopes. No team has gone undefeated in the Pac-12's 8-year championship game era, and no 2-loss team has ever reached the College Football Playoff. And what are the odds of the committee breaking precedent to take a 2-loss Pac-12 champion with a loss in its only major non-conference game? Bryan Harsin and Boise State taught a master class in dealing with adversity. Boise State planned to play Florida State in Jacksonville on Saturday night. Mother Nature determined they'd actually play in Tallahassee at noon. Their Friday practice was cancelled due to lightning. They faced second quarter deficits of 24-6 and 31-13. Through it all they kept playing. Harsin didn't panic, bypassing opportunities to go for panicky fourth down attempts and instead kicked field goals, pulling the Broncos within 31-19 by halftime. And then, when the sun climbed high in the sky and the Southern air got muggy, it was the Mountain West team from the Pacific Northwest that pushed around the ACC team from Florida. The Boise State defense limited Florida State to 46 yards on 32 snaps after Florida State scored its third and final touchdown, while the Bronco offense pounded out 106 plays for 621 yards. They possessed the ball for 40:03 and gained 38 first downs. True freshman threw 51 passes for 407 yards, taking numerous shots in the process, in his first start. It was every bit a vintage Boise State performance.

For Willie Taggart it's yet another Opening Day debacle. The actual process of getting there was completely different than Florida State's 24-3 flattening at Virginia Tech's hand on Labor Day of 2018, but the end result may be worse. Taggart is now 5-8 as Florida State's head coach. It was the first time since 1955 a Florida State team scored at least 30 points in the first half and was shutout in the second, per ESPN. New offensive coordinator Kendal Briles appeared aware he would have to take the game out of his offensive line's hands as much as possible, but even still Boise State sacked James Blackman four times. I still think 2019 Florida State will be better than the 2018 edition, especially as Briles adjusts further to the reality of this offensive line, but still. The only bigger gutpunch than being outscored 23-0 over the course of a game is when you're outscored 23-0 after taking a 31-13 lead. Mack is back. Speaking of comebacks, North Carolina and its true freshman quarterback trotted on the field at the 1:47 mark of the third quarter with a 20-9 deficit and the ball on their own 2. But Sam Howell and the Tar Heels' offense simply caught fire from there, piecing together consecutive drives that covered a combined 193 yards -- that's seven yards shy of two complete football fields -- in 14 plays to take a 24-20 lead. In fact, on those two drives UNC averaged 13.8 yards a play and scored 15 points; on their 11 remaining possessions the Heels gained 4.7 yards a play and scored nine points. After that, Jay Batman's defense simply took over. In fact, North Carolina's defense dominated most of the second half. South Carolina's last six possessions: -- three-and-out -- punt -- three-and-out -- interception -- interception -- end of game All in all, it was enough to secure Mack Brown's first win since Nov. 28, 2013 -- against his former defensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting. He ran the gamut of emotion afterward.

If you have a chance to win the game on one play, take it. For 60 minutes plus 21 plays, Northern Iowa played a near perfect game. The Panthers struggled to muster much offense, but so will everyone against Iowa State's defense. Still, they successfully flustered Iowa State attack, even turning a Brock Purdy fumble into a UNI touchdown, and they turned away a 17-play, 7-minute, would-be-game-winning drive, forcing Iowa State to settle for an overtime-forcing field goal. The teams traded field goals in the first overtime, and Iowa State found the end zone in the top of the second, meaning UNI had to match that or lose. The Panthers converted a 4th-and-3 from the Iowa State 18-yard line to keep the game alive, then found the end zone three plays later. Given the chance to kick or go for two and the win, UNI head coach Mark Farley elected to kick. I write this not as an impartial observer rooting for entertainment while completely insulated from the outcome (though, it must be said, that is true): the answer is always to go for two and the win, particularly when you're an underdog playing on the road. As the great Herm Edwards once said, the point is to have more points than the other team, not an equal amount. Kicking an extra point requires your team to be better than the opponent for two additional plays at an absolute minimum, and a maximum of, well, infinity. College football overtimes can go on, literally, forever. But if you go for two, you just have to win one more play. Think about it: the longer a game goes, the greater the chance the superiorly talented team will see that superior talent win out. But the shorter the game, the greater a chance the underdog has. Heck, in a 1-play game, UNI could beat the New England Patriots in a 1-play game. Yes, it's a roll of the dice to put the entire outcome on one play, but you're also rolling the dice by kicking. You're betting your defense can get another stop, betting your offense can score another touchdown, all while increasing the possibility of disaster -- a busted coverage, a snap over the quarterback's head, a backbreaking penalty. And what's the bigger gamble: betting your team can win one play or five, or 12, or 20? But while UNI kicked the extra point, and then kicked again, a field goal to open the third overtime. Iowa State, so favored by the football gods at that point that they fumbled the ball on a 3rd-and-1 from the UNI 2 and not only recovered, but converted that fumble into a first down, scored a touchdown to secure a 29-26 win on their next possession. It just means more, eh? One hundred thirty programs play FBS football, and it's not every Saturday you can watch a game and definitively say, "That was the biggest win in school history." But every once in a while we get Georgia State 38, Tennessee 30. Georgia State began playing football in 2010 and joined FBS in 2013. The program owns one bowl victory, a 27-17 defeat of Western Kentucky in the 2017 Cure Bowl, and three victories over rival Georgia Southern. The Panthers entered Saturday 0-11 lifetime against Power 5 programs; those 11 losses came by an average of five touchdowns. But Shawn Elliott's team walked into Neyland Stadium and played like they owned the place. The Panthers forced a fumble on the first play of the game, then immediately took a 7-0 lead. They remained in the game throughout, pulling even at 14-14 in the second quarter, ahead 21-17 in the third and then ahead for good in the fourth, scoring 17 points in a 6-minute span to turn a 23-21 hole into a 38-23 lead. (Tennessee pulled within eight thanks to a touchdown with two seconds left.) They rushed for 213 yards to Tennessee's 93. They sacked Jarrett Guarantano four times. Afterward, Georgia State celebrated like they owned the place.


