Charlotte, N.C. — Christopher Smith returned an interception 74 yards for a touchdown and No. 5 Georgia turned in a defensive effort for the ages, toppling third-ranked Clemson 10-3 on Saturday in the opener for both teams.
The Bulldogs held the Tigers to 2 yards rushing and sacked D.J. Uiagalelei seven times to position themselves for a run at the College Football Playoffs.
Uiagalelei, who entered the season as a Heisman Trophy candidate, finished 19 of 37 for 178 yards with one interception. He bobbled snaps, was out of sync with his receivers and spent most of the day under heavy duress against a relentless Bulldogs pass rush.
Even when Georgia turned the ball over, the Tigers couldn’t take advantage.
With Clemson down 7-0 in the third quarter, Baylon Specter appeared to give the Tigers they momentum they needed when he intercepted J.T. Daniels’ pass at the Georgia 33. But after a short gain on first down Uiagalelei was sacked on consecutive plays and Clemson was forced to punt.
Clemson didn’t score until 9:08 left in the game when a 44-yard reception by Joseph Ngata an a defensive pass interference penalty set up a 22-yard field goal by B.T. Potter, helping the Tigers avoid their first shutout since 2003.
Despite being dominated all game, the Tigers had a chance to tie with 7:35 left when they took over at their own 25. The Tigers would reach midfield and Dabo Swinney went for on fourth-and-5, only to see Uiagalelei’s hurried pass fall incomplete.
From there, the Bulldogs ran out the clock.
Georgia’s defense, which dominated the line of scrimmage, set the tone early with Nolan Smith and Nakobe Dean registering third-down sacks on Clemson’s first two possessions.
In a first half dominated by defense – and some pretty impressive punting – it was only fitting the only score came when Smith jumped in front of a Uiagalelei pass intended for Justyn Ross and raced 74 yards to the end zone to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead at halftime.
More Top 25
► No. 1 Alabama 44, No. 14 Miami 14: Looking very much like a team capable of making another run at a national title, No. 1 Alabama opened its season with a rout of Miami behind four touchdown passes from Bryce Young in his first college start.
The sophomore from Southern California completed 27 of 38 for 344 yards, hooking up with Cameron Latu on a pair of scoring plays and burying the Hurricanes with a 94-yard touchdown pass to Jameson Williams early in the third quarter.
Young became the first Alabama quarterback to throw four TD passes in his starting debut. Mac Jones and Joe Namath had shared the school record with three scoring throws to begin their stints as the Tide’s No. 1 QB. Williams, a transfer from Ohio State, had four receptions for 126 yards in his Alabama debut.
The Crimson Tide also turned in a dazzling defensive effort at the home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, sacking D’Eriq King four times, forcing him into three turnovers and stuffing him on a goal-line stand. Alabama led 27-0 before Miami crossed midfield. King and the Hurricanes simply made too many mistakes to compete with perhaps the greatest dynasty in college football history.
►(At) No. 2 Oklahoma 40, Tulane 35: Spencer Rattler passed for 304 yards and a touchdown and No. 2 Oklahoma, playing a road game on its home field, narrowly avoided a shocking upset.
The opener for both teams was relocated from New Orleans because of Hurricane Ida, and Oklahoma had the Green Wave painted on the 25-yard lines. Sooners fans cheered when Tulane’s players ran into the field before the game.
At the end, they were holding their breath.
The Sooners, who led 40-22 early in the fourth quarter, gave up a pair of touchdowns. Tulane had fourth-and-13 from just short of midfield with just under two minutes to go when quarterback Michael Pratt ran for 12 yards and the Green Wave turned the ball over on downs. The Sooners ran out the clock.
Oklahoma’s Gabe Brkic tied an FBS record with three field goals of 50 or more yards, and Marvin Mims had five catches for 117 yards for the Sooners.
Pratt passed for 296 yards and three touchdowns for the Green Wave. He also ran for another score.
(At) No. 6 Texas A&M 41, Kent State 10: Leon O’Neal Jr. had two interceptions, returning the second one 85 yards for a touchdown, and Devon Achane added two scores to Texas A&M beat Kent State.
It’s Texas A&M’s ninth consecutive victory after ending last season with an eight-game winning streak.
O’Neal and Achane’s big performances helped make up for a mistake-riddled night by Haynes King, who threw three interceptions in his first career start.
O’Neal’s first interception came just before halftime when he picked off Dustin Crum’s pass in the end zone. With about eight minutes left in the third, O’Neal jumped in front of a receiver for his second pick. He weaved around a couple of Kent State players and dashed untouched for the score, capping the play by diving into the end zone to make it 20-3.
King was 21 of 33 for 292 yards and threw two touchdown passes to Ainias Smith.
►(At) No. 7 Iowa State 16, Northern Iowa 10: Datrone Young had a big interception with 2:05 left in the fourth quarter and Iowa State staved off upset-minded Northern Iowa to avoid becoming the just the second top-10 team to lose to a team from Division I’s second-tier.
Iowa State was in danger of joining Michigan as the only top-10 team to lose to an FCS opponent, a memorable upset by Appalachian State in 2007.
