AUBURN 42, UTAH STATE 38
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- This resembled last season's Auburn team for about three blurry minutes. Before that, the defending national champions could barely keep up with a supposedly overmatched Utah State team.
Mike Dyer bulled through the line for a game-saving touchdown with 30 seconds left and the 23rd-ranked Tigers scored twice in the final 2:07 to escape with an opening 42-38 win over the Aggies on Saturday.
Coach Gene Chizik's blunt assessment: "Offensively and defensively we're a long way off of being able to win very many games right now."
Gene Chizik warned as early as the spring of his team's youth and inexperience. After watching Auburn's opener against Utah State, it's clear he wasn't kidding, writes Ivan Maisel. Story
And it showed against a team that probably should have been physically overwhelmed, but wasn't. The Tigers still pulled off their fourth comeback from a double-digit deficit in the last 13 games -- and allowed hundreds of celebrating fans to head to Toomer's Corner to roll the once-stately, now sickly oak trees that were allegedly poisoned by an Alabama fan.
"As they've done so many times since I've been here, they found a way to come back and win," Chizik said. "That's kind of been instilled in this group that you never look at the clock and the scoreboard until it says zero-zero-zero.
"In that regard, we were thrilled that we won the game today. Everybody who saw the game realizes that we did not play well as a football team. There's no excuse for that."
The Aggies (0-1) seemed poised for a stunning victory before Auburn's final rally.
First-time starting quarterback Barrett Trotter hit Philip Lutzenkirchen for a 15-yard touchdown to start a Cam Newton-like comeback. Then wide receiver Emory Blake collected the onside kick to set up the game-winning drive. Trotter completed three passes and Onterio McCalebb had runs of 10 and 14 yards to push the ball near the goal line.
BCS title game MVP Dyer did the rest, ducking his head and powering through Utah State defenders from a yard out.
Poised freshman quarterback Chuckie Keeton couldn't muster a threat in the final seconds for the Aggies, who also tested Oklahoma in last year's opener.
Utah State twice led by double digits against a team clearly feeling the effects of the departures of numerous starters from last year's national champions, including defensive tackle Nick Fairley and Heisman winner Newton, who repeatedly led the Tigers from behind during their 14-0 run last season.
Only that 24-point deficit against Alabama might have been a more improbable comeback than this one from 10 points down in the final 3:38. The Tigers came in as three-touchdown favorites, but also as a question mark with 19 new starters.
They managed to avoid an embarrassing opening loss against a team that has now lost 44 straight road games against Top 25 teams and was starting a freshman at quarterback.
"I felt like we were stronger than them," Utah State coach Gary Andersen said. "I felt like we were faster than them. I felt like they made plays when they had to, and we didn't."
"We were wrong for thinking coming in that they might be a cupcake team and they really ran it down our throat the first half," he said. "We got lucky with this one."
Trotter completed a solid starting debut with a huge finale. He was 17 of 23 for 261 yards and three touchdowns.
Trotter marched the Tigers downfield quickly before hitting an open Lutzenkirchen to keep them alive. He followed a 13-yard completion to Travante Stallworth with a 9-yarder to McCalebb and a 7-yarder to Lutzenkirchen, one of Newton's favorite red zone targets last season.
Then, Blake came up with another big play with his midair scoop of Chris Brooks' kick.
"It unfolded pretty much exactly the way you draw it up," Chizik said. Blake also caught a 56-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
Auburn still wound up trailing 21-7 in the second quarter but one of the many youngsters the Tigers are relying on came up big.
Freshman Tre Mason returned a kick 97 yards to close the gap. Dyer added an 11-yard touchdown to tie it midway through the third quarter.
Josh Thompson added a 34-yard field goal and the Tigers didn't take the lead until Trotter's 39-yard touchdown to Stallworth late in the third quarter, making it 28-24.
It didn't last. Keeton faked a handoff, went left and got the nose of the ball across the goal line for a 31-28 lead with 11:20 left.
Robert Turbin then scored a 1-yard touchdown run with 3:38 left to push the lead back to 10 after Andersen rolled the dice in a big way.
Facing fourth down deep in Auburn territory, the Aggies successfully faked a field goal, completing a pass by holder Stanley Morrison for a first down.
