Cats blow big halftime lead, lose to Akron

Northwestern Wildcats (1981 - Pres)

EVANSTON—Entering the game, Terry Bowden was confident his players believed they could win.Kato Nelson tossed two touchdown passes, Alvin Davis returned two interceptions for touchdowns, and Akron rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 39-34 victory over Northwestern on Saturday night.Nelson was 17 for 28 for 277 yards and added 37 yards rushing. Kwadarrius Smith had six receptions for 90 yards and Andrew Williams had 85 yards on three catches for Akron (2-0).Clayton Thorson completed 33 of 52 passes for a career-high 383 yards with three TDs for Northwestern (1-2), but threw two interceptions and lost a fumble on a strip-sack in the second half that resulted in Akron scores.Jeremy Larkin added 82 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 22 carries for the Wildcats.

”We shot ourselves in the foot,” Thorson said. ”I was responsible for three of their TDs. You can’t have that.

”I think everyone on our team played well enough to win and I didn’t.”

The win was Akron’s first over a Big Ten team since the program moved up to 1-A (FBS) in 1987. The last win over a Big Ten opponent was a 12-6 win over Ohio St. in 1894.The Zips charged out of the locker room to score 23 points in the third quarter – including Davis’ 97-yard interception return for a TD – to pull within 28-26 entering the fourth.

”We always talk about hitting the nearest sideline when you catch an INT,” Davis said of his first interception. ”I was already headed that way and I saw all my blockers in front of me and I knew they would lead me to the promise land.”

Ulysees Gilbert III’s recovery of Thorson’s fumble in the end zone gave the Zips a 32-28 lead, their first of the game. A two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful.Akron put the game away when Davis hauled in a tipped pass from Thorson and returned it 50 yards for a TD and a 39-28 lead.

”I want to tip my hat to coach Bowden and his staff,” NU coach Pat Fitzgerald said. ”He had his guys ready to play.

With a 21-yard TD pass to Cameron Green with seven seconds left in the first half, Thorson became NU’s all-time leader in TD passes with 45. He had been tied with Brett Basanez (2002-05) and Len Williams (1990-93).The Zips rallied for the win despite a slew of mistakes – a poor snap on a punt and 15 penalties – to set up NU scores. But three defensive scores in the second half will make up for a lot of mistakes. ”We made enough mistakes in the first half not to win the game,” Bowden said, ”but we came through.”

The Wildcats have dropped two straight following a nine-game winning streak and looked awful in both, especially in the second half on Saturday. The offense remains inconsistent and the defense struggled in the second half. They have an open date next week to work out the kinks before a big test against Michigan

Illini see fourth quarter collapse at Soldier Field

Illinois Fighting Illini

For the second straight week, South Florida found a way to erase a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit against a Power Five school.Blake Barnett threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to Darnell Salomon and South Florida rallied from 12 points down to defeat Illinois 25-19 on Saturday.Barnett was 23 of 40 for 411 yards passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions, and Jordan Cronkrite ran for 136 yards and a score for the Bulls (3-0).Trailing 19-7 early in the fourth quarter, Barnett cut the Illinois lead with a 14-yard pass to Salomon to make it 19-14. Two possessions later, Barnett found a leaping Randall St. Felix for a 55-yard catch, which set up a 22-yard field goal from Coby Weiss with 7:47 left. After another South Florida stop, Barnett connected with Salomon from 50 yards to score with 2:24 left to give the Bulls a 25-19 lead.Last week, the Bulls scored 21 unanswered in the fourth quarter against Georgia Tech.South Florida coach Charlie Strong wasn’t thrilled with the way the Bulls began the game.The Illini couldn’t score on its final drive thanks to a sack by Tyrone Barber at the South Florida 25 with six seconds left. Freshman quarterback M.J. Rivers II threw the ball out of the end zone as time expired.Illinois coach Love Smith was impressed with his team despite the loss. Last season, they suffered a 47-23 defeat at the hands of the Bulls.

”We’ve come a long way. Last year we played South Florida, we weren’t really competitive,” Smith said. ”This year is completely different game. I thought the guys came out strong. … We had some critical mistakes that allowed them to win the football game.”

