The first full weekend of college football is done, and teams from the Big Ten finally kicked off their seasons with some exciting matchups. Some of them were projected from the start to be great games. Others, like Penn State versus Appalachian State, were simply a case of an underdog turning up and not bowing down to the favorite. And then there were some games that were just strange, like the 108 point clash between Ohio State and Oregon State.
What were the biggest moments from the first Saturday?
Matt Canada starts off with a win as Maryland head coach
Maryland is not the team that most would have picked to pull off an upset. Especially not over a team that should have been at least somewhat wary, after losing to the Terrapins last year. But despite all the drama around the team’s coaching staff, and the fairly recent suspension of D.J. Durkin, the team pulled together and managed an upset win in honor of Jordan McNair.
It was a close game but it was one that Texas trailed most of the time. Maryland kept Texas from gaining the lead until the later part of the third quarter, and even then, they would take it back near the start of the fourth. Their quarterback situation was lamented going into the season, and yet Maryland starter Kasim Hill had a higher completion percentage and passer rating than Texas QB Sam Ehlinger. Additionally, Hill threw for no interceptions, while Ehlinger had two.
Despite the game being stopped for over an hour because of the weather, Maryland was able to hold the lead throughout most of the fourth quarter to secure the win. It’s a win that will greatly help the resume of Matt Canada, a figure that many have mixed opinions about after his failed stint at LSU. Now, however, he has a 1-0 record while acting as head coach.
Penn State beats Appalachian State, but not in the way they wanted
The Nittany Lions did what was expected of them and they dispatched their visiting opponents from Appalachian State, but just about nobody within the Penn State fanbase would like to repeat a performance like that anytime soon. It didn’t exactly make the team look good, after all.
Trace McSorley is one of the Heisman favorites this year, and Miles Sanders should be a good enough replacement for number two overall draft pick Trace McSorley, but none of Penn State’s stars really looked like themselves for this game and the offense was sluggish for much of it. The 45 point output doesn’t tell the actual story of the game, because Penn State only did as much as they needed and not even a tiny bit more.
They only managed ten points in the first half, after all. The third quarter went Penn State’s way, but allowing 28 points in the fourth quarter isn’t going to fly when playing against conference opposition, especially elite opponents like Michigan State and Ohio State. On the bright side, the team showed a good amount of resilience to take over during the OT period and put an end to the game.
But everyone, both fans of Penn State and fans of their rivals, know that it never should have reached that point. If the Nittany Lions want to keep their spot in the rankings, they’ll certainly have to avoid letting lower ranked opponents play up to their level as the Mountaineers did.
Michigan State gets past Utah State… Barely
Penn State isn’t the only highly ranked Big Ten team to have some trouble with a nonconference opponent that everyone overlooked. Michigan State was picked by Vegas as the second most likely team to win the Big Ten East, but they had a scare at the hands of Utah State regardless.
Like Penn State, the Spartans did enough to win the game but didn’t do enough to please their fans and critics, their pass defense failing to close out Utah State and quarterback Brian Lewerke throwing an interception that would be returned for a touchdown. The running backs didn’t have the best game either, with top back L.J. Scott finishing with less than 100 yards on 23 carries.
Furthermore, the winning run didn’t come until there were about two minutes left in the game. That kind of close margin just isn’t what any top team wants out of a nonconference game like this, and you can be sure the Spartans will make some tweaks going into their next game.
Will they have a better defensive performance over an Arizona State team that put up 49 points in their season opener? That’s a question that will loom large going into their west coast road trip this Saturday.