Having survived the opening close-call, Iowa State will likely head into its rivalry game next week against No. 18 Iowa ranked for the first time in the history of the series.
Brock Purdy completed 21 of 26 passes for 197 yards, but the Cyclones were kept off-balance by a defense that returned all of its starters. Breece Hall, who led the nation with nine 100-yard games last year, was held to 69 yards on 23 carries.
Northern Iowa had two chances with the ball after Connor Assalley’s 21-yard field goal put the Cyclones up 16-10 with 6:18 left.
► (At) No. 11 Oregon 31, Fresno State 24: Anthony Brown scored on a 30-yard quarterback keeper with 2:57 left and Oregon beat Fresno State.
Oregon jumped to a 21-6 lead, but Fresno State scored three straight touchdowns to tie it midway through the third quarter, then took the lead early in the fourth on Abraham Montano’s field goal.
A fumble recovery gave Oregon the ball at the Fresno State 32, but the Ducks settled for Camden Lewis’ 25-yard field goal to tie it before Brown’s go-ahead touchdown.
Brown threw for 172 yards and a touchdown and ran for 62 yards.
►(At) No. 13 Florida 35, Florida Atlantic 14: Emory Jones’ first career start included a touchdown pass and two interceptions in Florida’s victory over Florida Atlantic.
Jones was far from sharp in the Swamp, but the fourth-year junior had some moments to build on moving forward. He did much of his damage with his legs, finishing with 74 of the team’s 400 yards rushing.
His backup, Anthony Richardson, looked more ready for the spotlight. Richardson ran seven times for 160 yards, including a 73-yard score late in the game and an 11-yarder in which he broke three tackles and hurdled another defender. He was 3-for-8 passing for 40 yards.
Malik Davis had 104 yards and a touchdown on the ground, the second time he’s hit the century mark, and the first since his freshman year in 2017. Dameon Pierce ran for two scores.
►(At) No. 15 Southern California 30, San Jose State 7: Drake London caught a career-high 12 passes for 137 yards, Greg Johnson returned a late interception 37 yards for a touchdown and Southern California pulled away to beat San Jose State.
Kedon Slovis passed for 256 yards and two touchdowns, with more than half of his completions finding their way to the dominant London. Slovis also hit Tahj Washington with a 29-yard touchdown pass in the first half, but the rest of USC’s passing game struggled until the Trojans’ final surge.
Erik Krommenhoek made a sliding 20-yard TD catch with 2:07 to play for USC, which outscored the Spartans 17-0 in the fourth quarter.
Nick Starkel passed for 308 yards and Tyler Nevens rushed for a touchdown for the Spartans, who trounced Southern Utah in their season opener last week.
► (At) No. 18 Cincinnati 49, Miami of Ohio 14: Desmond Ridder was 20 of 25 for 295 yards and four touchdowns and Cincinnati beat Miami of Ohio.
The Bearcats tied the series that began in 1888 at 59-59-7.
Ridder threw an 81-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Scott on the second play from scrimmage. It was the longest TD toss of his career. Ridder also ran six times for 31 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown carry.
Jerome Ford added 121 yards rushing yards on 12 carries, scoring on a 21-yard run in the second quarter.
►Montana 13, (at) No. 20 Washington 7: Montana became the first FCS team to upset a ranked FBS team in five years, shocking Washington.
Montana quarterback Cam Humphrey scored on a 4-yard run early in the fourth quarter, and the Grizzlies added a short field goal with 2:54 left to take a six-point lead.
Needing a touchdown to avoid the stunning upset, Washington’s Dylan Morris was incomplete on fourth-and-2 with 1:33 left giving the ball back to the Grizzlies.
Montana was able to run only 21 seconds, and Kevin Macias’ 50-yard field goal attempt was well short. Given one more chance, Washington reached the Montana 43, but Morris’ pass was intercepted by Montana’s Marcus Welnel with 31 seconds left and those in maroon and silver started a wild celebration.
Montana is the first FCS team to beat a ranked FBS team since North Dakota State won at No. 13 Iowa 23-21 early in the 2016 season, and the fifth time it has happened since Appalachian State’s famous upset of No. 5 Michigan in 2007. It was Montana’s second victory over Washington, the last coming in 1920.
►(At) No. 21 Texas 38, Louisiana-Lafayette 18: Bijan Robinson scored twice and Hudson Card threw two touchdown passes in his first career start, leading Texas past Louisiana-Lafayette in coach Steve Sarkisian’s Longhorns debut.
Robinson scored Texas’ first touchdown on a pass from Card in the first quarter, then punched in another on a 7-yard run on the first possession of the third that put Texas ahead 21-6. Robinson finished with 176 total yards rushing and receiving in the kind of all-around game Sarkisian had promised to use.
Card, a second-year freshman who won the starting job over fourth-year player Casey Thompson, was 14-of-21 passing for 224 yards and no interceptions. He also scrambled out of pressure well and had a 3-yard touchdown run in the third quarter after Louisiana closed to 21-12.