Defensive end Kenny Willekes recovered two fumbles, including one in the end zone for a touchdown, and No. 18 Michigan State manhandled Tulsa 28-7 on Friday night.
Willekes, back on the field after breaking his leg in last season’s Redbox Bowl, was part of a swarming Spartans defense that held the Golden Hurricane to minus-73 yards rushing. Michigan State (1-0) still had its problems offensively, but that made little difference on this night.
Tulsa (0-1) botched two shotgun snaps in the second quarter — part of the reason its rushing total ended up so far below zero. One of those loose balls went out of the end zone for a safety.
The touchdown by Willekes came after he and Raequan Williams sacked Zach Smith near the goal line. The ball came free, and Willekes came up with it to put Michigan State up 22-0.
The big question coming into this game was how the Spartans’ offense would look after they scored only 32 points over the final four games of 2018. Coach Mark Dantonio shuffled roles around among his offensive assistants, making Brad Salem the offensive coordinator.
“I thought the play-calling was pretty good, but you’ve got to execute,” Dantonio said.
Michigan State got the ball first Friday and capped a penalty-aided drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Brian Lewerke to Connor Heyward. Then the defense — which was No. 1 in the nation against the run last season — took over.
Tulsa went with Smith, a Baylor transfer, at quarterback over returning sophomore Seth Boomer. It would have probably been a long night no matter who was in. The Spartans were up 25-0 before the Golden Hurricane scored. Smith threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Sam Crawford late in the second quarter.
“I know Michigan State, especially on the defensive side, they’re extremely talented,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. “We got in a situation there in the second half where we felt like we had to throw. They knew we had to throw, and it was putting us in situations that they were able to take advantage of.”
Michigan State has won 21 straight home openers.
No. 19 Wisconsin 49, South Florida 0
TAMPA, Fla. — Jonathan Taylor rushed for 135 yards and scored a career-best four touchdowns, helping the Badgers (1-0) open the season with a rout of the Bulls (0-1).
Taking up where he left off a year ago, when he lead the nation with 2,194 yards and 16 touchdowns, Taylor scored on runs of 37 and 38 yards. The junior running back also had the first two receiving touchdowns of his career, scooting 36 yards up the left sideline after taking a quick flip from Jack Coan and later extending the ball over the goal line on a 12-yard reception that gave the Badgers a 28-0 halftime lead.
Wisconsin’s defense delivered a dominating performance too, limiting South Florida to 157 yards total offense and forcing three turnovers, including a fumble that defensive end Matt Henningsen returned 16 yards for a second quarter touchdown.
The loss was the seventh straight for USF, which dropped the final six games of 2018 after starting 7-0 and climbing into the Top 25.