Saturday’s Big Ten: Washington routs Rutgers
Seattle — Shortly after sustaining a knee injury in the spring of 2015 that would cost him the season, Washington’s John Ross placed the Rutgers logo on a calendar app on his phone, a countdown to when he’d finally get back on the field for the Huskies.
His return proved worth the wait.
Ross caught two touchdown passes and returned a kickoff for another score, Jake Browning threw for 287 yards, and No. 14 Washington looked every bit a Top 25 team with a 48-13 rout of Rutgers on Saturday.
“I feel amazing. I feel great. I’m so thankful, grateful, everything you can think of,” Ross said. “I’m just so happy to be able to do it again.”
Entering a season of lofty expectations, the Huskies (1-0) raced to a 24-0 first-quarter lead and were never threatened by the rebuilding Scarlet Knights, in their first game under new coach Chris Ash.
Browning threw for 277 yards and all three scores in the first half as the Huskies built a 34-3 lead. Browning should have thrown four TDs in the half, but Darrell Daniels dropped a pass in the end zone late in the second quarter.
“It’s good to get out of the gate fast, especially with so many unknowns, unknown coaches, unknown players on both sides,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said.
Browning’s offseason goal was to be better on deep throws. He was certainly good to start the season, hitting Chico McClatcher on a 43-yard touchdown on his second pass of the season, followed by TD throws of 38 and 50 yards to Ross as the Huskies burned Rutgers’ decision to play man coverage on the outside.
Ross missed the entire 2015 season after injuring a knee during spring camp.
“It was just really cool to obviously have thrown the ball to him but to see him come into his own after missing all of last season and all the anticipation of him coming back,” Browning said of Ross.
The Huskies were also dynamic on special teams. Ross took a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown and Dante Pettis returned a punt 68 yards for a score in the third quarter. It was the third time in school history Washington had kickoff and punt return touchdowns in the same game, and first since 2001.
(At) Maryland 52, Howard 13: DJ Durkin enjoyed a lopsided victory in his debut as Maryland’s coach, overseeing a dominant performance. Perry Hills went 14 for 19 for 126 yards, Trey Edmunds scored two first-quarter touchdowns and Maryland (1-0) allowed only 53 first-half yards in taking a 35-0 lead.
Durkin left his job as Michigan’s defensive coordinator in December to guide a team that went 3-9 in 2015. Walking on the sideline in a black baseball cap, an untucked red polo shirt and long black pants, the 37-year-old coach seemed quite satisfied with the blowout.
Howard (0-1) won only one game last year while being outscored 408-169, so this game wasn’t necessarily an indication of the Terrapins’ improvement under Durkin. That answer may not come until Maryland begins Big Ten play next month.
(At) Purdue 45, Eastern Kentucky 24: Leroy Clark and Gelen Robinson’s first-quarter interceptions helped Purdue build an early 21-0 lead, and the Boilermakers outlasted their Football Championship Subdivision opponent in the season opener for both teams. Clark’s interception of Maty Mauk, the fifth-year graduate transfer quarterback from Missouri, set up Purdue’s second touchdown and a 14-0 lead, and Robinson’s 78-yard interception return for a score pushed the Boilermakers’ advantage to 21-0 with 3:31 remaining in the first quarter.
(At) Penn State 33, Kent State 13: Trace McSorley threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns, and Saquon Barkley ran for another score in the season opener for both teams. Barkley finished with 105 yards rushing, and Tyler Davis chipped in two field goals for the Nittany Lions. A 29-yard field goal in the second quarter gave Penn State the lead for good.
(At) Illinois 52, Murray State 3: Wes Lunt threw for 226 yards and three touchdowns and Kendrick Foster ran for a pair of 56-yard touchdowns to give new Illinois coach Lovie Smith his first win. The Illini (1-0) opened up a 35-3 halftime lead over the Racers and were never threatened by the Football Championship Subdivision school.
Ahead of his first game at Illinois, Smith preached defense and takeaways, just as he did in a long career as an NFL head coach.
On Saturday, the Illini heeded his words early and took control of the game.
A pair of first quarter interceptions off quarterback KD Humphries led to two touchdown passes from Lunt and a quick 14-0 lead.
Illinois sacked Murray State quarterbacks Humphries and Cameron Birse six times and held the Racers to 165 total yards. With minus-10 rushing yards on 26 carries, Murray State’s run game was all but invisible.
(At) Nebraska 43, Fresno State 10: Tommy Armstrong Jr. ran for two touchdowns and threw a perfect deep ball to Alonzo Moore for another, and Nebraska pulled away in the second half for Mike Riley’s 100th win as a college coach. The Cornhuskers pounded away at the Bulldogs with runs on 51 of their 64 plays, and Devine Ozigbo ran for a career-high 103 yards and two touchdowns. The biggest of Armstrong’s few passes came two plays after Kieron Williams’ first career interception, when Moore beat his man to catch in stride a 57-yard TD early in the fourth quarter.
Armstrong’s second-half TD runs of 9 and 4 yards helped the Huskers turn a 14-10 halftime lead into a blowout.
Fresno State’s Chason Virgil, who missed the last nine games in 2015 with a broken clavicle, completed his first five passes and 11 of his first 14. The Bulldogs got a scare when he banged up his left shoulder late in the first half after being driven out of bounds by linebacker Luke Gifford, who was ejected for targeting.
Virgil returned to start the third quarter but didn’t get much done the rest of the night against a Nebraska defense that got better as the game went on.
Fresno State was without receiver Da’Mari Scott, who was suspended for the game because of an NCAA eligibility issue, an FSU spokesman said.
The Huskers remembered punter Sam Foltz, who died in a car crash in July. When they lined up in punt formation after going three-and-out on their first series, they lined up with 10 players and no punter, and the crowd responded with loud cheers and applause. When they were flagged for delay of game after the play clock expired, Fresno State declined the delay-of-game penalty.
The Huskers also had Foltz’s No. 27 jersey draped over the end of their bench.