College football: How did new Power 5 coaches fare in their debuts?
College football season is underway, and with a new season comes a chance for some new head coaches to try to make a good first impression.
From coaches that you might recognize from their previous jobs to some brand new names and faces, here are how each of the new Power 5 head coaches fared in their 2016 debuts.
Baylor | Jim Grobe
Grobe kept the tradition of a high-powered Baylor offense alive with a 55-7 blowout win over Northwestern State. The Bears jumped out to a 48-0 halftime lead, allowing them to take it easy in the second half. No. 23 Baylor finished with an insane yardage split, leading 498-78. The only black mark on this debut was the Bears’ 12 penalties for 93 yards, something they will have to sort out as they get closer to Big 12 play.
Georgia | Kirby Smart
Smart lived up to his last name, as he wisely rode a returning Nick Chubb to 222 yards and a big comeback victory over No. 22 North Carolina in Atlanta. It was a great debut for the former Alabama defensive coordinator, who had to make the big decision in-game to pull the struggling starting quarterback Greyson Lambert in favor of Jacob Eason, who gave the No. 18 Bulldogs the spark they needed to top the Tar Heels.
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The former Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach was arguably the most high-profile hire of the offseason, as Illinois looked to make him the piece that kicked off the turnaround of its program. That quest got off to a good start, albeit against an FCS opponent, as the Illini wiped the floor with Murray State in a 52-3 rout. Things don’t usually turn around in one year in a major conference like the Big Ten, but it would probably be considered a successful first year in Champaign if Smith can pull off an upset or two.
Iowa State | Matt Campbell
Campbell’s Cyclones team is one of many Power 5 schools who opted to host an FCS school in a tune-up game. However, this one might need some more tuning. Iowa State had some major struggles on offense, including four turnovers, and were beaten 25-20 by Northern Iowa. The Cyclones haven’t had a winning regular season since 2005, and this was certainly not the start they were looking for in the Campbell era.
Maryland | D.J. Durkin
After a brutal 3-9 campaign in 2015, Maryland brought in former Florida and Michigan defensive coordinator for his first full-time head coaching gig. Things started on a positive not for the Terrapins, as they rode 315 rushing yards to a 52-13 win over Howard. Yes, it was yet another FCS opponent, but Maryland had to be very pleased with this debut.
Miami (Fla.) | Mark Richt
The Richt era began with a bang, as the Hurricanes exploded for 70 points in a win over Florida A&M. There was very little to be unhappy about for Miami, as both the offense and defense were extremely impressive. Richt had a lot of his success in his decade and a half at Georgia, and he will look to get Miami back to the top-notch program it expects to be.
Thank you UFamily! Cane Walk, Student section, Band, Cheerleaders, Tailgaters, and True Fans! 60 thousand strong! Awesome! See ya next week!— Mark Richt (@MarkRicht) September 4, 2016
Missouri | Barry Odom
Odom’s debut did not go so well, as the Tigers were absolutely blanketed by a tough West Virginia defense en route to a 26-11 loss. The total yard count for Missouri was actually very solid (462), but two missed field goals and a streak of its first 14 drives failing to result in a touchdown turned this game into a snooze fest. Odom will get an easier assignment as he looks for his first head coaching win with a program he’s been with for over a decade next week against Eastern Michigan.
Rutgers | Chris Ash
Ash came to Rutgers by way of Ohio State, where he served on Urban Meyer’s staff for two years. It looks like the defensive-minded coach might need some more time for those principles to settle in, as the Scarlet Knights had 48 points dropped on them by a talented Washington offense. It’s been a tough couple of years for Rutgers since joining the Big Ten and Ash was generally considered a very strong hire, but it might be a while before they see results.
South Carolina | Will Muschamp
It was far from pretty, but the former Florida coach emerged victorious in his South Carolina debut. In a very low-offense contest, the Gamecocks scored 13 unanswered points to erase a 10-0 halftime deficit and beat Vanderbilt on the road 13-10. It took over 50 minutes of game time for Muschamp’s team to find the end zone, so that will have to pick up, but it was a conference win.
Syracuse | Dino Babers
The Orange, led by a combined 40-of-46, 437-yard passing performance by quarterbacks Eric Dungey and Zack Mahoney, impressed in Babers’ debut by topping Colgate 33-7. Wins have followed Babers at each stop along his head coaching journey, as he won two Ohio Valley Conference titles in two years at Eastern Illinois before moving to Bowling Green for two more seasons. He won the MAC East Division title each of those two years and was victorious in the 2015 MAC Championship Game before moving on to Syracuse.
Virginia | Bronco Mendenhall
After a successful run at BYU, Mendenhall came over to Virginia to replace Mike London following a 4-8 season. Saturday’s debut could not have gone much worse. Virginia was blown out by FCS opponent Richmond by a score of 37-20. The Cavaliers surrendered 524 yards to the Spiders, leaving fans to only wonder how much damage an ACC opponent could do.
Virginia Tech | Justin Fuente
The Hokies had a very tough decision as to who would fill the shoes of legendary coach Frank Beamer, who retired after 29 years at the helm. They eventually chose Fuente, who did a nice job with a previously struggling Memphis program, going 19-6 over the final two years. Fuente kept the winning ways alive, for now at least, in Blacksburg, Virginia, as he led the Hokies to a 36-13 win over Liberty. His chance to make a true statement in his new position comes in Week 2 when Virginia Tech takes on Tennessee in the Battle at Bristol.