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Sunday Morning Coming Down // Week 1

We’re Back! With a Thud!

NCAA Football: South Dakota State at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back, sports fans. It’s time for your favorite Sunday morning recap with me, your beloved sports writer and all-around swell guy.

Ten B1G Things

  1. In retrospect, the swine barn at the State Fair was the second stinkiest event I witnessed in the Twin Cities on Thursday night.
  2. Brian Lewerke is finally back and healthy, which really puts Sparty’s one offensive TD against Tulsa in perspective.
  3. Jonathon Taylor is on track to blow every other RB in the nation out of the water, clearing the way for another Alabama QB to win the Heisman.
  4. 150 years ago, Rutgers won the first “college football” game in which a whole 10 points were scored over four hours. Somehow that still sounds better than this, Rutgers’ best game of the season.
  5. Maybe Jeff Brohm should’ve taken one of those many offers he supposedly received.
  6. Frost? More like condensation on a can of Squirt.
  7. Joey Freshwater looks like he belongs in the midwest now. Got that casserole neck.
  8. Maryland showed Howard once and for all that they’re the king of college football teams no one in the DC television market cares about.
  9. Hey Illini, look at you go.
  10. Millions of Americans lost their true family names in our great waves of immigration, but somehow the ancestors of Indiana’s Michael Penix held fast.
  11. I thought we weren’t playing FCS teams anymore?
  12. It’s a little known fact that Stanford kicker Jet Toner is the adopted son of silicon valley legend Hewlett Packard.
  13. Nice to see Nate Stanley back for his 7th year of eligibility.
  14. Shea Patterson is the first returning QB Harbaugh has had. It’s his 5th season as coach.

The Rundown

South Dakota State at Minnesota | Gophers escape 28-21

Not much good to say about your offense getting outgained by the Jackrabbits. South Dakota is so barren that the population drops by 25% when the team travels to away games, but they found enough talent to put the Goophs on the ropes. Fleck may finally be realizing the magnitude of the decrepitude that is Minnesota football.

WSR: I’m going to go back and watch the game again at some point before Sunday morning, but that was just so abysmal in large stretches of the game that I can’t bring myself to do it yet. The OL and DL were ineffective until they were needed at the end of the game, which is infuriating on a few levels. The playcalling was either determined to not show anything (WHOOPS SORRY ABOUT THAT 2-PT CONVERSION) or actually vanilla as hell, which was also just frustrating. Bateman being able to roast the secondary because they were bracketing Tyler Johnson while they ran an extra man in the box to stop the run doesn’t mean anything if you only get him the ball 5 times (for 132 yards and an absolutely beautiful TD grab). The defense did enough to win the game while also doing enough to lose it. Fleck sounded furious in the postgame interview while spewing the normal coachspeak about “Well, we got the win blah blah” so hopefully he’s able to use that to light a fire under some oversized asses this week before the trip to Fresno.

Tulsa at MSU | Sparty Skates 28-7

Just one offensive touchdown? One? Against Tulsa? If this is what a healthy Lewerke looks like, give that kid scurvy and see if he remembers how to move the ball.

Anthracite Koalmineski: Am I happy or furious when watching MSU football? Being a lawyer, my answer is, of course, that depends! Does MSU’s offense have the ball? Get up and leave the room. Is the defense on the field? Check this shit out.Tulsa was so goddamn bad in the first half. They gave MSU a safety and a defensive touchdown plus three more turnovers, all of which I believe were in their own territory or close to it.MSU managed one offensive touchdown all night. They had 14 penalties altogether for a cool 122, the huge majority of which were on the offense. Every starter on the OL had either a drive-murdering penalty or a bad snap leading to a sack (that was just one guy). MSU managed 3 points after halftime.Schematically, the coordinator change and offseason of promised improvement led to not a damn thing. Tim Brando and the Big Ten’s lip service squad in the booth did their best to cover for MSU’s reprehensible offense, emphasizing that this wasn’t MSU’s whole playbook. To which I say who cares - if they can’t execute pages 1 and 2, does it really matter if there’s theoretically cool stuff on page 20? Why would they be able to execute the things they have no game reps with if they can’t pull off the basics?By way of pleasant contrast, the defense was awesome. Outside of one late first half drive where Tulsa hit a couple of deep passes, MSU smothered everything. New starters in Antjuan Simmons and Xavier Henderson looked great, Kenny Willekes and Joe Bachie made splash play after splash play, and suffice it to say Tulsa did not run for the 200 yards one of their players had the recklessness to predict.This season will go one of two ways: it will either be a repeat of last year, a repeat of 2012, with a completely, needlessly impotent offense wasting a superb defense. Or it will be 2013, with the offense eventually working some things out. Smart money, unfortunately for yours truly, is on the former. Eat at Arbys

USF at Wisconsin | Badgers shred Bulls, 49-0

Well this was just mean-spirited, right down to Jonathan Taylor’s 4 TDs. Just rude, really.

