BOULDER, Colo. – The highly-anticipated 2015 Big Ten Universities season opened Sept. 19, as Indiana and Michigan State earned victories in less-than-anticipated fashion. The Hoosiers, albeit in a rout, faced more resistance from Illinois than expected, and the Spartans steamrolled Minnesota, 65-5, in a match that figured to be a toss up.
Michigan State vs. Minnesota
A season after splitting a pair of matches with one another, Michigan State and Minnesota opened Big Ten play against each other Sept. 19. A week-one victory figured to be crucial to either side if they wanted to remain relevant in the BTU Championship conversation, but especially for the Spartans, considering their next four matches are against ranked opponents.
Playing at home, Michigan State executed with the sense of urgency you’d expect out of a team desperately seeking a win. In the fifth minute of the match, winger Michael VanderLaan found the try zone for his first of four tries on the afternoon. The Gophers seemingly had no answer for the Spartans’ attack as the home team poured in four more tries before the halftime whistle to go into the break leading, 29-0.
The second half spelled more of the same, as Michigan State scored at will, starting with outside center Aaron Stuk’s try at the 48-minute mark. Eight different Spartans would dot down before the final whistle, including a pair from eight man Todd Else. To the Gophers’ credit, the team fought hard for 80 minutes, and was rewarded when No. 8 Maximilian Enxing went over the line before the final whistle. The unconverted try stole a near shutout from Michigan State, but did little to mask an otherwise one-sided affair that ended, 65-5, in favor of the Spartans.
Minnesota will play a friendly against the Rochester Rogues Sept. 27 before jumping back into BTU action Oct. 3 at Wisconsin. For Michigan State, it’s rivalry week. Sparty will have a chance to improve to 2-0 next week, but will have to down No. 16 Michigan to do so.
Illinois vs. Indiana
In 2014, Illinois lost four conference games by 26 points or more. So, when the Fighting Illini opened its BTU season against conference favorite Indiana, an upset win may have been a little far-fetched. Still, Illinois was able to move the ball into the Hoosiers’ half on multiple occasions, and used fly half Matt Ramsey’s boot to convert two first-half penalties to produce a respectable, 19-6, deficit 35 minutes into the game.
Even though the fight from the Illini was commendable, this match was all about Indiana. Flanker Connor Marsh and backs Jake Hidalgo and Bryce Campbell each had two tries apiece, while fly half and 2014 BTU points-leader Teddy Terezis was six for eight on his conversion attempts.
Ramsey did, however, continue his strong form with a penalty in the early goings of the second half, as well as conversions following a Martin Giannetti try and converting his own score late in the game. The ability to score a couple of second-half tries was a nice display of improvement by the Fighting Illini, but the 52-23 score line also showed that Indiana is firing on all cylinders on attack early in the season.
“It was a balanced performance between the forwards and the backs,” said Indiana Head Coach Sarasopa Enari. “Illinois gave us a good game, but we were able to move the ball forward when we had too, and wide when that presented itself”
Illinois will hit the road for the first time this season when it faces Ohio State Sept. 26, while Indiana will welcome Purdue to Bloomington, Ind., the same day.