Big Ten Recap: Badgers and Nittany Lions Roll, West Division Struggles As Boilermakers Blow Lead in Reno

By Andrew Ellis on September 1, 2019 at 7:05 am
Heisman contender Jonathan Taylor totaled four touchdowns against USF.
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Week one of the college football season got underway Thursday evening and the same can be said for Big Ten play as Minnesota kicked things off for the conference. We finally got to see several new starters at quarterback and overall it was a solid debut for most of the new signal-callers. 

Things got off to a roaring start in Columbus as Justin Fields and the Buckeyes got up to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter. Fields' five touchdowns were the most ever for a player making his Ohio State debut. It wasn't perfect, however, as the Buckeye offense ran into some problems after the hot start. Spotty offensive line play and a few turnovers are two of the areas Ryan Day will look to improve.

Elsewhere in the conference, a few of the West Division's top teams ran into some problems in the western part of the country and Jonathan Taylor's Heisman campaign got off to a nifty little start.

No. 19 Wisconsin 49, South Florida 0

Jonathan Taylor catching passes is a scary thought, and that was indeed part of his repertoire Friday night in Tampa. Okay, so the Heisman contender only hauled in two balls, but they went for 48 yards and a pair of scores. He added another 135 yards and two more touchdowns on 16 carries in a dominant performance from the Badgers.

Quarterback Jack Coan played the entire game so we'll have to wait for touted true freshman Graham Mertz to make his debut. Coan had an efficient outing completing 19 of 26 attempts for 199 yards and the two scores.

We didn't expect Wisconsin's offense to have much trouble in this one, but we did think the Bulls would at least put up a few points. That obviously wasn't the case as Charlie Strong's crew managed just 157 yards on the night. Alabama/Arizona State transfer Blake Barnett completed just 13 of 30 passes for 109 yards and two interceptions. 

No. 25 Stanford 17, Northwestern 7

I watched the majority of this game and – as expected – it was far from an offensive explosion. Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson got the start at quarterback, but Pat Fitzgerald put T.J. Green under center after Johnson's early struggles. Both played in the first half before Green exited with a foot injury. It was a poor day for quarterback play as they combined to go 12 of 27 for 117 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. 

Sophomore tailback Isaiah Bowser also exited with a knee issue in what would prove to be an injury-filled contest. For the Cardinal, quarterback K.J. Costello connected on 16 of 20 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown. He too was knocked out of the game after taking a blow to the head and neck area. Stanford tailback Cameron Scarlett led all rushers with 97 yards on 22 carries. The Cardinal defense forced four Wildcat turnovers on the day.

Northwestern lost three of its first four games a season ago. Pat Fitzgerald has some work to do if he hopes to avoid yet another troublesome start. 

No. 7 Michigan 40, Middle Tennessee State 21

It was two minutes into the game and Michigan had already fumbled and let the Blue Raiders move the ball 40 yards down the field for a touchdown. Harbaugh and Co. got things turned around pretty quickly and went on to capture a sluggish 19-point win.

Shea Patterson threw for 203 yards and tossed three touchdowns on the day. Tarik Black, Nico Collins, and tight end Sean McKeon were on the receiving end of the strikes. True freshman tailback Zach Charbonnet is a name to remember and he certainly looked like the real deal last night. The Cali native ran for 90 yards on eight carries and was the team's leading rusher in his debut.

The Wolverine defense lost a lot of talent in the offseason so it's fair to expect a step back; at least in the early part of the season. Middle Tennessee State put up 301 yards of offense and turned the ball over twice. Michigan came into this one as a 35-point favorite. 

No. 15 Penn State 79, Idaho 7

James Franklin and the Nittany Lions had no problem with the Vandals. Penn State amassed nearly 700 yards while giving up just 145 to the hapless Idaho squad. Cincinnati native Sean Clifford takes over under center and he looked just fine on Saturday. Clifford totaled 337 yards and tossed a pair of touchdowns. K.J. Hamler was on the receiving end of both scoring strikes and led all wideouts with 115 yards.

