Eastern Washington finished what William and Mary started.
Then, in case anyone remained unconvinced, McNeese State pounded the point home.
What's the difference between the majority of Division I-A (FBS) and the better I-AA (FCS) football teams? Not much.
William and Mary opened the first Saturday of college football by putting a Mountaineer-sized scare in West Virginia before falling 24-17. Hours later, Eastern Washington, the 2011 national champion, became the third FCS school to beat a ranked FBS foe with a 49-46 win at No. 25 Oregon State.
And then, for good measure, McNeese State routed former Big East school South Florida, 53-21.
Could Eastern Washington, perhaps best known for playing on a Mars-red field, hang with, say, Alabama? Unlikely, but neither, really, could Virginia Tech. The Eagles aren't D-I national championship material, but I doubt FBS teams will be lining up to schedule them next year. And anyway, they don't care about such, as the FCS has its own national championship - one it settles on the football field.
D-I schools have better depth, owing to their superior number of scholarships (85 to 63.) What they don't necessarily have, especially among the starting 11, is better athletes at every position.
I covered William and Mary for a few years, including the 2009 season, when the Tribe beat Virginia in Charlottesville and won a share of the Colonial Athletic Association championship. The team it shared that title with, Villanova, went on to win the FCS title and, I guarantee, is not one any I-A school would have wanted on its schedule that season - or this one. Ask Boston College, which trailed the Wildcats 14-7 before rallying to win 24-14 today.
It's not rare for a playmaking force to end up at a smaller school. Maybe he was overlooked. Maybe he needed to stay close to home. Maybe he wanted to major in aeronautical engineering rocket science. Whatever the case, you get enough of those potential gamebreakers together, and you study enough film and believe in your talent (and if a defense lets you throw for 411 yards and run for another 107, as the Beavers did Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams), you can take the money and run. (The Eagles left Corvallis with $450,000 for the guaranteed game and a W.)
When Appalachian State beat Michigan at The Big House in 2007, it was shocking. It still would be, despite Appalachian's three consecutive FCS titles from 2005-2007. But if you're shocked by what Eastern Washington did today, you might want to expand your football horizons just a bit.
In other developments from today's games, Washington State and coach Mike Leach had a chance to win at Auburn before a late turnover. I don't know the exact circumstances under which Leach departed Texas Tech, but I do know the man was nearly as entertaining as his Air Raid offense, so I wish him well, because the game can use some more honest-to-God characters.
What it doesn't need is Bobby Petrino. Petrino won in his debut as Western Kentucky's head coach against Kentucky, but he's still a loser. He's still the man who left Louisville in the lurch after signing a 10-year contract and flirting with jobs that belonged to other people. He's still the man who quit on the Atlanta Falcons via a note left in his players' lockers. He's still the man who crashed his motorcycle at his next stop, Arkansas, with his mistress on the back.
And yet he keeps getting jobs, because athletic directors care more about wins than morals. And then players get asked character questions at the NFL combine. The hypocrisy is going to ruin this High Holy Sports Day for me if I keep thinking about it, so moving on.
Clemson held on to defeat Georgia 38-35 in a track-meet matchup of Top 10 teams. This made me happy.
Yes, I'm a South Carolina graduate and a Gamecock through and through, but my daddy went to Clemson, and my first in-person college football game was as an 8-year-old at Death Valley. I wore a purple shirt and watched the players rub Howard's Rock. Later that season, I watched Homer Jordan and Terry Kinard win the national championship for coach Danny Ford. The commemorative Coke bottles from that fairy dust year sat on the top shelf of my daddy's office throughout my childhood, and were a tangible touchstone of realized dreams.
I'll try to make it through the late games, but I'm not as young as I used to be. But whatever happens next, Day One of this college football season has already proven to be unforgettable.