Were you busy watching your Michigan Wolverines Saturday afternoon and couldn’t catch the rest of the Big Ten action? No need to worry; we have you covered with our recap of the Big Ten’s teams in action throughout the week.
Minnesota 42, Eastern Illinois 20
Watching this game, it seemed like Minnesota should have won by more than 22 points, but an offense that sometimes went stagnant for the Gophers helped make a 20-point effort from Eastern Illinois look much more impressive on paper. Mitch Leidner looked very average in his 2014 debut; I think everyone was expecting a little better from the sophomore who now has the quarterback position all to himself. Had it not been for three Eastern Illinois turnovers, this game could’ve been uncomfortably close. One bright spot for the Gophers was a defense that got off the field on third down, forced turnovers and didn’t allow much of anything on the ground. Should Minnesota play this way later in the season, though, success likely won’t come like this.
Next up for Minnesota: vs. Middle Tennessee
Rutgers 41, Washington State 38
This was an awesome game to watch and an incredible way for Rutgers to welcome itself into the Big Ten this season. The Scarlet Knights kicked it off with a bang; quarterback Gary Nova tossed a 78-yard touchdown to wide receiver Leonte Carroo on the first play from scrimmage, and you got the feeling it was going to be an exciting night for the Scarlet Knights. Punches were traded throughout the entire game with Rutgers getting the final laugh with 3:24 left in the game, securing a 1-0 start. While Rutgers’ offense looked to be clicking perfectly on Thursday night, it was the defense that showed signs of struggle. Washington State only rushed for SIX yards the entire game, but quarterback Connor Halliday lit up Rutgers’ secondary for 532 yards and five touchdowns.
Next up for Rutgers: vs. Howard
Michigan State 45, Jacksonville State 7
It looked as though Michigan State was going to have to join rival Ohio State in competing without its star quarterback after Connor Cook took a late hit to his left leg, but he bounced back and played the rest of the game like nothing was wrong, an incredible relief for Spartans fans. Obviously we were never expecting Jacksonville State to put up a fight against Michigan State, but the display put on by the Spartans on offense and defense was still impressible. We’ll learn more in the next few weeks about what these units are really going to look like, but everything looked crisp Friday night.
Next up for Michigan State: @ Oregon
Penn State 26, UCF 24
What an exciting one this one was. Penn State travelled to Dublin as a clear underdog to UCF, but late-game heroics from Nittany Lions kicker Sam Ficken put one through the uprights as time expired to knock off the Knights and hand new head coach James Franklin his first win with Penn State. UCF’s offense was mostly held in check by the Nittany Lions’ defense, though quarterback Justin Holman, who came in for the second half of the game, found success through the air and pleasantly surprised his team with a great performance. It was Christian Hackenberg who stole the show, though. 454 yards is a new Penn State record for passing yards. I was fairly high on Penn State coming into this season, despite a few flaws on offense, but this win shows we may have been undermining the real look of this team.
Next up for Penn State: vs. Akron
Illinois 28, Youngstown State 17
The first three quarters of this game weren’t very exciting if you enjoy offense, but a 21-point fourth quarter performance from Illinois propelled the Illini to their first win of the 2014 season, avoiding a huge scare from Youngstown State. Quarterback Wes Lunt delivered a stellar performance for Illinois, completing 24 passes for 285 yards and four touchdowns. But perhaps the best part of this one was watching an Illinois defense keep an offense in check, even if it was just Youngstown State. It’s especially impressive when you consider the defense stayed on the field twice as long as the offense did.
Next up for Illinois: vs. Western Kentucky
Indiana 28, Indiana State 10
The last thing I wanted to see here was a big upset to send Indiana into a hole to begin the season. I’m very high on this team, and they showed glimpses of why that is Saturday afternoon. Running back Tevin Coleman was electrifying with 247 rushing yards, which allowed quarterback Nate Sudfeld to become more of a game-manager in this one. Even though that’s not at all what I saw Sudfeld doing before the season began, it worked nicely, and it showed every Big Ten team has something to be scared of with Coleman. It was incredibly encouraging to see a new defense shape out the way it did too. A 3-4 scheme seems to already be working for Indiana.
Next up for Indiana: Bye
Iowa 31, Northern Iowa 23
Iowa had to put this one away late in the game, but there were still some encouraging signs from this team in a close call with Northern Iowa. Quarterback Jake Rudock played well enough for the time being, and Iowa’s defense did a fantastic job of stuffing the run all game. The secondary could still use some work after being exposed with a 380-yard performance from Sawyer Kollmorgen, but overall, I think this Iowa team is right where it needs to be.
Next up for Iowa: vs. Ball State
Purdue 43, Western Michigan 34
Purdue snapped a 12-game losing streak to FBS opponents Saturday with a win over Western Michigan out of the MAC, and I actually liked what I saw from the Boilermakers’ offense. Danny Etling wasn’t the most efficient through the air, but he didn’t make very many mistakes, allowing running back Raheem Mostert to rush for 146 yards on the day. I think we all knew coming into this season that Purdue was going to need a solid ground game if it had any hope of competing, so it was nice to see that pan out in Week 1.
Next up for Purdue: vs. Central Michigan
Ohio State 34, Navy 17
This one was a lot closer than it should have been. Navy kept it close with Ohio State for almost the entire game as new quarterback J.T. Barrett struggled to find his groove within the offense. The entire Ohio State offense often looked sluggish and a step behind the action. Maybe that’s the result of trying to make it mesh with a new quarterback so quickly, or maybe there are still some kinks to work out. Either way, this wasn’t the performance we were expecting to see.
Next up for Ohio State: vs. Virginia Tech
Northwestern 24, California 31
One thing became clear Saturday against California: Northwestern is going to be asking Trevow Siemian to throw the ball a lot this year. The Wildcats were going to be without running back Venric Mark for this game anyway, but seeing what the offense looked like without him in the backfield was just a glimpse of what the rest of 2014 could have in store for Northwestern. I hope Pat Fitzgerald figures it out, but until Siemian develops into a superstar, it could be a rocky ride for the Wildcats this season.
Next up for Northwestern: vs. Northern Illinois
Maryland 52, James Madison 7
Maryland welcomed itself into the Big Ten with a huge blowout win over James Madison on Saturday. The defense played a stout game, which honestly isn’t saying much against James Madison, but Maryland’s offense looked like a really well-oiled machine. Every part of the offense had something working in its favor, showing that perhaps this team ins’t as far behind as we originally thought this offseason.
Next up for Maryland: @ South Florida
Nebraska 55, Florida Atlantic 7
Nebraska looked phenomenal on Saturday against Florida Atlantic. Ameer Abdullah and Tommy Armstrong Jr. both had career days as the Cornhuskers cruised to a 1-0 start on the season. I talked all offseason about how Armstrong was going to have to become more of a game manager if Nebraska wants to be competitive this season; he did that and more on Saturday. And Nebraska’s defense looked to be playing like its old self, too. There might be some big things stirring up in Lincoln right now.
Next up for Nebraska: vs. NcNeese State
Wisconsin 24, LSU 28
Wisconsin looked like it had this game wrapped up going into half time. The Badgers were dominating everything, and LSU often looked uninterested in competing. But coming out of the lockers at half time, the roles completely switched and the Tigers stormed back to knock off Wisconsin Saturday night. The biggest storyline of the game was Melvin Gordon being benched for the second half, and not a whole lot is known about the situation.
Next up for Wisconsin: vs. Western Illinois