The first week of Big Ten play produced big-time offensive results throughout the conference.
Penn State led the way with 79 points, its highest scoring total since 1991, in a 79-7 rout of Idaho at Beaver Stadium. Maryland also put 79 points on the board in head coach Mike Locksley’s debut, blanking Howard 79-0.
In all, seven of the Big Ten Conference’s 14 teams scored 40 points or more in their season openers. Sophomore quarterback Justin Fields was solid in his Ohio State debut, passing for 234 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-24 win over Florida Atlantic. Michigan amassed 463 yards (220 passing, 243 rushing) in the debut of offensive coordinator Josh Gattis in its 40-21 win over Middle Tennessee.
One of the few schools in the conference upset about its offensive performance was Nebraska, which needed two defensive touchdowns and a special teams touchdown to beat South Alabama 35-21. Nebraska sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez wasn’t sharp in his season debut, completing 14 of 23 passes for 183 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. In his weekly news conference Monday, Nebraska coach Scott Frost shouldered the blame for his team’s offensive struggles.
“We’ve got to do a better job as a coaching staff getting them in the right stuff,” Frost said.
SUNSHINE STATE OF MIND
When redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. connected with senior receiver Nick Westbrook for Indiana’s first touchdown of the season, it highlighted IU’s continued success in recruiting players from Florida.
Penix is from Tampa and Westbrook is from Lake Mary, Fla., a suburb of Orlando. They are two of 25 players on Indiana’s roster from the state of Florida, more than any other program in the Big Ten. Illinois is next with 17 players from Florida, followed by Michigan with 11.
SI Maven’s Tom Brew wrote about IU’s Florida connections at length last week. IU head coach Tom Allen has stints as a high school coach in the Tampa area from 1992-96 and was a defensive coordinator at USF in 2015. In addition, several IU assistant coaches have connections in Florida, including safeties coach Kasey Teegardin, who is from Palm City, Fla., and played high school football in Stuart, Fla., at South Fork HS.
“What we’re doing here is really catching on down there,” Teegardin said. “You can turn on the radio down there, on ESPN radio, and they are talking about Indiana football. I was down there recruiting, turned it on, and they are talking about how Indiana football came down and stole two of the top guys in Tiawan Mullen and Josh Sanguinetti and then obviously the ties to Tampa has been unbelievable for us as well. So it definitely helps in recruiting. We have a really strong name down there.”
Wisconsin junior running back Jonathan Taylor got his Heisman Trophy campaign off to a rousing start Friday against USF, earning Big Ten offensive player of the week honors after totaling 183 all-purpose yards and four TDs as the Badgers routed USF 49-0 in Tampa.
At least one NFL star is in Taylor’s corner. While watching the game Friday night, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes tweeted out, “Taylor for Heisman.”
Taylor did a little bit of everything in a dominant effort against the Bulls, rushing for 135 yards on 8.4 yards per carry while catching two passes for 48 yards. Taylor had the first two receiving TDs of his career to go with two more touchdowns rushing.
With 4,306 career yards and counting, Taylor will look to continue piling up yards and touchdowns when Wisconsin opens at home Saturday against Central Michigan.
It was a rough meltown for Purdue on Friday night at Nevada, as the Boilermakers were unable to hold a 31-14 lead in the third quarter and lost 34-31 on a 56-yard field goal by walk-on kicker Brandon Talton as time expired. Talton was awarded a scholarship in the locker room postgame after the dramatic kick.
Purdue turned the ball over five times in the loss. But Boilermakers coach Jeff Brohm thought one turnover should have went their way in the closing minutes. On the play, Purdue cornerback Kenneth Major tied up a Nevada receiver in the end zone on a pass but appeared to wrestle the ball away and gain possession. It was ruled an incomplete pass. Had the Boilermakers been rewarded the interception they would have likely held on to win the game.
“I thought we picked the pass off,” said Brohm, who didn’t get an explanation from officials on the play.
Purdue will look to regroup Saturday when it hosts Vanderbilt at Ross-Ade Stadium.