Recapping the week that was in the Big Ten
October 23rd, 2012 By Danny Sheehan
DraftNasty's Danny Sheehan takes a look back at this past weekend's action in the Big Ten. The conference's best teams may not even be eligible to compete in the Big Ten Championship game.
Big Ten wrap-up (October 20, 2012)
By Danny Sheehan
Ohio State 29, Purdue 22
This game was a lot closer than the prognosticators and handicappers would have predicted. Purdue’s defense had been shredded during the last two weeks for over 1,000 yards and 80 points in home losses, but in front of over 105,000 Buckeye fans the Boilermaker defense rose to the challenge before faltering late.
The undefeated Buckeyes looked doomed after star quarterback Braxton Miller left the game late in the third quarter after being thrown hard to the ground by a Purdue defender, but backup quarterback Kenny Guiton came in and bailed out the Buckeyes. The junior threw an interception with under three minutes to play and the team trailing by eight, but the Buckeyes got another chance. He eventually rallied the team for a touchdown with less than ten seconds left; connecting on a two-point conversion that sent the game to overtime, where the Buckeyes’ momentum carried them to a victory. The Boilermakers led early after getting touchdowns from two Akeems: an 83-yard touchdown catch by Akeem Shavers seventeen seconds into the game and a 100-yard kickoff return from Akeem Hunt that gave them a 14-7 lead in the first quarter. After the defense forced a safety with around ten minutes left in the fourth quarter they led 22-14. Purdue outplayed Ohio State but could not hang on late.
The undefeated Buckeyes will have to hope Miller, who has been one of the most electrifying players in the country this season, does not miss time going forward. He was recently cleared to begin practicing again, suggesting he could be ready for next week's tilt vs. the hot Penn State Nittany Lions.
Michigan 12, Michigan State 10
Michigan beat Michigan State to become the first school in college football history to win 900 games, reclaiming the Paul Bunyan Statue in a game that only a mother, or more accurately a defensive coordinator, could love. The Wolverines avoided a school-record five straight losses to their in-state rival, winning the game for the first time since 2007.
This was a hard-hitting defensive game that turned on a few special teams plays, most notably Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons’ game-winning field goal with five seconds left, his fourth of the day. Michigan shut down the Spartans’ tailback, holding bruising junior Le’Veon Bell to just 68 yards on 26 carries. Junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who has been much-maligned this year as he succeeds the very successful Kirk Cousins, was “OK” in this game, but Michigan senior Denard Robinson made a few big plays on the final drive to set up the winning field goal and gain his only career win over Michigan State. Robinson threw for just 163 yards, going 14-29 passing, but his scrambling was effective as he led the Wolverines with 96 rushing yards. The senior has been both a dynamic Heisman candidate and a frustrating player, who has not improved as a passer in his career at Michigan, but his playmaking ability is undeniable and he showed again his ability in the clutch, hitting a 20-yard gain to Drew Dileo to set up the game-winner.
The Spartans now find themselves 1-3 in the Big Ten in what is looking like a rebuilding year for HC Mark Dantonio, while Michigan is now in first place in the Legends division as the only team unbeaten in conference play.
Penn State 38, Iowa 14
Bill O’Brien is doing positive things in the extremely tough situation that is succeeding Joe Paterno, as the Nittany Lions handled the Hawkeyes for Penn State’s fifth straight win. O’Brien has Penn State getting off to great starts, as they currently have outscored opponents 66-0 in the first quarter of games.
Holding to form, Penn State got off to an early 14-0 lead thanks to two touchdown passes from quarterback Matt McGloin. McGloin is much improved and having a fine senior season, with greatly improved efficiency as a passer. This game was completely dominated by Penn State and not even as close as the score indicates—Iowa scored two late touchdowns to prevent a shutout and pacify their home fans, who watched Iowa get dominated on both sides of the ball. Penn State outgained Iowa 504-209 in total yards from scrimmage, and Iowa ran for only 20 yards on 23 carries. I have done the math, and that is not a good average per carry.
Meanwhile, Bill Belton had three rushing touchdowns and 103 yards on 16 carries for the Nittany Lions, who suddenly find themselves atop the Leaders division with Ohio State, despite the fact that neither team is eligible to win the conference title. With Illinois, Indiana and Purdue a combined 0-9 in Big Ten play, only 3-1 Wisconsin has a chance to rescue the Big Ten from a messy Championship Game controversy.
Nebraska 29, Northwestern 28
Nebraska rallied from down 12 points in the fourth quarter, staying in contention for the Legends division and a chance at the Big Ten Championship Game. Taylor Martinez threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the last six minutes to lead the Cornhuskers to victory after a 53-yard field goal attempt from Northwestern kicker Jeff Budzien went just wide right with 1:10 remaining. Martinez also ran for a touchdown in a game that Nebraska dominated in terms of yardage and first downs; Northwestern benefitted from three lost Nebraska fumbles to hold a late lead. Venric Mark, the junior tailback who has emerged as a home-run hitter for the Wildcats, had 118 yards on 16 rushes, including a big 80 yard touchdown in the 3rd quarter to give Northwestern a 21-10 lead. Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian struggled mightily, throwing for just 116 yard on 35 attempts, though he did throw two touchdowns and was turnover-free.
Nebraska has to be happy to escape with the victory, though they’ll have to play better moving forward to compete for the conference title.
Wisconsin 38, Minnesota 13
In Division I college football’s most played rivalry, the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe was won easily by a Badger team that outclassed their competition from the start.
Montee Ball and James White marched Wisconsin down the field, each rushing for over 166 yards as the Badgers appear to have figured out the offensive line concerns that plagued them earlier in the season. White had three touchdowns, and Ball’s two fourth quarter touchdowns put the finishing touches on a game that saw the Badgers rush for 337 yards. This game showed that despite the strides Coach Jerry Kill is making in his second season as sideline leader of the Gophers, there is still a large talent gap between the two rival programs. For Minnesota, the story was the debut of true freshman quarterback Philip Nelson, who predictably struggled but showed some promise, rushing for 67 yards to go along with 142 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Senior quarterback MarQueis Gray caught three passes after being moved to wide receiver, a position that he played as a sophomore and that he shows pro potential at with his size and speed.
Going forward, this will likely be the setup for the Gophers, with Gray catching passes from Nelson, who could end up a four-year starter. For Wisconsin, now that the running game is rolling again, the season seems to be getting back on track. The Badgers are hoping to keep their momentum moving forward to try to claim the top spot in the Leaders division.
Navy 31 , Indiana 30
The Midshipmen rallied from down nine with under six minutes remaining to give the Naval Academy their first win over a Big Ten team since 1979 and hand Indiana their fifth straight loss in a game they had in their control throughout.
Freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds was poised and made some big plays late for Navy, using a mix of running and passing to keep the Hoosier defense off balance. Indiana moved the ball efficiently until the fourth quarter, when the Navy defense stiffened, allowing no first downs on either of the Hoosiers’ final two possessions, which allowed Reynolds and the Navy option attack to move down the field. Two huge turnovers turned the tide for the Midshipmen—a pick six for linebacker Jordan Drake that cut Indiana’s lead to 17-14 at a time when Indiana was rolling offensively, and Parrish Gaines’ game-clinching interception with 1:38 to seal the win for the Navy. Coach Ken Niumatololo always has his Midshipmen playing hard, and this weekend it paid off with a win over a Big Ten opponent.
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