Big Ten: Alex Twine

Weekend rewind: Big Ten

November, 3, 2014
Nov 3
The Big Ten slate wasn't filled with all that much excitement this past weekend -- with one notable exception.

Four conference games were decided by three touchdowns or more, but the renewal of the Maryland-Penn State rivalry almost made up for the humdrum afternoon. Heck, memorable moments in that game started even before the opening kickoff, from a brief pregame scuffle to the no-handshake coin toss seen around the country.

The other four B1G games were all basically over by halftime, and the average margin of victory was 32.8 points. That made for plenty of individual standout performances, and it also made Maryland’s 20-19 win stick out a bit more.

On to the Week 10 rewind:

[+] EnlargeBrad Craddock
Rich Barnes/USA TODAY SportsThe clutch kicking of Brad Craddock, No. 15, helped give Maryland its first win over Penn State in 53 years.
Team of the week: Maryland. Apologies to Iowa, but the Terps made history Saturday -- so that takes precedence over a dominating win against an inconsistent team. Maryland had never won in Beaver Stadium and hadn’t beaten Penn State since 1961. Before this past Saturday’s contest, PSU even held the 35-1-1 series advantage. Maryland’s defense ended up finishing with nine stops in the backfield, and kicker Brad Craddock nailed a game-winning 43-yard field goal with under a minute left. Said head coach Randy Edsall: “You don’t know what this means to our program.”

Biggest play: The team of the week might not have earned that honor if it wasn’t for a key fumble recovery Saturday afternoon. In the fourth quarter, immediately following a Terps field goal, Penn State freshman Grant Haley fumbled on the ensuing kick return after a nice hit by linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. Alex Twine recovered the ball, and Maryland scored a touchdown four plays later to take a 17-16 lead. That play set the stage for the game-winning kick later in the final quarter.

Big Man on Campus (offense): Wisconsin RB Corey Clement. Step aside, Melvin Gordon, it’s time for another Wisconsin back to bask in the spotlight. Gordon did just fine against Rutgers, to the tune of 128 yards and two TDs -- but Clement did even better. The No. 2 running back finished with 131 rushing yards and two scores, and his rushing average was markedly higher than his Heisman hopeful teammate. Clement averaged 9.4 yards a carry; Gordon averaged 6.7 yards a carry. The pair once again carried their team to a win, but Clement’s production inched out Gordon’s this time around.

Big Man on Campus (defense): Iowa S John Lowdermilk. He was all over the field Saturday and finished with a dozen tackles, a pass breakup and a forced fumble. Iowa allowed just 74 passing yards -- the eighth-lowest total during the Kirk Ferentz era -- and he was terrific in run support, too, as the Wildcats wound up with 2.4 yards per carry. There were plenty of good defensive performances for Iowa, but Lowdermilk set the tone.

Big Man on Campus (special teams): Maryland kicker Brad Craddock. He hasn’t missed a kick all season, and he nailed a game-winning, 43-yard field goal with 51 seconds left against Penn State. Does anything else really need to be said? Craddock was clutch at the most important time, so it's difficult to argue anyone else is more deserving. He was 2-of-2 on field goals. Penn State's Sam Ficken likely would've taken Craddock's spot here had the game ended differently.

Biggest face plant: Northwestern. If there was a “Most inconsistent team” trophy, the Wildcats would win that season award, too. Trevor Siemian finished with his worst game yet -- posting a QBR of 3.3 (on a scale of 100) -- as the Wildcats faced a 31-point halftime deficit, their biggest halftime deficit in four years. After surprising wins against Penn State and Wisconsin earlier in the season, it looked as if Northwestern would rebound its way to a bowl game. But after dropping its third straight, the Cats are down for the count.

