South Bend, Ind. — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly fell on his sword after his eighth-ranked Fighting Irish struggled offensively against Ball State in what many assumed would be a tuneup game.
“I obviously didn’t do a good enough job getting them up to play at the level they need to play,” Kelly said. “Ball State did a great job coming into this game and doing what it needed to do. Their preparation was great, their coaching was better.”
On the scoreboard, it was a 24-16 victory for Notre Dame. But it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t pretty.
The Irish (2-0), coming off an emotional 24-17 victory over Michigan, looked lackluster against the Mid-American Conference foe whose campus in Muncie is a 2½-hour drive away. The Cardinals (1-1) also played nothing like the 34½-point underdogs they were labeled in the schools’ first meeting in football.
Junior strong safety Jalen Elliott picked off Ball State quarterback Riley Neal twice – the first interceptions by a Notre Dame safety in the last 14 games – and the Irish turned them into a pair of rushing touchdowns of 31 and 1 yards by junior Tony Jones Jr. It gave the Irish a 21-6 lead in the third quarter, but Ball State wasn’t done.
“Hats off to Ball State,” Notre Dame linebacker Drue Tranquill said after making nine stops and securing the victory by recovering an onside kick with 1:30 remaining. “They came here and competed.”
Notre Dame outgained Ball State 414-349 but the Cardinals ran off 97 plays to Notre Dame’s 72 and controlled the clock for 8:44 more than the Irish.
“There are no moral victories,” Ball State coach Mike Neu said. “We had our chance. Our guys were ready to compete. Whatever we lacked in size, we were going to go compete, go toe-to-toe. We embraced the David vs. Goliath comparison.”
Following a 46-yard field goal by Justin Yoon that gave the Irish a 24-6 lead going into the fourth quarter, Nolan Givan caught a 10-yard scoring pass from Neal, who threw for 180 yards but completed just 23 of 50 passes. A 49-yard field goal by Ball State’s Morgan Hagee, his third of the game, closed out the scoring.
“We have to come together,” Elliott said. “Coach Kelly said it best. We play nameless and faceless opponents week to week. Everyone’s going to bring their best game so we have to respect our opponents to the fullest.”
Junior James Gilbert rushed for 72 yards for Ball State, which outgained Notre Dame on the ground, 169-117. Sophomore Jafar Armstrong led the Irish with 66 yards, including a 42-yard scamper up the middle in the first quarter that he followed with a 1-yard scoring run two plays later. Jones finished with 61 yards.
The Cardinals’ 3-4 defense frustrated senior Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who threw for 297 yards but finished with minus 7 yards rushing as Ball State registered four sacks and picked off three of his passes.
“I think we lacked attention to detail and focus, especially in the second half,” Wimbush said.
His coach wouldn’t put the blame for Notre Dame’s offensive ineffectiveness on Wimbush’s shoulders.
“Brandon wasn’t the reason we were ineffective offensively,” Kelly said. “You never want your quarterback to throw three interceptions. We’re looking at it as we’re anxious to go back to work because we’re seeing some things we like.”
Notre Dame center Sam Mustipher was not pleased with the offensive line performance but gave credit to Ball State, which finished with 10 tackles for loss. Linebackers Jaylin Thomas and Jacob White and strong safety had nine tackles each for the Cardinals.
“We didn’t execute well,” Mustipher said. “I don’t even know what grade I would give. They were physical, they were moving, blitzing us, pressuring us. They played well.”
More top 25
(At) No. 1 Alabama 57, Arkansas State 7: Tua Tagovailoa passed for three first-quarter touchdowns and Jalen Hurts added two more before halftime for Alabama.
The Crimson Tide (2-0) racked up big plays on the way to a 40-0 halftime lead while rotating the quarterbacks who battled for the job throughout the offseason. Coach Nick Saban officially announced Tagovailoa would remain the starter Monday, but both were big parts of the plan again.
Tagovailoa finished 13 of 19 for 228 yards and four TDs. He led seven drives and tossed in runs of 15 and 12 yards in the second half. Tagovailoa had TD passes of 58 yards to Jerry Jeudy, 31 to Henry Ruggs III and 41 to DeVonta Smith — all in the first quarter — and tacked on a 14-yarder to Derek Kief.
Hurts was 7 of 9 for 93 yards but did fumble at the goal line after taking a hit while airborne. Najee Harris ran for a career-high 135 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Arkansas State is 1-1.
No 2 Clemson 28, (at) Texas A&M 26: Kelly Bryant threw for 205 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score to help No. 2 Clemson escape with a victory over Kellen Mond and Texas A&M.
Mond was spectacular in the second half, throwing for three touchdowns, with a 14-yard pass to Kendrick Rogers cutting the lead to 28-26 with 46 seconds left. But his big performance came up just short when the 2-point conversion attempt was intercepted in the end zone.