Chase McLaughlin converted a field goal from 52 yards to give Illinois a 16-7 halftime lead.After a shaky first possession, Mike Epstein scored on a 43-yard touchdown run on Illinois’ third play from scrimmage. Epstein rushed for 113 yards on 19 carries.South Florida, which scored 49 points in a win against Georgia Tech last, week, answered with a 75-yard drive. Cronkrite went in from the 3 to tie it at 7, but the Illini defense held for the rest of the half and forced interceptions by Jartavius Martin and Del’Shawn Phillips, which set up field goals by McLaughlin.McLaughlin connected again from 41 yards, banging off the right upright, capping a 10-play, 53-yard drive late in the third quarter to extend the lead to 19-7.Rivers, in his first career start as quarterback, was 20 of 29 for 168 yards passing for Illinois (2-1). Rivers relieved A.J. Bush Jr., who was injured in the win against Western Illinois.The Illini played a home game at Soldier Field for the fourth time in school history. The game attracted a small crowd with empty seats in the west side upper level.

”When you go on the road, you’ll never know what the crowd will be,” Smith said. ”We didn’t play at Memorial Stadium today for a home game. I know that the fans that showed up, we heard them.”

Smith was back in a familiar place, returning to the sideline where he guided the Bears to a 2006 NFC Championship. Smith was also backed by his former player and newly inducted Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, who was in attendance. It was like old times for Smith, who saw his team thoroughly dominate South Florida on defense and special teams in the first half, a staple of his mid-2000 Bears teams.

Irish still flat, but hold off Vandy

SOUTH BEND—On a day when No. 8 Notre Dame’s offense remained a work in progress, the Fighting Irish got another big play from its defense to hold off upset-minded Vanderbilt in a 22-17 victory Saturday.Safety Jalen Elliott knocked the ball loose from Vanderbilt receiver Kalija Lipscomb with 1:07 remaining to give Notre Dame a fourth-down stop against the Commodores. Last week, Elliott had a pair of interceptions in 3-0 Notre Dame’s win over Ball State.

”I’m proud of the effort and the way we competed,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. ”We’re trying to find our identity on offense. We’re far from where we want to be on the offensive line and as an offense. Our defense is good but not a great defense yet. But there are a lot of positives to take from this.”

Kyle Shurmur threw for 326 yards and one touchdown for Vanderbilt (2-1), rallying his team back from a 16-3 halftime deficit. His fourth-and-4 pass from the Notre Dame 31 to Lipscomb, who caught a game-high 11 passes for 89 yards, was grabbed by the receiver at the Irish 11.Vandy managed just a last-play field goal in the first half by Ryley Guay to go into the locker room trailing 16-3.Vanderbilt finished with 420 yards to 380 for the Irish, who forced three turnovers. Notre Dame, which entered the game 104th in rushing offense at 124.5 yards per game, finished with 245 on the ground.

”That’s an SEC team and we ran well today,” Kelly added.

Tony Jones Jr. finished with 118 yards on 17 carries for Notre Dame (3-0). He also caught two passes for 56 yards.

”I feel like I’m in high school again, getting a lot of carries,” Jones said.

Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who had 297 passing yards but three interceptions in the 24-16 victory against 34 1/2-point underdog Ball State, threw for 122 yards and added 84 yards on the ground, including a 13-yard scramble for a touchdown.Wimbush was not sacked and did not commit a turnover.

”I think we’re still trying to find our identity,” Wimbush said of offense. ”We fought play in and play out.”

Notre Dame got a 2-yard TD pass from backup quarterback Ian Book to tight end Nic Weishar early in the fourth quarter for a 22-10 lead.

”We have to keep our foot on the pedal for all four quarters,” Wimbush added.

The Commodores couldn’t get anything on the ground early against the defense coordinated by Clark Lea, a former Vanderbilt fullback. They finished with 27 yards on 11 carries in the first half and trailed 16-3. For the game, Vandy had 94 yards rushing.After a strong start with 161 total yards while taking a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, the Irish struggled over the next two, totaling 111 with just 25 yards in the third quarter as Vanderbilt closed the deficit to 16-10.With Notre Dame leading 13-0 midway through the second quarter, Vanderbilt had its first good drive of the first half ended on a weird play that resulted with Irish corner Justin Love recovering the football in the end zone.Justin Yoon, who started his football career as an eighth-grader at Nashville’s Harding Academy, kicked three first-half field goals (26, 33 and 46 yards) to pass Craig Hentrich (1989-92) and become the school’s all-time leading placekicking scorer with 297 points. He did miss a short field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter that would have made the lead eight.

