Some of us have been waiting since the final bowl game back in January. The most exciting time of the year in the sports world is finally here as college football begins this week. It actually started last night (Thursday) as some teams did as expected (South Carolina), while others (UTC) fell flat on opening night.
South Carolina jumped out to a 17-0 lead over North Carolina, then waited out a two-hour delay for heavy rain and lightning as they trimmed the Tarheels 27-10 in Columbia. Pre-season all everything, Jadeveon Clowney failed to register a sack against UNC, but he did claim 3 1/2 tackles to lead a dynamic defensive unit in the Gamecocks win.
Another big SEC contest on opening night took place in Nashville as Vanderbilt hosted Ole Miss. The Rebels took an early 10-0 lead in the first half and led at the break. Vandy must have been given a well-lit torch by Coach James Franklin; one to light their own fire at halftime as the Commodores rallied for 21 unanswered points in the third quarter. Then Ole Miss came back to win long past midnight.
As mentioned previously, the Chattanooga Mocs fell flat on Thursday as they were embarrassed at Finley Stadium and in front of a regional CSS television audience by a very good UT Martin squad, 31-21. There was a very good crowd on hand but it will remain to be seen if fans cheering the blue and gold will return for the Mocs’ next home game (versus Austin Peay Sept. 14).
The Skyhawks, coached by former UTC offensive coordinator Jason Simpson, led 7-0 at halftime. Both teams looked better offensively in the second half, but UTM, led by the nephew of future NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre, was too much to overcome. Dylan Favre rushed and passed the Skyhawks to 24 second-half points - slightly better than Mocs’ quarterback Jacob Huesman’s 21 second-half total. The game seemed to be very frustrating to UTC fans and coaches. When the Mocs needed a stop on defense, they couldn’t get it. And when they needed a big play on offense, especially in the first half, they couldn’t get that either. Coach Huesman has some problems to repair before the Mocs' Southern Conference schedule begins at Georgia Southern on Sept. 28. A note to UTC fans - it’s too early to panic. UTM is a very good football team and the Mocs will get better.
While the Tennessee Volunteers host Austin Peay at Neyland Stadium Saturday night in Knoxville, I will be in Clemson, South Carolina for the opening week’s headliner. #5 Georgia at #8 Clemson. By the way……in case you haven’t noticed, the Tigers and their fans take tailgating to a whole new level. We’ll get started in the morning as ESPN’s Game Day broadcasts from there, and we’ll wrap it up around midnight. Of course, traffic getting out of “Death Valley” will delay our bedtime until the wee hours of Sunday morning. Still, I’m looking forward to being there.
So, it’s finally here. College football with its own unique charm and appeal has begun with a big bang. As we make our way through the season, the weather will eventually get cooler and the seats under a few coaches will get much warmer. There will be upsets along the way and big-time players making big-time plays. After all……this is the most exciting time of the year. Enjoy!
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).