Taylor, Fields among Big Ten standouts in Week 1

College football finally returned, and a number of Big Ten playmakers had exceptional performances in Week 1.


Katina Zentz

Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm speaks during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, July 19, 2019.

Robert Read, Assistant Sports Editor

After waiting for what seemed to be an eternity for college football to return, it finally did, and Week 1 was the sigh of relief that football fans needed.

The Big Ten started the new season with seven teams ranked in the initial AP Poll, and every one of those teams earned a win in Week 1. Altogether, the conference went 12-2 in the first week of the season with Purdue and Northwestern being the only Big Teams to lose in the season-opener.

A tough Stanford team toppled Northwestern, while Nevada upset Purdue on a last-second, game-winning field goal sailed through the uprights.

The Boilermaker offense proved to be solid despite the loss, gaining 423 yards through the air and 96 on the ground. If the ground game can match the air attack in the future, that’s a step in the right direction for Purdue.

“I think when you look at the game, on the offensive side of the ball, we moved the ball pretty well and had some yards,” Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm said. “We weren’t great in the running game. I don’t know if we’re going to be great at the point of attack at some positions, but we’ve got to get better at that. We have to establish that, take a little bit of pressure off the passing game.”

Football season is only getting started, and the Big Ten is home to a number of interesting stories. The Daily Iowan takes a look at the biggest news for the Big Ten heading into Week 2.

Taylor, Willekes earn weekly conference honors

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor and Michigan State defensive end Kenny Willekes posted standout performances in Week 1 and were awarded with Big Ten weekly honors.

Taylor was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, while Willekes brought home the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week award.

Taylor totaled 183 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns against South Florida to earn his fifth career Offensive Player of the Week award. 

Out of his four total touchdowns, two of them were receiving — the first two touchdown passes Taylor has caught in his college career. Taylor also became the first Big Ten player to record at least 2 rushing and 2 receiving touchdowns in the same game since 2010.

On the defensive side, Willekes tallied 2.5 tackles for loss — including 1.5 sacks — and two fumble recoveries against Tulsa. Willekes also scored the first touchdown of his career after recovering a fumble in the end zone.

Willekes led the Spartans with 7 tackles and helped Michigan State set a school record by holding Tulsa to -73 rushing yards.

This is the first Defensive Player of the Week honor of Willekes’ career.

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Fields impresses in Buckeyes debut

Ohio State needed a new quarterback after the departure of record-setting quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

Justin Fields transferred in from Georgia and earned the starting spot for the Buckeyes and, in his first start, quickly made his home fans forget about Haskins immediately.

Fields accounted for 4 touchdowns in the first 10 minutes of the game and 5 overall in a blowout win against Florida Atlantic. On the first drive of the season for the Buckeyes, Fields scampered for 51 yards all the way to the endzone, showing the skillset that made him the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback recruit when he went to Georgia. 

Fields ended the game with 234 passing yards and 4 touchdowns through the air, along with 61 rushing yards and a score on the ground.

“Like I said after the game, and I was right watching the film, he played well in terms of game management,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “Didn’t try to do stuff that wasn’t there. There was some times where we did get that three-man rush, and he didn’t force it. Got us going in those drives that we did and scoring later on it was because he kind of kept us on the schedule and didn’t try to force the ball in there.”

Florida Atlantic may not be the most difficult of opponents for the Buckeyes to go up against, but Fields will have many other opportunities this year — against better teams — to prove himself as one of the best players in the Big Ten.

Rutgers looks to emulate Iowa

Iowa’s next opponent has an appreciation for what the Hawkeyes represent as a program. Rutgers head coach Chris Ash said that in the past that Iowa is a program whose model he wants to follow, and that still holds true going into this weekend’s matchup.

“Iowa, they have been the model of consistency for years,” Ash said. “They coach exceptionally well. They develop guys. They recruit guys that fit their culture that they can develop. It’s been a pretty consistent and successful formula.”