ATLANTA — Blake Sims was good enough to finish his first start at quarterback for Alabama, 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 and added 42 rushing yards, playing the entire opener at the Georgia Dome. The fifth-year senior beat out Florida State transfer Jake Coker for the start. Tide coach Nick Saban had suggested both quarterbacks would play, but Sims never came out.
Yeldon (126 yards rushing and two touchdowns), Henry (113 yards rushing and a score), and Cooper (12 catches for 130 yards) provided plenty of support. 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.
But West Virginia didn't take full advantage, dropping more than a half-dozen catchable passes, including one off the hands of Elijah Wellman near the goal line that would have been a sure TD early in the fourth quarter. Coming off a 4-8 season, West Virginia was a 26½-point underdog.
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 spark Auburn.
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 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.
Cameron Artis-Payne rushed for a career-high 177 yards. Jermaine Whitehead returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown.
NO. 7 UCLA 28, VIRGINIA 20
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — UCLA scored three defensive touchdowns before Brett Hundley led them on a critical second-half scoring drive as UCLA escaped with a road victory.
Hundley, widely regarded as one of the nation's top quarterbacks, was harassed all day by Virginia's pressure defense, and he made the biggest play of the day for UCLA with his feet. It came on a six-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter when he overpowered safety Quin Blanding to score.
NO. 11 STANFORD 45, UC DAVIS 0
STANFORD, Calif. — Ty Montgomery returned his first career punt for a touchdown and caught five passes for 77 yards and another score, and Stanford tuned up for No. 15 Southern California next week by routing UC Davis.
The All-American kick returner, who was cleared by team doctors to play earlier this week after offseason surgery on his right shoulder, looked ready to be the Cardinal's do-it-all playmaker again. He ran his first punt back 60 yards for a TD and lined up all over the field, including once as a wildcat quarterback.
Stanford led 38-0 at the half and rested most of its starters the final two quarters.
Kevin Hogan threw for 204 yards and three touchdowns to help the two-time defending Pac-12 champions get off to a mostly smooth start. He completed 12 of 16 passes and had one interception.
NO. 12 GEORGIA 45, NO. 16 CLEMSON 21
ATHENS, Ga. — Todd Gurley ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns, returned a kickoff 100 yards for another score, and Georgia gained some early style points in the national race with a convincing win over Clemson.
Gurley made the most of his limited touches on a sweltering night, averaging 17.2 yards every time he got his hands on the ball. He set a school record for all-purpose yards with 293, breaking the record of 290 set by Rodney Hampton in 1987.
Georgia (1-0) broke open a game that was 21-21 at the half, shutting down Clemson (0-1) and a fast-break offense that didn't look nearly as effective without Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins.
NO. 23 North CAROLINA 56, LIBERTY 29
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Marquise Williams accounted for four touchdowns while Jeff Schoettmer returned an interception for a score during North Carolina's game-turning flurry.
Schoettmer's 19-yard return came during a run of four touchdowns in fewer than 4 minutes, which jolted the Tar Heels out of a sluggish and mistake-prone performance in the season opener.
Liberty led 22-21 with about 6 minutes left in the third quarter before Williams found Mack Hollins for a 33-yard scoring pass. Williams later scored on a 15-yard keeper and backup Mitch Trubisky of Mentor, Ohio, followed with his first career TD pass for a 49-22 lead with 2:06 left in the quarter.
NO. 24 MISSOURI 38, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE 18
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Maty Mauk threw for 178 yards and three touchdowns to lead Missouri past South Dakota State.
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), which 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 in the first quarter and did not return.