Thursday night college football roundup: Clemson rolls, UCLA struggles, Minnesota survives

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College football is officially back. While Week 0 provided us a nice teaser of the 2019 season with two games, Week 1 started Thursday night with 16 games involving FBS teams. If you didn’t have a chance to see many or any of the games, here’s what you need to know from the second night of the 2019 college football season.

Clemson rolls over Georgia Tech

No. 1 Clemson didn’t have the greatest of first halves against Georgia Tech. And it still led 28-0 at the break.

Things went really well for the Tigers in a 52-14 win over the Yellow Jackets in Geoff Collins’ first game as GT’s head coach. A Clemson demolition was expected. The spread entering the game was over five touchdowns. And Collins is trying to take a roster recruited for the triple-option under former coach Paul Johnson and turn it into a spread-based attack.

But boy, the way Clemson beat Georgia Tech will strike fear in the rest of the ACC. The defending national champions had three first-half turnovers. One of them came on a fumble by running back Travis Etienne. He went 90 yards for a touchdown on his next carry.

The other two turnovers were interceptions by QB Trevor Lawrence, including a bad pass at the end of the half. While that put Lawrence halfway to his 2018 interception total of four, there’s no need to get worried. Some regression was to be expected.

Clemson is still terrifying. And a Week 2 game against Texas A&M awaits.

CLEMSON, SOUTH CAROLINA - AUGUST 29: Running back Travis Etienne #9 of the Clemson Tigers rushes for a 90-yard touchdown during the first quarter of the Tigers' football game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Memorial Stadium on August 29, 2019 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
Clemson running back Travis Etienne rushed for 205 yards and three touchdowns on Thursday night. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)

Texas A&M cruises past Texas State

The No. 12 Aggies had no trouble with Texas State on Thursday night. The only drama came late when Texas State scored in the final minute to make the final score 41-7 and cause a backdoor cover for those gamblers who had the Aggies at -33.5 or so.

Both Isaiah Spiller and Jashaun Corbin rushed for over 100 yards for the Aggies while Kellen Mond threw three touchdown passes. This throw to Jhamon Ausbon may have been Mond’s best of the night.

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UCLA provides latest Pac-12 disappointment

The first two Pac-12 teams to play in 2019 each lost to non-Power Five opponents.

Five days after Arizona fell a yard short and lost on the road at Hawaii, UCLA fell 24-14 at Cincinnati on Thursday night. Yeah, the Bruins weren’t supposed to contend for the Pac-12 South title and Cincinnati is one of the best teams in the American, but the Bruins’ performance didn’t inspire much confidence heading into the second year of Chip Kelly’s tenure.

Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson played poorly. He was 8-of-26 passing for 156 yards, two touchdowns and threw two interceptions. And he also had two unforced fumbles. The first came in the first quarter when he knocked the ball out of his throwing hand with his non-throwing hand and cost UCLA a potential touchdown. The second came in the fourth as UCLA was trying to mount any semblance of a comeback.

This is not what was supposed to happen. (via ESPN)
This is not what was supposed to happen. (via ESPN)

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was defensive Thursday morning about the Pac-12’s reputation at a breakfast in Portland, saying, per the Oregonian that ““We don’t hire the coaches. We don’t recruit the athletes. We don’t coach them. We don’t take credit for the wins, but sometimes we get blamed for the losses.”

But here’s the thing. The Pac-12’s reputation for football mediocrity has been well-earned recently. The conference has missed out on the playoff in each of the last two seasons and it doesn’t have a clear playoff contender entering 2019.

It’s a reputation that can be shaken with some quality wins. They just have to happen.

Utah, Arizona State win easily

Things certainly could have been worse for the Pac-12, though. The late games went a lot better. No. 14 Utah went to BYU and won its ninth-straight Holy War in a 30-12 win over the Cougars.

The Utes got a strong performance from running back Zack Moss and two interception returns for touchdowns in the game, including one by former BYU linebacker Francis Bernard. A touchdown from Moss put Utah up 23-6 with 12:56 to go in the game and things became a formality when Julian Blackmon returned a Zach Wilson pass for a pick-six about 30 seconds later.

The game was delayed for nearly an hour with approximately nine minutes to go because of lightning. But nothing much happened after the two teams returned to the field after the delay as Utah decided to end the game by taking a knee in a goal-to-go situation instead of scoring again.

