CFB Week 1 Recap: Big 10 Conference

Recapping Week 1 of the Big Ten Season

Michigan at utah

Game Recap: The Wolverines wasted a solid defensive effort with poor offensive play. The offensive line struggled to create holes in the running game and Michigan's stable of backs all looked mediocre. Jake Rudock had a rough game. He missed open wide receivers on deep routes and threw three interceptions, including a back-breaking INT that was returned for a touchdown to clinch the game for the Utes in the 4th quarter.

Key Players: While Rudock struggled, his top two targets both impressed. Jake Butt is an elite talent and should be one of the top tight ends in the country this season. He had 8 receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown. Veteran #1 WR Amara Darboh also caught 8 balls and racked up 101 yards and a touchdown. De'Veon Smith was the clear #1 back but rushed for only 47 yards on 17 carries and displayed poor vision at times, but ran hard against a tough Utah front. Smith should find more room to operate against Oregon State at home next week.

Injuries: None. 

Players to Watch: True Freshman WR Grant Perry was the target on all three of Rudock's interceptions and had a rough game, but the speedy youngster is a guy that Michigan will look to continue to get the ball to going forward. He won the starting job in the slot on the strength of a strong camp and could emerge as the most explosive weapon for the Wolverines offense as the season goes on.

BYU at Nebraska

Game RecapThe Cornhuskers fell 33-28 on a heart-breaking Hail Mary completion by BYU as time expired. The Nebraska passing offense had some nice moments throughout the game but suffered through stretches of inefficiency that allowed BYU to stay in the game. The Nebraska running game was relatively efficient, but never broke any runs longer than 15 yards. 

Key PlayersTommy Armstrong, Jr. looked much improved as a passer and threw for 319 yards and 3 touchdowns and one interception. The new offensive system under Mike Riley did not feature any designed quarterback runs however and Armstrong only rushed for 2 total yards. Jordan Westerkamp was the clear #1 option in the passing game and had 107 yards receiving and 7 receptions. His touchdown on the first drive was a thing of beauty. He caught the ball short and reversed across the entire field and out-sprinted the defense for the score. The Cornhuskers featured a three-man RBBC with Terrelly Newby (10 carries for 43 yards), Imani Cross (7 rushes for 34 yards) and Mikale Wilbon (6 carries for 14 yards) all rotating through. 


Players to WatchThe Cornhuskers 24 receptions were spread around to 8 different WRs, so it will be tough for a consistent second target to emerge behind Westerkamp. However, junior WR Alonzo Moore is a player to watch due to his big-play ability. He is talented with the ball in his hands and put up 24 rushing yards in addition to his 3 catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. 

Alabama vs. Wisconsin

Game RecapAlabama dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and was able to pull away in the second half for a 35-17 win. The Badgers were held to a paltry 40 yards rushing and are not built to win games throwing the ball. 

Key PlayersSenior QB Joel Stave had one of the better games of his career despite his modest statline (26-for-39 passing for 226 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception). He was accurate and poised despite Alabama teeing off in the second half due to Wisconsin's inability to run the ball. WR Alex Erickson is the top target in the passing attack and had 6 catches for 73 yards and a touchdown and added a 25-yard rush as well. Corey Clement had only 16 yards rushing on 8 carries before heading to the bench. Clement also added 19 yards on 2 catches and the Wisconsin backs proved that the talk of their being much more heavily involved in the passing game would be true as 14 of Stave's 26 completions were to the backs. 

InjuriesStar running back Corey Clement left the game early after re-aggravating a groin injury he suffered in practice the week before the game. He said after the game he felt about 75% and didn't want to risk making the injury worse and having it turn into a long-term issue. Wisconsin is favored by 34 points this week, so he might take some more time to let the injury heal, but it is not anything major that will keep him out for an extended period of time. Tanner McEvoy, making the conversion from QB to WR, is dealing with a sore hamstring and is not 100% but should still see the field. 

