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Big Ten weekend review: Week 1

The Big Ten fared well in the opening week of the season.

Syndication: York Daily Record Dan Rainville / USA TODAY NETWORK

College football is back, and 14 Big Ten teams began their campaigns this past weekend.

Maryland football began its season on a winning note, taking down Towson, 38-6. Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 260 yards and managed four total touchdowns, while Corey Dyches hauled in six receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown.

Overall, Big Ten teams went 8-1 this week in non-conference matchups, and two conference games were played as well.

Here’s what stood out from the first weekend of Big Ten football.

Biggest surprise: Toledo vs. Illinois

Last season, Illinois head coach Bret Bielema gave fans optimism by finishing 8-5, the program’s best mark since 2007. Heading into 2023, many expected Bielema and the Fighting Illini to take the next step as a program, and that started with a matchup with Toledo.

On the opening drive, Illinois sophomore quarterback Luke Altmyer led the offense on a methodical 10-play, 75-yard drive, but the Illini’s offense slowed down after — and Toledo’s began to find its groove.

Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn orchestrated a nine-play, 73-yard drive to give the Rockets a surprising 12-7 lead. Then, they tacked on another touchdown early in the third quarter to extend the lead to 12.

After Illinois stormed back to take a 27-19 lead, Toledo came right back in the final quarter, scoring on two straight drives to go up by one.

In the end, though, the better team won — but just barely. With under three minutes remaining, Illinois conducted a drive that ended with a game-winning field goal to give it a 30-28 victory.

Statement game: West Virginia vs. No. 7 Penn State

There aren’t many environments that compare to Beaver Stadium. After Penn State received a No. 7 ranking in the preseason AP Top 25, its highest since 2020, the Nittany Lions looked to solidify their preseason ranking with a strong showing in the opener.

And they did just that, cruising to a 38-15 victory over West Virginia.

A lot of expectations have been placed on sophomore quarterback Drew Allar, and he more than delivered, throwing for 323 yards and three touchdowns.

West Virginia evened the score at seven early in the second quarter, but that was as close as it would get. The Nittany Lions quickly responded with a touchdown to take the lead heading into halftime, and they locked in for the second half. Allar led a drive down the field for the Nittany Lions’ third score of the game, and then extended the lead to three possessions in the fourth quarter with his third passing touchdown of the game.

The outcome was never in serious doubt, and fans caught a glimpse of why some believe Allar could be the final piece to help Penn State claim its first Big Ten title since 2016.

Upset game: Fresno St. vs. Purdue

Purdue entered 2023 with intrigue and uncertainty, mostly stemming from having a new head coach — Ryan Walters — and a new quarterback — Hudson Card — set to replace Aidan O’Connell, who was selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft.

To start their season, the Boilermakers faced a tough opponent in Fresno State at Ross-Ade Stadium, a place they only lost twice last season. They started fast, as it only took three plays for Card to find Deion Burks for an 84-yard touchdown.

But Fresno State, coming off a 10-win season, matched Purdue’s touchdown with one of its own — a harbinger of what was to come.

From there, the teams traded scores before a 98-yard Tyrone Tracy Jr. kick return touchdown brought Purdue’s lead to 28-17. It looked like the Boilermakers were in control, but two straight Bulldog touchdowns shifted the score in favor of Fresno State.

Purdue running back Devin Mockobee charged in for an 11-yard touchdown to put the Boilermakers ahead again, but Fresno State quarterback Mikey Keene had the last laugh, using his legs to extend plays and slinging the game-winning touchdown with 59 seconds remaining.