Winners and Losers from Week 2 of College Football

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2020

Winners and Losers from Week 2 of College Football

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    Louisiana kicked off its season with a big upset at Iowa State.
    Louisiana kicked off its season with a big upset at Iowa State.Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Even in a weekend with only six ranked teams in action and no clear marquee games, college football still found a way to surprise us.

    Welcome back, you ridiculous sport.

    Sun Belt teams Louisiana and Arkansas State both upset Big 12 programs. Texas State engineered a 17-point comebackβ€”including a 13-point surge in the last two minutes of regulationβ€”but a missed kick turned a dramatic win into a crushing loss.

    The list of winners and losers from a 19-game slate is relatively small, especially with the understandable rust after an atypical offseason. Nevertheless, the results produced a few notable storylines.

    This piece will be updated as key games finish.

Winner: D'Eriq King in Miami Debut

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    By no means was Miami perfect, but a 31-14 victory over UAB offered encouraging signs from an overhauled offense.

    Against a quality Blazers defense, the Hurricanes totaled 495 yards with new quarterback D'Eriq King and coordinator Rhett Lashlee. King missed an easy touchdown pass and a couple of deep throws but provided a dynamic element Miami sorely lacked in 2019.

    King impressively evaded a free rusher on multiple occasions, extending plays and bailing out the offensive line. That simply did not happen as Miami ranked 78th in yards per play last season.

    While the blocking unit has plenty of room to improve, it deserves credit for Miami's occasional explosive runs. Cam'Ron Harris picked up 134 yards, and freshman backs Jaylan Knighton and Donald Chaney Jr. combined for 111. King scampered for 83 despite not having many designed runs.

    Throw in the rapid tempo Lashlee brought from SMU, and Miami may actually have a threatening offense in 2020.

Loser: Syracuse Offense

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    Robert Willett/Associated Press

    Though the box score shows 463 total yards and a 31-6 victory, North Carolina didn't have a great day. Sam Howell and a highly praised UNC offense mustered only 10 points in the first three quarters.

    Fortunately for the Tar Heels, though, Syracuse never took advantage of the window those struggles provided.

    Tommy DeVito finished just 13-of-31 with 112 yards through the air. The Orange's best offense was either "blocking breaks down and DeVito runs for his life" or "DeVito completes a pass to Taj Griffin, who somehow sheds a bunch of tackles."

    Overall, they trudged to 202 yardsβ€”the second-lowest total of the Dino Babers era (2016-present)β€”and had 11 drives of six plays or fewer.

    In a word: Ugly.

    Look, it's the first game of a bizarre year. Little practice time is a real factor in this frustrating performance. But an oft-shaky defense contained an explosive UNC offense, and the typical strength of Syracuse's team flopped.

Winner: Sun Belt Statements

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    In a season with precious few opportunities to play a power-conference opponent, Louisiana and Arkansas State both capitalized on their chance to upend a big-name foe.

    Explosive plays sparked Louisiana's massive win at No. 23 Iowa State. Chris Smith returned a kickoff for a score, Peter LeBlanc caught a 78-yard touchdown and Eric Garror's 83-yard punt return gave the Ragin' Cajuns a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.

    Most impressively, they limited Brock Purdy and the Iowa State offense to 303 yards in the 31-14 victory.

    Also in the noon window, star wideout Jonathan Adams Jr. caught his third touchdown of the game with 38 seconds left to help Arkansas State stun Kansas State 35-31. Logan Bonner and Layne Hatcher both tossed two scores, and receiver Jeff Foreman added a 48-yard touchdown pass on a trick play.

    This shouldn't be the last we hear from the programs, either.

    Appalachian State is the Sun Belt's top team, but Louisiana and Arkansas State are the leading contenders to take on the Mountaineers in the conference championship game.

Loser: Kicking Errors Ruin Texas State's Comeback

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    Texas State coach Jake Spavital
    Texas State coach Jake SpavitalBrian Blanco/Associated Press

    Poor kid.

    Alan Orona would probably prefer he didn't become nationally known for this, but two missed kicks doomed Texas State.

    The Bobcats twice trailed by 17 points and faced a 13-point deficit with 3:24 left in regulation after throwing a pick-six. UTSA had a 99.6 percent win probability, per ESPN, yet Texas State fought back with a quick touchdown and a remarkable game-tying 91-yard punt return. The Bobcats only needed the extra point to win.

    Orona, though, pulled it wide right.

    Then in overtime, he missed a 20-yard field goal. UTSA kicker Hunter Duplessis buried a 29-yarder to give the Roadrunners a victory in a game they absolutely should have lost.

Winner: Kyren Williams, Notre Dame

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    Kyren Williams entered the day with four career rushes for 26 yards, but he looked like a seasoned starter against Duke.

    The sophomore picked up 112 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, adding two catches for 93 yards. Williams powered in the first score and broke off a 26-yard touchdown run on a 4th-and-1 to help the Irish secure a 27-13 win.

    "There's a lot that he can build off of this, certainly," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said, according to Tom Loy of Irish Illustrated. "I just think that for an opener, that's a really good performance, and something to build off of."

    The Irish will rely on Williams to produce consistently as they break in new receivers for senior quarterback Ian Book.

Loser: Florida State's 2nd-Half Offense

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    Florida State QB James Blackman
    Florida State QB James BlackmanGary McCullough/Associated Press

    Florida State seized a 10-0 lead against Georgia Tech, scoring on the first two possessions of the Mike Norvell era. That hot start fizzled, but the Seminoles still held a 10-0 advantage at halftime.

    Mistakes crushed FSU afterward, however.

    Right away, a holding penalty halted a promising drive and moved the 'Noles out of scoring territory. After a field goal on their next possession, a fumble led to Georgia Tech's go-ahead kick. Then, a false start preceded a failed fourth-down conversion.

    Trailing 16-13 with two minutes left, the offense went four-and-out. The turnover on downs iced the game, which FSU finished with a ghastly 3.6 yards per snap.

    This was about as disastrous a debut as Norvell could have had.

Winner: Heisman-Contending Quarterbacks

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Let's start here: We expected this. You probably did too.

    Clemson took on Wake Forest; Oklahoma hosted Missouri State; and Texas welcomed UTEP to town. All three entered as prohibitive favorites and assembled blowout wins.

    But on a day when offenses largely struggled, three Heisman-contending quarterbacks each played well.

    Clemson's Trevor Lawrence had 351 passing yards and accounted for three touchdowns. Spencer Rattler posted 290 yards and four scores through the air in his debut as Oklahoma's starter. Texas' Sam Ehlinger threw for 424 yards and five touchdowns in the first half alone.

    The schedule will get tougher, but it's always good to start strongβ€”and pad those stats too.