Saturday's top 25: No. 3 Clemson loses new QB, barely beats Syracuse
Clemson, S.C. — Should No. 3 Clemson fulfill its championship aspirations this season, prepare to hear plenty about “The Drive.”
With new starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence knocked out of the game, reserve Chase Brice — who was about sixth on the depth chart last January — guided a 94-yard, fourth-quarter scoring drive that ended with Travis Etienne’s 2-yard touchdown run with 41 seconds and gave the Tigers a 27-23 victory against Syracuse on Saturday.
“I’ll never forget this one,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “Some might say it’s the fifth game of the year, but it’s more than that. I saw a team that didn’t quit.”
This one was hard to forget, both for the week Clemson (5-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) endured in going from having one too many starting-caliber QBs to having none by the fourth quarter to the game’s dramatic finish.
Lawrence, a 6-foot-6 five-star freshman, supplanted senior Kelly Bryant as starter. A day later, Bryant said he was transferring and that he felt he did not get a fair shake at keeping the job.
Then in the second quarter, a shaky Lawrence took hard hit to the head, wobbled to the sidelines and did not return.
Things looked bleak for the Tigers when Eric Dungey’s second 1-yard rushing TD put Syracuse up 23-13 with less than 13 minutes left. That’s when Clemson put together a pair of touchdown drives to stay unbeaten and avoid a second straight season of being upset by Syracuse.
Etienne answered Dungey’s score less than two minutes later with a 26-yard run that cut it to 23-20.
Five minutes later, Clemson embarked on what might turn out to be the season’s defining drive.
“I think I’ll remember that forever,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said.
That was apparent. Brice, a redshirt freshman with eight career passes before Saturday, completed a 20-yard pass to Tee Higgins on fourth-and-6 to keep the drive going. Brice ran for 17 yards to get the Tigers inside the 20. And Etienne carried it across the goal line to send Memorial Stadium into a frenzy.
“They told us someone had to step up,” said Etienne, a sophomore who had a career high 203 yards and three TDs. “We all decided it had to be us.”
Dungey was sacked twice by freshman Xavier Thomas on Syracuse’s final drive. The Orange (4-1, 1-1) were trying for their first 5-0 start since 1987. Dungey finished with two rushing touchdowns. He was 26 of 41 passing for 250 yards and an interception.
The win capped an odd week for the Tigers, who lost a popular, charismatic leader — and potential safety net in Lawrence’s absence — in Bryant. And now Lawrence’s status is up in the air. The crowd went silent as Lawrence lay on the turf after getting hit hard to the head in the second quarter.
Swinney said Bryant would be welcome back to the team if he changed his mind. A new NCAA rule allows players to participate in four games and still take a redshirt season. Bryant’s plan is to redshirt this season and transfer to another school, where he would eligible to play immediately next season because he has already graduated.
Lawrence, the former five-star recruit, was so-so in his starting debut. Lawrence fumbled on his second snap and 10 of 15 for 93 yards. Brice entered right before halftime and finished with 83 yards passing.
Clemson right guard Sean Pollard, a junior, said the team was disappointed by Bryant’s departure. But Swinney and the coaches kept players informed about everything. Whispers of a divided locker room were nonsense, Pollard said. “People just don’t know anything about us if they thought that,” he said.
Lawrence has concussion-like symptoms, Swinney said. He wanted to return, but the coach told him, “‘You don’t mess with that.’”
More top 25
(At) No. 1 Alabama 56, Louisiana-Lafayette 14: Jaylen Waddle returned a punt for a touchdown and caught two scoring passes, including a 94-yarder, in Alabama’s rout.
Quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts staked the Crimson Tide (5-0) to a 49-0 halftime lead over the Ragin’ Cajuns (1-3) en route to the defending national champs’ latest blowout.
Then third-teamer Mac Jones got into the act with his 94-yarder to the freshman Waddle late in the third quarter. It tied for the second-longest TD catch in Alabama history.
Alabama has scored at least 45 points five games in a row for the first time ever,
Tagovailoa completed all eight of his attempts for 128 yards and two touchdowns, mostly in the first quarter. Hurts was 4 of 6 for 118 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown to Henry Ruggs III.
(At) No. 2 Georgia 38, Tennessee 12: D’Andre Swift ran for two touchdowns, including a late 14-yarder, and Georgia used dominant defense to overcome a sluggish offensive start.
Freshman quarterback Justin Fields scored on runs of 12 and 15 yards, and Isaac Nauta had a 31-yard fumble return for a scpore. The Bulldogs led by 12 points early in the final quarter before pulling away.
Georgia (5-0, 3-0 SEC) scored touchdowns on its last drive of the first half and opening possession after halftime but otherwise couldn’t maintain momentum. Jake Fromm completed 16 of 22 passes for 185 yards while sharing time with Fields.