Keeton completed 21 of 30 passes for 213 yards and ran for 33 in his debut after beating out junior college transfer Adam Kennedy. Andersen didn't announce a starter before the game.
Close wasn't comforting for an Aggies team that wanted more.
"I don't think you guys understand how much this hurts," Turbin said. "When you're up 10 four minutes to go and you lose, you've got the defending national champions on the ropes and you lose -- the focus right now is to win. Period. That's it. I don't care about nothing else."
ALABAMA 48, KENT STATE 7
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- 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 Saturday, throwing for a touchdown and 226 yards as the Crimson Tide beat Kent State 48-7 in its first game since the twister that destroyed thousands of homes and killed 50 people within a few miles of campus four months ago.
Their helmets decorated with small ribbon stickers in rememberance of the victims, players said it felt good to be back on the field.
"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."
Trent Richardson, who scored three touchdowns rushing, said the team has a reason to win aside from the usual reasons.
"It was a tragic disaster for us, and we were trying to overcome it and bring joy back to the town," he said.
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 also threw two interceptions -- one that set up Kent State's score -- and finished 7 of 14 for 73 yards.
Coach Nick Saban didn't name either quarterback his permanent starter afterward, and he said some of the four picks were forgivable because of tipped balls.
"AJ, having a little more poise, having played a little bit more, probably played with a little more poise today, but we have a lot of confidence in Phillip and in most cases he plays extremely well," said Saban, who graduated from Kent State and worked there as an assistant coach. "I think he learned a lot out there today and I think he will be a very good player for us here."
Starting in place of departed Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Richardson ran for 37 yards on 13 carries.
The season-opener was a tuneup for Alabama before next week's trip to Penn State. Before the game, the school honored police, firefighters and other first responders during a pregame ceremony that included Gov. Robert Bentley.
The raucous, 101,821-seat Bryant-Denny Stadium fell still during a moment of silence to remember tornado victims, and the band performed a tribute at halftime. Fans in the uppermost seats could see twisted trees and mangled homes along the trail of destruction in the distance.
Several Kent State players visited Tuscaloosa in July to help with tornado relief, and Crimson Tide fans applauded as the Golden Flashes jogged on to the field before kickoff. 'Bama fans had sent messages on social media sites all week urging the Bryant-Denny crowd to welcome the visitors nicely rather than booing, and Kent State players noticed the reception.
"That was real classy," said quarterback Spencer Keith, who completed 20 of 47 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown with one interception.
Things didn't go as well for Kent State once the game began, however.
Led by Trey Depriest's 10 tackles, the Alabama defense held the Golden Flashes to 90 yards total offense and minus-9 rushing.
The Golden Flashes' lone TD was set up by Norman Wolfe intercepting Sims and returning the ball to the Alabama 3. Keith found Justin Thompson alone in the end zone two plays later after an incompletion.
Other than that, offensive highlights were few for Kent State.
Alabama was leading 21-0 on McCarron's scoring pass to Maze and Richardson's TD runs of 1 and 9 yards before Kent State got its initial first down midway through the second quarter. The overpowered Flashes finished with only six first downs, compared to 24 for Alabama.
Richardson added another touchdown on a 1-yard run, and 246-pound Jalston Fowler ran 49 yards for a score and led Tide rushers with 69 yards on four carries. Eddie Lacy had eight rushes for 69 yards and a 1-yard touchdown.
Playing both receiver and returning punts, Maze accounted for 214 yards -- 96 on returns and another 118 on eight catches.
Kent State hasn't beaten a Southeastern Conference team in 10 tries. The Flashes last played an SEC team in 2007, losing 56-20 at Kentucky.
BYU 14, OLE MISS 13
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) -- Linebacker Kyle Van Noy recovered a fumble in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown as BYU came back to beat Mississippi 14-13 Saturday in the season opener for both teams.
BYU trailed 13-0 early in the fourth quarter, but Jake Heaps hit Ross Apo for a 19-yard touchdown with 9:52 remaining to pull within 13-7. Less than five minutes later, BYU's defensive pressure forced Ole Miss quarterback Zack Stoudt to fumble, and Van Noy jumped on the football to cap a stunning comeback.
Ole Miss led 3-0 at halftime and stretched it to 10-0 with 8:34 left in the third quarter on a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown by Charles Sawyer.
