Wisconsin’s opponents might not sniff the postseason this year, but that doesn’t meet the Badgers have not impressed in their opening performances.
The Badgers (2-0) outscored Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech by a combined 93-0 in its first two games. It was the first time since 1958 Wisconsin had shut out two consecutive opponents.
“It’s hard to shut people out,” first-year Badgers Coach Gary Andersen said. “Proud of the kids. They should be excited about that because, again, that’s hard to do. It’s very difficult to get that done.”
After throwing an early interception, quarterback Joel Stave completed 13 consecutive passes. Wisconsin also had three 100-yard rushers (Corey Clement, James White, Melvin Gordon) for the second straight week. The Badgers put up 606 yards, held the ball for nearly 38 minutes and were 7-of-13 on third down.
So what’s the ceiling for the running game?
“Who knows? I hope greatness,” Andersen said. “They played very well for two games. If we can stay healthy up front and the tight ends can continue to do what they’re doing, they all have vision. They are different. They complement each other. So we’ll see as it moves forward.”
Illinois (2-0) pulled out one of the nation’s biggest upsets with a 45-17 win against Cincinnati on Saturday. The Illini put up 522 total yards against the Bearcats and have totaled 87 points in their first two games. Illinois already has matched its 2012 win total. Cincinnati dumped Purdue 42-7 a week ago.
The Illini defense stopped Cincinnati for three consecutive plays at the 1-yard line, including on fourth-and-goal, in the third quarter. Illinois’ offense then took the ball 99 yards in 12 plays that culminated in a 22-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase to wide receiver Steve Hull.
“The first thing you want to do when you get back out on the field is get that first down and I think after we got that, you saw great execution,” Scheelhaase said. “Right when we needed a stop by our defense, we got a stop, and right when we needed a big drive by our offense, we got one. We had guys stepping up at crucial moments and that was great to see.”
Michigan State’s offense continued to struggle, but the Spartans’ defense shined once again. Michigan State (2-0) topped South Florida 21-6, but the win was entirely based on the team’s defensive prowess. The Spartans returned two South Florida turnovers for touchdowns and their offensive score was set up by a poor South Florida punt.
“Of course I’m concerned,” Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio said. “How much? On a scale ofof one to 10, if you were the head coach, I would say it’s about eight. I’m concerned. We need explosive plays in our offense. We got a chance to go down the field. We got the ball too many times in possessions that I would consider a sudden change and we’re not generating points.”
South Florida (0-2) had given up 53 points the previous week to FCS McNeese State. Yet the Spartans were 4-of-14 on third down. Three different Michigan State quarterbacks combined to go 12-of-24 passing for 94 yards. Michigan State’s offense has shown comparable difficulties to last year’s squad, which finished 6-6 in the regular season.
“There’s a sense of urgency because we want to be the best,” Dantonio said. “I think we have a championship defense. I think we can do things on special teams that are championship level, and I think we have to raise our performance on offense, because we’re not shooting for 7-6.”
Iowa (1-1) had a workmanlike performance marred by too many penalties (11) and dropped passes (four) in a 28-14 win against Missouri State. The Hawkeyes kept the Bears to 70 yards, the second straight week Iowa held an opponent under 4.0 yards per carry.
“I think we’ve done well but at the same time we haven’t played any teams that are downhill, running back, 30-times a game running is their mantra,” Iowa linebacker James Morris said. “We haven’t played anybody like that. When we do, we need to be ready. We’ll know more about how we do against the run when we face opponents who that’s sort of their M.O.”
Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun scored two touchdowns — a 4-yard fumble return and a 56-yard interception return — plus had two tackles for loss. … Iowa running back Mark Weisman rushed for 180 yards on 30 carries to become the Hawkeyes’ 42nd 1,000-yard career rusher. … Wisconsin running backs Melvin Gordon (140 yards, one TD), James White (109 yards, one TD) and Corey Clement (149 yards, two TDs) all rushed for at least 100 yards and a touchdown for the second straight week. … Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 312 yards and four TDs in an upset of Cincinnati. … Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner passed for 294 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed for 82 yards and a score.
Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson threw for 127 yards and rushed for 122 yards. … Purdue running back Akeem Hunt returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a score and rushed for 82 yards. … Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson caught seven passes for 129 yards and one touchdown. … Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld passed for 363 yards and four TDs. … Nebraska defensive back Ciante Evans had two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. … Ohio State quarterback Kenny Guiton replaced an injured Braxton Miller and threw for 152 yards and rushed for 83 yards.
1. Michigan (1) 2-0 0-0
2. Ohio State (2) 2-0 0-0
3. Wisconsin (3) 2-0 0-0
4. Northwestern (4) 2-0 0-0
5. Nebraska (9) 2-0 0-0
6. Penn State (7) 2-0 0-0
7. Minnesota (8) 2-0 0-0
8. Michigan State (6) 2-0 0-0
9. Indiana (5) 1-1 0-0
10. Illinois (11) 2-0 0-0
11. Iowa (10) 1-1 0-0
12. Purdue (12) 1-1 0-0
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