Texas A&M’s offense was practically unstoppable, with and without Johnny Manziel. That Aggies defense needed all the help it could get against Rice.
Johnny Football packed three touchdown passes into less than a half of work for the seventh-ranked Aggies, who beat Rice 52-31 in College Station, Texas, on Saturday.
Manziel was held out of the first half because of what the school said was an “inadvertent” violation of NCAA rules involving signing autographs.
The sophomore had been investigated for allegedly accepting money for autographs from memorabilia brokers, a violation of NCAA rules that could have led to a much longer suspension.
He came in on Texas A&M’s first offensive play of the second half. His first play was a 12-yard run, and the Aggies capped his first drive with a 44-yard field goal. His first touchdown came on a 23-yard pass to Mike Evans on A&M’s second drive of the half.
Shortly before that, he got into it with a Rice defender, appearing to mimic signing an autograph while getting up from a tackle.
He ended his day by getting yanked following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for pointing at the scoreboard after a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
He was replaced by Matt Joeckel on A&M’s last drive. Joeckel started at quarterback for A&M and threw for 190 yards and a touchdown to help the Aggies to a 28-21 lead at halftime.
Manziel was one of more than a half dozen players serving suspensions Saturday.
Cornerbacks Deshazor Everett and De’Vante Harris, defensive tackle Kirby Ennis, defensive end Gavin Stansbury and linebacker Steven Jenkins, all starters, sat out for Texas A&M.
Everett returned in the second half, then was ejected for a targeting penalty and he’ll miss the first half of next week’s game against Sam Houston State, too. Backup safety Floyd Raven was also suspended for this game.
The suspensions of Harris, Stansbury, Jenkins and receiver Edward Pope are for two games and were announced just minutes before kickoff, meaning they’ll be back for top-ranked Alabama on Sept. 14.
NO. 1 ALABAMA 35, VIRGINIA TECH 10: Christion Jones became the first Alabama player since at least the 1940s to have two returns for touchdowns, Vinnie Sunseri brought back an interception for another touchdown, and the Crimson Tide overcame a sluggish offensive performance to beat Virginia Tech.
Jones scored on a 72-yard punt return less than 2 minutes into the game, then scooted loose on a kickoff for a 94-yard touchdown that led the Crimson Tide (1-0) to a win that could’ve been much tougher to start its quest for an unprecedented third straight national title.
For good measure, the junior receiver also hauled in a 38-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter to blow it open against the Hokies (0-1), who largely shut down quarterback AJ McCarron and Alabama’s highly touted offense.
NO. 2 OHIO STATE 40, BUFFALO 20: Braxton Miller threw two touchdown passes before fighting leg cramps and Jordan Hall ran for two more scores to lead Ohio State to a victory over Buffalo in the season opener for both teams.
The Buckeyes, striving for a crisper start from coach Urban Meyer’s debut in 2012, led 23-0 after the first quarter before the Bulls made things interesting. Joe Licata threw two TD passes and linebacker Kahlil Mack returned a Miller interception 45 yards to make it 30-20 in the third quarter.
Miller was sidelined a second time with cramps and sub Kenny Guiton promptly tossed a 21-yard TD pass to Chris Fields.
Hall had a career-high 159 yards rushing, scoring on runs of 37 and 49 yards.
NO. 3 OREGON 66, NICHOLLS STATE 3: Marcus Mariota threw a touchdown pass and ran for two additional scores and the Oregon Ducks made easy work of lower-tier Nicholls.
Mariota, who set an Oregon record with 38 touchdowns last season as a redshirt freshman, completed 12 of 21 passes for 234 yards before sitting after the third quarter when the Ducks had built a 45-3 lead.
Mariota also ran for 113 yards for his second career game with more than 100 yards rushing. De’Anthony Thomas ran for 128 yards and two more touchdowns for Oregon in the debut of new head coach Mark Helfrich.
Helfrich, the team’s former offensive coordinator, was promoted when Chip Kelly left the Ducks in January for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
NO. 8 CLEMSON 38, NO. 5 GEORGIA 35: Tajh Boyd threw for three touchdowns and rushed for two others, Clemson’s defense sacked Aaron Murray four times and the Tigers stung Georgia.
Boyd had scoring passes of 77 yards to Sammy Watkins, 24 yards to Zac Brooks and 9 yards to Stanton Seckinger. Boyd also added TD runs of 4 and 2 yards to win the lone matchup of top 10 teams in college football’s opening weekend.
The Tigers took the lead for good, 31-28, on Chandler Catanzaro’s 24-yard field goal in the third quarter. Georgia had a chip-shot try for a tying kick on its next possession, but couldn’t get if off after Nathan Theus’ bad snap .
Two series later, Boyd led a 12-play, 87-yard TD drive that ended with tight end Seckinger tip-toeing the sidelines to get in.
Georgia’s Todd Gurley ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
NO. 10 FLORIDA 24, TOLEDO 6: Mack Brown had a career day, Jeff Driskel was efficient and Florida opened the season with a victory over Toledo.
Brown ran 25 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Driskel completed 17 of 22 passes for 153 yards and a score. And Florida’s defense, which ranked fifth in the country in 2012, looked every bit as good as last year’s version despite losing eight starters and its coordinator.
