For the first time in 34 years, a Florida State football season started without Bobby Bowden on the sideline. It’s Jimbo Fisher’s team now, though against Samford it hardly mattered who was coaching the Seminoles.
Fisher began his career as Florida State coach with the easiest of victories as Christian Ponder threw four touchdown passes and the 20th-ranked Seminoles celebrated the start of a new era with a 59-6 victory yesterday in Tallahassee against Bowden’s alma mater.
Florida State scored 35 points during an 11-minute span of the second quarter, including Greg Reid’s 74-yard punt return touchdown, to build a 42-0 lead.
Ponder, playing for the first time since injuring his shoulder last November at Clemson, completed 12 of 14 passes for 167 yards before giving way to backup EJ Manuel at halftime.
In his first game, Fisher achieved something even Bowden failed to accomplish at FSU. Bowden won 316 games as Florida State coach, but he didn’t win his first one. Fisher did.
Fisher, who was Bowden’s offensive coordinator for the last three years, said he thought about his predecessor a good deal yesterday.
“I’m happy I’m here and all that, but I mean that man built this university and he’s a tremendous guy,’’ Fisher said. “People don’t understand what the man meant to me . . . and how I looked up to him. He’s still my hero.’’
Bowden said Florida State wanted to honor him before the game, but the retired coach has tried to avoid the Seminoles and let Fisher establish himself. Bowden chose not to attend and instead watched it on television.
The Seminoles rolled up 481 yards in their highest-scoring effort since opening the 2008 season with a 69-0 rout of Western Carolina.
LSU 30, North Carolina 24 — The undermanned Tar Heels, missing 13 key players because of NCAA investigations over player relationships with agents and possible academic violations, nearly rallied from a 20-point halftime deficit before losing to the No. 21 Tigers in Atlanta.
Patrick Peterson had 257 yards — including an 87-yard TD — on kickoff and punt returns, leading LSU to a 30-10 halftime lead over the No. 18 Tar Heels, but North Carolina made a game of it, scoring two second-half touchdowns, then getting two shots at the win after recovering an onside kick and a fumble. T.J. Yates drove the Heels to the LSU 6, but two passes into the end zone slipped through the hands of Zack Pianalto.
Georgia Tech 41, South Carolina State 10 — Quarterback Joshua Nesbitt ran for 130 yards and three touchdowns and Roddy Jones added two scoring runs to lead the No. 16 Yellow Jackets past the Bulldogs in Atlanta.
Clemson 35, North Texas 10 — Andre Ellington (122 yards rushing) and Jamie Harper (102) each scored twice and the Tigers beat the visiting Mean Green.
Virginia 34, Richmond 13 — Keith Payne ran for four touchdowns and the Cavaliers ended a four-year losing streak in season openers with a rout of the visiting Spiders, making Mike London a winner in his coaching debut — against his former team.
Duke 41, Elon 27 — Sean Renfree threw for 350 yards and two touchdowns in his first college start, and the host Blue Devils got past the Phoenix.
N.C. St. 48, W. Carolina 7 — Russell Wilson passed for 306 yards and four touchdowns and the host Wolfpack won their season opener for the first time in four tries under coach Tom O’Brien.