Week Zero Rewind

Illinois RB Mike Epstein ran for 75 yards and one TD in a 30-22 win vs. Nebraska.

Bret Bielema still knows how to win in the Big Ten. Scott Frost is still trying to figure that out and if he doesn’t learn how really soon, Nebraska is going to be looking for a new head coach here in a couple of months.

Illinois lost starting quarterback Brandon Peters to a shoulder injury in the first quarter, but Rutgers transfer QB Artur Sitkowski was excellent in relief during the Illini’s 30-22 win as a seven-point home underdog. They cashed money-line tickets in the +210 neighborhood, while the 52 combined points slithered ‘under’ the 53-point total.

Even better, Bielema told reporters Monday that Peters hasn’t even been ruled ‘out’ for this Saturday’s home game vs. UTSA. He doesn’t expect him to play, though, but it’s still good news because it appeared as if the injury might be a season-ender.

After falling behind 9-2 early in the second quarter, Illinois answered with an 11-play, 75-yard drive to knot the score at 9-9. RB Mike Epstein scored on a one-yard touchdown run.

Nebraska was trying to get into field-goal range with less than a minute remaining until halftime. However, QB Adrian Martinez was sacked as he stepped up into the pocket near midfield. The ball was jarred loose and Illinois LB Calvin Hart, who was one of nine transfers making their Illini debut, scooped up the fumble and raced 41 yards for a TD with 39 seconds left.

Midway through the third quarter, Illinois went ahead 23-9 when Sitkowski found Luke Ford for a two-yard TD pass. The Illini extended the lead to 30-9 on Sitkowski’s one-yard TD pass to Isaiah Williams with 4:01 remaining in the third quarter.

Nebraska responded on the next play from scrimmage when Martinez scored on a 75-yard TD run. Then with 2:41 left in the final stanza, Martinez threw a four-yard TD strike to Oliver Martin to cap a 19-play, 91-yard scoring drive.

Connor Culp then missed his second extra point of the day. Special teams lost out on those two points and gave Illinois a total of four. With 4:07 left in the opening quarter, Nebraska gift-wrapped Illinois a safety when it inexplicably fielded a punt inside its own 1-yard line and before being tackled for a safety, was flagged for trying to pitch the ball forward and out of bounds.

“It’s like the same old movie'” Frost said after the game. “But we’ll get much better. In my heart, I believe we can have a special season.”

Martinez had his moments and his numbers looked good in the box score, but he has to take better care of the football. His fumble for a scoop-and-score before halftime was a killer and at least a seven-point swing.

Martinez, the four-year starter, now has a 32/20 career touchdown-to-interception ratio, but he has lost 16 fumbles, too. He ran for a team-high 111 yards and one TD on 17 attempts. Martinez completed 16-of-32 throws for 232 yards and one TD without an interception.

Epstein ran for a team-best 75 yards and one TD on 16 carries. Reggie Love added 45 rushing yards on 12 attempts. RB Chase Brown, a third-team All-Big-10 selection in 2020, left the game with a minor injury after turning five totes into 24 rushing yards. Bielema said Monday that Brown should be good to go Saturday against the Roadrunners.

Williams, the former QB turned WR, had six catches for 41 yards and one TD. Most betting shops have the Illini listed as a 5.5 or six-point home favorite vs. UTSA.

UCLA blasted Hawaii by a 44-10 count in its opener this past Saturday, easily covering the spread as a 17.5-point home ‘chalk.’ The 54 combined points dropped ‘under’ the 67.5-point total.

The Bruins raced out to a 24-3 lead before the end of the first quarter. Sophomore RB Zach Charbonnet scored on TD runs of 21 and 47 yards, while Brittain Brown added a one-yard TD run and Nicholas Barr-Mira buried a 27-yard field goal.

Charbonnet added a 21-yard TD scamper before intermission to give UCLA a 31-3 lead at halftime. A TD off of a blocked punt extended the Bruins’ lead to 44-3 early in the third quarter.

