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Illini survive scare in opener

Irish hold off Wolverines; Nittany Lions escape at home; Buckeyes blow out Beavers

As expected, Illinois showed up to play what many thought would be a nonthreatening Kent State team on Saturday. Unfortunately, its offense didn’t arrive at Memorial Stadium until midway through the third quarter.

Nonetheless, the Illini rallied to hold off Kent State 31-24, avoiding an upset and extending its home-opener win streak to 21 games, the fourth-longest in the nation.

But the win didn’t come easy for Lovie Smith’s Illini, expected to easily turn around a 2-10 season from last year.

Following a lackluster first half that saw Kent State leading 17-3, Illinois quarterback AJ Bush showed the crowd of 31,898 why offensive coordinator Rod Smith called him a “dynamic dual threat.” Bush passed for 190 yards on 23 attempts, and rushed for 139 yards on 21 carries.

“Any team that judges us off this game will be in for a rude awakening, I promise you’” Bush said afterward.

“It’s been a while since AJ played,” Lovie Smith said. “He’s a tough guy, he’s mobile and he ran well. He also threw some good passes.”

Reggie Corbin carried 10 times for 79 yards and two touchdowns for the Illini (1-0). Mike Epstein and Ra’Von Bonner added rushing touchdowns.

“Offensively, we knew we had a lot of weapons, and I thought the offensive coaches gave the guys a chance to make plays,” Lovie Smith said.

Woody Barrett, announced by first-year Kent State coach Sean Lewis as the starting quarterback at game time, was 28-of-41 passing for 270 yards and two touchdowns. He threw an interception late when Illinois linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips picked off a short pass into the end zone that would have tied it with less than 3 minutes remaining.

Barrett also was the leading rusher for the Golden Flashes with 18 carries for 117 yards and one touchdown.

Lewis saw much to be happy about on Saturday.

“For year one, game one, it’s certainly something we can build on,” he said. “Obviously, we need to finish stronger, and there are going to be some things we need to look at.”

Mike Carrigan rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown on eight carries for Kent State (0-1).

No. 12 Notre Dame 24, No. 14 Michigan 17: The Michigan-Notre Dame series returned after a 3-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 in South Bend.

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. It 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.

Harbaugh does not come into this season fretting his job, but make no mistake: his program could use a change in trajectory. The Wolverines are 9-9 in their last 18 games, and Michigan has dropped 17 straight road games against ranked teams, dating to 2006.

“Where are we at?” Harbaugh said. “We’re at the beginning. We fought hard, competed well. There’s things we can build on. It’s not the end. It’s the beginning for us.”

No. 10 Penn St. 45, Appalachian St. 38, OT: Amani Oruwariye intercepted Zac Thomas’ pass in the end zone, and the Nittany Lions held on to beat visiting Appalachian State in overtime, exactly 11 years after the Mountaineers stunned Michigan in one of the biggest upsets in college football history.

Miles Sanders ran for 91 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score in overtime for Penn State, which let a 31-17 lead evaporate when Appalachian State scored on three straight possessions over 5:53 in the fourth quarter.

Penn State’s Trace McSorley, who completed 21 of 36 passes for 230 yards and ran for two scores, led a tying drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass to KJ Hamler with 42 seconds left.

Thomas, who returned from injury to lead his team’s comeback, completed 25 of 38 passes for 270 yards, threw for two touchdowns, and ran for another for Appalachian State. Jalin Moore ran 18 times for 88 yards and a touchdown, and Malik Williams caught two touchdowns for the Mountaineers.

In 2007, it was No. 5. Michigan fighting for its life at home against the Division I-AA team, then Corey Lynch blocked the Wolverines’ last-second field-goal attempt to seal a 34-32 win for Appalachian State.

No. 5 Ohio St. 77, Oregon St. 31: With coach Urban Meyer serving a suspension, new starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. had a record-setting day, throwing five touchdown passes to help the Buckeyes rout the Beavers in Columbus.

Ohio State shook off Meyer’s first absence from the sideline in 6 years, scoring on five of its first six possessions and overcoming some defensive sloppiness.

Haskins was 22-for-30 for 313 yards. The five touchdowns and yards gained are records for a first-time Ohio State starter. Mike Weber rushed 20 times for 186 yards and three touchdowns.

Oregon State’s Conor Blount threw for 169 yards and two touchdowns.

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