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September 4, 2005

Sooners' hopes rest on Peterson's ankle

The opening week of the college football season began with a pair of big blows to one of the nation's high profile programs. Seventh-ranked Oklahoma was not only upset Saturday at home by TCU 17-10, but star running back Adrian Peterson suffered a high ankle sprain late in the third quarter.

Peterson, who rushed for a NCAA freshman record 1,988 yards last season, suffered the injury in the third quarter and left for the locker room. He returned two series later, but was far from his usual self. He was fairly ineffective for most of the game, rushing for 63 yards on 22 carries.

The severity of the injury isn't known yet, but Peterson battled past a handful of other injuries last season. Much of the Sooners' hopes of rebounding rest on his health. With quarterback Jason White, the 2003 Heisman winner, gone, Peterson is expected to handle even more carries. Plus, new starting quarterback Paul Thompson struggled in his debut, completing 11 of 26 passes for just 109 yards with an interception.

NOTRE DAME OFFENSE GETS QUICK FIX: The Charlie Weis era could not have gotten off to a much better start. Notre Dame rolled to a 42-21 win at No. 23 Pittsburgh on national television and the offense looked especially sharp. The Irish racked up 502 total yards and averaged 6.5 yards per play. That production also was well balanced. Brady Quinn passed for 227 yards, completing passes to seven different receivers. The Irish also piled up 275 rushing yards with 100 coming from sophomore running back Darius Walker, who may be the star player that Weis can build his offense around.

TROUBLE ON THE PLAINS: Georgia Tech went down to Auburn and ended the Tigers' 15-game winning streak, dating back to the 2003 season, with a 23-14 upset. But, the real bad news for the Tigers isn't the loss, but the poor play of new quarterback Brandon Cox. The sophomore threw four interceptions and fumbled twice. Fortunately for him, the Tigers' next four games all come at home and the first three opponents are Mississippi State, Ball State and Western Kentucky.

QB CONTROVERSY HEATING UP IN KNOXVILLE: It looks like Phil Fulmer is far from done making decisions with his quarterback depth chart. Starter Erik Ainge struggled in the third-ranked Tennessee's 17-10 victory over UAB, throwing two interceptions and completing just five of 14 passes. Ainge split time under center with Rick Clausen, who was much more consistent. Clausen was 17-of-24 for 217 yards with a touchdown and interception. After the game, Fulmer said he will have to reevaluate his quarterbacks. The Vols have an off week before traveling to Florida on Sept. 17. Don't be surprised if Clausen is named the starter by game week.

THE HUNT FOR 2,000 BEGINS: The offseason was filled with talk of Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney rushing for 2,000 yards and that will only increase after his 21-carry, 203-yard performance in a 41-10 win over Tulsa. Without Marion Barber III in the backfield, Maroney may get twice as many carries and will get a shot to make a run at Heisman.

CAL NEEDS NEW QUARTERBACK: California cruised to a 41-3 win over Sacramento State, but that was about the only good news for the Bears. Redshirt freshman Nate Longshore, who won the starting quarterback job during preseason practice, broke his leg late in the first half and will miss at least three months. Junior college transfer Joseph Ayoob fired ten straight incompletions and was replaced with third-stringer Steve Levy, who played fullback the last two seasons. After throwing an interception on his first play, Levy led two scoring drives and threw a 46-yard touchdown pass. Coach Jeff Tedford will be forced to pick between Ayoob and Levy for a starter in their Pac-10 opener next week at Washington, which dropped its opener 20-17 to Air Force in the debut of new head coach Tyrone Willingham.

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