Alabama put some smiles back on the faces of the people of Tuscaloosa and gave a city rebuilding from a devastating tornado a reason to cheer. Often.
AJ McCarron stepped up in Alabama’s quarterback race yesterday, throwing for a touchdown and 226 yards as the Crimson Tide beat Kent State, 48-7, in their first game since the twister that destroyed thousands of homes and killed 50 people near the campus four months ago.
“It was great to get out here, and there was kind of a feeling of getting things back to normal,’’ said offensive lineman Barrett Jones. “So much had gone on in this offseason. We were really pleased to get back to football, what this town is famous for.’’
Vying with Phillip Sims to replace Greg McElroy, McCarron had a 24-yard scoring toss to Marquis Maze and finished 14-of-23 passing. McCarron was hardly perfect, throwing two interceptions. Sims (7 of 14, 73 yards) also threw two picks.
Starting in place of departed Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson ran for three touchdowns.
Boise St. 35, Georgia 21 - Kellen Moore threw for three touchdowns and the No. 5 Broncos romped past the 19th-ranked Bulldogs in Atlanta.
Moore, the nation’s top-rated passer last season, carved up Georgia’s 3-4 defense after a sluggish start. He completed 28 of 34 for 261 yards, with his first scoring pass - a 17-yarder to freshman Matt Miller - giving him 100 for his brilliant career.
South Florida 23, Notre Dame 20 - Kayvon Webster returned a fumble 96 yards for an early touchdown and the Bulls came to South Bend, Ind., for the first time and stunned the 16th-ranked Irish in a game disrupted for hours because of storms.
The victory gave Skip Holtz a win in his return to Notre Dame, where he went to school and his dad, Lou, led the Irish to their last national title in 1988.
As the teams left the field at halftime, with lightning flashing near the stadium, fans were asked to leave the stands. The teams stayed in their locker rooms - for 2 hours 10 minutes.
When the Irish finally emerged, they had switched quarterbacks from an ineffective Dayne Crist to Tommy Rees, who’d led them to four straight victories at the end of last season. The game was delayed a second time by severe weather with 4:21 to go, and after a 43-minute delay Jerrell Young intercepted Rees - Notre Dame’s fifth turnover of the game.
Oklahoma 47, Tulsa 14 - Landry Jones passed for 375 yards, Ryan Broyles finished with 158 receiving yards, and Dominique Whaley ran for four scores in his debut as the top-ranked Sooners extended the nation’s longest home winning streak to 37.
Stanford 57, San Jose St. 3 - Andrew Luck threw for two touchdowns and ran for another score, leading the seventh-ranked Cardinal to a home blowout of their South Bay rival.
Nebraska 40, Chattanooga 7 - Taylor Martinez ran for 135 yards and three touchdowns out of Nebraska’s new no-huddle offense and the No. 10 Cornhuskers blasted the visiting Mocs for their 26th consecutive season-opening win, the longest streak in the nation.
Oklahoma St. 61, La.-Lafayette 34 - Joseph Randle rushed for 129 yards and two TDs and the No. 9 Cowboys pounded the visiting Ragin’ Cajuns.
South Carolina 56, East Carolina 37 - Stephen Garcia came off the bench to run for two touchdowns and throw for another and Marcus Lattimore ran for 112 yards and three scores as the 12th-ranked Gamecocks rallied to beat the visiting Pirates.
Arkansas 51, Missouri St. 7 - Tyler Wilson threw for 260 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Jarius Wright, Joe Adams tied a Southeastern Conference record with two punt returns for touchdowns, and the No. 15 Razorbacks rolled in Fayetteville.
Ohio St. 42, Akron 0 - Starting his first game in eight years - when he was a senior in high school - Joe Bauserman ran for a touchdown and threw for three to tight end Jake Stoneburner, leading the No. 18 host Buckeyes past the Zips, giving Luke Fickell a win in his head coaching debut.
Missouri 17, Miami (Ohio) 6 - James Franklin ran for one TD and passed for another in his first start, helping the No. 21 Tigers get past the visiting RedHawks.
Florida 41, Florida Atlantic 3 - Chris Rainey scored three touchdowns and the No. 22 Gators opened the Will Muschamp era with an easy win in Gainesville.
Auburn 42, Utah St. 38 - Mike Dyer bulled through the line for a game-saving TD with 30 seconds left and the 23d-ranked Tigers scored twice in the final 2:07 to rally past the visiting Aggies.
USC 19, Minnesota 17 - Robert Woods caught a school-record 17 passes for 177 yards and three TDs and Matt Barkley completed a school-record 34 passes for 304 yards as the No. 25 Trojans spoiled Jerry Kill’s coaching debut for the visiting Gophers.