BYU won its first game as an independent after leaving the Mountain West Conference last year. Heaps completed 24 of 38 passes for 225 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Cougars outgained the Rebels 318-208.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt had said that he hoped Saturday's game would be played in stifling heat and humidity since BYU comes from a more arid climate. But with Tropical Storm Lee looming, the weather was relatively pleasant, with highs in the 80s and overcast skies.
The first half was full of punts, defense and missed opportunities. BYU gained just 102 yards while Ole Miss managed just 93. Bryson Rose kicked a 20-yard field goal with 49 seconds left in the first half to give the Rebels a 3-0 halftime lead.
Ole Miss sophomore Barry Brunetti started at quarterback, but the Rebels couldn't do much with him under center. Part of that was because of an extremely conservative approach. Brunetti completed 2 of 3 passes for four yards before being pulled for Stoudt late in the second quarter.
Stoudt's presence immediately energized the Rebels. The 6-foot-4, 217-pound junior completed two passes for a combined 21 yards on his first drive, which ended in Rose's field goal just before the half. Stoudt finished 13 of 25 passing for 140 yards, but the crucial fumble is what most will remember.
But the Rebels really didn't get going until Sawyer's interception, which stretched the lead to 10-0 and was the program's longest interception return for a touchdown since 2007. Another Rose field goal stretched the Rebels' lead to 13-0 early in the fourth quarter and the program looked well on its way to a much-needed quality win after a dismal 4-8 season in 2010.
BYU had other ideas.
The Cougars kept pounding away, with a 69-57 advantage in offensive plays. By the fourth quarter, the Rebels' defense looked gassed, and didn't have an answer for the BYU offense. JJ Di Luigi rushed for 56 yards and also caught four passes for 32 yards.
But the biggest play was Stoudt's fumble. Three BYU defenders converged on Stoudt, slamming him to the turf as the ball popped loose. Van Noy took advantage of the opportunity, pouncing on the bouncing ball to lead the Cougars to the victory.
FLORIDA 41, FLORIDA ATLANTIC 3
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)-- Will Muschamp was the first guy off Florida's bus Saturday and the first one in the locker room.
He was the last one off the field, soaking up every second of his head-coaching debut.
And why not? After all, it was a rousing success.
John Brantley looked comfortable leading Florida's revamped offense, Chris Rainey scored three different ways and the 22nd-ranked Gators opened the Muschamp era with a 41-3 victory over Florida Atlantic on Saturday night.
"It was exciting," Muschamp said. "I was excited for our players. It's about players to me, about seeing those guys see their work come to a conclusion."
Brantley completed 21 of 30 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown, showing marked improvement in Charlie Weis' pro-style offense. He threw two interceptions, but the first was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
Rainey touched the ball 18 times, scoring on a 14-yard reception and a 14-yard run. He also scooped a blocked punt and sprinted 22 yards for a score that made it 31-3 early in the third quarter.
Trying to rebuild his image after last year's arrest and suspension, Rainey became the third player in the nation since 1996 to have a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown and a return for a touchdown in the same game.
"It's a God-given gift, so you have to ask God," Rainey said.
Rainey finished with 79 yards rushing and 67 yards receiving. Jeff Demps was just as dynamic, running 12 times for 105 yards and two scores. He also caught three passes for 21 yards.
"They are very special with the ball in their hands," Muschamp said.
With Rainey and Demps leading the way, Florida's offense racked up 468 yards. It was a considerably better showing than the team's last opener, which set the tone for a disappointing 2010 season. The Gators had botched snaps, penalties and turnovers against Miami, Ohio, finishing with 212 yards and hearing more jeers than cheers.
Little went wrong against the Owls.
The Gators scored on their first four possessions and led 24-0 before Florida Atlantic even got a first down.
Florida's defense dominated the Owls, controlling the line of scrimmage and forcing four consecutive three-and-outs to start the game. FAU finished with 137 yards, a rough start for coach Howard Schnellenberger's retirement tour.
Schnellenberger, who is calling it quits at the end of this season, watched the game from an upstairs coaching box following a hospital trip Friday.
The 77-year-old coach experienced severe discomfort in his surgically repaired hip during a bus ride to Gainesville. He said the trouble began when he started doing some hip rehabilitation exercises while the bus was stopped for repairs. Schnellenberger got a leg cramp he couldn't knock and ended up calling for medical help.