Mond finished with a career-high 430 yards passing, and Rogers had 120 yards receiving and two TDs to help Clemson (2-0) edge the Aggies (1-1).
Freshman Trevor Lawrence started the second half, but failed to move the ball effectively and Bryant took over and led the Tigers on two touchdown drives in the last five minutes of the third quarter to extend the lead to 15 points.
Mond cut it to 28-20 when he threw a 14-yard pass to Quartney Davis with about 14 minutes left.
No. 3 Georgia 41, (at) No. 24 South Carolina 17: Jake Fromm threw for 194 yards and a touchdown, all three of Georgia’s latest running combo scored touchdowns and the expected Southeastern Conference showdown turned into a blowout.
The Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1) came in ranked for the first time in four years, and some thought they had a chance of upsetting the defending SEC champions early in the season. Instead, the Bulldogs (2-0, 1-0) used dominating offense and suffocating defense to win their fourth straight over South Carolina.
Fromm was 15-of-18 passing, including a 34-yard TD pass to Mecole Hardman. D’Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien looked every bit as effective as NFL runners Nick Chubb and Sony Michel did a year ago in leading Georgia to the College Football Playoff.
(At) No. 6 Oklahoma 49, UCLA 21: Kyler Murray threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more scores, and Oklahoma lost star running back Rodney Anderson to a leg injury.
Anderson ran for 10 yards on the final play of the first quarter, and then got up slowly. He limped off on his own, and trainers tended to the preseason All-Big 12 pick before he headed to the locker room. He was back on the bench later, out of uniform.
Murray passed for 306 yards and ran for 69 yards for the Sooners (2-0). Thompson-Robinson completed 16 of 26 passes for 254 yards for UCLA, 0-2 under first-year coach Chip Kelly.
(At) No. 7 Auburn 63, Alabama State 9: JaTarvious Whitlow ran for 122 yards and receiver Anthony Schwartz accounted for 117 total yards and two touchdowns to help Auburn rout Alabama State.
Starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham played only into the second quarter, with the Tigers (2-0) leading 42-0. The redshirt junior finished 6 of 11 for 113 yards with a passing and rushing score.
Stidham’s backup, sophomore Malik Willis, gifted the Hornets (1-1) their first points of the night when he was sacked in the end zone on his first snap for a 4-yard safety in the second quarter. Willis directed the offense until 23-year-old freshman left-hander Cord Sandberg took the on the last play of the third quarter. Sandberg, a former minor league baseball player for the Philadelphia Phillies, completed one pass for 22 yards and ran for 35 yards on three carries.
(At) No. 9 Washington 45, North Dakota 3: Jake Browning threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns, Ty Jones had two touchdown receptions, and Washington pulled away in the second half.
The Huskies home opener was a chance to regroup after the letdown of last week’s season opener loss to No. 7 Auburn. Browning was 23 of 37 passing with short TD passes to Jones and Cade Otton. Backup QB Jake Haener added a 12-yard TD pass to Jones in the fourth quarter.
John Santiago had 18 carries for 139 yards for North Dakota (1-1).
(At) No. Stanford 17, No. 17 Southern California 3: Bryce Love ran for 136 yards and a touchdown and 10 Stanford made talented quarterback JT Daniels look like a freshman in a victory over Southern California.
The Cardinal (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12) got an early touchdown run by Love and then tormented Daniels much of the night, holding USC to its fewest points in this series since a shutout in 1941. Stanford took control of the game late in the second quarter with a strip sack on fourth down against Daniels that set up K.J. Costello’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Colby Parkinson that gave Stanford a 14-0 lead.
Daniels made an impressive debut last week for the Trojans (1-1, 0-1) when he threw for 282 yards and a touchdown against UNLV. But duplicating that against Stanford proved far more difficult with the Cardinal using blitzes to pressure and confuse Daniels at times.
Daniels went 16-for-34 for 215 yards with interceptions on his final two passes of the night. He was forced to leave the game for one possession in the first half after a hard hit by Joey Alfieri.
(At) No. 11 LSU 31, SE Lousiana 0: Joe Burrow passed for two touchdowns and ran for a short score, and LSU rode an opportunistic defensive performance.
Running back Nick Brossette was LSU’s most productive player on offense, rushing for a career-high 137 yards on 19 carries, including a 42-yard scamper.
While the result was never in doubt, LSU’s offense lacked consistency and often struggled to sustain drives. The Tigers managed only one first down during their first three possessions of the second half. That could bode ill as LSU (2-0) heads into Southeastern Conference play against Auburn next week.
Southeastern (0-2), which plays in the second-tier Football Championship Subdivision, had most of the possession of the second half, but turned the ball over twice deep in LSU territory.
(At) No. 12 Virginia Tech 62, William & Mary 17: Steven Peoples had two first-half touchdown runs, and Josh Jackson threw for a touchdown and ran for another for Virginia Tech.