Ohio State finished No. 2 in the Devyn Ford recruitment. Now a true freshman, he didn't waste much time making an impact as the Virginia native topped the century mark in his debut. The Buckeyes also were heavily involved in the recruitment of Noah Cain. He too made his debut and rumbled for a pair of scores. Penn State recorded seven rushing touchdowns on the day.

No. 18 Michigan State 28, Tulsa 7

The most impressive stat from this game was Tulsa's rushing performance. The Golden Hurricane recorded a whopping -73 yards on 25 carries. The team's leading rusher had zero yards on six carries while quarterback Zach Smith had -32 yards on 10 carries. The Spartans had the country's No. 1 rush defense last year and it's not looking like a whole lot has changed.

A healthy Brian Lewerke is a good thing for the folks in East Lansing. The senior threw for 192 yards with a score and added another 34 with his legs. The Spartans put up just 303 yards of total offense but didn't need a whole lot thanks to the play of its defense. Mark Dantonio's squad forced three turnovers and one of them led to a Kenny Willekes fumble recovery in the end zone.

No. 20 Iowa 38, Miami (OH) 14

Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes handled the Redhawks last night at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa got off to a bit of a slow start but then scored 28 points in the game's final two quarters. Senior quarterback Nate Stanley had a fine outing completing 21 of 30 passes for 252 yards and three scores. Mekhi Sargent led all backs with 91 yards and a score while Toren Young added another rushing touchdown.

Redhawk quarterback Brett Gabbert tossed a pair of touchdowns to go along with an interception. The ground game was stymied by the Hawkeyes and only managed 59 yards on 25 attempts. 

Team W-L Rank
IOWA 1-0 6
maryland 1-0 8
PURDUE 0-1 10
INDIANA 1-0 12
RUTGERS 1-0 14

No. 24 Nebraska 35, South Alabama 21

After yesterday's game, Scott Frost said this was the poorest offensive performance he's ever been a part of. The Huskers failed to top 300 yards and used two special teams scores to take down the Jaguars in Lincoln. It was far from what we expected in year two of a Frost-led system.

Sophomore Adrian Martinez is being viewed as a darkhorse Heisman candidate, but he struggled in the season opener completing 13 of 22 passes for 178 yards and a pick. Martinez couldn't really get it going with his legs either as he rushed for just six yards on 13 carries. Junior running back Dedrick Mills rushed for 44 yards and a pair of scores, but overall the Nebraska ground game struggled against a team that was 101st against the run in 2018.

Safety Eric Lee Jr. returned an interception 38 yards for a third-quarter touchdown. A few minutes later, J.D. Spielman returned a punt 76 yards for another Husker score.

Nevada 34, Purdue 31

This was an excellent contest late Friday night in Reno as Purdue was up 24-7 at the half and had a two-touchdown lead going into the fourth quarter. Nevada kept chipping away and tied things up with just under a minute left in the game. Boilermaker quarterback Elijah Sindelar then threw a horrendous interception that led to Wolfpack true freshman Brandon Talton nailing a 56-yarder to pull off the upset.

Rondale Moore touched the football six times on Purdue's opening drive of the game. At halftime the sophomore had already recorded eight receptions for 114 yards and a score, ran the ball twice, and added three returns on special teams. Props to Jeff Brohm for knowing where his bread is buttered, but the Pack did a nice job of handling Moore after a hot start.

Sindelar had a big night for Purdue as the senior threw for over 400 yards with four touchdowns and two picks. Moore ended up with 11 catches for 124 yards and the touchdown while true freshman wideout David Bell – a one-time Buckeye target – hauled in a 49-yard score in his debut. Purdue turned the ball over five times. The Wolfpack? How about zero.

George Karlaftis is another true freshman and he looks like someone who's going to make some noise this year at defensive end. Karlaftis was pressuring Carson Strong all night long, but the redshirt freshman signal-caller did manage to throw for 295 yards and three scores. 

Purdue came into this one as an 11-point favorite. Not the start Brohm and the Boilers were hoping for.

Minnesota 28, South Dakota State 21

The Jackrabbits went 10-3 last year and came into 2019 ranked No. 3 and No. 4 in the preseason polls, so at least the Gophers opened against a respectable FCS program. South Dakota State was up a by a score of 21-20 when the fourth quarter got underway, but a Mohamed Ibrahim touchdown with about five minutes left ultimately gave P.J. Fleck the win.