GROBBER’S NFL WEEK TWO PICKS

AFC: LA Chargers over BUFF/ TENN over Hou/ NYJ over Mia/ JAX over N.Eng/ K.City over PITT/ DENV over Oak
NFC: Car over ATL/ Phil over TB/ LAR over Ariz
INT-CONF GAMES: WASH over Ind/N.ORL over Cleve
THURS NIGHT: Balt over CIN
SUN NIGHT: DAL over NY Giants
NFC NORTH GAMES: Minn over GB/ SF over Det/ BEARS over Seat(Mon Night)
Teams in ALL CAPS are HOME TEAMS

Bears blow 20-0 lead, lose in Green Bay despite Rodgers getting injured.

GREEN BAY—The Bears found a way to barf up a 20-0 lead for the first time since 1992(lost 21-20 at Minnesota).Aaron Rodgers’ knee hurt. His arm was just fine.The hobbling two-time NFL MVP threw three touchdown passes in the second half after returning from a knee injury, and the Green Bay Packers overcame a 20-point deficit for a thrilling 24-23 win over the Bears on Sunday night.After putting heat on Rodgers BEFORE he was injured, the Bears ceased putting pressure on Rodgers in ther second half,and promply blew the lead.Rodgers, who was carted off in the first half, connected with receiver Randall Cobb for a catch-and-run through the secondary for a 75-yard touchdown and the go-ahead score with 2:13 left in the game.Nick Perry sacked the Bears’ Mitchell Trubisky on fourth-and-10 with 58 seconds to complete the comeback.The Bears defense featuring newly acquired star linebacker Khalil Mack dominated until the third quarter. Mack had a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown against backup quarterback DeShone Kizer in the second quarter.A gimpy Rodgers returned in the second half and finally figured out the Bears. He also found Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison for touchdown passes.

”Felt something in it. I had a hard time putting weight on it. (The doctor) and I had a conversation,” Rodgers said of his knee. ”We did the tests. I told him I was going back.”

Add this game to Rodgers’ already lengthy career highlight reel. He finished 20 of 30 for 286 yards.It was Rodgers’ first regular-season home game since Sept. 28 against the Bears. He was limited to seven games in 2017 because of a collarbone injury.Mack nearly stole the show. He also stripped the ball for a turnover in the red zone off Kizer in the second quarter. Mack made an immediate impact in his first game since the Bears acquired the premier pass rusher in a blockbuster deal with the Oakland Raiders.The Bears led 20-0 at one point and their defense dominated until the second half.Then Rodgers returned, and the Packers’ defense held the Bears in check.Green Bay scored 17 unanswered points at one point.

”You know we talked about finishing and we didn’t do that,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. NO KIDDING!Rodgers said he plans on playing next week against Minnesota.

Irish overcome flat effort to beat Ball State 24-16

SOUTH BEND—Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly fell on his sword after his eighth-ranked Fighting Irish struggled offensively against Ball State in what many assumed would be a tuneup game.

”I obviously didn’t do a good enough job getting them up to play at the level they need to play,” Kelly said. ”Ball State did a great job coming into this game and doing what it needed to do. Their preparation was great, their coaching was better.”

On the scoreboard, it was a 24-16 victory for Notre Dame. But it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t pretty.The Irish (2-0), coming off an emotional 24-17 victory over Michigan, looked lackluster against the Mid-American Conference foe whose campus in Muncie is a 2 1/2-hour drive away. The Cardinals (1-1) also played nothing like the 34 1/2-point underdogs they were labeled in the schools’ first meeting in football.Junior strong safety Jalen Elliott picked off Ball State quarterback Riley Neal twice – the first interceptions by a Notre Dame safety in the last 14 games – and the Irish turned them into a pair of rushing touchdowns of 31 and 1 yards by junior Tony Jones Jr. It gave the Irish a 21-6 lead in the third quarter, but Ball State wasn’t done.

”Hats off to Ball State,” Notre Dame linebacker Drue Tranquill said after making nine stops and securing the victory by recovering an onside kick with 1:30 remaining. ”They came here and competed.”