Arizona State, meanwhile, dispatched Kent State in an easy 30-7 win. The Sun Devils went up 27-0 in freshman QB Jayden Daniels’ debut and had no issues with Kent State’s offense. Daniels was 15-of-24 passing for 284 yards and two touchdowns.

Minnesota survives FCS upset scare

Minnesota scored its first touchdown of the season, a one-yard TD run, with an 18-play, 91-yard scoring drive that took 10:05 off the clock. The Gophers’ second touchdown against South Dakota State was much prettier.

On a third-and-long play, Tanner Morgan found Rashod Bateman streaking down the left sideline and the sophomore hauled in a beautiful one-handed touchdown grab from 42 yards out.

(via FS1)
(via FS1)

That score gave the Gophers a 14-7 lead, but there was plenty of work to be done. Minnesota took a 20-7 lead with a pick-six early in the third, but the Jackrabbits stormed back and took a 21-20 lead entering the fourth.

Minnesota was in big trouble, but caught a break when South Dakota State fumbled in Gophers territory. Five plays later, the Gophers retook the lead on a one-yard Mohamed Ibrahim TD run with 5:39 to play. The lead grew to 28-21 when the Gophers channeled the “Philly Special” for a two-point conversion.

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From there, Minnesota’s defense was able to get a stop, allowing the team to run out the clock and seal a victory.

UCF dominates with 2 different QBs

UCF bounced back from its first loss in 25 games in dominating fashion. The Knights destroyed Florida A&M 62-0 in Orlando and showed its quarterback depth in the process. Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush got the start and completed 12-of-23 passes for 168 yards and two scores. That included a beautiful 37-yard TD pass to Gabriel Davis on the game’s first drive.

But it was Dillon Gabriel who was especially impressive. Gabriel, a true freshman from a Hawaii town not far from where McKenzie Milton grew up, entered the lineup on UCF’s fourth drive. His second career throw was a 24-yard scoring toss to Otis Anderson. In the end, Gabriel completed 9-of-12 passes for 127 yards and three touchdowns.

Expect to see both Wimbush and Gabriel again next week when the Knights visit Florida Atlantic.

Tulane: AAC West sleeper?

In one of the more impressive performances of the night that will go unnoticed, Tulane demolished Florida International at home, 42-14. After a nine-win season a year ago, some pegged FIU as a potential conference title contender in Conference USA. But Tulane, now in its fourth season under Willie Fritz, came out hot and did not let its foot off the gas.

With LSU transfer Justin McMillan leading the way at quarterback, the Green Wave jumped out to a 28-7 halftime lead and scored on its first two third quarter drives to put things out of reach. McMillan completed 14-of-18 passes for 199 yards and two scores. He also rushed for 51 yards as part of a 350-yard effort on the ground from the Green Wave.

Fritz has won wherever he’s been. Perhaps Tulane will be in the mix for the AAC West title this season. Pelicans No. 1 pick Zion Williamson certainly thinks so.

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Western Kentucky loses to FCS team

The Tyson Helton era at Western Kentucky is off to an inauspicious start. Helton was hired in the offseason after WKU gave up on coach Mike Sanford after the Hilltoppers were 3-9 in Sanford’s second season.

Things were looking good entering the fourth quarter, however. WKU led 28-14 but somehow gave up 21-straight points to FCS Central Arkansas and ended up losing the game 35-28.

Two of those three fourth quarter touchdowns for UCA were scored by WR Lujuan Winningham, who ended the game with eight catches for 222 yards and three scores.

UConn gets a W!

After going 1-11 in 2018, any win is a good win for UConn. Even a three-point decision over an FCS team that went 4-7 the last two seasons.

UConn led Wagner from the jump and took a 10-0 lead into halftime. But the Seahawks stuck around and eventually cut UConn’s lead to 24-21 with 4:29 to play. It looked like Wagner was going to force a punt, too, but the Huskies got bailed out by a lousy facemask penalty that gave them an automatic first down and allowed them to run out the clock.

Randy Edsall will take it.

Charlotte gets crazy

Things got nuts in the Charlotte locker room after a 49-28 win over Gardner-Webb.

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Yes, that’s Charlotte coach Will Healy taking his shirt off in the celebration. Thursday night was Healy’s first game as the 49ers’ head coach. Healy, 34, was hired at Charlotte after he helped make Austin Peay a relevant program at the FCS ranks. If he can work similar magic at Charlotte, one of the newest teams at college football’s top level, then the 49ers will be bowling pretty soon.

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