MC Clapyohandz: I should start by acknowledging that Charlie Strong may have lost hold of his program; they looked a bit worse than anticipated. That being said, WOOOOO. Hard to complain about much in this one, but I’ll do my best.Jonathan Taylor deserves Heisman hype, he’s just so good. I’m glad he was pulled when he was. While he’s capable of video game numbers and may need them for individual accolades, there’s no need to risk him in a blowout.Jack Coan was interesting. You can see why he got the job, he makes the right reads and gets rid of the ball on time. Some of these throws though...woof. He had Cephus open for a couple explosive plays and just missed, and another first half throw was meant to be picked. Hopefully it’s more first game jitters than fundamental inaccuracy, but time ill tell. Chase Wolf got mopup duty and threw a monster block for a late TD, so look out.I thought line play was the typical above average but with some concerning plays too.

There were a few plays where protection broke down really early and even had defenders running free to the QB, and pass protection was an issue last year too. That needs to be cleaned up, but for a unit that replaced 4 guys they looked pretty good.Defensively it’s hard to complain when the other team crosses midfield once, and not until 5 minutes to go in the game. The secondary got lucky a couple times in the first quarter with some helpful drops on potential big gains, but settled down as the game went on. It’s obvious what a difference a healthy defensive line makes, and both the defense and offense are benefiting from it. That is a thin group in theory, so health is worth watching.All in all a good night, and more indicative of 2018 being an aberration than a sign of the end.

UMass at Rutgers | Rutgers gets that elusive win 48-21

The decrepitude of northeastern football is the stuff of legend, and a game against UMass-Amherst only serves to reinforce that harsh historical truth. Chris Ash is threatening to do just enough this year to prolong his suffering, to the delight of all of us.

Purdue at Nevada | Purdue defies even the worst Pur-don’t puns in stunning 34-31 loss

And you thought the slot machines in the Reno airport were depressing. Leading 31-17 in the fourth, Purdue didn’t just dicktrip. They put their metaphorical dicks through an old-timey laundry wringer. Elijah Sindelar threw for more yards than the entire Nevada offense produced, and yet it was the Boilermakers who went home with empty pockets and that vacant stare of crippling depression. So another season begins.

Boilerman: There’s still some time left in this, and Sindelar just threw into coverage for a tip and an INT...Fuck me.

Purdue was in control of this game at halftime. Sindelar was making good throws, the line was holding solid, the young receivers were showing their talents, and DEs Karlaftis and Barnes had Strong scrambling. And there goes the 56-yarder through the uprights. Just lovely.Then, for some unknown reason, the coaching staff decides to pack it in and head home. When Rondale Moore has 10+ touches in the first half and none on the two drives at the end of the game, that’s a problem. When the defense can’t stop Nevada on 3rd and 4th and 7+ to go, that’s a problem. When you have two guys in the same Jersey number on the field at the same time, that’s a problem. When you have two muffed punts because your returner doesn’t know to get the hell away from the ball and thinks he has to make a play, that’s a problem. And when your QB still can’t figure out not to throw a ball into double coverage, that’s a big fucking problem. Credit Nevada for making the plays needed but I’m fucking pissed right now because Purdue should’ve easily won this game and instead, pissed it away.For the record, that wasn’t an incomplete pass in the end zone, Major possessed it but that doesn’t matter. (OTE fandom rules followed.)

You got your paycheck, Coach. Start earning it.

South Alabama at Nebraska | Blackshirts Offense carries the Day, 35-21

Nebraska tallied three non-offensive TDs for the first time in 14 years, which is good since the actual offense was DOA. Adrian Martinez went 13/22 and the Huskers averaged 2.2 ypc in what Frost kindly called “the most anemic offensive effort [he’s] ever been a part of.”

BRT: I don’t know what that was that I watched, exactly, but it was something. It was a very emotionally confusing afternoon.After watching a game in which no one did what was expected of them, I still don’t think I know what to expect from this team. But hopefully, better offence is part of that.