Facts and numbers to know: Iowa RB Akrum Wadley recorded his first carry Saturday and also finished with 100-plus rushing yards, the first time that’s happened to a Hawkeye since Brandon Wegher in 2009. … Ohio State tied its own Big Ten record with 20 straight Big Ten regular-season wins; previous record was Ohio State’s run in 2005-2007. … OSU has outscored opponents 189-39 in the first half this season. … Nebraska blocked two punts against Purdue, the first time it’s done that since Oct. 25, 2003, when it played Iowa State. … Wisconsin is bowl eligible now for the 13th straight season, the longest streak in the conference. … Wisconsin shut out Rutgers, 37-0, its first shutout on the road since a 31-0 win over Iowa on Oct. 24, 1998. … For the first time in 128 seasons, Penn State played in an overtime game and a one-point game in consecutive contests.
We're taking snapshots of each position group with each Big Ten team entering the spring. Up next: the linebackers.

Illinois: The Illini lose an All-Big Ten player in Jonathan Brown but still have decent overall depth at linebacker. Mason Monheim started every game at middle linebacker in 2013, and Mike Svetina started all but one game at the star position. Both players return as juniors. Svetina will move into Brown's spot on the weak side, while the other position could be filled by T.J. Neal, who recorded 38 tackles last season. Ralph Cooper has logged significant reps as a reserve, and Eric Finney gives Illinois some flexibility after playing the star position (safety/outside linebacker).

Indiana: This becomes a more significant position under coordinator Brian Knorr, who plans to use a 3-4 alignment. Indiana should have enough depth to make the transition as it returns two full-time starters from 2013 -- David Cooper and T.J. Simmons -- as well as two part-time starters in Forisse Hardin and Clyde Newton, who started the final four games of his freshman season. Like Simmons and Newton, Marcus Oliver played a lot as a freshman and provides some depth. The key here will be converting all the experience into sharper, more consistent play.

Iowa: If you're of the mindset that Iowa always reloads at linebacker, you can rest easy this spring. If not, keep a very close eye on what happens as the Hawkeyes begin replacing one of the more productive linebacker groups in team history: James Morris, Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens. There are high hopes for sophomore Reggie Spearman, who played in 10 games as a freshman last fall. Spearman, junior Travis Perry and senior Quinton Alston enter the spring as the front-runners to take over the top spots. The biggest challenge could be building depth behind them with Cole Fisher and others.

Maryland: The good news is the Terrapins return three productive starters from 2013 in Cole Farrand, L.A. Goree and Matt Robinson, who combined for 233 tackles, including 19 for loss. The bad news is Maryland loses its top playmaker at the position in Marcus Whitfield, who recorded nine sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss last season. But the overall picture is favorable, and the depth should be strong when Alex Twine and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil return from their injuries. Young players such as Abner Logan (37 tackles in 2013) will push for more time.

Michigan: There are a lot of familiar faces in new positions as Michigan not only has shuffled the roles of its defensive assistant coaches, but also its top linebackers. Standout Jake Ryan moves from strong-side linebacker to the middle, while junior James Ross III moves from the weak side to the strong side and Desmond Morgan shifts from the middle to the weak side. Joe Bolden, who had 54 tackles last season, can play both outside and inside, and players such as Ben Gedeon, Royce Jenkins-Stone and Allen Gant add depth. The talent is there for a big year if the position switches pan out.

Michigan State: It won't be easy to replace the Big Ten's top linebacker tandem in Max Bullough and Denicos Allen, not to mention Rose Bowl hero Kyler Elsworth, but Michigan State has some promising options. Ed Davis appears ready to step in for Allen after recording four sacks as a sophomore. Junior Darien Harris and two redshirt freshmen, Shane Jones and Jon Reschke, will compete at middle linebacker. Returning starter Taiwan Jones is back at the star position, and Mylan Hicks should be in the rotation. Depth is a bit of a question mark here entering the spring.

