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Oklahoma, Auburn shocked by losses at home

The Arizona Republic


The Arizona Republic

As the Oklahoma Sooners football team prepared for this season, everyone wanted to know whether it could extend its domination over Texas.

Few gave much thought to how the Sooners would fare against Texas Christian.

The Horned Frogs, pride of Fort Worth and the newest member of the Mountain West Conference, shocked the seventh-ranked Sooners 17-10 in Norman on Saturday.

That night, Georgia Tech went into Auburn and handed the 16th-rated Tigers a 23-14 loss.

In the space of eight hours on the season’s opening Saturday, two of the three teams that went unbeaten in the regular season a year ago had been upended.

The common denominator: quarterbacks. Both the Sooners and the Tigers replaced veteran starters – Heisman Trophy winner Jason White at Oklahoma and Jason Campbell at Auburn – and both paid a heavy price for the mistakes made by inexperienced newcomers.

The Sooners started Paul Thompson, who had completed 31 passes in college but none since 2003. Thompson, a junior, lost two fumbles – one inside the TCU 5-yard line – and had one pass intercepted. Redshirt freshman Rhett Bomar fumbled to set up TCU’s winning touchdown.

At Auburn, sophomore Brandon Cox, who had completed 22 passes in his career, threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns against Tech. But his four interceptions in the second half sunk the Tigers.

Trouble for Ty

It wasn’t a good weekend to be Tyrone Willingham. First his new team, the Washington Huskies, blew a 17-6 lead in the final 10 minutes in a 20-17 loss to Air Force in Seattle.

Then Willingham’s former team, Notre Dame, blitzed No. 23 Pittsburgh 42-21.

With new head coach Charlie Weis calling the shots, the Irish looked virtually unstoppable. Led by quarterback Brady Quinn, the Irish mixed a short passing game with the occasional long ball and an inside running game.

The Irish scored touchdowns on six of their first seven possessions. The 35 points in the first 30 minutes are the most in a half by Notre Dame since Lou Holtz’s final home game in 1996.

It was an impressive debut for Weis. Notre Dame fans were positively giddy because the Irish won’t have to rely only on defense to win games, and it proved the school made the right move when it launched Willingham last year.

But the fans might want to remember what became of the last coach who opened his Notre Dame career with a resounding victory over a ranked team.

His name was Tyrone Willingham, and he drubbed No. 23 Maryland 22-0 three years ago. But that was a neutral site at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

Mountain of talent

The Mountain West Conference’s slogan is “Above the rest.” We have a better idea: “As good as most.” It isn’t very catchy, but it’s accurate.

In the space of the season’s first two days, the MWC strengthened its case for an automatic Bowl Championship Series berth, winning two out of three against the Pac-10 and splitting with the Big 12.

The Mountain West’s newest member, TCU, stunned Oklahoma. Utah, which lost star quarterback Alex Smith and head coach Urban Meyer, beat Arizona on Friday, and Air Force knocked off Washington.

Meanwhile, Colorado needed a last-gasp field goal to hold off Colorado State in Boulder.

Take that

Northwestern’s 38-14 rout of Ohio University had a personal side.

Ohio’s new coach is Frank Solich, who, when he was the Nebraska coach, ran up the score in a 66-17 win over Northwestern in the 2000 Alamo Bowl.

“Remember the Alamo Bowl” was a rallying cry for Wildcat fans last week.

Look ahead

No. 2 Texas at No. 6 Ohio State, this Saturday night.

This is the year’s top intersectional showdown. The winner will jump to the front of the race to decide USC’s opponent in the Rose Bowl.

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