Dead Read: What can I say? Nebby won its Sun Belt matchup this year. Progress. The offense was arrhythmic, and Martinez held the ball too long waiting for things to happen. The Oline did not get much push and it was a frustrating game to watch. Special teams weren’t great, but at least there were some good returns, including a 76 yard punt return from JD Spielman. The defense got FIVE takeaways and TWO DEFENSIVE TDs from the Jags, which is important because turnover margin has been an issue for years. To sum up: Special teams have improved. Defense played pretty well, while the offense looked rudderless and “pedestrian.” Just like we would have predicted, right? Next up for Nebby is a trip to Boulder, which will almost certainly be a bizarre contest. The Huskers might not be BAKK, but at least college football is. GBR.

FAU at Ohio State | Buckeyes beat FAU 45-21, impress no one

Ryan Day puns are about as good as OSU’s ball security—which is to say awful or hilarious, depending on who you ask. Fields looked good overall, finishing 18/25 for 234 and 4 TDs. But the defense looked sluggish against Joey Freshwater’s store-brand Florida squad. So the Urban Meyer transition has been seamless.

Howard at Maryland | Maryland mutilates corpse, 79-0

This game was so easy Mike Locksley didn't even have to punch an assistant coach. Josh Jackson gave Maryland fans something to be happy about under center, with a 245-yd/4 TD debut. No word on his wrestling skills. Pigrome remains on the roster, and ready to become the starter by attrition again.

DJ: It’s Howard, so all of this is to be taken mostly with a grain of salt; however, there were some takeaways from this absolute dismantling of Howard. Maryland attempted to play the most vanilla offense they could and still executed with ease. Inside zone, deep routes, and crossing routes were 90% of Maryland’s offense. Even so, they did great and met little resistance. The defense under new DC Jon Hoke was blitzing all day with the 1s - 4s, they never let up. That was all good.

The offensive line though. Woof. Pass protection really needs some help. Maryland succeeded because it was Howard but if they play a team with any sort of competent DL play they are going to struggle without playing 2 TE or some combo of 2 RB/3WR 1RB/1TE/3WR to supplement the line. To further this point, the starting OL played into the 3rd quarter while most starters were otherwise pulled early on in the 2nd quarter. It’s a work in progress and looks exactly as he described all camp.

Overall, Maryland played outstanding as evidenced by a 79-0 win. More evident though to determine if it was just Howard or good play, there were very few penalties, only one false start, and no injuries! I count that as the best part of this win.

Akron at Illinois | Illini nearly blank Zips, 42-3

Taking a page from the Harbaugh book in more ways than one, Illinois is now relying on a graduate transfer to marshal their orange crush down the field. Former Michigan QB Brandon Peters completed 14 passes and ran 6 times for 199 all-purpose yards. Illinois also fielded a stout defense, keeping the Zips under 200 yards on the day.

Thump: Illinois looks like a football team! Piss on me for underestimating Rod Smith’s ability to get the most out of Brandon Peters. The offensive line bowled over a garbage MAC team like you’d expect a good Big Ten O line to do, to such an extent that five different dudes averaged over 5 YPC. The defense looked a bit shaky in the beginning of the first quarter but tightened up and held their own up front. I’m suddenly feeling encouraged. This might be dangerous. I know it’s just Akron, but this game suggests that maybe this team is good enough to win 6 and compete with the rest of the league.

Indiana at Ball State | Hoosiers survive 34-24

It looks like we can revive the “In_iana” trope for another year, as the Hoosiers showed little in the way of effective countermeasures for a MAC attack. That the only ESPN highlight from this game is Ball State’s Joe Hall hurdling Indiana defenders on an end-around is indicative of the whole afternoon. But, RS Frosh QB Penix rose to the occasion, tallying 393 all-purpose yards in a gritty—if uncomfortable—win over Teste Tech.

C4B: Who doesn’t love a supremely stressful 10 point victory over a MAC squad? But on the bright side, Mike Penix looked reasonably ready to lead the offense, Stevie Scott found the endzone twice, and Indiana didn’t lose. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice. Now, if we could just make offense and defense work in the same season.....

Idaho at Penn State | Penn State wins 79-7

Honestly, not even worth writing about. Jesus Christ, this was an embarrassment. I’m sure we’ll hear about how they USED to be FBS and there was just no time to schedule anyone else, but in the era of opening weekend trending away from total creampuff matchups, this is a ridiculous move in the other direction.