Bettors on the ‘over’ had to be feeling good at that point, but Hawaii’s TD on a one-yard pass from QB Chevan Cordeiro to Caleb Phillips with 3:17 left in the third was the final score of the game. Cordeiro threw for 220 yards, but he was intercepted twice.

UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson completed 10-of-20 passes for 130 yards and one TD without an interception. Charbonnet needed only six carries to produce 106 rushing yards and three TDs, while Brown had 78 yards and one TD on 13 attempts.

Fresno St. shook off a slow start to score 24 points in the second quarter en route to a 45-0 win over UConn as a 28-point home favorite. The Huskies fell to 1-27 in their last 28 games against FBS foes. They’ve lost 16 of those 27 games by margins of 30 points or more. Needless to say, Randy Edsall’s second tour of duty in Storrs has been an unmitigated disaster.

QB Jake Haener connected on 20-of-26 passes for 331 yards and three TDs without an interception. Ronnie Rivers ran for 58 yards on 13 carries and had two receptions for 66 yards and one TD. WR Jalen Cropper had three catches for 87 yards and one TD, in addition to a 13-yard gain on one rushing attempt.

Senior DE Arron Mosby had three tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery that he returned 31 yards for a TD.

Most spots have the Bulldogs listed as 21-point underdogs Saturday at Oregon. They’re 7-2 ATS in their last nine games as road underdogs.

UTEP captured a 30-3 win at New Mexico St. as a 9.5-point road favorite. The 33 combined points stayed ‘under’ the 59.5-point total.

Deion Hankins ran for 50 yards and one TD on 11 carries, but he sustained an undisclosed injury that’ll keep him out of this week’s home game vs. Bethune-Cookman. RB Ronald Awatt turned 11 attempts into 74 rushing yards and one TD, while WR Jacob Cowing caught five balls for 158 yards and one TD.

San Jose St., the reigning MWC champs, drilled Southern Utah by a 45-14 count as a 28-point home ‘chalk.’ The Spartans cashed tickets for first-quarter wagers as seven or 7.5-point favorites and for first-half bets as 14.5-point favorites. They raced out to a 21-0 lead at the end of the first stanza and led 38-14 at halftime.

Nick Starkel threw for 394 yards and four TDs compared to one interception. The former QB at both Texas A&M and Arkansas also had a one-yard TD run. Starkel led San Jose St. to a 7-1 record both straight up and against the spread last year.

Spartans’ RB Tyler Nevens ran for 91 yards and one TD on 12 totes, while WR Charles Ross had three catches for 77 yards and one TD. Derrick Deese had three receptions for 72 yards and one TD and Sam Olson had a 70-yard TD catch.

San Jose St. is a 14-point underdog Saturday at USC. The Spartans are 10-3 ATS in their last 13 games as road ‘dogs. Also, they’re 12-3 ATS with three outright victories in their last 15 games as double-digit ‘dogs (home or away).

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–Due to the damage caused in New Orleans by Hurricane Ida, Oklahoma’s opener Saturday at Tulane has been moved to Norman. The Sooners, who were -27 or -27.5 at most books, are now in the -31 to -32 range. Tulane has announced that its football team will relocate to Birmingham for the next 4-6 weeks.

–LSU took buses to Houston on Sunday to escape Hurricane Ida. The drive that would’ve normally taken four hours lasted 10 hours due to evacuation traffic. The Tigers will practice in Houston until Thursday when they will travel to Los Angeles ahead of Saturday’s showdown at UCLA. As of Tuesday, most spots had LSU listed as a three-point favorite.

–Zeb Noland has been named South Carolina’s starting QB for Saturday’s opener at home vs. Eastern Illinois. This is a wild development, as Noland came to the Gamecocks to serve as grad assistant on Shane Beamer’s staff.

–Appalachian St. RB Daetrich Harrington is ‘out’ of Thursday’s opener vs. East Carolina in Charlotte. Harrington, who is still recovering from an ACL injury, is hopeful to return for Sun Belt play that starts Oct. 2 at Georgia St. He ran for 595 yards and seven TDs while averaging 5.6 yards per carry last season.

–Akron’s best player is no longer with the team.

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