Players to Watch: Dare Ogunbowale and Taiwan Deal are still competing for the backup RB job which could take on huge importance if Clement misses any further time with his groin injury. Ogunbowale looked good catching the ball out of the backfield with 6 receptions for 39 yards. 

TCU at Minnesota

Game Recap: Minnesota couldn't overcome mistakes and a slow start offensively in a 23-17 loss to #2 ranked TCU. 

Key PlayersMitch Leidner had a tough game with a costly fumble early and some struggles with accuracy. He began to heat up later in the game and finished with 197 yards and a touchdown passing and 23 yards rushing. Rodrick Williams, Jr. got the start but his fumble diving towards the TCU end zone was a momentum-killer and led to Williams being benched in the first half. Redshirt Freshman RB Rodney Smith replaced Williams and rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. KJ Maye led the team with 4 catches for 71 yards and scored a late touchdown.

Injuries: None.

Players to Watch: Rodney Smith is an impressive talent at RB for the Gophers and the future at the position. While Williams is still the starter, the Gophers are committed to going with a "hot hand" approach at the position and Smith was the most effective runner against TCU. It is worth watching to see if either Williams or Smith can emerge as the true every week lead back or if it will remain more of a committee approach.

Temple vs. Penn State

Game Recap: After jumping to a quick 10-0 lead, the Nittany Lions offense fell apart and managed only 54 yards over the final three quarters. The line gave up 10 sacks and often got pressure bringing only three or four pass rushers against a talented and experienced Temple defense. With the Penn State offense utterly ineffective, Temple was able to grind out a convincing 27-10 win. The Penn State line has four returning starters, so the struggles can't simply be chalked up to inexperience. James Franklin also indicated that the backups aren't close to ready to challenge the incumbent starters, so the offense will probably continue to struggle all season despite solid talent at the skill positions.

Key PlayersChristian Hackenberg looked shell shocked. While no quarterback would have looked good behind the porous line's pass protection, Hackenberg did not look like the future NFL star many predict he will become and he looks like he has lost confidence. He completed only 11 of 25 passes for 103 yards and an interception. Running back Akeel Lynch got loose for a 42-yard touchdown early but was unable to find any room the rest of the game and managed only 78 yards. Highly touted wide receivers Geno Lewis (2 catches for 15 yards) and DaeSean Hamilton (1 catch for 5 yards) were never able to get involved with Hackenberg running for his life.

Injuries: None.

Players to WatchSophomore receiver Chris Godwin was the lone offensvie standout, pulling in 5 catches for 81 yards. While overshadowed last season by Lewis and Hamilton, Godwin is every bit as talented and posseses a nice combination of size and speed. He will help provide Hackenberg with a highly talented trio of pass catchers to target.

Stanford at Northwestern

Game Recap: The Northwestern defense dominated the game while the Wildcats stuck to a conservative gameplan on offense; pounding away with Justin Jackson and dual threat QB Clayton Thorson en route to an impressive 16-6 upset of #21 Stanford.

Key Players: Justin Jackson is the offense for Northwestern and despite a tough matchup against Stanford's stout front seven, he was able to rack up 146 total yards on 30 touches (including 2 receptions). Redshirt freshman Clayton Thorson rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown and passed for 104 yards on 24 attempts. He played better than his statline suggests.


Players to Watch: Senior WR Chrisition Jones returned after missing the entire 2014 season with injury and is the top threat in the passing game. He had 5 catches for 52 yards against Stanford but could put up bigger numbers in games Northwestern has to open up the passing offense..

Michigan State at Western Michigan

Game RecapThe Spartans jumped out to a big early lead and then held on for the 37-24 win despite a furious comeback attempt that saw the Broncos have real success through the air against the MSU secondary. 

Key PlayersConnor Cook completed less than 50% of his passes but did throw for 256 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Aaron Burbridge was his top target in the passing game with 4 catches for 117 yards. TE Josiah Price could be one of the top big-play threats at TE in the country and hauled in 3 catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. Madre London got the start at RB and scored two early touchdowns. He had 13 carries for 59 yards. 