He was transported by ambulance to a hospital near Port St. Lucie. X-rays were negative, and Schnellenberger eventually rejoined the team in Gainesville.
"No damage done; it's in great shape," said Schnellenberger, who had hip replacement surgery three weeks ago. "I'll be out there. Not going on the field today. I'm going upstairs because only an idiot would take two chances in two days. From then on we'll be on the sideline."
His team's performance wouldn't have looked good from any vantage point.
Demps took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, but it was called back because of a holding penalty. That was a minor setback, though.
Brantley, Demps and Rainey quickly moved the Gators into FAU territory. Brantley repeatedly hit Demps and Rainey with swing passes. A snap over Brantley's head stalled the opening drive, and Florida settled for a field goal.
But the fast start was just what the Gators needed after last year's confidence-crushing season. Florida failed to score points in the first quarter in six of the team's first seven games in 2010.
So when Brantley got the ball back, the Gators went on the move again. Frankie Hammond made a nice catch near the sideline, Jordan Reed made a great grab in traffic and then Brantley found Rainey in the flat for the touchdown. Rainey made one cut and slipped across the goal line.
Rainey's TD run was even niftier. He used a spin move to escape a defender in the backfield, picked up two blocks and scampered in to make it 24-0.
The Gators cruised from there.
It was a relatively stress-free night for Muschamp, who was admittedly anxious before his debut. Although the Gators ruled defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd ineligible before the game, the only other negative on this night was an injury to versatile Trey Burton.
"I think we need to be realistic here," Muschamp said. "We'll face better opponents throughout the season. ... We didn't face as much adversity as we had hoped for, but I'm very pleased with the effort and energy of our players."
ARKANSAS 51, MISSOURI STATE 7
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Tyler Wilson got off to an efficient, if not spectacular, start at Arkansas.
Ryan Mallett's backup the past two seasons threw for 260 yards and a pair of touchdown to Jarius Wright to help the No. 15 Razorbacks beat Missouri State 51-7.
The junior had plenty of help in the form of a dominating defensive performance and a pair of punt returns for touchdowns by Joe Adams, who tied a Southeastern Conference record with his performance.
Wilson saw action on only four offensive possessions for Arkansas (1-0) while splitting time with sophomore Brandon Mitchell, but he made the most of his time. He guided the Razorbacks to 303 yards of total offense on 24 points in those opportunities, completing 18 of 24 passes and throwing touchdown strikes of 33 and 29 yards to Wright.
"My focus was there and it really didn't waver too much," Wilson said. "The jitters weren't as much as I thought going into the game, and after the first couple of throws, I was ready to go. I was on target."
While Wilson had his way with Missouri State, the Bears (0-1) struggled throughout behind true freshman Kierra Harris at quarterback. Harris, starting in place of suspended starter Trevor Wooden, gained just 18 yards of offense in the first half and were outgained 468-163 overall.
Missouri State went three-and-out on its first four possessions and never recovered, falling behind 30-0 at halftime. The Bears' lone highlight was a 33-yard touchdown pass from Harris to Jermaine Saffold late in the third quarter, one play after a Mitchell fumble gave Missouri State the ball deep in Arkansas territory. Harris finished 8 of 14 passing for 70 yards, while Chris Douglas led the Bears with 72 yards rushing on 18 carries.
"We're going to be all right," Missouri State coach Terry Allen said. "I was disappointed offensively in the first half, but we probably held them back a little bit. We tried to huddle a little bit with Kierra, and that's not what we do.
"So we went out in the second half and went back and did the things we do and we obviously executed a little bit better."
The Razorbacks had no shortage of highlights, with Adams providing two of the best. The senior was sprung by a Marquel Wade block for a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter, though he later made that look pedestrian.
As the punt by Missouri State's Jordan Chiles rolled around loose on the ground with the Bears' special unit closing in, Adams picked up the ball and made his way to the right sideline. With nowhere to go there, he turned and made his way back across the field to the left -- eventually cutting through the heart of Missouri State's special teams unit and down the right sideline for a 78-yard touchdown return, his second of the game.
The returns were the second and third of Adams' career, with his last being a 97-yarder against Mississippi last season.
"It was a lot of fun," Adams said. "Both times my group set it up well, and I just tried to do the best on the return. I didn't think the second one was going to go. I did a lot of shaking and baking. I was tired at the end."