The Jackrabbits actually had a chance to build on their lead in the fourth before quarterback J'Bore Gibbs and running back Pierre Strong botched an exchange which resulted in a turnover. The offense managed 367 yards on the night and turned the ball over twice.

Tanner Morgan led the way at quarterback for the Gophers as he threw for 176 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Rodney Smith led all rushers with 92 yards while Ibrahim chipped in with 36 and the score. Sophomore wideout Rashod Bateman hauled in five for 132 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Johnson is expected to be one of the best in the conference, but the senior was held in check with just three catches for 28 yards.

Maryland 79, Howard 0

The Terps could have put up a hundred against Howard, but Mike Locksley settled for 79 in his debut as Maryland's new head coach. It was also the debut for Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson who tossed for 245 yards and four touchdowns. This was a massacre in College Park as the Terrapins put up 623 yards to the Bison's 68.

In addition to Jackson, the Maryland offense was led by tailback Jake Funk and wideout Dontay Demus Jr. Funk ran for 79 yards and a score while Demus hauled in three passes for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Locksley took his foot off the pedal after scoring the final touchdown with over 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Indiana 34, Ball State 24

The Hoosiers hit the road to Lucas Oil Stadium and came away with a win over the Cardinals. It was an up-and-down day for new starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. who is back after suffering a torn ACL last year. He threw for 326 yards and a score but was also picked off twice. He was also Indiana's leading rusher with 67 on the ground.

Tailback Stevie Scott didn't have the most efficient day as he ran for just 48 yards on 19 carries, but the sophomore did score two second-half touchdowns. Nick Westbrook led all pass-catchers with 103 yards and a touchdown. For Ball State, it was Caleb Huntley leading the way with 81 yards and a score. 

Illinois 42, Akron 3

The Illini started their path to the College Football Playoff with a 42-3 home win over Akron. Michigan transfer Brandon Peters had a big day under center completing 14 of 23 passes for 163 yards and a trio of scores. He added another score via a 20-yard scamper. Tailbacks Ra'Von Bonner and Reggie Corbin also found the end zone.

It's going to be a season filled with new names for Lovie Smith and Illinois. In addition to Peters, there are several other transfers expected to play major roles. Alabama transfer Richie Petitbon starts at guard, USC transfers Trevon Sidney and Josh Imatorbhebhe will both see action at wideout, and the defense has impact transfers from USC (Oluwole Betiku) and Washington (Milo Eifler).

The Illinois defense allowed just 192 yards while recording 12 tackles for loss and six sacks.

Rutgers 48, UMass 21

Rutgers was down 14-0 in the first quarter and I was thinking Chris Ash actually may get fired at halftime. The Scarlet Knights got things turned around, though, thanks to 31 points in the second quarter and big performances from quarterback McLane Carter and tailback Isaih Pacheco. 

Carter was plagued by a trio of interceptions but still managed to throw for 340 yards and two touchdowns. Pacheco rumbled for 156 yards and found the end zone four times. He's already surpassed the three scores he had as a true freshman in 2018. Bo Melton and Raheem Blackshear also had big days as both topped 100 receiving yards and scored on the night.

All in all, it wasn't too bad of an opening weekend. Ohio State looked impressive early on offense and the defense was solid for the majority of the game. Penn State, Wisconsin, and Michigan all did just about what was expected of them. And Scott Frost is going to need to get his offense humming again if he wants a shot in the West. 

The Purdue loss was a bad one for Jeff Brohm. After doing all the right things early on, they simply couldn't get the ball into Rondale Moore's hands in the second half. Five turnovers and the late defensive struggles have to be concerning.

For Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats, the injury bug will plague them for a while. Quarterback T.J. Greene will reportedly have foot surgery and could miss the rest of the season. It's going to be the Hunter Johnson show moving forward, and he will have to improve his play. 

Next week the Buckeyes host Cincinnati in what could be an interesting matchup. Michigan will take on Army's triple-option offense and that can always be a little tricky. The Huskers will look to get some revenge on the road against Colorado and Maryland welcomes No. 22 Syracuse to College Park.

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