Saturday’s Top 25: Houston shocks No. 3 Oklahoma
Houston — Houston coach Tom Herman and the Cougars are past the point of proving they are for real.
Shocking the world is for the real underdogs and if a Power Five conference happens to take note of what Houston is doing that’s fine.
“We were prepared to win. We expected to win. We train to win,” Herman said. “It wasn’t about making a statement, it was about going 1-0 the first week of the season.”
Greg Ward Jr., Brandon Wilson and the 15th-ranked Cougars looked every bit ready to compete in the Big 12 — or any other conference for that matter — in a 33-23 victory against No. 3 Oklahoma on Saturday.
Houston is one of 11 schools that will meet with Big 12 officials starting next week to make a pitch to the Power Five conference that is pondering expansion.
Regardless of whether Houston (1-0) ends up in the Big 12, the Cougars’ latest surprising win could have season-long ramifications on the College Football Playoff.
“We’re not your typical Group of Five program,” Houston athletic director Hunter Yurachek said.
The elusive quarterback Ward passed for 321 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson, though, provided the key play in the biggest regular-season nonconference game the Cougars have played in 25 years and Houston’s third victory in school history against a top-three team.
The versatile senior defensive back went end line to end zone to score a touchdown with a short 54-yard field goal attempt to give Houston 26-17 lead with 8:28 left in the third quarter.
Wilson reached up to catch the ball, barely keeping his feet in bounds. Reminiscent of Auburn’s Kick Six against Alabama in 2013, Wilson went flying out of the end zone and hurdled a fallen teammate to score what went into the books as a 100-yard return.
“I thought I stepped out, but I didn’t,” Wilson said. “I just saw the green grass and I scored.”
Herman said he was looking for penalty flags.
“I was thinking this is too good to be true, surely there’s a flag somewhere,” Herman said.
Oklahoma called a timeout before trying the kick, which Herman said allowed Houston to see the Sooners’ personnel and set up for the return.
“You know you have to cover it, but the personnel on the field isn’t the best cover guys because the best cover guys wouldn’t be able to protect the field goal. So you’re in a little bit of a dilemma,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. “I don’t really second-guess. I’ve seen Austin (Seibert) make that quite a few times.”
No. 1 Alabama 52, No. 20 Southern California 6: At Arlington, Texas, true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts threw two touchdown passes to ArDarius Stewart and ran for two more scores, and top-ranked Alabama opened its national championship defense with a victory. Stewart was wide open in the end zone behind the secondary when Hurts hit him for a 39-yard score midway through the second quarter that made it 7-3.
Right after halftime, Hurts found Stewart alone near the Alabama 40 and the receiver sprinted up the right sideline untouched for a 71-yard touchdown and a 24-3 lead. USC punter Chris Tilbey bobbled the snap on the ensuing drive to set up Alabama at the Trojans 15 and lead to Hurts’ TD run.
The season-opening win came at AT&T Stadium — the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys — where the Crimson Tide started their 2012 and 2015 national championship seasons with victories.
Alabama is 10-0 in season openers under coach Nick Saban.
No. 2 Clemson 19, (at) Auburn 13: Deshaun Watson passed for 248 yards, including 174 to Mike Williams in his return from an injury. Clemson struggled to put away the opener even though Auburn produced little offense for much of the game while swapping three quarterbacks in and out. Finally, Watson hit former walk-on receiver Hunter Renfrow in the back of the end zone on third and goal from the 16 with 9:59 left in the fourth quarter.
Ben Boulware’s subsequent goal-line interception only provided a temporary reprieve for a team that made the national championship game last season. Auburn finally got a touchdown with 3:22 left on a 9-yard direct snap run by Kerryon Johnson and Clemson’s failed fourth-down try deep in Auburn territory set up another shot with 40 seconds and 85 yards to go.
Sean White drove the offense to the Clemson 40, but two desperation heaves into the end zone fell incomplete, with the second getting batted around.
