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Road to New Orleans: What’s the tea, Tennessee?

One thing we know after the first week of college football: The Vols are not back.
Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott is doused after defeating Tennessee in Knoxville. [WADE PAYNE  |  AP]
Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott is doused after defeating Tennessee in Knoxville. [WADE PAYNE | AP]
Published Sep. 1, 2019

One upset ruled them all on Saturday. Here’s what we learned, and what was fun, from the first full weekend of college football:

He said it

“We came out here and pushed them around. We outplayed the Tennessee Vols today.”

Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott (but really, almost any opposing coach facing the Vols could say this exact same thing)

Power Five dives

Is it too early to kick these teams out of their conferences? Hey, AAC, sure you don’t want a replacement for UConn?

No. 21 Iowa State: Okay, the Cyclones technically won, but games like Saturday’s show you why they hadn’t been ranked since 1978. Iowa State needed triple overtime to put away the Football Championship Subdivision’s Northern Iowa, 29-26. The Cyclones may go another four decades before cracking the top 25 again.

Iowa State running back Sheldon Croney, right, dives over the goal line to score the winning touchdown in the third overtime against Northern Iowa. [MATTHEW PUTNEY | AP]

Ole Miss: No one’s calling the Rebels an SEC offensive juggernaut these days — and Memphis is among the top teams in the AAC — but you still expect better than mustering 10 points against a defense that allowed an average of 32 a year ago. Rich Rodriguez’s offense started 0-7 on third-down plays in Saturday’s 15-10 loss.

South Carolina: Was there a clearance sale on SEC teams in Week 1? The Gamecocks were sweet in allowing Mack Brown a victorious return to the sideline following a five-year hiatus. The 24-20 North Carolina victory was Brown’s first since 2013, when he coached at Texas. South Carolina also gave up touchdown drives of 98 and 95 yards in the second half. Total sweethearts.

North Carolina head coach Mack Brown, right, greets defensive lineman Aaron Crawford after Crawford sacked South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley in the second half. [NELL REDMOND | AP]

Tennessee: Will the Vols ever be relevant again? We could just stop there but … (see upset of the day).

It’s great to be a former Bulldog …

Jacob Eason: Taking his first snaps since the 2017 season when he lost the starting job at Georgia to Jake Fromm, the former No. 1 recruit in the country threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns as No. 13 Washington topped Eastern Washington 47-14. Eason completed 27 of 36 and led the Huskies on touchdown drives on four of their first five possessions.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, right, runs up field as teammate Nicholas Petit-Frere, left, blocks Florida Atlantic defensive end Tim Bonner. [JAY LAPRETE | AP]

Justin Fields: The five-star transfer from Georgia engineered touchdowns on fifth-ranked Ohio State’s first four drives in beating Florida Atlantic 45-21. Fields, who saw limited action as a freshman last season sitting behind Fromm, finished 18 for 25 for 234 yards and had a 51-yard touchdown run.

Actual Bulldog: Fromm, by the way, completed 15 of 23 for 156 yards and a touchdown in No. 3 Georgia’s 30-6 win over Vanderbilt.

Local debut

Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) throws against Ball State during the first half. [MICHAEL CONROY | AP]

Tampa Bay Tech’s Michael Penix Jr. showed a little bit of everything in his debut as Indiana’s starting quarterback. The redshirt freshman completed 24-of-40 passes for 326 yards and a 75-yard touchdown. He also had two interceptions and seven carries for 67 yards while becoming the fourth Hoosiers freshman to top 300 yards in a single game.

He finished with the second-highest yards passing in a starting debut behind only Antwaan Randle El (385) in 1998.

“He missed some reads, but that didn’t surprise me. You’re going to have some growing pains,” coach Tom Allen said after the 34-24 win over Ball State. “… But he was able to make something out of nothing sometimes.”

Upset of the day

Why so glum, chum? Tennessee athletics director Phillip Fulmer stands on the sideline during the first half against Georgia State. [WADE PAYNE | AP]

Georgia State beat a Power Five opponent for the first time since this Sun Belt Conference school launched its program in 2010. Dan Ellington threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score as the 26-point underdogs upset Tennessee 38-30. This was one of the more embarrassing losses for the Vols, who are attempting to bounce back from two straight losing seasons.

Georgia State was coming off a 2-10 season in which it had lost its last seven games.

“I’m disgusted, to be honest,” Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano said. “I’m not going to sugarcoat this. I’m really upset right now. I’m (ticked) and all those types of things. Why shouldn’t we be?”

Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt had overhauled his coaching staff after going 5-7 last year. Tennessee’s paying $1.5 million to new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and $1 million to new defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley. Too late to ask for a refund?

He said it

“I need to watch the tape to really give an evaluation. But when you score 79 points, it’s not a bad day at the office.”

New Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, who played slightly more than two quarters as the 15th-ranked Nittany Lions hammered Football Championship Subdivision foe Idaho 79-7. Clifford finished 14-for-23 for 280 yards and two touchdowns.

By the numbers

1 Attempted pass by Air Force in the 48-7 victory over Colgate. Donald Hammond III scored three of the Falcons’ seven rushing touchdowns.

1 Coach guiding his team from a hospital bed. That would be Liberty’s Hugh Freeze, who is still recovering from back surgery for a herniated disk on Aug. 16 and a staph infection. His debut was a dud, though, as No. 22 Syracuse shut out the Flames 24-0. Syracuse coach Dino Babers said he spoke with Freeze during the week and encouraged him to take care of himself and his family because football will still be there when he’s well. “I know his team is going to play their hearts out,” he said. “I mean, that man is up there watching his team in a bed.”

Liberty's Hugh Freeze had a hospital bed set up in the coaches' box. [MATT BELL | AP]

8 Straight neutral-site opening wins for No. 2 Alabama. Tua Tagovailoa threw for 336 yards and four touchdowns in the 42-3 victory over Duke in Atlanta.

2.2 Yards per carry for Nebraska’s run game in the 35-21 victory over South Alabama. The Jaguars had the nation’s 101st-ranked rushing defense last season. The No. 24 ‘Huskers were favored by five touchdowns. “That’s as anemic an offensive effort I’ve been a part of in a long time,” coach Scott Frost said.

56 Points scored in the first half by Maryland, a school record. The Terrapins hammered Howard 79-0.

Compiled by assistant sports editor Traci Johnson using information from Times news services.

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