Greetings from a hotel room in Louisville! Since Mrs. T-Mill's Hurricanes are playing the Cardinals tonight we're in town to take them in. It is the last game of a long weekend of football that saw the Big Ten go 12-2. Only Wisconsin and Northwestern missed, with the Wildcats being the biggest surprise.
Let's take a look around the league with the Whistlestop Tour:
Minnesota 42, Eastern Illinois 20 - I thought this would be a closer game, and for awhile it was. The Golden Gopher defense played well enough for the offense to wear them down on the ground. Minnesota was concerned about the way it finished though:
Listen, I'm happy with the score but I'm not happy for the reason EIU got 20 point, penalties. The Gopher defensive backs stop both the first and second scoring drive (one INT & one breakup) on 4th down plays but EIU got another chance due to roughing the passer penalties. The last touchdown was more of a fluke but a penalty on the kickoff allowed EIU to try again (and again due to the refs).
Rutgers 41, Washington State 38 - This might have been the most impressive win of the weekend for the league, mostly because it was one of the few games where a Big Ten team played an opponent with a pulse. The On the Banks staff had a lot of positives:
Leonte Caroo's monster 6-reception, 151-yard receiving day was so key. Big plays, first downs and blocking that doesn't make it onto the stat sheet came at critical times and provided a legit deep threat that opened up holes for James and Co. to get it done on the ground. Also worth a nod was the O-Line, who absolutely beat up the WSU front seven. By the end of the game, that defense had nothing left against an offense that had traveled cross-country and was playing well into the morning, east coast time.
Michigan State 45, Jacksonville State 7 - Yeah, the Spartans are pretty good. Screaming Death Machine good:
Jacksonville State ended the third quarter with negative rushing yards, thanks to a fourth-and-goal play in which Max Shortell ran around forever and eventually took a 24-yard sack from Shilique Calhoun. The final tally was 22 rushing yards, 244 total. Kurtis Drummond, Darian Hicks, and Nick Tompkins each picked off a pass.
Penn State 26, Central Florida 24 - Remember a few years ago when Sam Ficken had a horrible day against Virginia, costing the Nittany Lions a win? Yeah, he's pretty good now, as he nailed the game-winner from 36 yards as time expired:
I would be remiss in not mentioning Sam Ficken (aka Mr. Automatic). In the last 2 years, there isn't a single player that has faced more scrutiny. I cannot say how great I feel for him after hitting the game winner yesterday. $am Ficken, indeed.
Purdue 43, Western Michigan 34 - As I said in my game wrap, it wasn't perfect, but it was far better than anything we saw last year. Even in defeat the Broncos had plenty to be happy about:
Mid-American Conference, meet Jarvion Franklin.
On Saturday, after a season where no Western Michigan running back eclipsed the 130 yard mark in a game, Jarvion Franklin, a true freshman, made a statement by putting up an astounding 163 yards on 19 carries, and scored the first three Bronco touchdowns
Illinois 28, Youngstown State 17 - Tim Beckman almost became the first coaching casualty of the season. Had the Fighting Illini not rallied to be their FCS foes with 21 fourth quarter points his hot seat would have gone nuclear. It wasn't fun for The Champaign Room:
This game was 71% ugly but the final product came out fine. I'll admit that I was scared at one point. My palms were sweating, my voice was higher, I stopped twittering, my 40-weeks-pregnant wife wondered if she would be the one driving us to the hospital. The offense failed too often and the defense were allowing just enough to let the Penguins obtain first downs. It was nerve-racking -- is this what I've been waiting for all summer?
Indiana 28, Indiana State 10 - It is hard to read this game for the Hoosiers. The defense was better, but ISU also did not have Shakir Bell. The passing game was off, but the ground game had 200+ yards from Tevin Coleman. Crimson Quarry called it running to stand still:
Despite the success running the ball, IU quarterback Nate Sudfeld has some trouble throwing the ball yesterday. The Sycamores came prepared to defend the pass, and Sudfeld ended with a very pedestrian line of 11-for-18 with only 111 yards of passing. Throughout the afternoon, he struggled to find open receivers, and ended up scrambling with the ball quite a few times. Sudfeld seemed to be missing having his top targets from last season, including Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes, and Ted Bolser.