87Townie: In 1991, I watched Penn State rip off an 81-0 win over the Bearcats of Cincinnati. It was glorious. It was the largest margin of victory since 1920, when they beat Lebanon Valley 109-7.This win over the Idaho potatoes …vandals…was nearly as satisfying.

This is a young PSU team. They needed the warm up. And they took advantage. Our young, untested running backs got a boost of confidence. Devyn Ford (Fr) had six carries for 107 yards and a touchdown. Noah Cain (Fr) had nine carries for 44 yards and two touchdowns. Journey Brown, the “old man” (RS Sophomore) in the group, had five carries for 38 yards and two touchdowns.To put this in perspective, the offense is our weakest link.

The defense had seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss. That’s going to be a theme this season. The vandals had 145 yards in total offense…141 of them were passing yards. The bad news is we were 1 of 8 on third down against the potatoes.

Northwestern at Stanford | Stanford wins and beats the spread in heartbreaking fashion 17-7

The scales of karma always balance, and so it was that Northwestern turned a last-ditch opportunity to win the game into a scoop & score for Stanford. Fitting cosmic retribution for a ridiculously uncalled targeting shot on a sliding QB that sent Stanford’s Costello out of the game. The crowd was light for a beautiful California Saturday. The kids were probably all on their smartphones or inside watching their Music TV.

MNW: Hi! Wow! I am super sunburnt.

It was a beautiful morning. We got to Lot 8 nice and early, had some jambalaya and purple cupcakes, did a few purple hootie shots and shotgunned a couple beers... Great to see old friends, campus liturgical ministers, make new friends who are moving to Minneapolis soon. I always underestimate the Northwestern traveling fanbase, and then they show up to get their asses roasted alive in the north-side bleachers. Like, saw a guy take a knee in the concourse at halftime, then fall straight forward onto his face. It was hot, is the point, and we drank plenty of liquids and basked in the general awfulness of everything and the excellence of going to a school that creates its own weird, wonderful little community.

There were, of course, all the negatives, from Johnson to Green to Bowser and a plethora of injuries. But there was also a defense! It wasn’t AJ Hampton making tackles, that’s for sure, and it wasn’t Blake Gallagher in coverage, but it was a bunch of hogs in the trenches keeping with a pretty straightforward Stanford run game despite being on the field nearly double the time the offense was. Pat Fitzgerald got beat at his own game because today, and we learned nothing about Northwestern outside of the run game not being all it’s cracked up to be. Oh well. 16-6 in 2015, 7-17 in 2019. The universe is funny like that. No College Football Playoff; I’ll settle for Rose Bowl. Onto UNLV.

LPW: ughhhh, this was awful... Hunter Johnson has a dreadful debut with two interceptions and only 55 yards passing. TJ Green didn’t do much better. Stanford’s punishing defense held Isaiah Bowser to 55 yards rushing, and then he injured his knee. Early season Northwestern strikes again! I’m going out to find some Malört to ease my misery.

Miami at Iowa | Iowa rolls 38-14

Despite trailing early in the 2nd quarter, Iowa plodded their way to victory in the old Ferentzian style. Nate Stanley and Mekhi Sargent both had big days—with 252 yds and 91 yds respectively—for four collective scores. My biggest lesson from this game is that Miami and Maryland basically use the same M logo.

Stew: Iowa’s first half was downright bad. LT Alaric Jackson went down with an injury and Iowa’s offense made it seem a Herculean effort to move the ball.The second half stuff started to click more and Iowa ended up winning fairly comfortably.. Nate Stanley ended up completing 70% to 10 different receivers and a very respectable 8.4 yards per attempt. The receiving corps looks the best in years (low bar though it may be). The running game was working with over 200 yards.It was an uninspiring win. But hardly disastrous. Pretty much par for Ferentz.

Middle Tennessee at Michigan | Michigan stumbles past MTSU 40-21

Shea Patterson, Jim Harbaugh’s first returning QB in his 5-year tenure as head coach, fumbled on the first play of the game. He went on to throw 3 TD scores, but also notched another fumble. Turnovers kept MTSU in the game as the Blue Raiders capitalized on both Michigan mistakes. It’s nice to see Michigan lurching into the 21st century with a no-huddle spread offense. If you can’t beat Ohio State, join ‘em.