With a sellout crowd, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a long-awaited return home, it was a celebratory beginning for California.
Unfortunately for the Golden Bears, it all went downhill after the opening kickoff.
Stefphon Jefferson ran for 145 yards and scored his third touchdown with 36 seconds remaining as Nevada spoiled the reopening of Memorial Stadium by beating California, 31-24, on Saturday in Berkeley, Calif.
“There’s been a lot of hype and a lot of buildup,” Bears coach Jeff Tedford said. “It was great to be home. But you want to come out and play better and win the football game and we didn’t get that done.”
Cody Fajardo completed 25 of 32 passes for 230 yards and added 97 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Wolf Pack (1-0), which put a damper on what was supposed to be a joyous day for the Bears in their first on-campus game in 21 months.
Fajardo engineered the winning drive by throw a 14-yard pass to Zach Sudfeld on third-and-4 from the Cal 38 and a 19-yarder to Brandon Wimberly that set up Jefferson’s winning score.
“It was dreamlike,” Fajardo said. “You can only think about having the ball with two minutes left and driving down and scoring. You can only dream of that, and it became a reality for us.”
Quarterback Zach Maynard returned after being benched for the first three series as punishment for missing a tutoring session earlier this summer to throw for 247 yards and two touchdowns for Cal (0-1). But he also lost a fumble deep in Nevada territory in the fourth quarter as the Bears lost at home to Nevada for the second time in 25 tries and first since 1903.
“I told everybody to keep their heads up,” Maynard said. “Everybody is pretty down. We worked so hard to get this far. To come home and get a loss is pretty tough.”
At No. 5 Oregon 57, Arkansas State 34: Marcus Mariota didn’t show any signs of stage fright in his debut for the Ducks.
The redshirt freshman quarterback made his first start in a real game, passing for 200 yards and three touchdowns in the Ducks’ season-opening victory over the Red Wolves.
De’Anthony Thomas caught two touchdowns and ran for another while collecting 119 yards in total offense as Oregon built a 50-10 lead by halftime.
Kenjon Barner, taking over as starter after the departure of running back LaMichael James, ran for 66 yards and two scores.
The Ducks sat most of their starters after halftime.
The loss spoiled coach Gus Malzahn’s first game as coach of Arkansas State, which was 10-3 last season and won the Sun Belt Conference title.
Arkansas State senior quarterback Ryan Aplin threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns, including a 72-yard scoring pass to Julian Jones just before the half.
Mariota replaced Darron Thomas, who decided to leave Oregon with a year of eligibility left. Thomas passed for 2,761 yards and a school-record 33 touchdowns last season when the Ducks went 10-2 and beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
Mariota is the first freshman to start in an opener for Oregon since Danny O’Neil in 1991. He completed 18 of 22 passes.
Colorado State 22, Colorado 17: Jim McElwain became the first Rams coach to win his debut in 42 years when the Rams rallied past the rival Buffaloes in Denver.
Garret Grayson completed 14 of 21 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns and Jared Roberts kicked two fourth-quarter field goals after the Rams had fallen behind 17-16.
Grayson outdueled Kansas transfer Jordan Webb, who was 22 of 41 for 187 yards and two TDs for the Buffaloes.
McElwain, the former offensive coordinator at defending national champion Alabama, became the first Rams coach to win his debut since Jerry Wampfler in 1970. None of the 12 Rams coaches who have faced Colorado had ever beaten the Buffs on their first try.
At No. 1 Southern Cal 49, Hawaii 10: Marqise Lee caught a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage and returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score to help the Trojans roll over the Warriors.
Matt Barkley kicked off his Heisman Trophy campaign with 377 yards and four touchdowns passing, and Lee caught 10 passes for 197 yards for USC.
Silas Redd rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown on a team-leading nine carries in the Penn State transfer’s debut for the Trojans, who led 35-0 at halftime and coasted to their 15th consecutive season-opening victory.
Duke transfer Sean Schroeder passed for 208 yards and a score in his first start for Hawaii.
At Arizona 24, Toledo 17 (OT): Matt Scott’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Miller in overtime helped rescue the Wildcats against the Rockets. Scott threw for a career-high 387 yards as Arizona outgained Toledo, 623-347.