Indiana started its season a month and a half later than originally planned. When it finally did, it also ended an excruciating 33-year wait in about as thrilling as fashion as possible.
The Hoosiers stunned No. 8 Penn State 36-35 in overtime, snapping a 42-game losing streak against Associated Press top-10 teams. It was the longest such streak in Big Ten history, and it dated back to a 1987 upset of Ohio State.
Then-Buckeyes coach Earle Bruce dubbed that loss “the darkest day in Ohio State football,” and while Penn State’s James Franklin probably won’t resort to that sort of verbiage (in part because the Nittany Lions have faced far, far darker things in the last decade than losing to the Hoosiers), he surely has to rue how the closing minutes and overtime played out.
There was Devyn Ford’s 14-yard touchdown run with 1:47 to go. It and the subsequent extra point gave the Nittany Lions a 28-20 lead, but if Ford had gone down inside the 4, the game would have been all but over since Indiana had just one timeout remaining.
Instead, Michael Penix Jr. led the Hoosiers on a seven-play touchdown drive, running in both the touchdown and the two-point conversion. Penn State got a chance to win it in regulation after an abysmal squib kick, but Jordan Stout’s 57-yard try fell just short.
Both teams scored touchdowns in overtime. Penn State opted for an extra point in the opening possession. Indiana, given the choice of extending the game with one or trying to gain three yards to win it outright, played for the immediate victory.
And on this evening, fortune favored the bold.
Did Penix manage to extend the nose of the ball with his right hand beyond the goal line? Or did the ball touch the ground out of bounds beforehand? Even with replay (and especially without a good replay from the opposite angle), it’s a tough call.
This much is certain: Indiana, which busted through for an 8-5 season last year, collected a high-end victory it didn’t get in 2019 or any of the previous 30 seasons, either. The Hoosiers didn’t just suddenly become good, but by playing to win rather than seeing how things would go in another overtime, coach Tom Allen ensured his team won’t be overlooked the rest of the fall.
Rutgers. Let’s not get too carried away with a single game, a tendency that got plenty of people in trouble while claiming Mississippi State had cracked the SEC code in Mike Leach’s debut last month. But a program like the Scarlet Knights also has every reason to celebrate whatever success it can find after how the last several seasons have gone.
Here’s the upshot of Rutgers’ 38-27 victory at Michigan State in Greg Schiano’s first game back as coach: The Scarlet Knights were mostly competent, particularly on defense (the Spartans rushed for 60 yards on 38 carries). They were incredibly opportunistic, collecting 14 points off an absurd seven Michigan State turnovers. And they ended a 21-game Big Ten losing streak dating to 2017.
Never mind how three of Rutgers’ touchdown drives added up to 50 total yards. Or that Michigan State is finding its way under a new coach. It doesn’t matter. The Scarlet Knights were not overwhelmed and didn’t get in their own way, which is substantial progress over much of their time in the Big Ten. Rutgers won’t benefit from so many takeaways every week. Still, this probably isn’t its last win of the season.
Michigan. In the nightcap of the Big Ten’s intriguing weekend, the Wolverines blasted Minnesota 49-24 in one the most impressive showings across the sport Saturday.
Michigan largely controlled the line of scrimmage against a Gopher team built to do so, averaging 8.2 yards a carry while limiting Minnesota’s ground game to 3.1 yards a try. The Wolverines scored on a fumble return and twice had short touchdown drives in the first half (one of which came after a failed Minnesota fake punt). They did what was needed and then some to earn one of the most emphatic victories of the Jim Harbaugh era.
Pat Fitzgerald. The Northwestern coach earned his 100th career victory as the Wildcats smashed Maryland 43-3. That’s rare territory for Northwestern, which posted its most lopsided Big Ten victory since blanking Illinois 48-0 in 1970.
Notre Dame. A tip of the hat to the No. 3 Irish, who didn’t even need to establish a strong running game against Pittsburgh because pretty much everything else went right in a 45-3 bludgeoning in the Steel City.
Ian Book threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns, the Irish (5-0, 4-0 ACC) recovered a blocked punt in the end zone just before halftime and the fading Panthers (3-4, 2-4) eked out only 162 total yards as quarterback Kenny Pickett remained sidelined for another week.
A game after surviving a low-scoring game at home against Louisville, Notre Dame probably looked as good as it has all season.
Nick Anderson. The walk-on freshman defensive back probably earned himself a scholarship with an 11-tackle, three-interception game to help Wake Forest turn back No. 19 Virginia Tech 23-16.
Anderson’s first interception halted a Hokie drive late in the first half. His third sealed the victory for the Demon Deacons (3-2, 2-2 ACC), who have rattled off three consecutive victories after opening the year with losses to Clemson and N.C. State.
