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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 1 of Big Ten Football

Big Ten football is back! (Unlike Texas)

NCAA Football: Maryland at Texas John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

We’re back! The Big Ten has returned in a big way. This year we had some really good week 1 games as opposed to the usual slate of cupcakes and blowouts. Ohio State took a very early lead in the conference race. Michigan beat a good Florida team. Maryland surprised Texas. Purdue pushed Louisville hard. Overall, it was a good week.

Let’s get to the tour:

Ohio State 49, Indiana 21

It was all over when Indiana students chanted “overated”. Up 21-20, the chant started, but then Ohio State turned on the jets on the next play as Parris Campbell broke off a 74 yard TD catch. That was part of Ohio State being explosive for the rest of the game:

But then the floodgates opened towards the second half of the third quarter. The offensive line began getting a consistent push against the Hoosiers defensive line. J.K. Dobbins began using those small holes to create explosive plays. And J.T. and his receivers finally started to connect on explosive passes — even if the deep ball remained somewhat elusive. Including the Buckeyes’ final score, the offense managed touchdowns on five of their last six drives.

For Crimson Quarry, it was a disappointing ending to an evening that started strong:

While some things have changed dramatically over the past couple seasons — namely, the defense — and while Indiana did some things tonight that they rarely have in the past — such as capitalizing on an Ohio State drop, getting off the field with a 4th down stop, and taking the lead on the next possession — others are the same in perpetuity. Those things that never change that stood out tonight were an inability to maintain any momentum in a big game, special teams being a nightmare, and the students leaving early.

Minnesota 17, Buffalo 7

The Gophers sure didn’t look great in game one under P.J. Fleck, managing just a field goal in the second half:

Quarterbacks Conor Rhoda and Demry Croft. Maybe I’m being too harsh, but I wasn’t impressed with either Gopher quarterback, if I’m being honest. Rhoda had the better passing numbers and a touchdown through the air, but was also responsible for that terrible interception in the end zone before halftime. Croft appears better suited to the run-pass option offense and had the Bulls’ defense on its heels as he led a 10-play, 64-yard scoring drive, but his inexperience showed at times. I wasn’t thrilled when Fleck announced the co-starters for this game, and their performances did nothing to ease my concerns about the uncertainty at quarterback.

Washington 30, Rutgers 14

Rutgers started strong, but faded as Washington’s strength and experience allowed them to pull away after trailing early:

For the most part, there were few if any blown coverages that were ultimately the fault of the secondary. The times I noticed were linebackers in (or should having been in) coverage though some were very difficult assignments. Kiy Hester ended up chasing an open man on one play, but I think he was in a zone and was forced to pick up that man. Rutgers defense played pretty basic defense, rarely blitzing. It seemed like the safety on Pettis’s side was usually cheating toward him even in the Ash patented cover 4. Therefore the other safety was primarily responsible for the slot receiver or tight end depending on the formation. Corners were playing off the line and had the deep quarter (cover 4), occasionally jamming at the line in true man-to-man.

Wisconsin 59, Utah State 10

This was basically two games. Utah State led 10-0 late into the secnd quarter, then Wisconsin blitzed them for 59 points in roughly 32 minutes:

Redshirt sophomore Alex Hornibrook completed 15-of-23 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns, while tight end Troy Fumagalli—who wore No. 48 in honor of injured inside linebacker Jack Cichy—caught five passes for 105 yards and a touchdown on the evening. For the night, UW gained 478 yards in a balanced effort (244 passing, 234 rushing).

On the other side of the ball, Wisconsin’s defense contained Utah State’s pace-driven offense to 304 yards, with about 137 of those yards coming in mop up time in two late drives during the fourth quarter. Eighty-eight of those were gained in the first 15 minutes, and it wasn’t a pretty first quarter and a half for the Badgers.

Penn State 52, Akron 0

Akron sucks:

There is little that Penn State did not do well versus the Zips. Many reserve players got much needed experience. The offense looked crisp. The defense appears to be deeper than it has been in years. The team is ready to take on the next name on the schedule, the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Louisville 35, Purdue 28

Our friends at Card Chronicle saw that there is a lot to work on for the Cards:

Along with penalties, ball security remained a big issue with Louisville. Two fumbles inside the one-yard line ruined red zone opportunities for the Cardinals, and Jaylen Smith's fumble in the third quarter parlayed into a Purdue touchdown. Though U of L was fortunate to win the turnover battle (4-3), these are reasons why teams like Purdue build confidence and believe they can win.

