6 Takeaways from the 1st Night of College Football 2013
College football blitzed back into action with all the fury of an unblocked end racing off the edge. An offseason of tumult already seems a distant memory, courtesy of an exciting first night.
Vanderbilt-Ole Miss and Utah-Utah State were more than adequate appetizers for the Week 1 main course on Saturday. The Rebels and Utes mounted the kind of raucous rallies typically reserved for midseason.
Opening night also featured a premature eulogy for a Heisman Trophy candidacy.
Buckle in, college football fans. Just one day is in the books, but the bar has already been set high.
Jadeveon Clowney's Heisman Hype
When South Carolina kicked off the 2013 college football season against North Carolina, the date was Aug. 29. Yet, enough banter about the Heisman Trophy persisted on social media and the ESPN game broadcast to provide a late-November feel.
Color commentator David Pollack raised questions about Clowney's conditioning, as the junior spent plays on the sidelines. That launched questioning of Clowney's Heisman legitimacy.
More than just conditioning issues limited Clowney's production. He told reporters in his postgame press conference he was battling a stomach virus Wednesday.
Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora also crafted a game plan that sent numerous chip blocks and double-teams at the Gamecocks end, though his team still fell 27-10.
Defensive players face a more difficult road to the Heisman than their offensive counterparts, and the immediate dismissal of Clowney's candidacy is insight as to why.
Do You Believe in Joe Tessitore Magic?
Don't tell college football fans magic doesn't exist. Viewers of ESPN's Friday night showcases in recent years were already well aware of Joe Tessitore's brand of magic, and Thursday's Ole Miss-Vanderbilt matchup was a reminder.
Rebels running back Jeff Scott responded just seconds after Austyn Carta-Samuels and Jordan Matthews put Vanderbilt ahead 35-32. His 75-yard end-zone scamper elicited a "Great Scott" call from Tessitore, channeling his inner Doc Brown. Ole Miss ended up winning 39-35.
The 2013 campaign may have just begun, but Tessitore magic is in midseason form.
Ole Miss has also regained the stride with which it ended 2012. The Rebels reached and won a bowl game in Hugh Freeze's debut campaign.
A top-flight freshman class—including wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who caught nine passes for 82 yards—has hopes high in Oxford. The Rebels are off to the right start in the always treacherous SEC, and Vanderbilt is now left to play catch-up.
Chuckie Keeton Is Super, Even in Defeat
No confirmation yet on Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton's favorite film of this past summer, though his performance on Thursday had him emulating the Man of Steel.
Keeton finished with 314 yards passing and another 85 rushing, including the above shoeless scamper for a first down. Keeton also scored a touchdown on a tight-rope-walk carry along the sideline before diving into the end zone.
Utah quarterback Travis Wilson got the last laugh. He led two drives into the red zone for field goals that sealed a Utes win, 30-26. Would that make Wilson General Zod?
Thursday's opener was an important one for a Utah program seeking a rebound from its first losing season in a decade.
Of Cheap Shots and Targeting Ejections
A controversial new targeting rule, designed to cut back on intentional contact with the helmet, had some wringing their hands before Thursday. The mandate dictates any player penalized for targeting is to be immediately ejected, and on Thursday it claimed its first two victims.
Tulane cornerback Lorenzo Doss was ejected in the first half of the Green Wave's 34-7 win over Jackson State. Against Indiana, Indiana State freshman Carlos Aviles collided helmet-first with Hoosier Shane Wynn during a 73-35 Indiana win.
The type of targeting with which this rule is concerned is on primarily high tackles wherein the defender leads with the helmet, but North Carolina's Kiaro Holts targeted Jadeveon Clowney for a low shot from behind well after the play.
Clowney told reporters he paid "no attention" to these types of plays. Nevertheless, officials must be cognizant of such tactics against the nation's most recognizable defensive player in future contests.
Robert Nkemdiche Is a Special Teams Weapon
Scouts and recruiting pundits knew consensus No. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche was a special talent, but did they know he could play special teams?
Head coach Hugh Freeze apparently had an inclination, as Nkemdiche was used to convert a fourth down out of a punt formation.
Nkemdiche played some offense at Loganville (Ga.) Grayson, particularly in goal-line sets. Perhaps his play on special teams Thursday is a sample of more innovative use of the talented freshman in the season still to come.
USC Defense Buckles Down While Trojans Offense Struggles
The USC quarterback competition between Cody Kessler and Max Wittek may not have had a clear winner on Thursday night against Hawaii. Neither passed for 100 yards, even though USC won 30-13.
Their combined struggles may have had Lane Kiffin feeling the heat emanating from the mainland. USC will still lack a clear No. 1 option when it opens Pac-12 Conference play in Week 2 against Washington.
The Trojans defense was clicking, however, doing more than enough to compensate for the offense's lackluster effort on Thursday. Hawaii quarterback Taylor Graham spent the night scrambling for his life.
USC forced Graham into four interceptions, but defense may not be enough to buoy a team with serious offensive question marks throughout the season.