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College football is officially back. While we got our first taste of Week 1 on Thursday night, the action continued Friday night as an extended preview before the big show starts on Saturday. If you were out and about, here’s what you missed.
Michigan State’s uninspiring offense
Michigan State was never in much danger of losing to Tulsa on Friday night. The MSU defense was simply too dominant (Tulsa had 80 yards of offense) in a 28-7 victory.
But the offensive issues that plagued the Spartans for the majority of the 2018 season were present yet again, and it’s a reason to be concerned if you’re an MSU fan. Facing a defense that gave up more than 400 yards and nearly 30 points per game a year ago, the MSU offense mustered only 303 yards and 19 points on the evening (the defense accounted for nine of the points with a touchdown and a safety).
Just like it was a year ago, the running game was completely underwhelming. The MSU offensive line had no push, and Tulsa defenders were able to clog running lanes without much resistance. The results: 108 yards on 40 carries. That’s an average of 2.7 yards per attempt. Against Tulsa. Yikes.
The passing game wasn’t particularly explosive either. Brian Lewerke looked far healthier than he was in 2018, but he threw for only 192 yards on 21-of-37 attempts. Not exactly inspiring. And to make matters worse, the team committed 14 penalties for 122 yards on the night, too.
MSU’s Week 1 performance makes you think back to Mark Dantonio’s decision not to make any staff changes on offense. Well, he did make changes. Instead of bringing in a new perspective to give his stale offense some life, he moved each position coach to a new spot and elevated Brad Salem, now in his 10th year on Dantonio’s staff, from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator.
No wonder it looked so similar.
Sure, it’s only one game. But if the offense looked this stagnant against a team like Tulsa, how is it going to look later in the year against Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan? Or, hell, even Arizona State in two weeks?
Dantonio and his staff have a lot of work to do.
USF’s plummet continues after Wisconsin blowout
It didn’t take long for a reminder that Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor is very good. Taylor had three first-half touchdowns and four overall in a 49-0 Badger romp over South Florida.
Two of those scores were receiving touchdowns. And, believe it or not, they were the first receiving touchdowns Taylor had scored in his Wisconsin career.
But enough about Taylor. He’s really, really, really good. South Florida, meanwhile, has not been very good lately. The Bulls finished the 2018 season at 7-6 after starting 7-0. That means Friday night’s loss was the team’s seventh straight. Yikes
The new-look USF offense under coordinator Kerwin Bell looked all out of sorts and USF couldn’t even make a field goal late in the game to avoid a shutout. Though kicking to make it a 46-point game instead of a 49-point game is really kind of pointless.
It’s fair to wonder just how long the leash is for Charlie Strong at USF. The Bulls were 10-2 in Strong’s first year in 2017 but the drop in 2018 was steep. Another similar drop may not be tolerated. We’ll see if the Bulls can right the ship against Georgia Tech in Week 2.
Purdue blows big lead, shocked by Nevada
Nevada fans will never forget the name Brandon Talton.
Talton, a freshman walk-on kicker, drilled a 56-yard field goal as time expired to cap off a wild come-from-behind win over Purdue on Friday night in Reno. Purdue led 31-14 midway through the third quarter, but the Wolf Pack, led by redshirt freshman quarterback Carson Strong, stormed all the way back to win, 34-31, in dramatic fashion.
A muffed punt from Purdue star Rondale Moore allowed Nevada to start a string of 20 unanswered points to end the game. Moore’s gaffe set up a 34-yard field goal for Talton that cut the Purdue lead to 31-17 late in the third quarter.
And in the fourth quarter, Strong led scoring drives of 74 yards and 87 yards to tie the game at 31 apiece with just 52 seconds to play. The tying score, a 20-yard strike from Strong to Elijah Cooks, followed a controversial play that was ruled an incomplete pass. As you can see below, it could have been either a touchdown or an interception, but the call on the field (incomplete) stood.