Players to WatchTrue freshman RB LJ Scott is raw but is the most talented back on the roster. He is currently behind redshirt FR Madre London on the depth chart, but Scott is the future of the position for the Spartans and could emerge as a true lead back later in the season. Scott led the team in rushing with 77 yards on 13 carries and looked the part of a future star.

Illinois State at Iowa

Game RecapIowa dominated a solid Illinois State team (#2 ranked FCS team), cruising to a 31-0 lead before allowing a couple garbage-time touchdowns. The Iowa defense stuffed the run and the offense was able to dominate the line of scrimmage en route to an easy opening victory.

Key Players: Leshun Daniels, Jr. ran for 123 yards on 26 carries in his first game as the Hawkeyes #1 back. He should be the workhorse going forward. C.J. Beathard threw for 213 yards and a score while also adding 26 yards and 2 touchdowns as a runner. Backup running back Jordan Canzeri was the leading receiver with 4 catches for 90 yards and added 28 yards and a touchdown running as well. WR/H-Back Matt Vandeberg had 6 receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown. Top receiver TeVaun Smith had a quiet day with only 3 catches for 24 yards. 


Players to WatchWhile Beathard isn't the type of dual threat quarterback who will put up huge yardage totals, he makes a difference with his ability to run in short yardage and goal line situations. He could be a sneaky play in more favorable matchups.

Richmond at Maryland

Game RecapThe story of the game was Will Likely breaking the 76-year old Big Ten record for punt return yardage in a game with 229. After falling behind 14-13 in the 2nd quarter, Maryland scored 37 straight points with Likely often giving the offense a short field to work with. The running game was also key in the Terrapins securing the 50-21 victory.

Key Players: RB Brandon Ross ran for a career best 150 yards (on 18 carries) and a touchdown before taking a seat on the bench early in the 4th quarter. The Terrapins rushed for 341 yards on the day with Wes Brown (74 yards and a touchdown) and Ty Johnson (83 yards and a touchdown) also finding success. QB Perry Hills did not throw the ball much and showed some inconsistencey when he did. He was 12-for-21 for 138 yards and two touchdowns. He spread the 12 receptions around to 8 different WRs with none catching more than 2 passes. 

Injuries: None.

Players to WatchBrandon Ross has struggled with injuries and inconsistency in recent years but appears poised to have a big senior season. He will try to follow up his big game against FCS Richmond with another big performance against Bowling Green from the MAC.

Norfolk State at Rutgers

Game RecapQuarterback Chris Laviano and star wideout Leonte Carroo were suspended for the first half due to a curfew violation but came in and looked great in the second half. The duo combined for three touchdowns in the second half and helped turn a 21-13 halftime lead into a 63-13 romp with 42 unanswered points.

Key Players: Laviano (who on Tuesday was named the starting QB for Week 2) shook off a first-half suspension to throw for 138 yards and three touchdowns on only 4 passing attempts. All three of his touchdowns were to Carroo and went for a combined 129 yards. The duo should be dangerous moving forward and Carroo especially could put up big numbers in Week 2 against Washington State. On the ground, Paul James rushed for 82 yards on 15 carries and Josh Hicks amassed 118 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns. 


Players to WatchRutgers has enviable depth at the running back position and are likely to feature multiple backs, but Hicks is the player to watch moving forward. He moved to running back halfway through his freshman season in 2014 and was MVP of the Scarlet Knights' bowl win with 202 rushing yards. He impressed again in Week 1 and could emerge as the primary back going forward.

Kent State at Illinois

Game RecapLightning and rain forced the game to be rescheduled from Friday night to Saturday afternoon, but Illinois came ready to play and raced to a 35-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter. The offense took advantage of Kent State miscues which led to short fields and the offense had 3 short one-play touchdown drives that covered 5 yards, 6 yards and 7 yards. Illinois had the game firmly in control at halftime and pulled the starters early in the 3rd quarter on the way to a comfortable 52-3 opening win.

