The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Northwestern's upset highlights odd opening week
I’ve been there before. You missed an entire Saturday of college football. There was once a time when you canceled everything to make sure you were in front of a T.V. to watch game after game after game.
Luckily for you, I did not miss an entire Saturday of college football. In fact, I watched eight Big Ten games over a 12-hour stretch. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is for you, Big Ten fan with other Saturday priorities. I’ve got your back.
–Northwestern set the bar so high for the Big Ten on Saturday. The 2015 Cats looked like Pat Fitzgerald’s 1995 Rose Bowl squad in a dominant 16-6 victory against No. 21 Stanford. How can a 10-point game be dominant? Well, the Northwestern defense was the definition of dominant. The Pac-12’s best rushing attack from 2014 was held to three yards per carry. Kevin Hogan, a senior quarterback with over career passing 6,000 yards, averaged 4.4 yards per attempt. Anthony Walker had a team-high 10 tackles with three for loss and a fumble recovery. There might be a sophomore sensation ready to emerge in Evanston. And hey, what about redshirt freshman Clayton Thorson winning his first career? That was a statement game for the Wildcats. Nobody is pushing them around if they play like that.
–Leonte Carroo didn’t need to play in the first half to have the Big Ten’s best receiving day. The Rutgers receiver followed his first-half suspension by hauling in three touchdown passes, which makes him the program’s all-time leader. For all the negative headlines in New Jersey, Carroo’s day provided a needed bright spot.
-Speaking of three-touchdown days, Jordan Howard looked really solid in his Indiana debut. The UAB transfer rumbled his way to 145 yards and the go-ahead score in the final minute of the Hoosiers’ 48-47 victory. His effort was needed with IU’s depleted defense struggling to stop anything against a middle-of-the-pack FCS team. It’s only SIU, but Howard looked to be every bit of the feature back he was at UAB.
–Kirk Ferentz had to breathe a deep sigh of relief watching C.J. Beathard operate. He accounted for three touchdowns, two of which came on the ground. Beathard led Iowa to a convincing victory in his second career start. The competition will get tougher than FCS Illinois State, but it was a necessary early test to pass.
–Bill Cubit also deserves a spot in this category. A week after he took over the Illini program, Cubit held the group together amid some strange circumstances. Wes Lunt diced up Kent State’s secondary and led the Illini to 52 points. The crowd was empty because of Friday night’s rainout, which made for the weakest crowd Illinois will have all season. Still, Cubit had his team ready to roll Saturday. Job well done.
–William Likely broke a 76-year-old record by ripping off 233 return yards. He had eight chances and brought one of them back for a touchdown. The only better question is, WHY DID RICHMOND KEEP PUNTING TO HIM?!?!
-Wisconsin’s offensive line might not have had much of a chance against Alabama even if it was in midseason form. The Badgers’ three new starters on the offensive line couldn’t create much space for Corey Clement, who was held to 16 yards rushing on just eight carries. The junior tailback was apparently hobbled by a groin injury that the media wasn’t told about all week. Either way, Wisconsin was out-gained 238-40 on the ground. Something tells me that’ll be the only time that happens in 2015.
-Indiana’s defense should probably be in the “ugly” mentions. They let an FCS quarterback come into Bloomington and rack up over 500 yards of offense. Even worse, they let the Salukis march down the entire field in the final minute and nearly pull off a colossal upset. I get that Tegray Scales and Darius Latham’s absence hurt, but man, does Kevin Wilson’s group need to improve.
-Poor Nebraska. BYU’s 42-yard Hail Mary put the most bitter spin possible on Mike Riley’s Husker debut. It was basically a shot-for-shot remake of Ron Kellogg’s mustache miracle to Jordan Westerkamp in 2013. BYU’s miracle also came from the arm of a backup quarterback. One batted ball would’ve given Riley his first win. Instead, tensions are high in Lincoln. Already.
-Absolutely nothing was uglier than watching Penn State attempt football Saturday. My goodness. How could that line possibly let Christian Hackenberg get sacked 10 TIMES. You’d figure they would’ve just started holding after the fifth sack. I get that Temple was fourth in the country in total defense last year and the Owls returned all 11 defensive starters. But wow, was that some display of awful. An entire offseason of hearing about this improved offensive line play was forgotten on Saturday. Akeel Lynch couldn’t pass block and no Lion tight end offered much help, either. Some of that was on Hackenberg, who wasn’t sensing pressure. But a lot of that has to fall on James Franklin, a guy I tabbed as a potential coach of the year candidate. There were no adjustments made to get Hackenberg away from pressure. If that’s what happens against Temple, there’s no way Hackenberg makes it through the Big Ten East in one piece. Woof.