With the score tied, Purdue had a chance to win the game. Instead, Elijah Sindelar threw an ill-advised interception, paving the way for Talton’s heroic kick.
The loss will be a tough pill to swallow for the Boilermakers, who put up 519 yards of offense but also turned it over five times.
Wake Forest survives wild game vs. Utah State
Wake Forest escaped with a 38-35 win over Utah State thanks to an interception by Justin Strnad with 17 seconds left.
The Demon Deacons took a three-point lead with 1:08 to play on a fourth-down touchdown catch by QB-turned-wide receiver Kendall Hinton. His catch came after Wake Forest ran the ball three straight times with just a couple of yards to go for a TD after Sage Surratt was called down short of the end zone on a long reception.
Each of those Cade Carney runs went nowhere. And after Utah State used all three of its timeouts to stop the clock, Wake decided to throw the ball.
“I’m thinking if you can’t get a yard running it, you don’t deserve to win,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “And then we lost yardage.”
It wasn’t the first time that Utah State had stopped Wake Forest running the ball near the goal line. It was actually the third. The Demon Deacons turned the ball over on downs inside the Utah State 5 twice before.
It also wasn’t the first time Utah State has come close to beating a Power Five opponent on the road recently, either.
Spencer Sanders impresses in Oklahoma State debut
It was just one game, but Spencer Sanders lived up to the hype. Sanders, a redshirt freshman, won the starting quarterback job in preseason camp and put on a show in his first college game. In a 52-36 road win over Oregon State, Sanders completed 19-of-24 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 109 yards on 13 tries.
Sanders connected with star receiver Tylan Wallace five times for 92 yards and two scores on the evening. But the biggest game for the Cowboys came from running back Chuba Hubbard, who put up 221 yards and three scores on 26 carries. The trio of Sanders, Hubbard and Wallace is going to be tough to contain for Big 12 defenses.
But speaking of defense, Oklahoma State allowed the Beavers, a team that won one game in 2018, to gain 448 yards of offense. That’s not going to cut it in Big 12 play.
Colorado wins big in Mel Tucker’s first game
Colorado opened the Mel Tucker era with a 52-31 victory over rival Colorado State.
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Buffs forced four CSU turnovers and rushed for 236 yards to win the Rocky Mountain Showdown for the fifth straight season. Steven Montez threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns while Alex Fontenot finished the night with 125 yards and three scores on the ground.
The win was a positive for the Pac-12, too, considering Arizona and UCLA have already lost to Group of Five teams this season.
A Rutgers offensive explosion!
What if we told you the 48 points Rutgers scored against UMass on Friday were 48 percent of the total points the Scarlet Knights scored in nine Big Ten games in 2018?
Seriously. Rutgers had just 100 points in Big Ten play last season. And somehow scored 48 against UMass after going down 21-7 in the first quarter on Friday night.
Yes, Rutgers was down by 14 to the lowly Minutemen after the first 15 minutes. But things finally got rolling in Piscataway. Big time. Rutgers scored 31 straight points in the second quarter.
Texas Tech transfer McLane Carter threw three interceptions, but he also threw for 340 yards and two scores and the Scarlet Knights look like they have some exciting players on the offensive side of the ball. Will that be enough to win a Big Ten game or two in 2019?
Army’s 2 monster drives
Army got a much tougher test from Rice than most expected, but was able to pull out a 14-7 victory thanks to two scoring drives that were very on-brand.
The Black Knights took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter thanks to a drive that spanned 95 yards, 16 plays and took a whopping 9:48 off the clock. Rice tied the score not long after, but Army was finally able to take the lead in the fourth with another quintessential triple option possession.
This time, Army went 96 yards in 18 plays, taking 9:21 off the clock in the process. While the first TD was a two-yard run from quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr., this drive ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Hopkins to Kell Walker on third-and-8.
Rice was left with just 3:58 on the clock, and the Army defense was eventually able to hold thanks to an incompletion on fourth-and-1 from the Army 26.
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