One of the greatest pastimes in the world returned on Saturday, as college football kicked off with Week 0. The opening week of the season sees a small number of games played between non-ranked teams before the true "Week 1" kicks off next week with the vast majority of teams playing. Football-hungry fans get something to watch despite the teams in action not being among the best in the country. There were plenty of storylines to watch and impressive stat lines among the 11 contests.
Let's dive into it.
One of the most anticipated games of Week 0 was Northwestern facing off against Nebraska in Ireland. After bringing in 22 transfers, including quarterback Casey Thompson and receiver Trey Palmer, the Scott Frost-led Cornhuskers were getting some hype for this season. Kirk Herbstreit even boldly predicted that they would make the Big Ten Championship. That prediction is now dead in the water after a terrible 28-31 loss to the Wildcats. The game started out well with Thompson leading the Huskers 75 yards down the field, ending with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda. They wound up getting off to a 14-3 lead a few minutes into the second quarter with Thompson looking very sharp in the first half.
The wheels started to come off when Northwestern responded with two touchdowns of their own to put them up 17-14 at halftime. Nebraska still looked poised to win the game when they answered with two touchdown runs from junior-college transfer Anthony Grant. At that point they were up 28-17 after a big 46-yard touchdown run. But then Frost made every Cornhusker fan sick to their stomach like he made his offensive lineman in practice.
Even though the fifth-year head coach is no longer the offensive play caller, he still made the most important (and dumbest) decision of the game. Due to credit card machines being down, fans at Aviva Stadium in Dublin were treated to free alcohol and food. Perhaps Frost got in on some of that free alcohol. Thinking he could get the game out of reach, Frost called for an onside kick after Nebraska scored their fourth touchdown. The decision immediately backfired, with Northwestern recovering and going down the field to score on a 44-yard drive, capped off by Cam Porter three-yard touchdown run. Thompson looked like a completely different player in the second half and threw his first interception a few drives later as he overthrew his intended receiver. The Wildcats capitalized with a six-play, 42-yard drive, ending with a four-yard touchdown run from Evan Hull.
After Northwestern killed the clock down to just outside the two-minute mark, the Huskers still had a chance to come back 31-28. But then the transfer quarterback from Texas threw his second pick, though it wasn't his fault as it tipped off his receiver's hands. Nonetheless, that ended the game and brings Nebraska's record in one-possession games to 5-21 under Frost. Things are not very "Frost"-y in Lincoln right now, as the head coach's seat is scolding hot. It won't be long until he melts completely.
Big Shoes to Fill in Chapel Hill
Following three seasons of strong quarterback play from Sam Howell in which he broke numerous program records, North Carolina moved forward with redshirt freshman Drake Maye. While Howell started right away in his true freshman season of 2019, Maye got the chance to sit behind and learn from the fifth-round draft pick last year. Tar Heels' head coach Mack Brown named Maye as the starter on Monday, and it immediately paid off as he impressed in his debut. The Charlotte, North Carolina native completed 29 of 37 passes for 294 yards and five touchdowns, while also running for 55 yards on four carries. Granted, it was only against Florida A&M but it is still a good sign of things to come for Maye and the Tar Heels. The next two weeks, North Carolina travels on the road to play Appalachian State and Georgia State, before a big test against Notre Dame on September 24.
Chase Brown Runs Wild
In a resounding 38-6 win for Illinois over Wyoming, junior running back Chase Brown went off for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, averaging 7.9 yards per carry. Brown also caught the team's first touchdown of the game just 41 seconds in, after breaking off a 38-yard run. The Western Michigan transfer was a strong benefit of the rejuvenated rushing attack under the regime of new head coach Bret Bielema.
Brown became the Fighting Illini's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2018 last year and Bielema is known for producing running backs. One of his most notable was former New England Patriot James White, who rushed for 1,052 yards and 14 touchdowns in his freshman year. White had another 1,000-yard season his senior year, when he ran for 1,444 yards and 13 touchdowns. Brown is off to a great start this year and could develop in a similar way to White under Bielema. He is a legitimate dark horse contender for the Doak Walker award for best running back in the nation.
Other notable scores/stats
Vanderbilt 63, Hawaii 10
Mike Wright: 13/21 passing, 146 yards, 2 TDs, 13 CAR, 163 YDS, 2 TDs
Will Sheppard: 3 REC, 39 YDS, 2 TDs
Western Kentucky 38, Austin Peay 27
Austin Reed: 20/34 passing, 279 YDS, 4 TDs, 1 INT
Daewood Davis: 6 REC, 124 YDS, 1 TD
Malachi Corley: 5 REC, 61 YDS, 3 TDs
UNLV 52, Idaho State 21
Doug Drumfield: 21/25 passing, 356 YDS, 4 TDs
Aidan Robbins: 10 carries, 35 yards, 2 TDs
Ricky White: 8 REC, 182 YDS, 2 TDs