Purdue. No coach, no star, no problem. The Boilermakers rallied past Iowa 24-20, taking the lead with 2:15 left when David Bell caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Aidan O’Connell. It capped a monster day for Bell, who had 13 catches for 121 yards and three scores.
Purdue did it despite the absence of the dynamic Rondale Moore, who had opted out of the season, then opted back in. However he was declared out for undisclosed reasons Friday. Boilermakers coach Jeff Brohm also wasn’t with the team after testing positive for covid-19.
Graham Mertz. Wisconsin might just have a keeper in the redshirt freshman, who torched Illinois for 248 yards and five touchdowns in the Badgers’ 45-7 rout on Friday night.
Another standout number? The 17 consecutive completions to start the game, tying a school record. Mertz finished 20 of 21 for the night and is now 29 of 31 for his career, including two appearances as a reserve early last season.
Ohio State. The No. 5 Buckeyes handled their season opener the way they were supposed to, routing Nebraska 52-17 as Justin Fields did his part to match Mertz’s outing from a night earlier. The Buckeye quarterback was also 20 of 21 and completed his first 11 attempts, finishing with 276 yards and two scores plus 54 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
But the biggest highlight from Columbus was Jaxon Smith-Njigba introducing himself with his first (and unlikely to be his last) touchdown of his true freshman season.
Auburn. This iteration of the Tigers is not Gus Malzahn’s best team, but it may well be his luckiest.
Considering Auburn was on the right end of the Prayer at Jordan-Hare and the Kick-Six against Alabama in a span of 15 days in 2013, that’s saying something.
The Tigers (3-2) had already survived against Arkansas on Oct. 10 when game officials called Auburn quarterback Bo Nix’s backward pass intentional grounding rather than a fumble in the final minute. It allowed Auburn to kick a go-ahead field goal and escape with a 30-28 victory.
Now comes this doozy. Mississippi, fresh off taking the lead, kicked off and … well, let’s just go to the videotape.
What wasn’t shown in the replay was Ole Miss recovering the ball in the end zone and presumably taking an eight-point lead. Instead, the Tigers and Rebels swapped punts, and Nix found Seth Williams for a 42-yard score with 1:11 to go as Auburn scooted out of Oxford with a 35-28 victory which, at minimum, probably should have had to go overtime.
Coastal Carolina. The news entering the day was a mixed bag for the No. 25 Chanticleers. They cracked the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time this week, but had to face Georgia Southern without quarterback Grayson McCall, who entered the day fourth in the FBS in passing efficiency.
No matter. Fred Payton threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns as Coastal Carolina (5-0, 3-0 Sun Belt) turned back Georgia Southern 28-14 to match its victory total from all of last season.
Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin Cajuns (4-1) used special teams to pick up a standout road victory again Friday, dealing UAB a 24-20 loss and ending the Blazers’ 21-game home winning streak.
UL Lafayette, which had kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns in a triumph at Iowa State last month, got a 100-yard kickoff return from Chris Smith late in the first half to score its first touchdown. Later, with a four-point lead, Rhys Byrns drilled a 74-yard punt to effectively finish off UAB (4-2) in the final minutes.
Alabama. Yes, the No. 2 Crimson Tide manhandled Tennessee 48-17 and no, there’s still no reason to think Nick Saban’s bunch is anything less than a top-three team (alongside Clemson and Ohio State in whatever order). But wide receiver Jaylen Waddle’s season-ending ankle injury on the game’s opening kickoff is an immense downer for the junior, who was in the midst of a spectacular season, and Alabama’s long-term prospects.
Waddle had 25 catches for 557 yards and four touchdowns in the Crimson Tide’s first four games, a start which placed him on a first team All-America trajectory. And even if Alabama has as much talent as anyone, there are certain guys who are more difficult to replace than others against high-end competition.
Kansas. The Jayhawks are often laughably bad. But sometimes, they find mind-bending ways to struggle. Take their latest loss to No. 20 Kansas State, which in most statistical measures looks like it would be a manageable and largely forgettable Wildcat victory.
Kansas had one more first down (18-17). It kept K-State to 3.9 yards a carry. It was outgained 381-320. And it lost 55-14, the 12th consecutive Kansas State triumph in the Sunflower Showdown.
So how did Les Miles’ crew get drubbed so badly? Kansas State (4-1, 4-0 Big 12) returned two punts and an interception for a touchdown … in the first half. Kansas fell to 0-5 and has Iowa State and Oklahoma up next.
Florida International. The Panthers (0-3) became the first — and potentially only — FBS team to lose to an FCS team this season, falling 19-10 to Jacksonville State on Friday. It could have been even worse; the Gamecocks, who collected their first defeat of an FBS school since 2013, outgained Florida International 444-156.