Notre Dame outgained Ball State 414-349 but the Cardinals ran off 97 plays to Notre Dame’s 72 and controlled the clock for 8:44 more than the Irish.Following a 46-yard field goal by Justin Yoon that gave the Irish a 24-6 lead going into the fourth quarter, Nolan Givan caught a 10-yard scoring pass from Neal, who threw for 180 yards but completed just 23 of 50 passes. A 49-yard field goal by Ball State’s Morgan Hagee, his third of the game, closed out the scoring.Junior James Gilbert rushed for 72 yards for Ball State, which outgained Notre Dame on the ground, 169-117. Sophomore Jafar Armstrong led the Irish with 66 yards, including a 42-yard scamper up the middle in the first quarter that he followed with a 1-yard scoring run two plays later. Jones finished with 61 yards.The Cardinals’ 3-4 defense frustrated senior Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who threw for 297 yards but finished with minus 7 yards rushing as Ball State registered four sacks and picked off three of his passes.

Illini overcome early struggles and beat W.Ill 34-14

Illinois Fighting IlliniImage result for WESTERN ILLINOIS LEATHERNECKS LOGO

 
 

CHAMPAIGN—Illinois beat Western Illinois 34-14 Saturday, but the victory came with a price.Illinois quarterback AJ Bush injured his left leg in the first quarter and didn’t return. M.J. Rivers finished the game, providing a needed spark for an Illinois offense that’s had trouble getting started early in both games this season.While Bush’s injury didn’t appear serious, Illinois coach Lovie Smith declined to provide specifics.

”I’m coach Smith, not Dr. Smith,” he said. ”We’ll see what the doctor says on Monday.”

For the second week in a row, the Illinois offense has been ineffective in the first half. Smith couldn’t explain the team’s slow, mistake-plagued starts.Rivers was 9 of 16 for 105 yards and two touchdowns for Illinois (2-0). Mike Epstein rushed for 105 yards on eight carries. Reggie Corbin ran for 63 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries.Sean McGuire went 24 for 36 for 276 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for Western Illinois (0-2). Tony Tate rushed for 41 yards to lead the Leathernecks.Illinois also lost wide receiver Edwin Carter, injured while making his second touchdown catch of the game. Carter was seeing more playing time Saturday because of the season-ending injury to star receiver Mike Dudek last week.McGuire was sharp early in the game, but the Illini adjusted at halftime and McGuire was forced to scramble often to avoid pressure. One of his two interceptions came as he was chased from the pocket. Michael Marchese intercepted for Illinois and returned it 41 yards to the 3. Reggie Corbin ran it in on the next play for Illinois.While coach Jared Elliott’s Leathernecks went to the pass often throughout the game, the Illini kept the ball mostly on the ground because of windy conditions.

”We didn’t plan on passing much in the first half, but we had some problems getting the run going,” Smith said. ”But once we got our running game going, it opened up the passing game for us.”

Carter’s second touchdown catch gave Illinois its first lead of the game early in the second quarter, but it was a costly catch. Rivers faded back, threw high into the end zone and Carter had to leap to catch it. He was hit hard just below the knees and did a complete flip in the air, landing on his head. He held onto the ball.Chase McLaughin’s 54-yard field goal for Illinois early in the third quarter was the third-longest field goal in school history. It was the longest Illini field goal since 2012.

NU’s bad second quarter fatal in 21-7 loss to Duke

Northwestern Wildcats (1981 - Pres)

