College Football Review: Week Zero
Nebraska @ Illinois – Illinois win 30-22
Our College Football Review: Week Zero opens up with a Big Ten West match-up. The Fighting Illini came out on top with a somewhat surprising 30-22 win over the Cornhuskers. The talk before the game was all about under pressure Nebraska head coach Scott Frost. The way his team played in this game would have only added to that.
The first score of the game was a safety for Illinois. It set the tone for most of the game for Nebraska. Punt returner Cam Britt-Taylor decided to field the ball running backwards inside the 2 yard line and was tackled in the end zone. Nebraska replied when Markese Stepp rushed in for a TD. The extra point was missed, but they did add a field goal to lead 9-2 early in the second quarter. Illinois then replied with 28 unanswered points. Just before the Cornhuskers scored, Illinois QB Brandon Peters injured his shoulder when tackled to the floor and did not return.
Up stepped Rutgers transfer Artur Sitkowski, after a shaky start he got into a groove. The opposition QB was far from getting into a groove, Adrian Martinez was off the pace from the start. One of the Fighting Illini TDs in the first half was a result of a fumble from Martinez. Linebacker Calvin Hart Jr. scooped up the ball and took it 41 yards for the TD. The NC state transfer was one of the standout players with 5 tackles, 1 sack and 1 fumble recovery. Martinez tried to lead the fightback with a 75 yard rushing TD late in the third quarter, but the damage was done.
It’s not the start Scott Frost would have hoped for, the pressure grows on the Nebraska HC now in his 4th year. On the other sideline, HC Bret Bielema got his Illinois tenure off to a great start. The injury to Peters is a concern and with harder opposition to come later in the year, there is still work to be done, Right now they are 1-0 in the West going into week 1. Nebraska needs to sort out what seems an absolute mess down in Lincoln, before travelling to Buffalo.
Hawaii @ UCLA – UCLA win 44-10
In what some thought would be a tight affair, UCLA dominated Hawaii to give Chip Kelly his first win against an out of conference team as HC of the Bruins. Another coach on the hot seat, Kelly’s team was far too good, with the Rainbow Warriors barely laying a glove on UCLA.
The run game was on it from the start for the Bruins. Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet and senior Brittain Brown combined for 184 rushing yards, 35 receiving yards and 4 TDs in the first 3 quarters. Charbonnet especially looked impressive, he was physical and elusive when running and constantly had Hawaii defenders trying to catch air. Hawaii started with the ball and after 3 plays only gained 4 yards. On came punter Matthew Shipley, who when receiving the snap, let his knee touch the ground. This resulted in a turnover on downs. UCLA only added a field goal from the Hawaii mistake. However, the floodgates opened soon after with 3 touchdowns in the first quarter, all on the ground.
Win the Trenches
The Bruins offensive line was excellent in the run game, opening holes constantly and sealing the edges. A fourth touchdown followed in the 2nd quarter, again on the ground. This gave the Bruins a 31-3 lead at the half, a long way back for Hawaii. A touchdown early in the 3rd was enough for Chip Kelly to bring on most of the back ups. I have not mentioned anything about the Rainbow Warriors on offence, that is because the UCLA defence did not give them a chance. The pressure, especially from the edge, gave Hawaii QB Chevan Cordeiro constant problems which he did not deal with at all. Hawaii did add a 4th quarter TD to their first half field goal.
Lots to ponder for Todd Graham before the Portland State game. Chip Kelly and the Bruins welcome LSU in week 1 and although there is a lot to like going into that game, Kelly will want more from his QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
UConn @ Fresno State – Fresno State win 45-0
Fresno State made light work of UConn, putting up 45 unanswered points. The Bulldogs were playing the Huskies for the first time and were always expected to win. Freshman QB Jack Haener ended the game 20-26, 331 yards and 3 touchdowns. One of those touchdowns was a 61 yard pass to running back Ronnie Rivers. That score broke a school record of total TDs by a player, 45 with more to come this season for Rivers. The game was done just before the half when receiver Jalen Cropper went 86 yards to the house to make it 28-0. The play summed up the UConn defences day when Cropper easily found space on a crossing route. Then when surrounded by 3 tacklers, he bounced off one and out of danger and ran in the TD.On Offence UConn had 12 possessions in the game, 10 of which resulted in punts, with 1 turnover and a 4 and out.
Fresno State, who will be vying for the Mountain West title, couldn’t have gotten off to a better start with the Pac-12 favourites Oregon waiting week 1. It’s going to be a long season for UConn, especially if they keep struggling to move the ball on offence.
UTEP @ New Mexico State – UTEP win 30-3
In the battle of I-10 rivalry game, UTEP came out on top in relatively comfortable fashion. The game itself was a scrappy affair, with a great deal of mistakes and penalties. The Miners gave up 140 yards on penalties alone, 65 of them in the first quarter. As the scoreline suggests, the Aggies could not capitalize on their mistakes. New Mexico State came away with just a field goal on 5 visits to the redzone. The Miners defence played well when they were not giving away penalties, but the Aggies were sloppy. QB Jonah Johnson had figures of 8-24 for 82 yards. The rushing game fared no better with just 101 yards on the ground. The highlight of the game was UTEP receiver Jacob Cowing’s one handed catch in the second quarter. The sophomore also had 158 yards on the day from 5 catches.
UTEP HC Dana Dimel was happy with the victory and wasn’t concerned with the penalties. He said “We had aggressive penalties, not the kind you get concerned with as a head coach. overcome adversity, on to the next play. That’s our work in progress.” As for New Mexico State, well they will need to be better on offence and especially in the red zone when they travel to play San Diego State in week 1.
Southern Utah @ San Jose State – San Jose State win 45-14
San Jose State got their season off to a great start with a victory over Big Sky conference team, Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds dominated the possession of the ball, but were less efficient than the Spartans. 3rd downs were the problem, with Southern Utah only making 4 of the 14 3rd downs they had. QB Nick Starkel had a great day, 394 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air. Whilst also running in for one himself.
After 3 unanswered TDs in the first quarter, the Thunderbirds got created with a ‘Philly special’ type play with QB Justin Miller catching a pass from WR Judd Cockett to reduce the deficit to 2 scores. That’s the closest they got as the Spartans extended their lead with 2 further touchdowns. Southern Utah found the end zone again before the half, but a Derrick Deese Jr. TD for the Spartans early in the 3rd quarter ended the scoring
San Jose State will go into the week 1 matchup against college football giants USC, with high hopes for the season and nothing to lose. Southern Utah also has Pac-12 opposition in Arizona State, a game that they also will be heavy underdogs in.
Just the five games in the College Football Review: Week Zero. Next week is College Football proper and we all at 5 Yard College cannot wait.