The Super 16. The Nuggets is once again honored to vote in the FWAA-Super 16 ballot. Here's this week's ballot, acknowledging Oklahoma and Notre Dame haven't played yet.

  1. Clemson
  2. Georgia
  3. Alabama
  4. LSU
  5. Ohio State
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Notre Dame
  8. Texas
  9. Utah
  10. Michigan
  11. Penn State
  12. Washington
  13. Texas A&M
  14. Auburn
  15. Wisconsin
  16. UCF

Odds and Ends

a. Penn State and Maryland were downright rude hosts. Maryland beat Howard 79-0 and Penn State beat Idaho 79-7.

b. Hugh Freeze coached Liberty from a hospital bed inside the Williams Stadium press box. Truly a bizarre sight.

c. Keep Bob Davie in your thoughts as you read this. He was taken by ambulance to an Albuquerque after New Mexico's win over Sam Houston State.

d. Funniest tweet of the week, bar none. (They were being funny here, right?) Kansas came from behind to beat Indiana State, 24-17.

e. We mentioned this above, but game balls are in order for three true freshmen quarterbacks:

  • Hank Bachmeier: 30-of-51 for 407 yards with a touchdown and an interception in leading Boise State from a 31-13 deficit to a 36-31 win at Florida State
  • Sam Howell: 15-of-24 for 245 yards with two touchdowns and no picks in leading North Carolina from a 20-9 deficit to a 24-20 win over South Carolina in Charlotte
  • Bo Nix: 13-of-31 for 177 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions plus 42 rushing yards in leading Auburn from a 21-6 deficit to a 27-21 win over Oregon in Dallas.

This is Auburn running back Boobee Whitlow talking about Nix specifically, but you'll find lots of nodding heads in all three locker rooms.

And this is an I-don't-know-any-better throw from Howell that happened to work out.

f. It was a bad, bad day for the bottom half of the SEC West. In addition to Tennessee's loss to Georgia State and South Carolina's blown lead to North Carolina, Missouri lost to Wyoming. Also, Memphis scored a 15-10 win over Ole Miss. g. Speaking of the SEC East, Alabama draws both Tennessee and South Carolina this season. In fact, nine of Alabama's 12 regular season games come against these opponents:

  • Duke
  • New Mexico State
  • South Carolina
  • Southern Miss
  • Ole Miss
  • Tennessee
  • Arkansas
  • Mississippi State
  • Western Carolina

It's (almost) always dumb to make Playoff proclamations in Week 1, but if Alabama doesn't win the SEC they shouldn't sniff the Playoff with this schedule. h. Game 1 of the (full) Ryan Day experience at Ohio State: a 45-21 defeat of Florida Atlantic where the Buckeyes led 28-0 barely eight minutes into the game. Justin Fields accounted for 295 yards and five touchdowns.

i. Game 1 of the Josh Gattis experience at Michigan: a 40-21 win over Middle Tennessee in which Shea Patterson threw for 203 yards and three touchdowns on 29 attempts and eight different runners combined for 233 yards and two scores on 45 carries.

j. Game 1 of the Graham Harrell experience at USC: a 31-23 win over Fresno State in which JT Daniels completed 25-of-34 passes for 215 yards with a touchdown and an interception... and then suffered what appears to be a serious knee injury at the end of the first half.

k. Game 1 of the Joe Brady experience at LSU: Joe Burrow was 23-of-27 for 278 yards and five touchdowns while Clyde Edwards-Helaire led the Tigers with nine carries for 45 yards and a touchdown in a 55-3 win over Georgia Southern.

l. Will Healy won his opener at Charlotte and was incredibly subdued afterward.

m. Presented without comment: San Diego State 6, Weber State 0.

n. Wisconsin beat South Florida 49-0 on Friday night. After starting 17-2 at USF, Charlie Strong has now dropped seven straight.

o. Shout out to the Mountain West. One full week into the season and the conference has scored wins over the Pac-12, the Big Ten, the SEC and the ACC.

o. Catch of the Week?

p. Or no?

r. Anthony Gordon transferred to Washington State and appeared in two games over his first three years with the program. He waited a lonnnng time to start, and in Start 1 he went 29-of-35 for 420 yards with five touchdowns and no picks in a 58-7 win over New Mexico State.


The game of the week you didn't see came Friday night on CBS Sports Network.

Nevada rallied from deficits of 24-7 and 31-14 to pull even at 31-all with 52 seconds left, intercepted Purdue quarterback Elijah Sindlear, setting up this.

And then this.

Good to have you back, college football.