Iowa 31, Northern Iowa 23 - The Hawkeyes were another team that struggled far too long with their FCS opponent. UNI got into Iowa territory late with a chance to tie, but couldn't come through:
Without question, there's a lot that Iowa needs to work on, whether or not you think UNI is better than Iowa's next two opponents (and I do). The offense struggled to create big plays (at least until the game-clinching drive) and the defense struggled hugely in coverage in the middle of the field. I'm gonna have a few nightmares about David Johnson running free down the middle of the field. But the defense also stiffened in some key moments in the second half, forcing a few turnovers and getting much-needed pressure on UNI's Sawyer Kollmorgen.
Michigan 52, Appalachian State 14 - sure, it was vengeance, but do you really think we're going to forget 2007? No, but there was at least Devin Funchess:
Funchess came out donning the legendary #1 jersey, and expectations went from high to higher. He met those expectations and then some, catching three touchdown passes of increasing difficulty and nearly breaking his first catch for another. His first score came on an unfair double move and easy toss. The second came after a crossing pattern found him wide open, turning to stiff-arm a defender into the turf before waltzing into the end zone. And the third touchdown, man. That third touchdown.
Ohio State 34, Navy 17 - This was a scary game for awhile with Navy leading at halftime. As always, you cannot overlook the Midshipmen. They played tough and showed that Ohio State has a lot to work on:
There were a ton of questions about this Ohio State team heading into the weekend, and I'm not sure we have any more answers than we did before today's kickoff. The first half was an ugly mess that somehow only saw the Buckeyes concede 7 points while only scoring 6. The second half was a different story, as Ohio State strung together 4 touchdowns on its way to a relatively convincing 34-17 victory.
Nebraska 55, Florida Atlantic 7 - FAU tied the game early at 7-7 and apparently it just pissed Nebraska off:
Nebraska and Florida Atlantic traded touchdowns on their first offensive series, but it was all Cornhuskers after that as they racked up 784 yards of total offense while holding the Owls to 200. Nebraska won its nation leading 29th straight season opener easily, 55-7, while star running back Ameer Abdullah had a Heisman-worthy performance.
California 31, Northwestern 24 - California joined Purdue and Georgia State as teams that broke double-digit losing streaks this weekend. They built a 31-7 lead thanks to a shaky Northwestern secondary and held on for a very nice road win:
The frustrating part is that this unit should not be bad. All of the starters from last year returned (VanHoose, Dwight White, Ibraheim Campbell, and Henry), plus they've added some talented younger players including Matthew Harris at cornerback and Godwin Igwebuike and Kyle Queiro at safety. In fact, the secondary was frequently called NU's best position group this offseason. They did not play like it in the first half.
Maryland 52, James Madison 7 - There you go, Terps. That's what Big Ten teams do to FCS teams. Maryland had no trouble at all in week 1:
While the game went as expected from a scoring perspective, the Terrapins showed an ability to run the ball effectively, picking up where they left off last season. CJ Brown ran for three touchdowns in the first half helping pace the Terps to a 24-0 halftime lead.
LSU 28, Wisconsin 24 - It looked like Wisconsin was going to get a very nice win, but I have never seen a team look so dominant, then fall apart so dramatically. It was just bizarre:
If only football games were 40 minutes long. Wisconsin rushed out to an early first-half lead behind a dynamic rushing attack and attacking defense. A score to start the second half gave Wisconsin a 24-7 lead. However, injuries to starting defensive lineman Konrad Zagzebski and Warren Herring doomed the Badgers' defense in the second half.
Central Michigan 20, Chattanooga 16 - Star receiver Titus Davis left early with an injury and may be questionable Saturday at Purdue.
Notre Dame 48, Rice 17 - The Fighting Irish played on field turf and the world did not end.
Southern Illinois 45, Taylor 0 - Malcolm Agnew had 145 yards and two TDs on the ground in the win.