College football recaps, scores, highlights from Week 3 action

Oklahoma overcoming Nebraska, Cincinnati squeezing past Indiana highlight the early Week 3 college football recaps, highlights, and scores.

Penn State was all white on the night as they beat Auburn, Malik Willis made his case for QB1, and Clemson and Ohio State left more questions than answers as college football Week 3 continued to excite into Saturday night. We’ve got all your college football recaps, scores, and highlights in one place for you.

College football Week 3 recaps

We’re recapping the biggest stories from across the Week 3 slate of college football action.

Fresno State stun #13 UCLA

Where do we even begin with this one? While most of the country slept, Fresno State and UCLA put on an absolute show. Fumbles, interceptions, hurdles, and a game-winning drive — this Mountain West vs. Pac-12 clash had it all.

Jake Haener attempted an awe-inspiring 53 passes, but Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw the ball a mere 24 times. A key reason for that stark difference was the clear domination of possession. The Bulldogs held the ball for 40 minutes and 20 seconds, while the Bruins had possession for 19:40.

The Bulldogs took flight

From the jump, Haener and Co. knew they had to beat UCLA through the air. The Bruins ran zone coverage for much of the night, and Fresno State took advantage. Nearly every reception was on out, slant, screen, or back-shoulder seam routes. Meanwhile, RB Ronnie Rivers feasted on the ground. He generated 136 yards and 2 touchdowns on 21 carries.

Nevertheless, the true stars of the show were WRs Jalen Cropper and Josh Kelly. Cropped decimated UCLA, catching 14 passes for 141 yards and a score. Additionally, Kelly reeled in 8 catches for 120 yards, Mossing a defender along the sideline in the process. The Bruins had no answer for either receiver, with Cropper even taking an end-around for a 1-yard touchdown early in the contest.

While both teams shared blows in the fourth quarter, Fresno State came out on top. DTR and the Bruins scored on a 6-play, 75-yard drive in under just over two minutes. With 54 seconds left and a dream, Haener methodically drove his team to the red zone. With 10 (Cropper), 27 (Cropper), and 26-yard strikes (Kelly) to either Cropper or Kelly, the Bulldogs found themselves 13 yards away with 23 seconds left. How did the contest end? Haener to Cropper on a back-shoulder fade.

It’s a shame few people caught the spectacle on their TVs, but those who did understand just how fascinating the game was. Regardless of when you see the score, one thing is for certain — Fresno State evaporated UCLA’s College Football Playoff aspirations.

All white on the night as Penn State defeats Auburn

James Franklin called it “championship caliber football,” and it was hard to disagree as Penn State was inventive on offense and dangerous on defense in a 28-20 win over Auburn in the “White Out” on Saturday night.

Sean Clifford continuously drove the Nittany Lions down the field, throwing for 280 yards and 2 TDs. He was helped out by star wide receiver Jahan Dotson, who made multiple highlight-reel plays, including a 22-yard completion of his own.

A pair of touchdowns on either side of the half proved critical for Penn State’s success. Clifford found tight end Brenton Strange for a 2-yard score, making it a 14-10 contest with a little over a minute left. Auburn failed to capitalize on a late interception, while Penn State punished the Tigers’ own turnover just after the half.

Tight end Tyler Warren took the wildcat-formation snap and leaped over the line for a touchdown, making it 21-10. Although a Tank Bigsby touchdown and a field goal got Auburn back to within a point, Noah Cain’s end-zone plunge with 10 minutes to go gave Penn State the win.

While Clifford, Cain, and Dotson kept the offense rolling, Joey Porter Jr. and Jaquan Brisker continue to elevate their NFL Draft stock at the heart of the Nittany Lions’ defense.

Clemson and Ohio State both win, but question marks remain

After their defeat to Oregon last week, Ohio State was expected to come out firing against Tulsa. They may have won 41-20, but the final score flattered to deceive. The Buckeyes struggled to get anything going on offense, with freshman running back Treveyon Henderson coming to the rescue with a 277-yard, 3-touchdown performance.

While the offense sputtered, the defense threw up even more questions. Having been gashed on the ground by Minnesota and Oregon, they were burned through the air for 428 yards by Tulsa.

Clemson’s defense has been no issue, with just 21 points given up through three games of the 2021 college football season. They allowed just 8 points to Georgia Tech on Saturday night, with two of those coming from a safety that could have been much worse.

Clemson has become the architects of their own offensive doom. A questionable decision to try and run Will Shipley out of the end zone could have resulted in a tied game in the dying seconds. Thankfully for the Tigers, Shipley’s fumble was recovered by a Clemson player. However, a lack of faith in QB DJ Uiagalelei was evident in calling the play.

