Southern Utah's loss to San Jose among 'Week Zero' of college football's return

Southern Utah head coach Demario Warren yells out to his players during an NCAA college football game, Oct. 1, 2016, in Missoula, Mont. The Thunderbirds lost at San Jose State in Saturday's "Week Zero" season opener.

Southern Utah head coach Demario Warren yells out to his players during an NCAA college football game, Oct. 1, 2016, in Missoula, Mont. The Thunderbirds lost at San Jose State in Saturday's "Week Zero" season opener. (Patrick Record, Associated Press)



ON CAMPUS β€” College football was back Saturday, including in the Beehive State.

Well, sort of.

Southern Utah was part of a limited number of "Week Zero" games that kicked off the 2021 season, complete with fans in the stands and surprising results.

The Thunderbirds were routed by defending Mountain West champion San Jose State 45-14 in front of an announced crowd of 16,204 fans at CEFCU Stadium, the largest crowd for a home opening game since 2011 in San Jose, California.

But they weren't without their highlights, either.

Southern Utah (0-1) opened its scoring account with a spectacular double-reverse, drawing inspiration from the Eagles' acclaimed' "Philly Special" for a "Cedar Special" of its own.

Wide receiver Judd Cockett took the double reverse, and after rolling around to his right, the senior from Punahou High in Honolulu, Hawaii, uncorked an 8-yard strike to quarterback Justin Miller for the Thunderbirds' first touchdown of the season.

SUU freshman Kobe Singleton doubled the Thunderbirds' scoring in the second quarter, pulling down Nick Starkel's errant pass and returning it 18 yards for a score with 3:49 left in the half.

Miller completed 15-of-29 passes for 117 yards for an SUU offense that was held to 85 yards of offense in the first half with just four first downs. The Thunderbirds were 1-for-7 on third downs before the break, when San Jose State led 38-14.

The Spartans (1-0) scored touchdowns on their first five offensive series, including TD strikes of 70 and 65 yards from all-Mountain West second-team honoree Nick Starkel.

The Spartans out-gained SUU 534 yards to 250, including 410 passing yards. Starkel finished with 394 yards, four touchdowns and one interception through the air.

"This game was super important," said Starkel to CBS Sports Network, who also ran for a score. "We always talked about how you come out one step at a time. This was our first step."

Here's how the rest of "Week Zero" finished as the 2021 college football season began play

Illinois fends off Nebraska in season-opening win

Box score: Illinois 30, Nebraska 22

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) β€” Under a new coach, with fans packed into the stands for the first time since 2019 and its backup quarterback at the helm, Illinois beat Nebraska 30-22 on Saturday to kick off the 2021 college football season.

The Big Ten conference win didn't come without a price for the Illini.

Illinois starting quarterback Brandon Peters left the game holding his left (non-throwing) shoulder after being sacked hard near the end of the first quarter. He was 3-of-4 passing for 35 yards. He did not return and was replaced by Artur Sitkowski, a sophomore transfer from Rutgers.

Peters' status wasn't clear following Saturday's game.

Provo's Ty Jones scores in Fresno's season-opening rout of UConn

Box score: Fresno State 45, UConn 0

Jake Haener completed 20-of-26 passes for 331 lads and three touchdowns to help the Bulldogs cruise to a shutout win over the Huskies in the season opener.

Former Provo High receiver Ty Jones, who transferred from Washington, caught a 9-yard touchdown pass in his debut with Fresno, which held UConn to 107 yards, nine first downs, and 2-of-16 on third downs a year after the Huskies canceled the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Charbonnet has 3 TDs in UCLA debut as Bruins rout Hawaii

Box score: UCLA 44, Hawaii 10

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) β€” The mother of UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson echoed the thoughts of many Bruins fans during the first half of Saturday's game against Hawaii after Zach Charbonnet scored his third touchdown.

Melva Thompson-Robinson tweeted "Thanks @UMichFootball" as Charbonnet rushed 106 yards in his UCLA debut and the Bruins rolled to a 44-10 season-opening victory at the Rose Bowl.

Charbonnet β€” who was at Michigan the past two seasons before transferring β€” also became the first Bruins back since Johnathan Franklin in 2012 to run for three TDs in a season-opener.

"My line put me in great situations when I did have an opportunity," Charbonnet said. "It allowed us to be one-on-one defenders, and that's all as a running back you can ask for."

UCLA scored on its first five possessions and roared out to a 31-3 halftime lead as it snapped an eight-game losing streak to nonconference teams dating back to 2017. It is also the first time that Chip Kelly has won an opener in four seasons as UCLA's coach.

Cowing has career night in UTEP's 30-3 win over Aggies

LAS CRUSES, N.M. (AP) β€” Jacob Cowing had a career-high 158 yards receiving, including a 59-yard score, and UTEP opened the season with a 30-3 victory over New Mexico State on Saturday night.

Cowing's yardage came on just five catches, including one for 72 yards, as he finished with his sixth career 100-yard game. Gavin Hardison was 11-of-16 passing for 249 yards and an interception.

UTEP rolled to a 20-3 halftime lead with Hardison throwing for 154 yards, 104 to Cowing, before the duo combined for their long score just over a minute into the second half. Ronald Awatt and Deion Hankins rushed for touchdowns and Gavin Baechle kicked three field goals.

The Miners, 3-5 last fall, returned all 11 starters on offense and eight on defense as they outgained the Aggies 452-190.

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