EVANSTON—Daniel Jones threw for three touchdowns before leaving the game with an apparent injury, and Duke beat Northwestern 21-7 on Saturday.Jones passed for three TDs in the second quarter, propelling the Blue Devils (2-0) to another victory over the Wildcats (1-1) after pounding them at home last year. But he got driven to the turf on a sack by Joe Gaziano at the end of the third and was replaced by Quentin Harris early in the fourth.Jones completed 16 of 22 passes for 192 yards in another big game against Northwestern. He accounted for 413 total yards and four touchdowns in last year’s 41-17 romp.Jonathan Lloyd had 94 yards receiving, including a 52-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Davis Koppenhaver had a one-handed TD grab late in the first half, and the Blue Devils won for the 21st time in 24 non-conference games.NU’s Clayton Thorson was 22 of 38 for 198 yards and an interception in his second game back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He again shared time with TJ Green, who went 9 for 18 for 84 yards and an interception.Jeremy Larkin ran for 121 yards and a Northwestern touchdown after going for a career-high 143 in the opener against Purdue. Flynn Nagel had 12 catches for 133 yards both career bests. But the Wildcats lost for the first time since Penn State beat them last Oct. 7.Jones threw for 159 yards and three touchdowns in the first half to help the Blue Devils grab a 21-7 lead.Larkin broke off a 40-yard run to the 4 and carried it in from the 2 for Northwestern on the game’s first possession. But three TD passes by Jones in the second quarter gave Duke a 14-point lead.He connected with T.J. Rahming on a 9-yarder just over a minute in and the Blue Devils scored on back-to-back possessions to go up 21-7.Marquis Waters intercepted Thorson in double coverage, leading to the Wildcats’ Cameron Green getting ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit on him. Jones connected with Lloyd deep down the middle on the next play for a 52-yard touchdown to put Duke on top. An open Koppenhaver made it a 14-point game with 2:18 left in the half when he reached up with his right hand and hauled in a 9-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone.NU had a first down at the Duke 9 early in the third. But the drive stalled, with Thorson getting sacked on fourth down at the 4.The Blue Devils could be in trouble if they have to get by without Jones.The Wildcats clearly need a healthier Thorson if they’re going to make a run in the Big Ten. Larkin, meanwhile, showed again he’s ready to become the workhorse running back with career rushing leader Justin Jackson in the NFL.

GROBBER’S NFL WEEK ONE PICKS.

AFC GAMES: Pitt over CLEVE, Tenn over MIAMI, Cin over IND, BALT over Buff, N.ENG over Houst, LACHARGERS over K.City
NFC GAMES: N.ORL over T.Bay, CAR over Dal, Wash over ARIZ
INT CONF: Jax over NYG, DEN over Seat
THUR NIGHT: PHIL over Atl
MON NIGHT: LARams over OAK
NFC NORTH: DET over NY Jets, MINN over S.Fran, GB over Bears
HOME TEAMS in ALL CAPS.

Irish hold off Michigan is resumption of rivalry

SOUTH BEND—The Michigan-Notre Dame series returned after a three-year hiatus and the 12th-ranked Fighting Irish became the latest rival to get the best of Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines.Brandon Wimbush connected on a long touchdown pass to help Notre Dame jump out to a big first-half lead, Te’von Coney and the defense made it stand with a late takeaway, and the Fighting Irish beat No. 14 Michigan 24-17 on Saturday night.The Wolverines fell to 1-6 under Harbaugh against the school’s biggest rivals, Ohio State, Michigan State and Notre Dame.A green-out crowd welcomed Michigan back to Notre Dame Stadium and the Fighting Irish scored on their first two drives against a defense loaded with future NFL draft picks. Chris Finke hauled in a deep throw from Wimbush that went through a defender’s hands in traffic for a 43-yard score to put Notre Dame up 14-0 midway through the first half.Wimbush, who had to re-establish himself as the starter in the offseason after a rough end to 2017, was 12 for 22 for 170 yards and an interception and ran for 59 yards.

”It just feels like playing football again,” said Wimbush, who got a game ball from coach Brian Kelly. ”I just had so much fun out there, playing ball and just not worrying about anything else.”

Kelly said of his senior quarterback: ”I thought he played with an edge to him, a confidence.”

Jafar Armstrong’s second touchdown, a 4-yard run with 3:55 left in the second quarter made it 21-3. Ambry Thomas gave the Wolverines a much-needed jolted with a 99-yard touchdown on the ensuing kickoff, but otherwise the Michigan debut of quarterback Shea Patterson was mostly disappointing.Michigan’s only offensive touchdown came with 2:18 left in the fourth quarter, when Karan Higdon rushed in from 3 yards to cut the lead to seven.Patterson, the touted transfer from Mississippi, went 20 for 30 for 227 yards and an interception. He spent a lot of time eluding pass rushers.

”They got us on the inside blitzes. They brought great pressure all night long,” Harbaugh said.

Michigan got a final opportunity with 1:48 and got as far as its 45. Patterson was flushed out of the pocket and stripped by Jerry Tillery. Coney recovered the ball with 46 seconds and sealed Notre Dame’s second straight win against the Wolverines.When they last met in 2014, Notre Dame snapped Michigan’s streak of 365 consecutive games without being shut out with a 31-0 win in South Bend. That loss also marked the beginning of the end of Brady Hoke’s tenure as Michigan coach.