College Football Notebook
Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 4, 2011
The college football notebook …
ARLINGTON, Texas ó The point made by big LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery is really hard to dispute right now.
“I would like to speak on behalf of all SEC teams,” Montgomery said after the fourth-ranked Tigers’ 40-27 season-opening win over No. 3 Oregon. “I just think we run the NCAA. Period.”
Sure Boise State might dispute that right about now, but LSU certainly has already established itself as a contender this season. The SEC has already won five national championships in a row, including the Tigers’ last title in 2007.
Instead of being distracted by the absence of suspended quarterback Jordan Jefferson, the loaded Tigers’ defense stifled an Oregon team that has averaged more than 40 points and 471 yards a game since Chip Kelly arrived as offensive coordinator in 2007 and became head coach two years later.
“They’ve got a little bit different athlete running around out there right now,” Kelly said.
AUBURN, Ala. ó The Auburn Tigers had better get their act together quickly.
The 23rd-ranked Tigers hardly looked ready for primetime in the Southeastern Conference in a season-opening survival game against Utah State. Now No. 20 Mississippi State is set to come calling and a trip to Clemson awaits after that.
Having to score two touchdowns in the final 2:07 to beat the Aggies didn’t exactly send a powerful statement to the rest of the country for the defending national champions. The Tigers did escape, 42-38.
WEST VIRGINIA GAME
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. ó Geno Smith threw two first-half touchdown passes, Tavon Austin returned a kickoff for a score and No. 24 West Virginia beat Marshall 34-13 on Sunday night in a game that was stopped early in the fourth quarter because of lightning.
Smith completed 26 of 35 passes for 249 yards. Despite difficulty running the ball, West Virginia improved to 11-0 against its cross-state foe, including six wins since the series resumed in 2006.
Marshall was limited to 13 first downs, 187 total yards and no offensive touchdowns.
The game was first halted with 5 minutes left in the third quarter due to severe storms and play didnít resume for three hours.
Play was stopped again with 14:36 left. But another hour went by before the game was called off, giving new West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen a soggy, successful debut.
The game was delayed a total of 4 hours, 22 minutes and was the latest plagued by lightning and severe storms on the first weekend of the season.
Michiganís game with Western Michigan was stopped for good late in the third quarter on Saturday. Games at Notre Dame, Iowa, and Tennessee were delayed by lightning and Eastern Michigan pushed back its home game from Saturday to Sunday.
The wide-open offenses that Holgorsen built the past three years as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State and Houston produced average scores of 58-9 in season openers.
On Sunday, the Mountaineers had plenty of offensive plays. It just didnít equate into that many yards, especially on the ground.
Now Holgorsen has a short week to figure out how what to tweak before Saturdayís home game against Norfolk State.
West Virginia freshman Andrew Buie got the start over three other running backs but was limited to a team-high 30 yards on 15 carries. He left in the third quarter after taking a hard hit, his arm dangling at his side.
On West Virginiaís next series, freshman Vernard Roberts was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 near midfield. Marshall took over and drove inside the West Virginia 10 but settled for Tyler Warnerís third field goal.
Austin extended West Virginiaís lead on the ensuing kickoff, weaving 100 yards into the end zone to put the Mountaineers ahead 27-13.
After Tyler Bitancurtís extra point kick, play was stopped the first time as heavy thunderstorms moved in. Some in the sellout crowd gathered in the concourse, others went to a nearby indoor practice facility ó and a steady stream of fans got in their cars and left.
Roberts capped West Virginiaís only possession after the first delay with a 1-yard score.
A pair of transfers helped out Smith on West Virginiaís first two touchdown drives.
Wake Forest transfer Devon Brownís 14-yard catch and Buieís 15-yard run on a screen pass set up West Virginiaís first score, a 4-yard pass from Smith to Ivan McCartney.
Duquesne transfer Willie Milhouse caught a 29-yard pass late in the second quarter to set up Smithís 15-yard TD toss to Stedman Bailey for a 17-7 lead.
Marshall freshman Rakeem Cato was poised in his debut at quarterback but couldnít get the Thundering Herd into the end zone. He went 15 of 21 for 115 yards without an interception.
Overall, Marshall struggled in the return of second-year coach Doc Holliday to his alma mater. He left West Virginiaís staff two years ago.
The Thundering Herdís lone touchdown came on an 87-yard punt return by Andre Booker to open the scoring. Booker was called to duty after Troy Evans, last yearís regular punt and kickoff returner, was arrested earlier in the week on armed robbery charges.
Marshall managed just five first downs and 119 yards of offense in the first half, with most of those coming on the final drive that led to a field goal.
Marshall, which has lost 11 consecutive games to ranked opponents dating to 2003, heads home to play Southern Mississippi next Saturday.
The Associated Press