Jackson went to the bench before halftime with the Hokies (2-0) up 31-7, and backup Ryan Willis led a touchdown drive on his first college series.
The FCS-level Tribe (1-1) were outgained 401-100 in the opening 30 minutes, and 71 of their yards came on a pass from Shon Mitchell to Nick Muse, setting up their lone points in the half.
(At) No. 14 West Virginia 52, Youngstown State 17: Will Grier threw three of his four touchdown passes to Gary Jennings to lead West Virginia.
The Mountaineers (2-0) piled up 625 total yards in winning their 15th straight home opener.
Jennings had a 33-yard TD catch in the third quarter after scores of 11 and 24 yards in the second. Grier also had a 40-yard scoring toss to Dominique Maiden in the fourth quarter. Grier completed 21 of 26 passes for 332 yards.
FCS Youngstown State (0-2) was limited to 293 total yards.
No. 18 Mississippi State 31, (at) Kansas State 10: Nick Fitzgerald returned from a suspension to throw two touchdown passes, Kylin Hill ran for 211 yards and accounted for three scores for Mississippi State.
It was the first road win over a Power Five opponent for the Bulldogs (2-0) since 1995 against Baylor.
Fitzgerald missed the Bulldogs’ bowl game last year with an injury, and then was suspended for last week’s blowout of Stephen F. Austin. But after getting off to a rusty start Saturday, the dual-threat QB threw for 154 yards and ran for 159 yards rushing as the Bulldogs piled up 372 on the ground.
Kansas State dropped to 1-1.
(At) No. 19 UCF 38, South Carolina State 0: Adrian Killins Jr. ran for 89 yards and two touchdowns to help UCF rout South Carolina State for its 15th straight victory.
Killins Jr. scored on runs of 3 and 24 yards in the first quarter. Greg McCrae rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown, and Otis Anderson added 42 yards and a touchdowns as UCF (2-0) racked up 315 rushing yards.
McKenzie Milton struggled and threw three interceptions in the first half. He was 21 of 39 for 243 yards with a touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis in the third quarter.
UCF held South Carolina State (0-2) to 80 yards passing and 257 total yards.
(At) No. 25 Boise State 62, Connecticut 7: Brett Rypien threw for 362 yards and three touchdowns in little more than a half and Boise State set a school record for offensive yards in a rout of UConn.
The Broncos (2-0) gained 818 yards, including 514 in the first half. The previous record was 742 yards on Oct. 15, 2011 against Colorado State in Boise State’s first Mountain West game.
Rypien had his 16th career 300-yard passing game, tying Kellen Moore for most with the program.
UConn (0-2) struggled to move the ball against Boise State’s first-team defense, mustering just 78 yards and four first downs in the first half. The Huskies finished with 193 yards of offense.
The Broncos scored on three plays of 50-plus yards, including two big ones by John Hightower. The junior transfer caught a 67-yard pass from Rypien and scored on a 55-yard run.
(At) No. 22 Miami 77, Savannah State 0: Malik Rosier threw for two scores and rushed for another, N’Kosi Perry came off the bench to throw the first three touchdown passes of his collegiate career, and Miami set a school record for margin of victory/
Brevin Jordan had two touchdown catches and Lorenzo Lingard ran for two scores for Miami (1-1), which set a school record by winning its 12th consecutive home opener. The previous record for victory margin was 70 — set against Savannah State in 2013. The 77 points scored also tied a school record.
It was Miami’s first shutout since blanking Bethune-Cookman in 2015 and the first shutout for defensive coordinator Manny Diaz in exactly six years. Diaz was at Texas when the Longhorns blanked New Mexico on Sept. 8, 2012. Savannah State (0-2) has played Miami twice, losing those matchups by a combined 154-7 score. The Tigers are dropping from the FCS level to Division II next season.
(At) No. 23 Oregon 62, Portland State 14: Justin Herbert threw for 250 yards and four touchdowns for Oregon before heading to the bench in the third quarter.
Herbert was 20 of 26 passes, and had 10 total touchdowns — nine passing and one on the ground — in the Ducks’ two opening victories. The have won 22nd straight nonconference games.
Portland State (0-2) has lost 15 in a row dating to 2016.
Kentucky 27, (at) No. 25 Florida 16: Kentucky ended one of college football’s longest losing streaks by upsetting Florida.
Terry Wilson accounted for three touchdowns, Benny Snell ran for 175 yards and the Wildcats (2-0) beat the Gators for the first time since 1986. Kentucky hadn’t won in Gainesville since 1979.
The 31-game streak was the fourth-longest in NCAA history in an uninterrupted series, behind Notre Dame over Navy (43 games, 1964-2006), Nebraska over Kansas (36, 1969-2004) and Oklahoma over Kansas State (32, 1937-68).
For Florida and first-year coach Dan Mullen, it was a reality check after roughing up Charleston Southern 53-6 in the opener.