The Gators controlled both lines of scrimmage, opening holes for Brown and keeping steady pressure on Toledo’s experienced spread offense. It was exactly the style of play Florida has become known for under third-year coach Will Muschamp. No flashiness.
NO. 13 OKLAHOMA STATE 21, MISSISSIPPI STATE 3: J.W. Walsh threw for 135 yards and ran for another 125 and a touchdown to lead the Oklahoma State Cowboys to a win over the Mississippi State in the Texas Kickoff.
Walsh finished 18 of 27 after relieving starter Clint Chelf on the Cowboys’ third series. Jeremy Smith rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries for Oklahoma State (1-0), which piled up 432 yards on offense after struggling for most of the first half.
Tyler Russell 10 of 16 for 133 yards before being helped off the field and taken to the locker room in the third quarter after being brought down on a scramble. Dak Prescott replaced Russell, throwing for 89 yards on seven of 17 passing.
NO. 14 NOTRE DAME 28, TEMPLE 6: Tommy Rees threw a pair of 32-yard touchdown passes to DaVaris Daniels, a 66-yard scoring pass to Troy Niklas and Notre Dame had three quick scoring drives en route to a victory over Temple.
The 14th-ranked Irish jumped to a 14-0 lead on a pair of three-play drives on its opening two possessions and appeared headed for a blowout.
But when the Notre Dame offense stalled, Temple squandered a pair of scoring chances, with Jim Cooper Jr. missing a pair of field goals.
An unsettled feeling settled in at Notre Dame Stadium when Kenny Harper scored on a 1-yard run to cut the lead to 14-6. The Irish regained control, however, with Niklas’ TD with 43 seconds left in the half.
NO. 16 OKLAHOMA 34, LOUISANA-MONROE 0: Trevor Knight rushed for 103 yards on 13 carries and threw three touchdown passes - two to Jalen Saunders - in his first start and Oklahoma beat Louisiana-Monroe.
Oklahoma gave coach Bob Stoops his 150th career win, putting him seven behind Barry Switzer on the Sooners’ career coaching wins list. Oklahoma is 5-0 under Stoops in August games and 14-1 in home openers, having lost only to Texas Christian in 2005.
Knight became the first Oklahoma quarterback to rush for 100 or more yards in a game since Jason White had 117 yards rushing against Kansas on Oct. 13, 2001.
NO. 17 MICHIGAN 59, CENTRAL MICHIGAN 9: Devin Gardner ran for two touchdowns and threw for another in the first half as Michigan went on to beat Central Michigan.
It was the highest-scoring opener for the Wolverines (1-0) since 1905, when they beat Ohio Wesleyan 65-0. They will face a tougher test against No. 14 Notre Dame next week at home in a prime-time game.
The Chippewas (0-1) fell behind 35-6 at halftime. After they gave up five straight TDs, Ron Coluzzi’s third field goal made it 56-9 with 3:12 left in the game.
Gardner was 10 of 15 for 162 yards with a 16-yard TD pass to Jeremy Gallon and two interceptions.
NO. 18 NEBRASKA 37, WYOMING 34: Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross each ran for more than 100 yards, Taylor Martinez passed for three touchdowns and Nebraska survived two late turnovers to defeat Wyoming.
The Cornhuskers, who won their nation-leading 28th straight opener, scored on four of five possessions after trailing 14-10 early in the second quarter and then had to hang on as Wyoming made it a game to the end.
The Cowboys converted two late Nebraska turnovers into touchdowns to pull within 37-34 with 1:32 left. Nebraska recovered the onside kick after Brett Smith’s 47-yard TD pass to Robert Herron.
Wyoming’s defense held, and the Cowboys got the ball back on their 6 with 1:07 to play, but time ran out on them before they could even get to midfield.
NO. 23 WISCONSIN 45, MASSACHUSETTS 0: Melvin Gordon ran for 144 yards, James White added 143 and Wisconsin’s revamped defense pitched a shutout of Massachusetts in coach Gary Andersen’s debut.
Gordon and White padded their totals by each running for touchdowns of at least 51 yards for the Badgers, who didn’t stray far from their trademark rushing attack with the defensive-minded Andersen now pacing the sideline.
Joel Stave overcame a slow start at quarterback to connect with Jared Abbrederis for two long touchdown passes in the second half.
UMass was simply overmatched against the Big Ten’s three-time defending champion.
Stacey Bedell finished with 70 yards on 19 carries for UMass.
EASTERN WASHINGTON 49, NO. 25 OREGON STATE 46: Vernon Adams passed for 411 yards and ran for 107 and the go-ahead score with 18 seconds left as Eastern Washington upset Oregon State to become the third FCS team to beat a ranked FBS team.
Adams overwhelmed the Beavers in a performance in sure to attract attention around the nation. He threw for four touchdowns and ran for two, completing 23 of 30 passes.
Adams returned, though, and scored on a 2-yard run to put the Eagles up 49-46. It was the first time a team from the Football Championship Subdivision has defeated a ranked team from the Football Bowl Subdivision since James Madison beat Virginia Tech in September 2010.