Monday, September 24, 2012
Weekend rewind: Big Ten
By Brian Bennett
Well, that wasn't a great week and it was a terrible nonconference season. Let's rewind Week 4 and then start looking forward to conference play.
Team of the week: Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are a golden 4-0 for the first time in four years. And while the team still has many strides to make, 4-0 is 4-0. A bowl game is not just a possibility now; it's a realistic option, especially if Minnesota continues to play defense like it did in a 17-10 win over Syracuse. The Gophers just need to win two Big Ten games to get to the postseason, and they might do even better than that.
Game of the week: It wasn't much fun for the majority of the crowd in Iowa City, but Central Michigan's 32-31 win over Iowa had the most drama of the day. The Chippewas scored nine points in the last 45 seconds, recovering an onside kick and making a 47-yard field goal with three seconds left to stun the Hawkeyes.
The Chippewas scored nine points in the final 45 seconds to shock the Hawkeyes.
Biggest play: Let's go back to Kinnick Stadium for that onside kick. Central Michigan got two cracks at it, after the first, unsuccessful attempt was wiped out by a delay of game penalty. Then David Harman, just moments before he'd kick the game winner, bounced the ball off to his right. Iowa never touched it, and tight end Henry Krieger-Coble backed away from the ball. "We just looked very confused out there,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said afterward. “That’s not a good thing." No, it's not. And after Iowa lost to Minnesota last year in part because of a failed onside kick recovery, you'd have thought the Hawkeyes would have been more ready.
Best call: Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees checked into a play at the line of scrimmage on third-and-4 with less than three minutes left. Turned out to be checkmate. Rees found Tyler Eifert for a 38-yard catch in one-on-one coverage, effectively letting the Irish run out the clock and keep the ball away from miracle-maker Denard Robinson in the 13-6 win. Brian Kelly's decision to sub Rees in after Everett Golson threw two early interceptions was also a great call. Worst call definitely goes to Michigan for somehow thinking diminutive halfback Vincent Smith throwing a halfback pass over the towering Irish front seven on the Notre Dame 10-yard line was a good idea. The entire complexion of that game could have changed if Michigan got points there instead of that interception.
Best blunt assessment: Urban Meyer, after his Ohio State team had another wobbly win, this time over UAB: "You've got to think about where this team was now. This is not a finely tuned machine right now, and it hasn't been for a while. We've got to develop a finely tuned machine. Obviously there's some growing pains and it's not as easy. I thought we'd be further ahead."
Big Man on Campus (offense): Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin has had a rocky career, but he might have turned in his finest effort on Saturday against Temple. The senior finished 24-of-36 for a career-high 318 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and he also had the Lions' first two rushing scores of the season in the 24-13 win. Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell (36 rushes, 253 yards, one touchdown) also had a monster game, but he did it against the worst rushing defense in the nation.
Big Man on Campus (defense): How's this for dominant? Nebraska's Eric Martin had five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks against Idaho State, and he didn't even play a full three quarters. In games against opponents with a pulse, Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland collected 12 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and 2 sacks, plus two pass breakups, in the Badgers' 37-26 win over UTEP.
Big Man on Campus (special teams): Northwestern's Brandon Williams averaged 56.7 yards per punt, including a long of 61, in the Wildcats' 38-7 win over South Dakota. Two of his three punts were downed inside the 20. Special shoutout also to Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, who had an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Worst hangover: Ay, Ay, Ay for the two U. of I's. Iowa's loss brought about a long week of hand-wringing and sports talk show phone-ringing in Hawkeye nation. Already on Twitter after the game Saturday, many fans were complaining about Ferentz and his salary, as if they were responsible for footing the bill. At least the Hawkeyes almost won. Illinois got blasted on its own field by Louisiana Tech, 52-24. The Illini imploded in the second half, setting up two Bulldogs scores with turnovers and giving the ball away six times on the night. Illinois looked like a mystery team coming into the season; now the mystery is, just what are this team's strengths? Too bad Illinois and Iowa aren't playing each other. They both could use a winnable game.
Strangest moment: Michigan's final five pass attempts in the first half against Notre Dame were all intercepted. That, my friends, is hard to do. And it's a good way to sum up the Big Ten nonconference season.