Tennessee (2-3, 0-2) was held to 209 yards.
(At) No. 5 LSU 45, Mississippi 16: Joe Burrow passed for 292 yards and three touchdowns, rushed for 96 yards and another score. Burrow had his best game by far for LSU (5-0, 2-0 SEC) since arriving this year as a graduate transfer from Ohio State, completing 18 of 25 passes to nine different receivers. His 388 yards of total offense were fourth-most in a single game in LSU history.
Two of his touchdown passes went to Justin Jefferson, the first for 65 yards on a crossing route.
Freshman Ja’Marr Chase scored LSU’s first touchdown with a difficult leaping grab of a 21-yard timing pass along the sideline.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Nick Brossette each had short TDs rushing and LSU finished with 281 yards on the ground for 573 yards of total offense.
LSU dominated much of the game, but two turnovers let the Rebels (3-2, 0-2) hang around until late in the third quarter.
(At) No. 6 Oklahoma 66, Baylor 33: Kyler Murray sat out Oklahoma’s first offensive series then came on to pass for 432 yards and six touchdowns.
Austin Kendall opened the game, but Murray entered on the second possession and played nearly flawless football. His passing touchdown total tied for second-best in school history behind Baker Mayfield’s seven against Texas Tech in 2016. The school would not say why Murray didn’t start.
Murray also ran for 45 yards and a score for the Sooners (5-0, 2-0 Big 12).
Marquise Brown caught five passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns, CeeDee Lamb had 101 yards receiving and Lee Morris caught two touchdown passes for the Sooners.
Murray completed 10 of 11 passes for 192 yards and four touchdowns in the first half to help the Sooners take a 28-9 lead. Murray threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Brown later in the third quarter, then scored on a 1-yard run on an untimed down on the last play of the period to put the Sooners up 49-23.
Charlie Brewer passed for 400 yards and two touchdowns, and Denzel Mims had 11 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown for Baylor (3-2, 1-1).
(At) No. 8 Notre Dame 38, No. 7 Stanford 17: Ian Book threw four touchdowns passes and Notre Dame’s defense stifled Stanford to end a three-game losing streak to the Cardinal.
Starting his second straight game, Book completed 24 of 33 passes for 278 yards, including an 8-yard TD pass to Miles Boykin. Boykin had career highs of 11 receptions and 144 yards.
Boykin’s touchdown gave the Irish (5-0) a 31-17 lead over the Cardinal (4-1) with 8:16 remaining. After Notre Dame’s Te’von Coney intercepted K.J. Costello’s pass, Book threw a 35-yard scoring pass to Alize Mack 14 seconds later to seal the victory. Book’s other touchdown passes were a 6-yarder to tight end Nic Weishar in the first quarter and a 10-yarder to Chase Claypool just before halftime.
The Irish totaled 550 yards, including 272 yards on 55 carries.
(At) No. 10 Auburn 24, Southern Miss 13: Jarrett Stidham threw for 245 yards and two touchdowns and Auburn beat Southern Miss in a game disrupted for nearly three hours by lightning.
Playing behind a shuffled offensive line, Stidham completed 19 of 33 attempts, including touchdowns of 46 yards to Seth Williams and 2 yards to Chandler Cox.
The Tigers (4-1) had built a 14-3 lead in the first half before the game was delayed for 2 hours, 44 minutes at the 4:27 mark of the second quarter. Williams finished with two receptions for 60 yards, including the freshman’s first career score. Darius Slayton led Auburn with five catches for 91 yards.
Southern Miss is 2-2.
(At) No. 11 Washington 35, No. 20 BYU 7: Jake Browning completed 23 of 25 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown, and Washington was thoroughly dominant on both sides.
Washington (4-1) watched Browning play with the poise and accuracy expected of a fourth-year starting quarterback and saw its defense suffocate the Cougars (3-2).
The Huskies were on the verge of their first shutout of a ranked opponent since 1990 until a muffed punt led to Lopini Katoa 1-yard TD run with 41 seconds left against Washington’s backups. The Huskies last shutout of a ranked team came against Southern California nearly 30 years ago.
No. 12 West Virginia 42, (at) Texas Tech 34: Will Grier threw for 370 yards with three touchdowns, Keith Washington thwarted a rally with 51-yard interception return for a score and West Virginia held on.
Marcus Simms had nine catches for a career-high 138 yards – all in the first half – for his third straight 100-yard game. The Mountaineers (4-0, 2-0 Big 12) scored 28 first-quarter points.
Texas Tech true freshman Alan Bowman, the nation’s leading passer coming in, didn’t return after getting injured in the first half when he was sandwiched on hits by Ezekiel Rose and Washington as he threw a pass.