Michigan 33, Florida 17

The Gators got 14 points off of pick-sixes, but little else:

While No. 17 Florida talked a lot of talk before the game, it was No. 11 Michigan who let their play talk and won the season opener in Arlington, Texas 33-17 on Saturday.

The Wolverines controlled the game for the most point, but there was a brief period in the second quarter where things seemed to be falling apart for Michigan.

Two back-to-back interceptions that were returned for touchdowns gave the Gators a 17-10 lead, and suddenly a new life on their sideline.

While Michigan’s defense did take over for the remainder of the game (not allowing a touchdown), the game got a different feel from one possession that may not be thought about as much.

Maryland 51, Texas 41

Perhaps the most impressive Big Ten team of the weekend, the Terps got a road win over the constantly overrated Longhorns:

Not until Saturday. Maryland opened its season by upsetting No. 23 Texas on the road as a 19-point underdog. The Terps scored 51 points, the most they’ve ever put up against a ranked opponent. They rushed for 165 more yards than the Longhorns. They scored 27 unanswered points in the first half to silence the crowd, and when Texas slashed the lead to three by the end of the third quarter, Maryland scored another 14 to seal the deal.

Illinois 24, Ball State 21

The Illini were hardly impressive in this one. Ball State had a late fourth quarter lead and Illinois eneded a block on their game-tying field goal attempt to preserve the win in Champaign:

You ever hear of Mike Dudek? He did some good stuff yesterday, and the redshirt junior was our Player of the Game.

Are you a visual person? There are a lot of photos from the win, but sadly nothing of freshman running back Mike Epstein. Next time, though!

Iowa 24, Wyoming 3

I thought the Cowboys would be better in this one, but hte Hawkeye defense held them to only a field goal. It is easy to win when that happens:

A.J. Epenesa played (and quite well) in his Hawkeye debut. Josh Jackson has all the makings of a star. We might even have a solid safety in Jake Gervase. Ben Niemann played arguably his best game in the Black and Gold. Brady Reiff had a damn interception.

Wyoming had just 233 yards of offense and were 5-18 on third down. Josh Allen was good, but even his arm wasn’t enough to overcome a powerful Iowa pass rush and an aggressive secondary hellbent on making the Cowboys pay.

Michigan State 35, Bowling Green 10

Another game in the B1G-MAC challenge went the way of the Big Ten, but with not as much drama as Illinois-Ball State:

Brian Lewerke: 250 yards and three touchdowns? THAT'S THE STUFF. What was more impressive is that Lewerke didn't throw himself into trouble, and his instinct in pressure situations was prime. Heck, he made himself the leading rusher with 69 yards by picking great times when to say "screw it" to the whole passing thing and just deciding to run.

Norhtwestern 31, Nevada 20

The Wildcats looked pretty bad at first, as they were trailing into the second half, but they did enough to earn the win:

The Wildcats averaged only 3.1 yards per carry despite facing a defense that gave up 300 rushing yards per game last season. They were unable to create holes for Justin Jackson for most of the game, as the senior running back had to break numerous tackles just to gain positive yardage multiple times. He was never able to truly break free for a big gain. Despite a whopping 50 total carries, no rusher ever gained more than 13 yards on a single play, and this lack of explosiveness made the Wildcats predictable for much of the game.

Nevada’s new 3-3-5 stack worked well against Northwestern’s running game, as Justin Jackson, Jeremy Larkin, and John Moten were often bottled up behind the line of scrimmage.

Nebraska 43, Arkansas State 36

The Cornhuskers almost got a surprise on their home field. They led by double digits late, but a touchdown and an onside kick recovery had Arkansas State with a chance to tie on the final play:

Arkansas State engaged onside kick mode, and it got activated with a Chris Murray recovery on the Nebraska side of the field which was confirmed on review. Hansen got it started with a completion to Mack. Hansen sent a pass over Booker’s head with :21 to go in the game. Another incompletion brought third and 10 with :15 left. that play brought Edwards on a 10 yard out to get a first down with :09 down. Antonio Reed with a hands to the face took it to the 11 yard line on the same play. Deontre Thomas almost saved the game, but Hansen threw it incomplete with :02 to go. With one last shot, Hansen sent it through the back of the end zone. Game over.

Non-Conference Opponents:

Ohio 59, Hampton 0 - The Bobcats only gave up 108 total yards against their overmatched FCS opponent.

Missouri 72, Missouri State 43 - This was an FCS vs. FBS game where defense was strictly banned in all forms.