Maryland wins again, while a few other Big Ten teams made some noise this weekend.
Maryland football kicked off the third week of Big Ten play on Friday night on the road against Illinois. The Terps’ offense got off to a slow start in this one, but the defense held strong en route to the program’s third consecutive win in 2021.
The score at halftime was just 3-3, however, the Maryland offense came out hot to start the second half. After taking a 10-3 lead over the Fighting Illini and driving the ball down the field early in the third quarter, turnovers from running backs Tayon Fleet-Davis and Peny Boone kept Illinois in a position to pull off the potential upset.
Despite the potentially costly turnovers, junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and the team’s defense stepped up when it mattered most late in the game. Eventually, as time expired, senior kicker Joseph Petrino nailed a 32-yard field goal to give Maryland a 20-17 nail-biter victory. The Terps are now 3-0 for the first time since 2016 and have Kent State coming up next on the schedule.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the other notable contests from the third week of Big Ten football.
Upset game: Michigan State at No. 24 Miami
Michigan State delivered a stellar performance on Saturday afternoon as the Spartans went on the road and completely dominated No. 24 Miami.
Despite Miami having a strong quarterback in D’Eriq King, Michigan State’s defense was able to hold the explosive Miami offense to just 17 points.
Then, after taking a 10-7 lead over the Hurricanes in the second quarter, Michigan State never looked back and was able to pull off the upset. The Spartans went on to explode in the fourth quarter to capture the 21-point victory in enemy territory.
Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne was excellent all day, throwing for 261 yards and four touchdowns. The Spartans broke the game open in the fourth quarter when Thorne found wide receiver Jalen Nailor for a 39-yard touchdown, giving Michigan State a 31-17 lead. That score was Nailor’s second touchdown of the day as he finished the game with four catches for 82 yards and two scores.
Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker III was spectacular again for Michigan State. The junior running back ran for 172 yards on 27 carries and added a receiving touchdown as well. The Michigan State offense over the past couple of seasons has been one that’s struggled to score points in bunches. That is certainly not the case this year, as the Spartans’ offense is averaging an impressive 39.3 points per game through the first three weeks of the season.
The Michigan State defense showed up as well, forcing four turnovers against Miami’s King. King threw two interceptions and fumbled twice, and he finished with 388 yards, two touchdowns on 28-of-59 passing. The Spartans made King work all day and did a great job not allowing him to find his rhythm at home.
The Spartans now advance to 3-0 in what’s been an extremely impressive start for second-year head coach Mel Tucker.
Surprise game: Minnesota at Colorado
After losing superstar running back Mohamed Ibrahim in the opening week, the Minnesota offense hasn’t skipped a beat.
This week, the Golden Gophers went on the road to Colorado and put on a show against the Buffaloes, winning 30-0 on the road. Redshirt sophomore Trey Potts has taken over as the main back for Ibrahim and he has been unbelievable, to say the least. In two starts for Minnesota, Potts has 60 carries for 299 yards and a whopping five touchdowns. Potts scored the Gophers’ first three touchdowns of the day, taking a strong 21-0 lead over Colorado to blow the doors open.
The Minnesota defense was excellent this weekend, not only holding Colorado to zero points but barely allowing them to move the football. Colorado’s offense finished the day with just 63 total net yards, with 82 of those yards coming through the air and 19 yards lost the ground. The Golden Gophers dominated every facet of the football game, especially in the trenches. There was not one thing that Colorado did better than Minnesota in this one as the Golden Gophers improved to 2-1 on the season.
Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan only threw the ball 17 times, finishing with 11 completions for 164 yards. Minnesota has re-established itself after a tough season-opener loss to Ohio State and they’re going to be a fun team to watch develop in the Big Ten.
Statement game: No. 22 Auburn vs. No. 10 Penn State
Penn State took on Auburn at home this week in the Nittany Lions’ annual White Out game. The home crowd produced an electric atmosphere all night, and while Auburn looked good at times, it never seemed to completely settle in. The Nittany Lions looked the best they have all season on their way to a 28-20 victory on their home turf.
Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford played one of his best games since 2019, completing 28-of-32 passes for 280 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Clifford looked sharp all night and delivered when the game was on the line. He opened the scoring for Penn State with a four-yard touchdown pass to Jahan Dotson. Dotson was brilliant for the Nittany Lions and finished with 10 catches for 78 yards and a touchdown, and he even threw a pass for 22 yards.
Running back Tank Bigsby was excellent for Auburn as well. The star back carried the ball 23 times for 102 and two touchdowns. Bigsby scored a big touchdown with 5:51 left in the third quarter to cut Auburn’s deficit to 21-17. In the next possession, the Auburn defense came up with a huge fourth-down stop to get the Tigers the ball back. The Tigers proceeded to drive down the field before settling for a field goal to make it a 21-20 game.
The Penn State offense answered quickly, though, to help seal the game. Running back Noah Cain found the end zone from three yards out and Penn State took a 28-20 lead.
Auburn drove down the field and put itself in a position to tie the game, but it failed to convert on fourth and goal from the two-yard line. Auburn quarterback Bo Nix, who finished 21-of-37 for 185 yards, played better than the stat sheet will show. He’s improved in the pocket and didn’t make any bad decisions, however, he just didn’t bring enough to get the win in a very difficult environment to play in. This was a very big statement win from Penn State heading into conference play.