- The Washington Times - Monday, September 7, 2009

The first Saturday in September has never outed so many players and programs.

Say so long to Sam Bradford and Oklahoma.

Last season’s Heisman Trophy winner made the decision to return to school with his heart, not his head. On Saturday night, he paid the price with his shoulder, watching helplessly from the sidelines with his right arm in a sling as BYU dumped his third-ranked Sooners 14-13.

When you throw for 4,720 yards and 50 touchdowns and break every NCAA efficiency record en route to claiming the stiff-arming statue, logic suggests that you turn pro. When you do so behind a stud-stocked offensive line about to lose four multiyear starters, sanity demands it.

Hopefully, Bradford’s injury won’t sideline him for the entire season, sparing everyone the prolonged exposure to backup Landry Jones and his “Boogie Nights” mustache. In terms of Oklahoma’s BCS title hopes, however, Saturday night’s injury might be season-ending stuff.

Kudos to coach Bronco Mendenhall, quarterback Max Hall and the Cougars, who unlike Utah last year will deserve to be part of the BCS championship conversation should they emerge unscathed from a schedule that includes Oklahoma, Florida State, TCU, Air Force and Utah.

Said Mendenhall of the upset: “Where it’s going to rank and all that, I’m not certain. But I know there are a lot of people who are going to benefit from the way these kids played today.”

The results of the day’s two other marquee games ended in chalk: No. 5 Alabama bullying No. 7 Virginia Tech 34-24 and No. 8 Oklahoma State handling No. 13 Georgia in Stillwater. Both losers were exposed as offensively anemic in the process.

Georgia and quarterback Joe Cox flopped in the post-Matthew Stafford/Knowshon Moreno era, posting just 10 points against a Cowboys defense that gave up an average of 48.3 to the Big 12’s big three (Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech) last season. And Virginia Tech amassed a paltry 155 yards of total offense against the Crimson Tide behind its Tyrod Taylor-led attack, looking like a team capable of winning the ACC only by default.

Speaking of the ACC, teams from the little 12 went 0-3 against the other BCS conferences on opening week, while Virginia and Duke managed to lose to Football Championship Subdivision teams William & Mary and Richmond. Perhaps Monday night’s clash between erstwhile powerhouses Florida State and Miami will help salvage the league’s lost first week.

However, fraud-alert sirens weren’t just sounding across the Mid-Atlantic. In Columbus, No. 6 Ohio State needed a two-point reversal with 2:23 remaining to survive Navy 31-27. The Midshipmen are always a plucky bunch, but Terrelle Pryor and Co. aren’t ready for next week’s prime-time collision with No. 4 Southern Cal. Others who were or are vastly overrated relative to opening-week performances are Oregon (lost at Boise State), Illinois (mauled by Missouri), Iowa (outplayed by Northern Iowa), LSU (survived 0-12 Washington) and the aforementioned Bulldogs and Hokies.

Game balls and gassers

The first week presented the most obvious gasser since Miami’s helmet-swinging, gang-stomping duo of Anthony Reddick and Brandon Meriweather dropped the bar to a new low in 2006 vs. Florida International.

Oregon’s LeGarrette Blount was three times a punk against Boise State, talking trash before the game, choking on the crow afterward (minus-5 yards rushing) and cold-cocking a Boise State defensive end who quite legitimately pointed that out and then turning feral when the crowd took umbrage. High marks to first-year Ducks coach Chip Kelly and the Oregon administration for suspending Blount for the season.

This week’s big-game leather goes to BYU’s Hall, who was 26-for-38 passing for 329 yards and two touchdowns in the Cougars’ upset of No. 3 Oklahoma in Dallas. Put Hall’s name on the Heisman tote and take Bradford’s off.

The other two game balls go to guys who have copped mountains of criticism from the media: Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen and Tennessee’s Lane Kiffin. Clausen was a near-perfect 15-for-18 passing for 315 yards and four touchdowns as the Irish dispatched a respectable Nevada team 35-0. Notre Dame is going to be a factor this season; start dealing with it.

After enduring months of partially self-induced scorn from the SEC’s media, Kiffin’s debut was impressive. After leading the nation in three-and-outs in Philip Fulmer’s final campaign, Tennessee did not punt once in its 63-7 demolition of Western Kentucky. Senior quarterback Jon Crompton’s five touchdown passes were more than in his entire 2008 season. Much more will be known about the Volunteers after UCLA visits Saturday, but here’s guessing that nobody in Knoxville is going to miss Fulmer.

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