Arkansas' offense didn't need much help as it began the Wilson era. Making his first start since his senior season in high school in 2007, Wilson led the Razorbacks on touchdown drives of 80 and 70 yards in the first half. After Mitchell saw action on two first-half possessions, Wilson then closed out the first half by directing a 10-play, 63-yard drive that resulted in a 32-yard field goal by Zach Hocker that put Arkansas up 30-0 at halftime.
Wilson continued his efficient play on his one possession of the second half, leading the Razorbacks on a 10-play, 90-yard drive. He finished the drive off with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Wright, who led Arkansas with 6 catches for 108 yards and planted one foot just inside the edge of the end zone to put the Razorbacks up 37-0.
The Razorbacks rushed for only 102 yards total in the absence of Knile Davis, who is out for the season after breaking an ankle during fall camp. Ronnie Wingo led the way with 43 yards on 11 carries, while freshman Kody Walker had 33 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 9 carries.
Mitchell also played well during his time under center for Arkansas, completing 10 of 11 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown pass to Chris Gragg, but Wilson showed why coach Bobby Petrino selected him as the starter last week.
"It's the way we're supposed to start," Petrino said. "It's what you'd say mission accomplished."
SOUTH CAROLINA 56, EAST CAROLINA 37
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)-- Stephen Garcia came off the bench to run for two touchdowns and throw for another as he rallied the 12th-ranked Gamecocks past East Carolina 56-37 on Saturday night.
Marcus Lattimore added 112 yards and three TDs.
Garcia sat the first quarter as South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier started sophomore Connor Shaw. But the Gamecocks fumbled three times, including one by Shaw, and trailed 17-0 before Garcia entered the game. That's when the offense started to click and South Carolina took control of the season opener.
Garcia had a 32-yard touchdown run his first series and when Lattimore finished the Gamecocks next drive with a 4-yard scoring run, South Carolina fans at Bank of America Stadium began chanting Garcia's name in celebration.
Spurrier said Garcia would start the Gamecocks' Southeastern Conference opener at Georgia next week. "Yeah, he's back in the box," the coach said.
But Spurrier said he didn't second guess starting Shaw and that Garcia can and should play better than he did against the Pirates.
Spurrier quashed the notion that Garcia deserved a game ball for the performance."I said, 'Wait a minute. When he throws for about 300 yards and brings us down the field scoring at the end of the game," Spurrier said. "He played well. But hopefully, he'll have a big, big game."
Dominique Davis threw for 260 yards and four touchdowns for the Pirates, but when South Carolina wasn't stopping itself, the Pirates had no answers. The Gamecocks outscored ECU 42-13 in second half.
Garcia, the fifth-year senior who has had a tumultuous career filled with suspensions and occasionally great play, opened the second half with a with a 3-yard TD pass to Sanders and put the Gamecocks ahead for good moments later, 28-24, with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Garcia had started the past 28 games for South Carolina, threw for 3,059 yards and 20 TDs last year and was a big reason the team played in the Southeastern Conference title game as Eastern Division champs. But Garcia was suspended twice this spring, upping his career total to five at South Carolina, something that's irked Spurrier to no end.
So the Gamecocks coach put the ball in Shaw's hands, saying the sophomore who'd thrown just 33 college passes had outperformed Garcia throughout the summer.
Garcia left no doubt who the better passer was in this one as the Gamecocks won their 12th straight season opener. Spurrier improved to 42-0 against schools outside the BCS automatic qualifying conferences.
"Stephen's a fine quarterback," East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill said. "He led them to the division championship."
Any South Carolina streaks of success looked in danger during an awful first half as South Carolina, with its best preseason ranking ever, certainly didn't look ready for the national spotlight.
Even Lattimore -- who's lone college fumble came when he was knocked cold in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last December -- couldn't escape the miscues, getting the ball stripped from his grasp to lead to East Carolina's first touchdown on a 25-yard pass to Justin Hardy.
East Carolina was back at it a series later, Dominique Davis arcing a 19-yard scoring throw to Lance Lewis for a 14-0 lead. When the Pirates tacked on a field goal following a fumbled kickoff by Kenny Miles, South Carolina was down 17-0 and in serious need of a steady, familiar hand at the controls.
