NO. 2 ALABAMA 33 WEST VIRGINIA 23
ATLANTA — Blake Sims took a seat on the bench next to Jake Coker after leading Alabama to a score and the two chatted for a few minutes before it was time for the offense to go back on the field.
Conversation was the only thing Sims and Coker shared at the Georgia Dome. The quarterback job, Sims had that all to himself.
The fifth-year senior played well enough in his first career start to keep playing, 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 on Saturday.
Sims was 24 for 33 for 250 yards, added 42 running, threw one interception in the fourth quarter, and took every meaningful offensive snap.
Tide coach Nick Saban said leading into the game that both Sims and Coker, the Florida State transfer, might play but there was only one point during the game that he thought about pulling the starter.
It came in the second quarter.
“And it wasn’t his play, it was ... he called a couple formations wrong in the huddle, he called a couple plays wrong,” Saban said of Sims. “There was some confusion on the field.”
Saban said he suggested going to a no-huddle offense to new coordinator, and former Southern California coach, Lane Kiffin, and the tempo helped settle Sims.
“But all in all for him to throw for 250 yards, he did a pretty good job of executing all in all and I’m happy with his progress,” Saban said.
He added “We’re looking forward to how we can help him improve as well as Jake, too.”
So the quarterback competition might not be closed.
“I’ll leave that to Coach Saban,” Sims said.
Yeldon (126 yards rushing and two touchdowns), Henry (113 yards rushing and a score) and Cooper (12 catches for 130 yards) provided ample support. And 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.
NO. 6 AUBURN 45 ARKANSAS 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.
NO. 24 MISSOURI 38 SOUTH DAKOTA ST 18
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Maty Mauk threw for 178 yards and three touchdowns.
Mauk seemed at ease early, finding receiver Darius White crossing behind the Jackrabbits’ defense for a 44-yard touchdown pass just 50 seconds into the game. The Tigers extended their lead to 21-10 at halftime and never trailed.
Zach Zenner rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries for South Dakota State (0-1), who fell to 0-7 against FBS teams since moving to Division I in 2004. Zach Lujan completed 21 of 28 passes for 239 yards and an interception in place of Austin Sumner, who left the game in the first quarter and did not return.
Missouri moved to 14-0 against Football Championship Subdivision teams and has won 13 consecutive openers.
KENTUCKY 59 UT-MARTIN 14
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Braylon Heard’s first-half touchdown runs of 73 and 43 yards spurred Kentucky to a season-opening, 59-14 rout of Tennessee-Martin on Saturday.
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 370 yards, but Kentucky’s 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. The scores propelled Kentucky to a 35-0 halftime lead and the Wildcats never looked back.
Mikel Horton also scored twice and Jojo Kemp added a TD run for Kentucky. Khalil Henderson returned a third-quarter fumble 89 yards for a score.
The game’s final 4 minutes were hushed after a Kentucky cheerleader was injured in a fall. She gave a thumbs-up while being carted off the field, but no further details were immediately available.