PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - After a rollercoaster ride to get the Big Ten Conference football season underway, the opening weekend of play was thrilling - and very surprising in some cases.
Two teams that registered the biggest stunners will meet Saturday when No. 17 Indiana faces Rutgers in the Scarlet Knights’ first home game since 2011 with Greg Schiano in charge.
The Hoosiers opened the season by knocking off then-No. 8 Penn State in overtime. The down-in-the-dumps Scarlet Knights forced seven turnovers in beating Michigan State.
The win was Indiana’s first over a Top 10 team in 33 years and it earned the university a national ranking. Rutgers’ win snapped a 21-game losing streak in the conference dating to 2017 and awoke a college world that equated the Scarlet Knights with bad football. Now the two teams will be playing a game with a share of first place in the Big Ten East at stake.
“I think there’s an edge about us,” said Indiana coach Tom Allen, who led his team to eight wins last season. “We haven’t accomplished the goals we have set forth. We’ve accomplished one of them, and that’s to be beat a Top 25 team. So there’s a hunger there that I expect to see a lot of this week.”
Schiano, who led Rutgers to postseason bowl games in six of the final seven seasons in his first stint with the team (2001-11), told his team to enjoy the win and forget about it just as quickly because the season is going to be filled with highs and lows.
“Every week in the Big Ten, as I said after the game, it’s like the NFL, in my opinion,” said Schiano, who coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two seasons. “Every week is a tremendous challenge. Can you be in the fourth quarter and have a chance to win? That’s the goal. ”
Indiana has won its last four games against Rutgers, including a 35-0 decision last season. The Scarlet Knights won three games in last two seasons.
Roughly 500 friends and family will be allowed the attend the game at SHI Stadium. The Giants and Jets are not allowing fans to attend their games at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The reward for last week’s overtime victory over now-No. 18 Penn State was Indiana’s second appearance in the Top 25 in 11 months.
The Hoosiers are chasing other goals now. They haven’t cracked the Top 15 since October 1988. They have lost 10 straight after beating a ranked opponent. The last time they won a game after beating a ranked team was in October 1987 when they upset No. 9 Ohio State and then beat Minnesota.
Schiano recruited 10 mostly Big Ten transfers after being hired in December and five of them started against Michigan State - S Brendan White (Ohio State), DL Michael Dwumfour (Michigan), QB Noah Vedral (Nebraska), WR-Returner Aron Cruickshank (Wisconsin), and TE Jovani Haskins (West Virginia). Two others transfers played - DL Malik Barrow (Central Florida) and DT Mayan Ahanotu (Minnesota). DT Ireland Burke (Boston College), DE Aaron Lewis (Michigan) and athlete Peyton Powell (Baylor) are in the wings.
Hoosiers defensive coordinator Kane Wommack thought his unit played relatively well despite yielding 35 points, 488 yards and allowing Penn State to keep the ball more than 40 minutes. The Nittany Lions scored 21 points in the final three minutes of regulation and overtime, including a touchdown the Hoosiers willingly gave up.
The one costly mistake: Penn State took the lead when Indiana blew the coverage on a 60-yard TD pass with 2:30 to go in regulation.
The Scarlet Knights were outstanding defensively against the Spartans, limiting them to 50 yards rushing. It was a school-record low for a Big Ten contest. The unit had five fumble recoveries and two interceptions, setting 21 points. The defense also had a league-best 12 tackles for losses. Linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi was named the conference’s co-defensive player of the week after making 10 tackles, recovering two fumbles, and forcing another.
A SEASON IN A GAME
Indiana kicker Charles Campbell made two field goals and two extra points last week, matching last season’s field goal total and surpassing his points total (seven) from 2019.
AP Sports Writer Mike Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
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