Northwestern wanted to prove a point against No. 21 Stanford and drove it home with a strong running game and solid defense that produced a season-opening surprise.
Or, as defensive end Dean Lowry put it: "We unleashed a caged bull today."
Freshman Clayton Thorson ran for a 42-yard touchdown while playing turnover-free ball at quarterback, Justin Jackson added 134 yards rushing, and the Wildcats beat the Cardinal 16-6 on Saturday afternoon.
If Northwestern felt like a caged bull, well, back-to-back 5-7 seasons will do that. The recent losing ended a five-year run of bowl appearances that included a 10-win season in 2012.
Anthony Walker broke up two passes and had a fumble recovery, and Kyle Queiro intercepted Kevin Hogan in the end zone with about a minute left to seal the win.
"It was probably one of the best performances I've seen our 'D' play top to bottom against a ranked team maybe in my time," coach Pat Fitzgerald said.
Illinois 52, Kent State 3: Illinois had been waiting all summer to get back on the field and out from under the shadow of off-field turmoil.
A three-hour thunderstorm that pushed back Friday's scheduled opener added another 17 hours to that wait.
Illinois finally delivered the cathartic blowout the team was looking for, dropping 38 first-half points on Kent State en route to the win.
Just eight days earlier, head coach Tim Beckman was abruptly fired after university-hired lawyers found evidence that he had interfered in medical decisions. Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has stepped in as interim head coach.
Three of Illinois' touchdowns were on single-play drives, covering 5, 6 and 7 yards.
No. 3 Alabama 35, No. 20 Wisconsin 17: Derrick Henry rushed for 147 yards with three touchdowns and Alabama ran over Wisconsin.
BYU 33, Nebraska 28: Mitch Mathews caught backup quarterback Tanner Mangum's 42-yard Hail Mary with no time left, giving BYU a victory over Nebraska and spoiling the debut of new Cornhuskers coach Mike Riley.
Mangum entered the game in the fourth quarter after Taysom Hill went out with an injury.
Mathews pulled down the last pass in front of Nebraska safety Nate Gerry just inside the goal line, and the play stood after a video review.
Temple 27, Penn State 10: P.J. Walker scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter to rally the Owls to it first win over the Nittany Lions in 74 years.
Maryland 50, Richmond 21: William Likely set a Big Ten record with 233 yards in punt returns, Brandon Ross ran for career-high 150 yards and one touchdown as the Terrapins rolled to a season-opening win.
Iowa 31, Illinois State 14: C.J. Beathard threw for 211 yards and a touchdown in his first career start at Kinnick Stadium and the Hawkeyes pounded the Redbirds.
Rutgers 63, Norfolk State 13: Leonte Carroo caught three third-quarter touchdown passes after sitting out a first-half suspension and set a school record as the Scarlet Knights overcame the distractions of an academic investigation involving coach Kyle Flood and the dismissal of five arrested players.