Enter Garcia, who despite his troubles had the most passing yards of any returning SEC quarterback. He quickly showed that he has learned a thing or two under Spurrier.
He found Lattimore for a 20-yard completion, then broke free on a 32 yard TD run, the longest of his time at South Carolina, to give the Gamecocks some offensive life. Garcia hit Alshon Jeffery on a 22-yard pass the next series, which ended with the first of Lattimore's scoring runs.
Garcia was 7 of 15 for 110 yards in three quarters of work.
East Carolina had hoped to tap into its curious history against South Carolina. The teams last met in 1999, the Pirates won 21-3 in Columbia as Hurricane Floyd flooded camps. East Carolina remainied in town the following week, training at a local high school in preparation for one of the biggest wins in school history -- a 27-23 victory over then ninth-ranked Miami.
McNeill showed his players tape of that game this week as the campus was closed for two days because of last weekend's Hurricane Irene.
But those Pirates had 30 NFL draft picks including Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard. This group gave up the most yards per game in the Football Bowl Subdivision last season and they couldn't hold together against the Gamecocks.
Antonio Allen had a 25-yard fumble return TD and Sanders added a 68-yard punt return touchdown, the Gamecocks first such score since 2003, as South Carolina outscored the Pirates 42-13 the second half.
The game also marked the debut of highly touted defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the nation's top college prospect who signed with the Gamecocks. Clowney was credited with seven tackles, third most for South Carolina.
VANDERBILT 45, ELON 14
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Larry Smith threw for two touchdowns and ran for another score, and Vanderbilt beat Elon 45-14 Saturday night in coach James Franklin's debut with the Commodores.
Franklin showed his willingness to gamble with the team considered the worst in the Southeastern Conference, going for it on fourth down three times to keep drives alive scoring 17 points. Smith converted the second on fourth-and-3, running 16 yards for a TD.
The win snapped a seven-game skid for the Commodores who scored more points than they did in all but two games last season. When Trey Wilson picked off a pass and ran it 21 yards for a TD after Smith's second score, Vandy had almost as many points in 14 seconds as the Commodores averaged (16.9) per game in 2010.
Elon outgained the Commodores 323-309 in total offense and held the ball for more than 35 minutes. But Vanderbilt forced three turnovers and turned each of them into touchdowns.
This was Jason Swepson's coaching debut with the Phoenix, and he opened with only Elon's fourth game ever against a team from the Football Bowl Subdivision. Swepson also had to replace a quarterback in Scott Riddle that helped Elon rank second in the FBS last season, averaging 306.4 yards passing per game.
Thomas Wilson did pretty well early. He was 12 of 17 for 169 yards in the first half, but the junior finished 17 of 27 for 233 yards with two interceptions and was replaced late by redshirt freshman Tyler Smith.
Franklin's specialty is offense, and the Commodores did show off some new wrinkles.
Running back Zac Stacy took the snap on one play and handed off to cornerback Casey Hayward. Only a step out of bounds trimmed a would-be touchdown to a 23-yard run. The drive also featured the first attempt on fourth down, and Smith found Brandon Barden for a 14-yard catch before capping the drive with a 15-yard TD pass to Fitz Lassing for a 7-0 lead.
The Commodores converted their third fourth down in the third quarter when freshman Micah Powell picked up 4 yards on fourth-and-1. That drive bogged down, and Vandy settled for a 33-yard field goal by Casey Spears for a 24-14 lead.
Smith has been the starter the past two seasons and completed just 47.4 percent of his passes in 2010. He looked better eluding pressure and tossed TD passes to Fitz Lassing and Chris Boyd. Smith also ran four times for 34 yards yards, including his TD run, and he was 13 of 27 for 125 yards.
Vanderbilt was up so much Franklin put in Jordan Rodgers, younger brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and the junior college transfer who sat out last season with a shoulder injury found Boyd on his first throw for a 30-yard TD and a 45-14 lead.
BOISE STATE 35, GEORGIA 21
ATLANTA (AP)-- Kellen Moore and those BCS Busters from Boise State are off and running again, coming into the heart of mighty SEC country to beat up Georgia.
Moore threw for three touchdowns -- giving him 102 in his career -- and the No. 5 Broncos romped past the 19th-ranked Bulldogs 35-21 Saturday night, boosting their hopes of making another run to a major bowl while dealing a huge blow to embattled Georgia coach Mark Richt.