Key PlayersWes Lunt played well and threw 4 touchdowns in the first 18 minutes of the game. The big early lead led to a conservative game plan and an early exit for Lunt, but he passed for 162 yards (despite some dropped passes) before heading to the bench in the 3rd quarter. He spread the ball around to a number of different targets and no receiver had more than two catches. #1 WR Geronimo Allison led the team with 2 catches for 57 yards and a touchdown. Star running back Josh Ferguson rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown and also added a 21-yard touchdown reception before ceding to the backups early in the second half. 


Players to WatchGeronimo Allison is the clear top passing target and could have some big games if Illinois is forced to pass more. True freshman running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn was a highly touted recruit and has big-play ability. He had an impressive debut with 43 yards and a touchdown.

Southern Illinois at Indiana

Game Recap: Indiana came up with a stop on a two-point conversion late in the 4th quarter to hang on for a 48-47 win over FCS program Southern Illinois. Indiana's defense played with some suspended players, but expect them to give up points all season long which will lead to shootouts like this one.

Key PlayersNate Sudfeld is back after missing much of last season with an injury and played very well. He threw for 349 yards and one touchdown, but almost had a few more touchdowns as receivers were tackled just short of the end zone. UAB-transfer Jordan Howard had a huge day, rushing for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns on 20 carries. Backup Devine Redding added two rushing touchdowns and 57 yards on 16 carries. Junior WR Ricky Jones entered the game with 60 career receiving yards but had a huge day. He caught 6 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown. 


Players to WatchJones emerged somewhat out of nowhere to become Sudfeld's top target. Indiana will be forced to air it out often this season and the 5'10 junior from Sarasota, FL could post big numbers. 

Purdue at Marshall

Game RecapPurdue showed real improvement from last season and carried a lead into the middle of the 4th quarter, but things fell apart down the stretch. The team hasn't shown an ability to finish off games and this was another example with a late interception returned for a touchdown sealing the Boilermakers' fate and providing the final score in a 41-31 loss. 

Key PlayersRB D.J. Knox ran for 102 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries behind a much improved Purdue offensive line. Austin Appleby completed 31 of 48 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown, but his 4 interceptions were the difference in the game. Top returning receiver Danny Anthrop had 5 catches and a touchdown but only 18 receiving yards. 


Players to WatchDeAngelo Yancey had a big freshman season but struggled mightily as a sophomore in 2014. He had a great summer and led the team in receiving with 5 catches for 78 yards. He looks poised for a bounceback season. Freshman Markell Jones rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and looked good doing it. He should provide a nice 1-2 punch teamed with Knox.

Ohio State at Virginia Tech

Game RecapThe Buckeyes had a brief lull in the 2nd quarter which allowed Virginia Tech to temporarily take the lead before stepping on the gas in the 2nd half to pull away in the 2nd half for a 42-24 win. With the Hokies crowding the line to take away Ezekiel Elliott, the Buckeyes had to focus on the passing game and were able to hit some big plays to Braxton Miller and Michael Thomas to put the game away.

Key PlayersBraxton Miller had a major impact in his first game at WR. He caught a 54-yard touchdown pass early in the 3rd quarter and then put the game away with a 54-yard run (taking a direct snap) that featured a ridiculous spin move. Cardale Jones got the starting nod over J.T. Barrett at quarterback and ran for 99 yards and a touchdown while throwing for 186 yards and two scores. He went to the bench early in the 4th quarter and Barrett promptly led a long touchdown drive that featured a 40-yard quarterback run and a 26-yard touchdown strike to #1 WR Michael Thomas on Barrett's only pass attempt of the day. Ezekiel Elliott had a strong game despite only 11 carries. He got loose for an 80-yard touchdown run early.  


Players to Watch: Sophomore WR Jalin Marshall is set to return from his 1-game suspension and will add another dynamic pass/run threat to the Buckeyes offense. He will be the #2 WR opposite Thomas with Miller in the slot. 


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