Monday, September 10, 2012
Big Ten weekend rewind: Week 2
By Brian Bennett
Just about everyone in the Big Ten would like to forget Week 2. But those who fail to study history are ... well, you know. Let's take a quick look back, before hoping the future brings better things.
Team of the week: Northwestern. Pretty easy call here as the Wildcats were the only Big Ten team to defeat a BCS automatic-qualifier opponent in Week 2, helping the league avoid an 0-7 record in those contests. Pat Fitzgerald's team was also only one of two conference teams to play such an opponent at home (Iowa was the other). Still, the 23-13 victory over Vanderbilt was impressive because of how the defense played and how Northwestern secured a lead to finish out a game. Also: the Big Ten beat the SEC! How is this not a bigger story? (Ahem.)
It was a tough night for Bo Pelini's defense, as the Cornhuskers surrendered 653 yards to UCLA.
Game of the week: Nebraska's 36-30 loss to UCLA provided the most entertainment, though Huskers fans might not have enjoyed the ending much. The two teams staged a classic West Coast shootout in the first half, going into intermission tied at 27 before things settled down a bit. They combined for 1,092 total yards, with the Bruins gobbling up 653 of them on Nebraska's defense.
Biggest play(s): Purdue needed one third-down stop in the final two minutes to give itself a chance to beat Notre Dame but couldn't come up with it on two tries. The Irish surprisingly put Tommy Rees into the game for the final drive, and he completed a 10-yard pass on third-and-6 near midfield under heavy duress. It looked like the play clock might have expired before the snap, but the Boilers did not get the call. Then, on third-and-10 from the Purdue 41, Reese found Robby Toma for 21 yards to set up the game-winning field goal. Michigan's defensive stops against Air Force late and James Vandenberg's costly interception to end Iowa's last drive against Iowa State also were huge.
Best call: Fitzgerald has seemingly figured out just how to juggle a pair of differently talented quarterbacks. He brought Trevor Siemian to end the Syracuse game, and Siemian led the team on a game-winning drive. Siemian also guided the Cats to two scoring drives against Vanderbilt, while starter Kain Colter sealed the deal with a touchdown run on third and long. Somehow, Fitzgerald has pulled this off so far without causing a quarterback controversy.
Worst call: There's no way the officials in the Oregon State-Wisconsin game should have overruled the call on the field that the Badgers recovered their own onside kick with 1:31 left. It was a beautifully executed play, as kicker Kyle French dribbled the ball forward and then performed a hook slide to secure it. Replay officials, however, overturned the call and said the ball did not go 10 yards. But the replays sure make it appear as though Oregon State's Tyrequek Zimmermantouched the ball before French did, making it a live ball. It's close, no doubt, but either way there was not indisputable evidence, so the call on the field should have stood. Those were Pac-12 replay officials, in case you were wondering. Karma is a funny thing, though. The Badgers should have gotten that call, but they didn't deserve to win after playing terribly most of the game.
Big Man on Campus (offense): Any time you account for more than 100 percent of your team's offense, you're ... wait, what? Michigan's Denard Robinson pulled off that feat by totaling 426 yards even though the Wolverines finished with only 422 against Air Force. Because kneel downs are considered a team run, Robinson had more yards than his entire team. He ran for 218 and threw for 208 and had four touchdowns. Special mention goes to Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Minnesota's MarQueis Gray, as it was a pretty good week for quarterbacks who can run.
Big Man on Campus (defense): Purdue's Kawann Short had a pair of sacks and four tackles against Notre Dame, but that doesn't tell the full story of his dominance. The Irish netted only 52 rushing yards on 36 attempts against the Boilers as Short plugged up the middle of the line, aided by Ryan Russell, Bruce Gaston and others up front. Penn State's Michael Mauti also turned in a gutsy effort in the loss at Virginia.
Big Man on Campus (special teams): Northwestern kicker Jeff Budzien was 3-for-3 on field goals against Vandy, drilling attempts from 40, 27 and 18 yards in the win.
Worst hangover: The collective hangover for the league is worse than a fraternity house after a raging kegger. Unless you're Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern or Ohio State, you weren't feeling too good about things on Sunday morning. Penn State received another gut punch, Wisconsin short-circuited, Purdue and Iowa came up short against rivals and Illinois didn't show up. Still, Nebraska probably feels the worst of all. This was a team boasting of playing for a national title in the preseason, and an opening week blowout of Southern Miss made it appear as though the Huskers had finally turned the corner. Except around that corner was an oncoming train. A Bo Pelini defense should not be as thoroughly shredded as it was against UCLA, and the offense reverted to some bad habits in the second half. It's not the end of the world for Big Red, but it does give cause for alarm.
Strangest moment: I guess we can excuse Penn State for not really understanding this whole names-on-the-back-of-jerseys things.
The Nittany Lions went through decades of player anonymity before Bill O'Brien decided to put names on the back of players this season. And it's clear this caught some people off guard, as Penn State's uniforms against Virginia suffered some wardrobe malfunction. Namely, the names were coming off the jerseys during the game. You could say Mauti left it all on the field, including a couple of letters. It has been that kind of year for the Lions so far.