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 a score, and the top-ranked Crimson Tide overcame a sluggish offensive performance to beat Virginia Tech, 35-10, on Saturday in Atlanta.
Jones scored on a 72-yard punt return less than two minutes into the game, then scooted loose on a kickoff for a 94-yard touchdown as Alabama began its quest for an unprecedented third straight national title.
For good measure, the junior also hauled in a 38-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter to blow it open against the Hokies, who largely shut down AJ McCarron and Alabama’s highly touted rushing attack.
The Tide managed just 206 yards on offense. McCarron was photographed arriving in Atlanta wearing a boot on his right foot, reportedly because of an ingrown toenail. He finished 10 of 23 passing for 110 yards. T.J. Yeldon rushed for 75 yards on 17 carries, but the Tide finished with just 96 yards on the ground.
Trey Edmunds scored the only touchdown for the Hokies on a 77-yard scamper.
Penn State 23, Syracuse 17 — Christian Hackenberg threw two touchdown passes in his first college game and the freshman led the Nittany Lions in East Rutherford, N.J.
Hackenberg was 22 of 31 for 278 yards with two picks and became the second freshman quarterback to start a Penn State opener since 1910.
North Carolina State 40, Louisiana Tech 14 — Freshman Matt Dayes ran for 84 yards and three touchdowns to help the host Wolfpack run past the Bulldogs in its first game under coach Dave Doeren.
An early left foot injury to NC State quarterback Brandon Mitchell put a damper on the afternoon. Doeren said Mitchell could miss 4-6 weeks and will have surgery Sunday.
Duke 45, N.C. Central 0 — Backup quarterback Brandon Connette threw two TD passes and ran for another, and the Blue Devils earned their first shutout in 24 years with a dismantling of the visiting Eagles. Duke outgained N.C. Central, 488-184, in their first shutout since Steve Spurrier’s final Duke team blanked rival North Carolina, 41-0, in 1989
Maryland 43, Florida International 10 — Senior quarterback C.J. Brown, who hasn’t played in over a year because of a left ACL injury, threw for 281 yards and three TDs and rushed for 105 yards and two scores to lead the Terrapins in College Park, Md.
Georgia Tech 70, Elon 0 — Vad Lee (189 yards passing, 49 rushing) threw for two TDs and ran for one more in the Yellow Jackets’ rout of the visiting Phoenix. It was the largest margin of victory by an ACC school, surpassing Florida State’s 69-0 win over Western Carolina in 2008.
Virginia 19, BYU 16 — Kevin Parks’s 13-yard TD with 2:36 to play rallied the host Cavaliers past the Cougars.