Both Ohio State and Clemson have struggled to adapt to new quarterbacks under center. Growing pains are always to be expected, especially transitioning from a pair of passers like Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence. Yet, they need to find something soon or risk getting left behind in the race for the College Football Playoffs.

College football Week 3 upset alert!

Kaleb Eleby and Kenny Pickett met in a clash of under-the-radar quarterback prospects. In the shock of the early slate of college football Week 3, the Western Michigan QB’s 336 yards and 3 touchdowns gave the Broncos a 44-41 win over the Panthers.

Incarnate Word of the Southland Conference gave the FCS their ninth win over an FBS program so far this season. The Cardinals beat Texas State 42-34 for their first-ever win over an FBS program. Quarterback Cameron Ward threw for 376 yards and 4 touchdowns in the win, taking his season total to 11 scores through three games.

Take me home, country roads, West Virginia beat Virginia Tech 27-21 despite a spirited comeback from the Hokies. The Mountaineers held a 27-7 lead late in the third quarter, mainly thanks to the leg of, well, Casey Legg. Touchdowns from Raheem Blackshear and Jalen Houston threatened to drag VT back into it, but West Virginia clung on for a win over the No. 15 Hokies.

Malik Willis makes his case for QB1 against Old Dominion

Telling the media that Malik Willis can’t throw backfired in a big way for Old Dominion defensive back Harrell Blackmon. The Liberty quarterback torched the Monarchs’ secondary for 242 passing yards and 4 touchdowns on Saturday night as the Flames continued to 3-0 with a 45-17 win.

Blackmon wasn’t wrong about one thing, however. Willis can make plays with his legs, too. On 9 carries, he totaled 77 yards and 2 touchdowns, although he actually went over 100 yards if you don’t take into account sack yardage.

While Spencer Rattler and Desmond Ridder struggled earlier in the afternoon, Willis made NFL throw after NFL throw in the victory. There’s only so long that these throws can be dismissed as “inferior competition.” Willis could be playing against the best cornerbacks in the nation, and he’d still be finding success with his arm.

So far this season, he appears to have cut down on the ill-advised throws, cleaning up his accuracy in the process. There isn’t a QB in the country who has the same arm talent and creativity on the ground.

Liberty gets their first taste of Power Five competition this season next week. The Flames travel to Syracuse in a repeat of the matchup that thrust Willis into the national consciousness. This time around, he’s looking to secure his status as the QB1 of the 2022 NFL Draft class.

Alabama escape from “The Swamp” with a victory

Alabama raced out to an early, what appeared to be unassailable, lead before sluggishly wading through “The Swamp” to emerge with the narrowest of wins on Saturday evening. Although their defense struggled to contain Florida’s ground game for most of the night, they came up with a critical fourth-down stop to secure a 31-29 victory.

Alabama maintains their unbeaten start with the win. Meanwhile, Dan Mullen’s Gators slip to 2-1 on the season.

Bryce Young once again showed why he’s being considered an early favorite for the Heisman Trophy. Spraying the ball around early on, he threw 3 first-quarter touchdowns as the Crimson Tide swept to a 21-3 lead. In doing so, he became only the second Alabama quarterback in the history of the program to throw 10 touchdowns in their first three starts. The other lines up for his second start for the New England Patriots tomorrow — Mac Jones.

Despite Young’s efforts, the offense stalled as the Florida defense flexed their muscle. For the first time since 2017, Alabama had three consecutive three-and-outs. Brenton Cox Jr. could have had an interception in the third, while a pass interference call by Avery Helm negated a stop on third down.

A tale of two defenses down the stretch of the game

While the Florida defense stepped up as the game developed, the Alabama unit struggled. They were consistently gashed on the ground, with Dameon Pierce finding the end zone twice. Emory Jones and Malik Davis added a rushing score each as the Gators racked up 245 rushing yards.

However, Alabama’s defense stepped up at the critical time, penetrating a banged-up Florida offensive line to get a stop on a two-point attempt that would have in all likelihood sent the game to overtime.

Nick Saban has questioned the intensity of his team in recent press conferences. After seeing an 18-point lead almost slip away, it might just be a theme in the upcoming week.

USC overcome early slip and Slovis injury to win big at Washington State

As Washington State opened up an early 14-point lead, USC fans could have been forgiven for thinking it was a case of the same old/brand new you. Clay Helton was relieved of his duties — arguably three years too late — after a turgid start to the year, yet here they were 14-0 down. Enter Jaxson Dart and an offensive explosion that lead to 45 unanswered points.

If you’re not familiar with Drake London, may we suggest getting acquainted? After starting quarterback Kedon Slovis went down following a sack, London became the go-to guy for newcomer Dart. The duo flourished, with London securing 170 yards and 2 TDs from 13 receptions. The insanely athletic 6’5″ wide receiver is primed to be one of the top wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Although Dart had a shaky start, throwing an interception, he came into his own. The freshman finished the night with 391 yards, 4 TDs, and 2 INTs. While the severity of Slovis’ injury wasn’t known at the time of writing, interim head coach Donte Williams has a decision to make ahead of USC’s clash with Oregon State next week.