Sophomore Jett Duffey had his first career touchdown pass and TD run filling in for Bowman as the Red Raiders (3-2, 1-1) stayed close after trailing 35-10 at halftime.
With Texas Tech driving for a potential tying score late in the fourth quarter, Duffey’s second interception was a leaping grab by Washington, who returned it for a 42-27 lead.
(At) No. 13 UCF 45, Pittsburgh 14: McKenzie Milton threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns and UCF extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 17 games.
A week after accounting for six TDs in a lopsided victory over Florida Atlantic, Milton also ran for two scores to give the junior from Hawaii seven TDs passing and five rushing in his past two games.
UCF (4-0) now moves into the heart of its American Athletic Conference schedule, hoping to go undefeated for the second straight year to play its way into consideration for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Pitt dropped to 2-3.
(At) No. 17 Kentucky 24, South Carolina 10: Benny Snell Jr. ran for 99 yards and one of Kentucky’s three consecutive first-half touchdowns and the Wildcats held off South Carolina.
Kentucky (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) quashed initial concerns about a letdown following their first Top 25 ranking since November 2007 by scoring on four straight drives to lead 24-3 at halftime. The Wildcats ended up needing that cushion to offset a scoreless second half and Jake Bentley’s 58-yard, third quarter TD pass that kept the Gamecocks (2-2, 1-2) within striking distance.
Mike Edwards’ interception with 3:47 remaining snuffed one chance by the Gamecocks before they turned the ball over on downs in the final minute. That sealed Kentucky’s fifth consecutive series win and continued its best SEC start since 1977.
No. 18 Texas 19, (at) Kansas State 14: Sam Ehlinger threw for 207 yards and a touchdown, D’Shawn Jamison returned a punt 90 yards for another score and Texas snap a five-game road losing streak to Kansas State.
Keaontay Ingram churned for a first down with less than three minutes to go, allowing the red-hot Longhorns (4-1, 2-0 Big 12) to run out the clock after blowing much of a 19-0 halftime lead.
Skylar Thompson threw for 96 yards in relief of ineffective quarterback Alex Delton, and he led the Wildcats (2-3, 0-2) to a pair of touchdowns in the second half. But after they got the ball back with 7:12 to go, Thompson threw a pair of incompletions as Kansas State went three-and-out, and coach Bill Snyder’s offense never got another opportunity with the ball.
The Longhorns leaned on their defense in the opening half, getting a pair of sacks by Charles Omenihu — one for a safety — while shutting down Kansas State’s powerful run game.
No. 19 Oregon 42, (at) No. 24 California 24: Justin Herbert threw two touchdown passes to help Oregon build a big lead and the Ducks used five takeaways and two defensive touchdowns to avoid a repeat of last week's loss to Stanford.
La'Mar Winston Jr. returned a fumble for a touchdown in the first half and Ugochukwu Amadi had an interception return for a TD in the second half for the Ducks (4-1, 1-1), who blew a 17-point, second-half lead in an overtime loss to Stanford.
Travis Dye ran for 115 yards and a touchdown, and C.J. Vardell ran for 106 yards to give Oregon a big road win against the Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1) after losing all four conference games away from home a year ago.
Virginia Tech 31, (at) No. 22 Duke 14: Ryan Willis threw for 332 yards and a career-best three touchdowns in his first start at Virginia Tech.
Willis, a transfer from Kansas taking over for injured starter Josh Jackson, was 17 of 27 with a 27-yard TD pass to Damon Hazelton, a 67-yard catch-and-run score to Dalton Keene and a game-sealing 10-yarder to Phil Patterson.
Humiliated in a 14-point loss at Old Dominion last week, the Hokies (2-2, 2-0 ACC) bounced back strong against the Blue Devils (4-1, 0-1).
Ranked for the first time since 2015, Duke was denied its first 5-0 start since 1994 and instead saw the end of a seven-game winning streak that dated to last season.
Florida 13, (at) No. 23 Mississippi State 6: Feleipe Franks threw for 219 yards and Florida’s defense dominated.
Coach Dan Mullen won in his return to Starkville, guiding Florida to success in his first appearance at Davis Wade Stadium since leaving Mississippi State in November after nine mostly successful seasons.
Florida wasn’t great offensively, but it didn’t matter. The Gators (4-1, 2-1) broke through in the third quarter when Franks threw a lateral to Kadarius Toney, who then threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Moral Stephens for a 10-6 lead.
From that point forward, Florida slowly grinded toward the win. A 10-play, 36-yard drive in the fourth quarter led to a 21-yard field goal by Evan McPherson — giving the Gators a 13-6 lead — and the Mississippi State offense was never able to respond. Mississippi State (3-2, 0-2) had its chances to win and led 6-3 at halftime.