Moore, the nation's top-rated passer last season and expected to be a leading Heisman contender, 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.
He had two more before to lead the Broncos to yet another marquee opening victory.
In the last three seasons, Boise State has started the season with victories against Oregon, Virginia Tech and now Georgia.
After a 12-yard scoring pass to Kyle Efaw gave Boise a 14-7 lead at halftime, Moore got the ball back on the first possession of the second half and directed a drive that broke Georgia's back. Completing seven straight passes covering 69 yards, he set up Doug Martin's 7-yard touchdown run that put the Broncos up 21-7.
Then, late in the third quarter, a big punt return helped finish off the Bulldogs. Chris Potter brought it back 49 yards to the Georgia 28, a facemask penalty gave Boise State another first down and Moore threaded a 3-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Tyler Shoemaker for a three-touchdown lead.
The red-clad Bulldog fans began heading for the exits, leaving a small contingent of blue-clad fans who made the long trip from Idaho to watch their team open another season with a de facto road victory over a major-conference opponent. Last year, it was Virginia Tech.
Boise State (1-0) had never beaten a Southeastern Conference team, and its 0-4 record included an ugly 48-13 loss at Georgia's Sanford Stadium back in 2005.
But these program have gone in dramatically opposite directions since that season, when the Bulldogs went on to claim their second SEC title in Richt's first five years. They haven't won another, dropping all the way to 6-7 a year ago for their first losing season since 1996. If the 11th-year coach can't turn things around quickly -- and this wasn't a good start -- his job could be in jeopardy.
The Broncos, meanwhile, have outgrown being America's Cinderella team, qualifying for major bowls two of the last five years even while playing in the lightly regarded Western Athletic Conference. They joined the Mountain West this season, but know they still have no room for error if they want to be playing with the big boys in January.
No problem in this one.
Georgia's Aaron Murray put up a couple of long touchdown passes in the second half -- one after a punt was nullified by an offsides penalty. But it wasn't nearly enough against Moore and his seasoned team, even with the Broncos missing a couple of foreign-born starters who didn't make the trip because the NCAA was reviewing their eligibility.
Both teams started sluggishly, slipping and sliding on a field with which neither was familiar.
Georgia was called for three penalties on its first possession, then went three-and-out on its second. Finally, the Bulldogs broke loose with a play that Boise State couldn't have seen coming.
Brandon Boykin, a cornerback and returner for the Bulldogs, checked in for the offense. He took a handoff coming around right end, got a couple of good blocks and was gone -- 80 yards for a touchdown on the first carry of the junior's career.
That huge play roused a red-clad crowd that left little doubt this was no neutral-site game.
The Broncos traveled across the country for the second year in a row to play in an NFL stadium not far from the campus of their opponent. Last season, they opened with a victory over Virginia Tech in Landover, Md., home of the Washington Redskins. This time, they agreed to play at the Georgia Dome, normally the home of the Atlanta Falcons but only 75 miles from the Bulldogs' campus.
Used to bucking the odds, the Broncos took a little time to get going, then seemed to figure out a 3-4 defense that was expected to carry Georgia in the early going while the team breaks in a new group of receivers -- A.J. Green is now in the NFL -- and touted freshman Isaiah Crowell at running back.
Crowell showed a few flashes of his potential but wasn't much of a factor, finishing with 60 yards on 15 carries. Murray took quite a beating at quarterback and, appropriately enough, took the last of his six sacks on Georgia's final offensive play. He went 16 of 29 for 236 yards.
LSU 40, OREGON 27
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Michael Ford ran for two touchdowns and Jarrett Lee admirably directed LSU's offense in place of suspended quarterback Jordan Jefferson in the fourth-ranked Tigers' season-opening 40-27 victory over No. 3 Oregon on Saturday night.
Missing cornerback-punt returner Cliff Harris was too much for Oregon to overcome in a rare season-opening matchup of top-five teams on a neutral field.
Lee's touchdown pass came against the freshman defensive back filling in for Harris. And a fill-in punt returner had a fumble that led directly to an LSU touchdown.
LSU converted three of Oregon's four turnovers into 20 points and won its 34th consecutive nonconference game. Oregon, which lost to Auburn in the BCS national championship game last season, has consecutive losses for the first time since they losing its last three regular-season games in 2007.