Monday, October 22, 2012
Big Ten weekend rewind: Week 8
By Brian Bennett
Take that and rewind it back.
Team of the week: Penn State. Plenty of candidates this week, as Michigan ended Michigan State's four-game winning streak in the rivalry, Nebraska got a much-needed road victory and Wisconsin kept chopping in the Axe series. But no team was as impressive as the Nittany Lions, who went on the road in a hostile atmosphere and simply dismantled Iowa from start to finish in a 38-14 win. That was as complete a performance as you're going to see in this league, and as Adam wrote on Saturday, Bill O'Brien's team is no longer just a nice little story.
Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton led the Buckeyes to an overtime win against Purdue on Saturday.
Game of the week: Lots of good ones, including Michigan's nailbiter over Michigan State, Nebraska's comeback over Northwestern and even Indiana's loss at Navy. But for pure drama, it's hard to beat the Ohio State-Purdue game and how it ended. To review: the Buckeyes trailed by eight points and took possession at their 39-yard line with less than a minute to go. Braxton Miller was in the hospital and backup Kenny Guiton was at quarterback. Somehow, Ohio State made it work, driving for a touchdown and then the tying two-point conversion on a beautifully designed play. There seemed to be little doubt who would win in overtime after that, though Urban Meyer seemed stunned after the 29-22 decision. "I'm still trying to figure this bad boy out," he said. "We won, right?"
Biggest play: The first play of that Ohio State tying drive was a 39-yard completion from Guiton to Devin Smith that made everything else possible. It was a slow-developing play that the Buckeyes were a little hesitant to call because it demands such good protection by the O-line. Maybe too good, as Purdue coach Danny Hope complained that his defense "probably would have [gotten to Guiton] if we didn't have quite so many hooks and so many hands on our jerseys." Regardless, it was still a play that will go down in Ohio State lore.
Best call: It came in a losing effort, but we enjoyed seeing the return of Mark Dantonio's gambling special-teams ways in Michigan State's loss to Michigan. On fourth-and-9 from the Spartans' 23-yard line early in the fourth quarter, punter Mike Sadler sprinted for a 26-yard gain. That extended a drive that led to the field goal that put Michigan State up 10-9. I just wish Dantonio had been as aggressive on the fourth-and-1 from Michigan's 21-yard line earlier in the game, when the Spartans went for the field goal -- and missed it.
Best new wrinkle: It sometimes feels as if Wisconsin doesn't need a quarterback, given its strength at offensive line and depth at tailback. The Badgers gave that idea a try Saturday against Minnesota, putting running back James White at quarterback and using seven offensive lineman, two tight ends and Montee Ball as a receiver. They called it the "Barge" formation because of how many large humans were involved. White ran four times out of the "Barge" and gained 30 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown. That gives defenses something else to think about, and Bielema said there are plays where White can throw out of the formation.
Big Man on Campus (Offense): Taylor Martinez has gotten crushed for his failures on the road, so it's only fair that he should be praised for winning an important game away from Lincoln. Granted, Northwestern had a couple of chances to pick him off in the fourth quarter, and if that happens, the narrative for Nebraska and Martinez is a whole lot different right now. But Martinez deserves credit for leading fourth-quarter scoring drives of 80 and 76 yards and finishing 27-of-39 passing for 342 yards with three touchdowns and -- most important -- no interceptions. He also rushed for 65 yards and a score.
Big Man on Campus (Defense): Penn State's linebackers have gotten the, um, Lions' share of attention this season on the defense. But senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill made himself known against Iowa, recording nine tackles, including two for loss, a sack and a quarterback hurry. Iowa finished with only 20 rushing yards.
Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Here's what I imagine Brendan Gibbons was thinking before his game-winning, 38-yard kick against Michigan State: "Zooey Deschanel, Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman." Actually, Gibbons said this time he was thinking about the Michigan seniors, not brunette girls as he was before hitting the game-winner in the Sugar Bowl. But this one was just as big, and one of his three field goals on the day in a 12-10 win. A hardy shout out goes to Matt Wile, who booted a 48-yarder for the Wolverines, and to Purdue's Akeem Hunt for his 100-yard kickoff return against Ohio State.
Worst hangover: Purdue, Michigan State and Northwestern are all solid nominees here, but Iowa wins the least-coveted award in the rewind. Not only were the Hawkeyes destroyed at home by Penn State, they also lost starting left tackle Brandon Scherff to injury for at least the rest of the regular season, and starting guard Andrew Donnal may be out a while as well. That was Iowa's third home loss of the season already. The Hawkeyes still have no passing game, and while they can salvage something out of this season, things look a lot less promising than they did a week ago.
Strangest moment: Northwestern had to go to a silent count for its final drive of the game against Nebraska. Which wouldn't have been weird, except that the Wildcats were playing at home. Ryan Field has never been the most intimidating home atmosphere, and Nebraska fans invaded in such large numbers and made so much noise that it felt like a road game for the Northwestern players at the end. "We didn't prepare for that all week," quarterback Kain Colter told the Chicago Tribune about the silent count.