By Bill Trocchi, SI.com
The games finally began on Thursday night, with 28 teams hitting the field to open their seasons. Only one ranked team was in action, but there were still some notable performances on what proved to be a healthy appetizer to Saturday's opening weekend main course.
1. Paul Johnson's debut was a happy one in Atlanta. The ex-Navy coach endured question after question this offseason about how his new team would adapt to his triple-option offense. Against inferior competition, it sure looked good. Georgia Tech dominated Jacksonville State with 349 rushing yards in a 41-14 win. The Yellow Jackets, who struggled with turnovers in the spring game, had just one fumble in 46 rushing attempts on Thursday (also losing a fumble on a kickoff return). Exiled LSU quarterback Ryan Perrilloux was 22-for-37 for 136 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 67. He accounted for 203 of Jacksonville State's 258 yards.
2. Steve Spurrier has a QB mess on his hands. Again. The South Carolina coach spent the summer reassuring the Gamecocks faithful Tommy Beecher was his man behind center despite his three interceptions in the spring game. On Thursday night, he threw four, then left with a head injury. In came Chris Smelley, who led three fourth-quarter touchdown drives and was 5-for-5 for 92 yards and two touchdowns as the Gamecocks finally put the game away against an impotent NC State squad. Next up for South Carolina is an SEC road game against Vanderbilt, a team that beat USC in Columbia last season. Speaking of the Commodores ...
3. Vanderbilt 'upsets' Miami (Ohio). Yes, a MAC team was favored over an SEC team, but the Commodores handled the projected MAC champs 34-13 on the road. Defensive back D.J. Moore had a 91-yard punt return, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception for Vanderbilt -- all in the first quarter. VU quarterback Chris Nickson ran for 166 yards, threw for 86 and accounted for three touchdowns. Next Thursday night's game in Nashville with Team Spurrier could be interesting.
4. Good Stanford makes an appearance. There was Good Stanford (wins over USC, Cal) and Bad Stanford (41-3 loss to Arizona St., 27-9 loss to last-place Washington) in Year One under Jim Harbaugh. Thursday, we had Good Stanford, as the Cardinal topped Oregon State 36-28, a team SI.com's Stewart Mandel pegged as his surprise team in the nation. Oregon State welcomed back talented receiver Sammie Stroughter, who had 159 yards and two TDs, but it was Stanford who was in control for most of the second half before holding off a late charge and getting a fortunate fumble in the last minute.
Finally, it what will likely be a staple of my posts this season, my How Not To Manage The Clock dunce cap. Stanford, with 2:00 remaining and the clock running, was forced to punt while leading 36-28. The punt team rushed onto the field and snapped the ball with 11 seconds left on the play clock. Umm, why? Let the play clock run to one second and call your final timeout. Why give the opposition what amounts to two more potential snaps?