(At) No. 13 TCU 59, South Dakota State 41: Kenny Hill accounted for five touchdowns after a shaky start in his TCU debut, KaVontae Turpin returned a punt 81 yards for a score and the Horned Frogs pulled away late. Playing his first game since a 59-0 loss to Alabama that cost Hill the starting job at Texas A&M two years ago, the junior transfer bounced back from interceptions on consecutive passes that led to a 10-point lead for the lower-division Jackrabbits.
Turpin started the recovery from the surprising second-quarter deficit with his return, sparking the Frogs to their 15th straight win in a home opener since losing to Northwestern State in Gary Patterson’s first season as head coach. The 5-foot-9 speedster added a 33-yard run and had 177 all-purpose yards.
Hill was 33 of 49 for 439 yards with two touchdown passes, ran for three scores and converted a critical third down with a 13-yard scramble in the fourth quarter. That drive ended on a 46-yard scoring pass to Taj Williams for a 52-41 lead. Williams had 11 catches for 158 yards.
(At) Texas A&M 31, No. 16 UCLA 24 (OT): Trevor Knight threw for 239 yards and a touchdown and ran for two more scores, including one in overtime, to lead Texas A&M past UCLA in his debut with the Aggies.
The Aggies had a fourth-and-1 from the 1 in overtime when Knight waltzed into the end zone untouched for the score in the opener for both teams. Texas A&M sealed the victory when Justin Evans knocked down Josh Rosen’s pass at the goal line on fourth down.
No. 18 Georgia 33, No. 22 North Carolina 24: At Atlanta, Nick Chubb rushed for 222 yards in his return from a gruesome knee injury, including a 55-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter that clinched Georgia’s victory over North Carolina in Kirby Smart’s debut as the Bulldogs’ coach.
Chubb scored a pair of touchdowns for Georgia, sending the largely red-clad crowd at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game into delirium when he broke loose down the right sideline with 3:34 remaining and the Bulldogs clinging to a two-point lead over the Tar Heels.
Leaving no doubt he was fully recovered from a horrific knee injury that looked like it might be career-threatening, Chubb carried a staggering 32 times and was every bit as dominating as the Heisman-touted back he was before.
(At) No. 21 Oklahoma State 61, Southeastern Louisiana 7: Jhajuan Seales caught two touchdown passes, helping Oklahoma State rout Southeastern Louisiana. Seales finished with three catches for 61 yards.
Barry J. Sanders had 76 all-purpose yards and scored a touchdown. Sanders, whose father, Barry, won the Heisman Trophy for Oklahoma State in 1988, is a graduate transfer who played for Stanford last season. The younger Sanders scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter and nearly scored again later in the quarter. He was stopped at the 1-yard line after weaving through the Lions for a 57-yard punt return.
Mason Rudolph completed 18 of 26 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
(At) No. 24 Oregon 53, UC Davis 28: Dakota Prukop threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns in his Oregon debut and the Ducks overcame a rocky start to beat UC Davis. Prukop, a graduate transfer from Montana State, completed 21 of 30 passes for the Ducks, while also scoring on a 1-yard keeper. He follows in the footsteps of Vernon Adams, a graduate transfer out of Eastern Washington who started for the Ducks last season but was dogged by injuries.
Royce Freeman rushed for 87 yards and two scores, and Darren Carrington caught seven passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. Ben Scott was 27 of 47 for 303 yards and had a touchdown run for UC Davis.
(At) No. 25 Florida 24, UMass 7: Luke Del Rio threw two touchdown passes in his first career start, and Florida beat UMass and extended the nation’s longest winning streak in season openers to 27. It was far from the offensive resurgence the Gators were hoping for after ending last season with three consecutive losses. Things were so ugly for much of the night that retired coach Steve Spurrier provided most of Florida’s early highlights.
After having Florida Field named after him and then leading 90,000 rain-soaked fans in a pre-game cheer, Spurrier posed like Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt. The 71-year-old Spurrier flashed Bolt’s “To The World” pose to all four sides of the newly renamed Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. It drew a raucous ovation from fans on hand for the opener.
Del Rio completed 29 of 44 passes for 256 yards, with TD passes to Antonio Callaway in the first quarter and Brandon Powell in the fourth.