While the offense was thriving, Drake Jackson led a defense that held Washington State to 279 total yards. The outside linebacker flashed why he’s so highly rated as an NFL Draft prospect with a strip-sack in the end zone that was recovered for a touchdown.

Calvin Austin III helps Memphis maul Mississippi State

When Will Rogers found Jaden Walley for a 6-yard TD to give Mississippi State a 17-7 lead before the end of the second quarter, it looked like an expected win for the SEC team over their AAC rivals.

Calvin Austin III had other ideas. The dynamic playmaker dominated the second half of the game and gave Memphis an unlikely win on Saturday evening. Austin took two 20+ yard plays to the house to sneak the Tigers into a 21-17 lead early in the fourth quarter.

He returned a punt 94 yards in bizarre fashion just two minutes later to open up an 11-point lead. After the ball bounced off a Mississippi State player, Austin swooped in much to the bemusement of the entire Bulldogs team, escaping down the sideline for a game-changing score.

Drama and intrigue follow Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach everywhere he goes, and this game was no different. A pair of touchdowns sandwiched a Joe Doyle field goal to bring the Bulldogs to within 2 points. However, they failed to convert a two-point attempt, and the Tigers inflicted the first defeat of the season on Mississippi State.

Oklahoma eventually overcame Nebraska in Norman

On the 50th anniversary of “The Game of the Century,” Oklahoma eventually overcame Nebraska 23-16 in a gritty game in Norman. The Sooners struggled early on, but a combination of the Cornhuskers’ special-teams collapse and uncharacteristic lack of discipline allowed Oklahoma to remain undefeated.

Nebraska did a good job of dragging the Sooners into a defensive battle in the first half. The Cornhuskers held Oklahoma to 7 points at the half, their lowest total since 2017. Lincoln Riley’s normally explosive offensive struggled, with Spencer Rattler doing little to quell raising concerns about his NFL Draft stock.

The redshirt sophomore entered the season as close to a consensus QB1 as you can get in this murky 2022 NFL Draft class. However, he’s repeatedly made ill-advised throws into tight coverage through three games this season. Rattler’s start to the year is eerily reminiscent of the beginning of last year’s campaign. However, he should be building on the momentum he gained down the stretch of 2020.

Special-teams mistake allows Spencer and Sooners to survive

The first drives of the third quarter perfectly encapsulated the difference between the two teams on Saturday afternoon. Down 7-3 at the half, Nebraska came out looking to take the lead but instead missed a field goal. One drive later, Jeremiah Hall’s touchdown opened the gap between the two teams.

Even when Nebraska found the end zone with an Adrian Martinez run, a blocked PAT attempt allowed Pat Fields to return the ball to the opposite end zone to make the score 16-23.

It was the icing on the cake of a terrible special-teams performance for the Cornhuskers. Having hit a 51-yard field goal to open their scoring, Connor Culp missed two field-goal attempts. The kicking catastrophe was compounded with untimely mental lapses that repeatedly stalled drives.

The Cornhuskers had the opportunity to tie the game late in the fourth. Yet, a swarming Sooners defense prevailed with sacks from Nik Bonitto and Perrion Winfrey. We’d heard all about the Oklahoma defense before the season, and today was the day they finally turned up.

Cincinnati survives early scare, secures statement victory

Cincinnati came into Saturday’s game with Indiana looking to make a statement to the CFB Playoff committee. For most of the first half, their chances of making it to the final four looked more remote than ever. A targeting penalty, an ejection, and a late second-quarter rally changed the course of the game, and Cincinnati overcame adversity to emerge with a 38-24 victory.

The Bearcats struggled to move the ball for the majority of the first half. The Hoosiers’ defense had the measure of quarterback Desmond Ridder, who was visibly frustrated on the sideline as Indiana raced out to a 14-0 lead. Peyton Hendershot and former USC running back Stephen Carr found the end zone for Indiana.

Ridder’s struggles with accuracy early on will pump the brakes on an ascension of his 2022 NFL Draft stock. Like Rattler, he continues to struggle to overcome the areas for improvement that littered his summer scouting report. His insane arm talent and athleticism are certainly alluring, but the accuracy issues aren’t going away.

Targeting call changes the tide of the game

The tide changed in the Bearcats’ favor when Indiana linebacker Micah McFadden was ejected for targeting. What had been an impenetrable wall opened up like Moses parting the Red Sea, and Jerome Ford scored for Cincinnati. A field goal just before the half pulled it back to 14-10 at the half.

