Monday, October 1, 2012
Big Ten weekend rewind: Week 5
By Brian Bennett
Be kind. Rewind.
Team of the week: Ohio State. While Nebraska, Iowa, Penn State and Northwestern all notched conference victories as well, the Buckeyes were the only team to go on the road in a hostile environment and beat a strong opponent (sorry, Penn Staters, but Illinois doesn't fulfill either of those qualifications right now). The Michigan State game always looked like a crucial date on the Buckeyes' schedule, because they face only two potentially difficult trips the rest of the way (at Penn State and at Wisconsin). Ohio State also proved it could win a Big Ten slugfest under Urban Meyer and was just tougher at the line of scrimmage than the Spartans.
After a sluggish start for the Nebraska defense, Sean Fisher and the Huskers managed to slow Montee Ball and Wisconsin on Saturday night.
Best game: The last game of the day was the best in the Big Ten on Saturday. Nebraska rallied from a 27-10 second-half deficit to nip Wisconsin 30-27 in a comeback reminiscent of last year's win over Ohio State. The game featured all sorts of big plays in all three phases and huge momentum swings. And credit the Sea of Red for creating an amazing atmosphere under the lights at Memorial Stadium.
Biggest play:Braxton Miller's 63-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to Devin Smith. Michigan State had just seized momentum when Keith Mumphery carried would-be tacklers into the end zone for the Spartans' first lead of the game in the third quarter. But Ohio State, as it did all game, immediately answered with Miller's pass coming just 1:44 later. The Buckeyes caught Michigan State in a blitz, and Smith got a step on cornerback Johnny Adams. Miller placed the ball beautifully, hitting Smith perfectly in stride for what turned out to be the game-winning score.
Best call: New Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis has heard his share of criticism this early season with the Hawkeyes' struggles. But Davis pulled out a brilliant call in the first half of Iowa's 31-13 beatdown of Minnesota. With the Gophers stacked at the line of scrimmage to try to stop the tank that is Mark Weisman, Davis dialed up a flea flicker. Weisman faked a run, tossed the ball back to James Vandenberg, and Vandenberg hit a wide-open Jordan Cotton for a 47-yard touchdown that made the score 17-0. "We've been practicing that since the spring," head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Just part of the offensive package that Greg's installed. It's all about the timing. Like every play, it's all about execution. Our guys really did a nice job on it."
Big Man on Campus (Offense): Northwestern's Kain Colter is technically a quarterback, but he's more like a Swiss army knife. He led the Wildcats in receiving in the 44-29 win over Indiana with nine catches for 131 yards and also paced them in rushing with 161 yards on only 14 carries. He also scored four touchdowns to power Northwestern's 704-yard offensive effort.
Big Man on Campus (Defense): Penn State's Michael Mauti wasn't happy about Illinois' poaching attempts this summer, and he did something about it Saturday. The senior had two interceptions to go along with six tackles and half a sack. He set a school record with a 99-yard interception return to end the first half, coming up just short of what would have been a highly poetic touchdown.
Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Nebraska's Brett Maher made three field goals, including the tying and go-ahead kicks, and his only miss against Wisconsin came on a 52-yarder. He also averaged 46.7 yards on three punts. Special teams special shoutout to Indiana freshman Tevin Coleman, who returned a kickoff 96 yards for a third-quarter touchdown to keep his team in the game.
Worst hangover: Lot to choose from here, but how about Minnesota? The Gophers were feeling awfully good about themselves after a 4-0 start and had a chance to deliver a knockout punch to a reeling Iowa team in the Big Ten opener. Instead, the Hawkeyes battered and fried Minnesota in the Floyd of Rosedale game, leading 24-0 at halftime and physically manhandling Jerry Kill's team. If the Gophers can't come close to beating Iowa, how are they going to win many Big Ten games? Get well soon, MarQueis Gray.
Strangest moment: And we thought the NFL replacement refs were painful. Somehow in Purdue's 51-41 win over Marshall, Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday got knocked down by an official while one of his players, Derek Mitchell, was scoring a touchdown on a blocked punt. Holliday had a big cut on his cheek, was bleeding on the sideline and said after the game he wasn't sure what happened. "I ran into a big official, or he was bigger than I was, anyway," Holliday told reporters. Making matters worse, Marshall got a delay of game penalty on the collision. The original Doc Holliday probably would have challenged someone to a duel over such an indiscretion.