BYU receiver Ross Apo will walk out onto the field at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday and experience a rush of memories and emotions.
A senior, Apo will get one more opportunity to play on one of his home state’s biggest stages. He will recall his high school days while at Arlington Oakridge and search for his family members and friends in the stands.
And finally, Apo will feel confidence in his shoulder.
“I feel way better than I have in the past two seasons, when my shoulder was loose and out of whack,” said Apo, who battled injuries his first four years at BYU. “It’s good to know that I can take a hit on that shoulder and be OK.”
Apo struggled with his shoulder injury last season but had one of his biggest games in Texas when BYU topped Houston 47-46 at Reliant Stadium. Apo finished with four catches for 41 yards and two touchdowns. He’s hoping for another successful trip home this season.
“I’ve been looking forward to this,” Apo said. “It’s a big deal to me to go back to Texas, back home. It’ll be an easy trip for my family to come see me play. There’s nothing like going home and playing in front of that crowd again, a lot of the people you played in front of growing up.”
Apo, rated the No. 13 receiver coming out of high school by Rivals.com, was forced to take a medical redshirt year as a freshman in 2010 after a dislocation of his left index finger. After two shoulder surgeries, Apo had another tough break before his junior season even started.
“I dove for a pass in practice, came down at an awkward angle, and it popped out the screws and anchors in my shoulder,” said Apo, who had shown promise with 34 catches for 453 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011. “So I started the 2013 season fresh off an injury. I wore down over the course of the season to the point where I couldn’t even go into games by the end of last year.”
Apo saw a specialist and had a bone from a cadaver and two screws put into his shoulder in the off-season.
“These past few years, it’s been hard playing with a hurt body,” said Apo, who still has some occasional soreness and pain. “I’ve worked hard to get my strength back, and I feel like I’m back to normal.”
Last season, BYU crushed Texas with a dominant ground game (550 yards rushing) led by quarterback Taysom Hill, who ran for 259 yards and three touchdowns. This year, Hill and the Cougars are more balanced but can still run wild.
“With the guys we have who can run the ball, teams are going to come up to stop them,” Apo said. “Then we have depth at the receiver spot, and we can run past guys. Dual threat. You have to pick what to try to stop. I’m just focused on doing whatever I can to help my team win.”
Games to watch
No. 14 USC (1-0) at No. 13 Stanford (1-0) (2:30 p.m. Saturday, WFAA/8): USC looked stellar last week against Fresno State, and Stanford disposed of UC Davis easily as well. This game will have an early impact on the Pac-12 race.
No. 7 Michigan State (1-0) at No. 3 Oregon (1-0) (5:30 p.m. Saturday, KDFW/4): A mammoth matchup with playoff implications and conference pride on the line. Can Michigan State’s defense slow down the Ducks’ numerous offensive weapons?
Michigan (1-0) at No. 16 Notre Dame (1-0) (6:30 p.m. Saturday, KXAS/5): Notre Dame QB Everett Golson, who sat out 2013 for academic violations, was spectacular last week. And this could be the last game between these teams for a while, so get ready for a lot of talk about another traditional rivalry disappearing and Golson’s rustless return.
Virginia Tech (1-0) at No. 8 Ohio State (1-0) (7 p.m. Saturday, ESPN): The Buckeyes should be wary. Ohio State struggled to stop Navy’s offense last week before pulling away late for a 34-17 win. Virginia Tech might not pack a potent offense, but the Buckeyes will have a tougher time moving the ball.
109,000Reported seating capacity at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field this season (82,600 last year). Renovations, which won’t be finalized until the start of the 2015 season, will make Kyle Field the largest stadium in Texas as well as the Southeastern Conference at 102,512, but this year the total number will be significantly more. A&M will play its first game in the partially renovated stadium on Saturday against Lamar.
5Straight seasons with a win against an FBS team for FCS North Dakota State after the Bison upset Iowa State 34-14 last week.
Quotable• “We started as a team and watched all of the plays from Saturday night. Took a long time.” — Florida coach Will Muschamp on watching tape in practice after his Gators’ game against Idaho lasted one play before being suspended and eventually canceled permanently because of severe weather.
• “First and foremost, I did not lose a bet.” — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly on wearing a blue plaid jacket for his news conference days before his team is scheduled to play Michigan. Kelly explained he won the jacket after playing in a golf tournament against different Michigan football coaches.
Tweet of the week
“So honored. All Family, All Friends, All Teammates & Baylor Nation #ThisIsForUS.” – Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) tweeted that message along with a photo of himself standing next to his new statue outside Baylor’s new McLane Stadium. The Bears honored Griffin with a ceremony before playing the first game in their new home Sunday.
Rising, falling, holding steady
Sailgating, Kenny Hill Who wouldn’t want to spend a day on the Brazos River before watching a top-10 team roll in a brand-new stadium? And Hill set two Texas A&M single-game records (44 completions and 511 passing yards) in his first start, a blowout win at then-No. 9 South Carolina, and even showed up in some Heisman conversations.
South Carolina, UCLA The Gamecocks stunk against the Aggies, giving up a school-record 680 yards of offense and 52 points, the fourth-most surrendered by a Steve Spurrier team. The Bruins, a popular preseason pick to win the Pac-12, were able to avoid a loss but needed three defensive scores to pull out a 28-20 win on the road against Virginia.
Les Miles and his LSU Tigers You can always count on Miles and his Tigers to deliver a theatrical performance. This year, LSU started the season with an improbable second-half comeback against Wisconsin. LSU looked disjointed on offense but awoke thanks to a fake punt called by Miles, the drama king. The Tigers erased a 24-7 third-quarter deficit to break Badgers hearts.
Power 5 grades
A-SEC: Alabama and Missouri struggled at times, Vanderbilt lost to Temple, and Ole Miss barely ran past Boise State in the fourth quarter. But the SEC avoided a horrible upset, and Georgia pounded Clemson.
BACC: Florida State looked far too vulnerable against Oklahoma State, Wake Forest lost to ULM, Clemson fell to Georgia, and Syracuse needed two overtimes to beat Villanova. Virginia’s showing in a loss to UCLA did help, however.
A-Pac-12: Washington State lost to Rutgers, and Colorado lost to Colorado State. UCLA and Washington, which beat Hawaii by one point, failed to impress. Oregon, Stanford, USC, and Arizona State all cruised to lopsided wins, though, saving face for the Pac-12 this week.
B+Big 12: Oklahoma and Baylor looked elite, and Oklahoma State almost pulled off an improbable win against No. 1 Florida State. Even West Virginia made a run at No. 2 Alabama. Things look good for the Big 12, unless you are Iowa State.
CBig Ten: Ohio State had trouble with Navy’s triple-option. Wisconsin blew a huge opportunity in its loss to LSU. Northwestern’s loss to Cal didn’t help things either. But Michigan State gets its shot to lift the conference this week with a huge game at Oregon.
RB Todd Gurley, junior, Georgia: Last week, 198 yards rushing on 15 carries with three touchdowns; 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in 45-21 win vs. Clemson.
QB Marcus Mariota, junior, Oregon: Last week, 14-for-20 passing for 267 yards, three touchdowns; 43 yards rushing with one touchdown in 62-13 win against So. Dakota.
QB Jameis Winston, sophomore, Florida State: Last week, 25-for-40 passing for 370 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions; one rushing touchdown in 37-31 win against Oklahoma State.