Sims starts, finishes, Alabama beats WVU, 33-23
ATLANTA — Blake Sims was good enough to finish his first start at quarterback for Alabama, getting plenty of help from Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, and the second-ranked Crimson Tide held off West Virginia 33-23 Saturday.
Sims was 24-for-33 for 250 yards and added 42 running, playing the entire opener at the Georgia Dome. The fifth-year senior beat out Florida State transfer Jake Coker for the start. Tide coach Nick Saban had suggested both quarterbacks would play, but Sims never came out.
Yeldon (126 yards rushing and two touchdowns), Henry (113 yards rushing and a score) and Cooper (12 catches for 130 yards) provided plenty of support. Alabama needed all the offense it could get because West Virginia found plenty of soft spots in the Tide's D.
The Mountaineers' up-tempo spread gave Clint Trickett his pick of open receivers, and he took advantage with 365 yards passing.
But West Virginia didn't take full advantage, dropping more than a half-dozen catchable passes, including one off the hands of Elijah Wellman near the goal line that would have been a sure touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Marshall, Johnson, No. 6 Auburn top Arkansas 45-21
AUBURN, Ala. — Jeremy Johnson passed for 243 yards and two touchdowns in the first half and Nick Marshall returned from suspension with a 19-yard scoring run to lift No. 6 Auburn to a 45-21 opening victory over Arkansas on Saturday.
The Tigers scored the final 24 points after the Razorbacks managed to force a halftime deadlock. The game was delayed 1 hour, 28 minutes due to lightning in the area during the fourth quarter.
Marshall, who led Auburn to the SEC title last season and the national championship game, started the second half after serving his punishment for getting ticketed in July for possession of a small amount of marijuana. Junior college transfer D'haquille Williams supplied the most electrifying performance with nine catches for 154 yards in his debut, including a 62-yard bomb and an 18-yard touchdown from Johnson.
Cameron Artis-Payne rushed for a career-high 177 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries after replacing Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason. Jermaine Whitehead returned an interception off Brandon Allen 33 yards for a touchdown.
Allen completed 18 of 31 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns, five days after his truck was burned early Monday morning. Alex Collins ran for 68 yards on 10 carries.
Auburn outgained the Razorbacks 595-328, allowing just 61 yards in the second half after a shaky start defensively.
The Tigers, who led the nation in rushing last season, gained 302 yards on the ground after managing just 68 by halftime.
Marshall watched from the sidelines until warming up on an exercise bike before going into the game. His touchdown run was the only time Arkansas gave him room to run. The potential Heisman Trophy contender was just 4-of-6 passing for 50 yards while gaining 19 yards on eight carries, counting a sack.
Todd Gurley leads Georgia past Clemson 45-21
ATHENS, Ga. — Todd Gurley ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns, returned a kickoff 100 yards for another score, and No. 12 Georgia gained some early style points in the national race with a 45-21 victory over No. 16 Clemson on Saturday night.
If rating Heisman Trophy favorites after Week 1, Gurley would surely be among the favorites. He made the most of his limited touches on a sweltering night between the hedges, averaging 17.2 yards every time he got his hands on the ball. He set a school record for all-purpose yards with 293, breaking the record of 290 set by Rodney Hampton in 1987.
Georgia broke open a game that was tied 21-all at halftime, shutting down Clemson and a fast-break offense that didn't look nearly as effective without record-setting quarterback Tajh Boyd and star receiver Sammy Watkins.
Hutson Mason turned in a nondescript performance in the first game of his only full season as Georgia's starting quarterback. The fifth-year senior, an understudy to Aaron Murray throughout his career, completed 18-of-26 for 131 yards and didn't do much damage downfield without speedy receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley.
It didn't really matter. Gurley pretty much finished off Clemson by himself.
The junior running back, looking to shine after an injury-plagued sophomore season, got things started with a 23-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Then he electrified the crowd of more than 92,000 by taking a kickoff at the goal line, bursting through a gap straight up the middle of the field, and leaving everyone in his wake with a stunning display of speed.
Mindful of Gurley's injuries last season and not wanting to tire him out in the humid conditions, Georgia limited him to four carries, one pass reception (for a 5-yard loss) and that dynamic kickoff return in the first half.
The strategy paid off over the final two quarters.
Gurley just kept right on running like he wasn't even tired, while Clemson found it increasingly difficult to bring him down. In the final period, he pushed Georgia to a 31-21 lead with an 18-yard touchdown run, breaking a tackle at the line and cutting to his left to reach the end zone without being touched again.
Kentucky blows out UT Martin, 59-14
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky scored almost every time it had the ball, and its few failures against Tennessee-Martin weren't for lack of effort.
Most satisfying for the Wildcats were contributions from all phases, particularly a running game that seems poised to establish its own identity.
Braylon Heard stated the backfield's case with first-half touchdown runs of 73 and 43 yards, spurring Kentucky to a season-opening, 59-14 rout of the Skyhawks on Saturday.
"It was a good start obviously," Wildcats coach Mark Stoops said. "I'm very pleased with the team's effort. There's a lot to get corrected, but overall we did a lot of good things."
Quarterback Patrick Towles added a TD passing and running in his first career start for Kentucky, which outgained the Skyhawks 656-398. The Wildcats' sophomore threw for 377 yards, but his tailbacks set the tone by flying through huge holes and scoring virtually untouched.
Especially Heard, the junior transfer whose yardage came on those two carries. He twisted his ankle on the second TD and didn't return but helped propel Kentucky to a 35-0 halftime lead that reached 52-0 before UTM scored.
Mikel Horton also scored twice and Jojo Kemp added a touchdown run for Kentucky. Khalid Henderson returned a third-quarter fumble 89 yards for a score.
UT Martin's consolation was spoiling Kentucky's bid for its first shutout since September 2009 as Najee Ray and Caylo Weathers scored fourth-quarter TDs on a 1-yard run and 15-yard reception, respectively. By then the Wildcats had overwhelmed the Skyhawks on both sides of the ball.