The two teams traded touchdowns through the third quarter, with Indiana taking a 24-23 lead into the fourth.

Ridder found receiver Alec Pierce for a 19-yard touchdown early in the final quarter to take a 30-24 advantage. A late Deshawn Pace interception (the third of the game for Cincinnati) effectively sealed the game. Ridder put his athleticism to excellent use, ending the game with a rushing score from the resulting possession.

Despite their issues, Cincinnati earned a statement win as they attempt to penetrate the Power Five stranglehold on the CFB Playoff. Their next big test comes against Notre Dame in two weeks.

Is Kenneth Walker the best running back in college football?

Another week, another Kenneth Walker III monster performance. Since his transfer from Wake Forest, the Michigan State running back has consistently ripped college football defenses apart. Is it hyperbolic to call Walker the best running back in college football right now?

As Michigan State continued their unbeaten start to the season with a 38-17 win over Miami (FL), Walker was once again the catalyst of their offense. Yes, the box score will show that Payton Thorne’s 4 passing touchdowns led the Spartans on the night. However, it was Walker who was once again the heartbeat of the offense.

The Michigan State running back is practically unstoppable right now. In the season opener, he trampled Northwestern to the tune of 264 yards and 4 touchdowns. During last week’s win over Youngstown State, he tallied 57 yards and a score on just 7 carries.

The junior running back gashed the Hurricanes for 172 yards. His combination of size, speed, and open field elusiveness is making him a genuine 2022 NFL Draft prospect at the position.

College football Week 3 scores

We’ll update all the latest college football full-time scores as they roll in across the nation.

Thursday, September 16

Ohio 14, Louisiana 49

Friday, September 17

UCF 35, Louisville 42
Maryland 20, Illinois 17

Saturday, September 18, 12-2:30 PM ET kickoffs

Nebraska 16, Oklahoma 23
New Mexico 0, Texas A&M 34
Cincinnati 38, Indiana 24
Virginia Tech 21, West Virginia 27
Coastal Carolina 28, Buffalo 25
Michigan State 38, Miami 17
Northern Illinois 10, Michigan 63
Chattanooga 23, Kentucky 28
Boston College 38, Temple 3

SE Missouri State 28, Missouri 59
Tennessee Tech 0, Tennessee 56
Western Michigan 44, Pittsburgh 41
Albany 24, Syracuse 62
UConn 21, Army 52
Minnesota 30, Colorado 0
Nevada 17, Kansas State 38
Purdue 13, Notre Dame 27

Saturday, September 18, 3:30-6 PM ET kickoffs

Alabama 31, Florida 29
Kent State 7, Iowa 30
Georgia Tech 8, Clemson 14
Tulsa 20, Ohio State 41
SMU 39, Lousiana Tech 37
Florida State 14, Wake Forest 35
Delaware 13, Rutgers 45
Eastern Michigan 42, UMass 28
Baylor 45, Kansas 7

Long Island 7, Miami (OH) 42
Bryant 14, Akron 35
Elon 10, Appalachian State 44
Idaho 0, Oregon State 42
USC 45, Washington State 14
Georgia Southern 10, Arkansas 45
Mississippi State 29, Memphis 31
Northwestern 23, Duke 30

Ball State 12, Wyoming 45
Colorado State 22, Toledo 6
Sacramento State 30, California 42
Arkansas State 3, Washington 52
Murray State 10, Bowling Green 27
Fordham 14 Florida Atlantic 45
East Carolina 42 Marshall 38
Old Dominion 17, Liberty 45
Middle Tennessee 13, UTSA 27

Saturday, September 18, 7 PM ET

South Carolina 13, Georgia 40
Charlotte 9, Georgia State 20
Florida International 21, Texas Tech 54
Troy 21, Southern Miss 9
Grambling State 0, Houston 45
Florida A&M 17, South Florida 38
Incarnate Word 42, Texas State 34
Utah 31, San Diego State 33 OT

Saturday, September 18, 7:30-10:45 PM ET

Stony Brook 7, Oregon 48
Auburn 20, Penn State 28
Virginia 39, North Carolina 59
Central Michigan 21, LSU 49
UAB 40, North Texas 6
Furman 7, NC State 45
Utah State 49, Air Force 45
Tulane 21, Ole Miss 61
Stanford 41, Vanderbilt 23

Rice 0, Texas 58
Jackson State 7, UL Monroe 12
Alcorn State 21, South Alabama 28
South Carolina State 35, New Mexico State 43
Oklahoma State 21, Boise State 20
Northern Arizona 21, Arizona 19
Arizona State 17, BYU 27
Iowa State 48, UNLV 3
Fresno State 40, UCLA 37

Sunday, September 19, 12:30AM ET

San Jose State 17, Hawaii 13

College football Week 3 highlights

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter @ojhodgkinson.