Minnesota: The Gophers lose key pieces in all three areas of the defense, and linebacker is no exception as two starters (Aaron Hill and James Manuel) depart. Minnesota will lean on Damien Wilson, who started in 12 games at middle linebacker in his first season with the Gophers and recorded 78 tackles. Junior De'Vondre Campbell seems ready to claim a starting spot after backing up Manuel last season. There will be plenty of competition at the strong-side linebacker spot, as Nick Rallis, De'Niro Laster and others are in the mix. Jack Lynn is backing up Wilson at middle linebacker but could work his way into a starting spot on the outside with a good spring.

Nebraska: Optimism is building for the Blackshirts in 2014, thanks in large part to the returning linebackers. The three players who finished last season as the starters -- David Santos, Michael Rose and Zaire Anderson -- all are back, as Rose will lead the way in the middle. Josh Banderas and Nathan Gerry also have starting experience and return for 2014. If younger players such as Marcus Newby develop this spring, Nebraska could have the Big Ten's deepest group of linebackers, a dramatic departure from the Huskers' first few years in the conference. Good things are happening here.

Northwestern: The top two playmakers return here in Chi Chi Ariguzo and Collin Ellis, who combined for seven interceptions and 11.5 tackles for loss in 2014. Northwestern's challenge is replacing the leadership Damien Proby provided in the middle. Ellis has shifted from the strong side to the middle, and Northwestern has moved safety Jimmy Hall from safety to strong-side linebacker. Drew Smith and Hall will compete for the third starting spot throughout the offseason. Sophomores Jaylen Prater and Joseph Jones should provide some depth.

Ohio State: Coach Urban Meyer has made it clear that Ohio State needs more from the linebackers, so it's a huge offseason for this crew, which loses superstar Ryan Shazier. The Buckeyes return starters at the outside spots in Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry, although competition will continue throughout the spring and summer. Redshirt freshman Darron Lee surprisingly opened spring practice Tuesday working with Grant and Perry on the first-team defense. Camren Williams appeared in all 13 games as a reserve and will be part of the rotation, along with Trey Johnson. Meyer said last month that the incoming linebacker recruits won't redshirt, which means an opportunity for mid-year enrollee Raekwon McMillan.

Penn State: Linebacker U is looking for more bodies at the position after struggling with depth issues throughout 2013. The Lions lose leading tackler Glenn Carson but bring back two players, Mike Hull and Nyeem Wartman, who started most of the season. The new coaching staff is counting on Hull to become a star as a senior. Brandon Bell, who appeared in nine games and recorded 24 tackles as a freshman, will compete for a starting spot along with Gary Wooten. Penn State hopes Ben Kline can stay healthy as he provides some experience, and incoming freshman Troy Reeder could enter the rotation right away.

Purdue: Expect plenty of competition here as Purdue loses leading tackler Will Lucas and must get more consistent play from the group. Joe Gilliam started for most of the 2013 season and should occupy a top spot this fall. Sean Robinson also brings experience to the field, and Ryan Russell could fill more of a hybrid linebacker/defensive end role this season. Redshirt freshman Danny Ezechukwu is an intriguing prospect to watch this spring as he aims for a bigger role. Ezechukwu is just one of several younger players, including decorated incoming recruit Gelen Robinson, who have opportunities to make a splash.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights return a good deal of production here with Steve Longa and Kevin Snyder, who combined for 219 tackles, including 15 tackles for loss and five sacks. Quentin Gause also is back after racking up 53 tackles (8.5 for loss) in a mostly reserve role last season. Gause likely will claim the starting strong-side linebacker spot as Jamal Merrell departs. The starting spots are seemingly set, so Rutgers will look to build depth with Davon Jacobs, who had 30 tackles as a reserve last season, and L.J. Liston, both sophomores.

Wisconsin: Do-it-all linebacker Chris Borland is gone, along with Ethan Armstrong and Conor O'Neill, so Wisconsin must replace three of its top four tacklers from 2013. Derek Landisch and Joe Schobert can be penciled in as starters, along with Michael Caputo, who played mostly safety last season but should slide into one of the outside spots. Marcus Trotter brings experience to the rotation. The spotlight will be on younger linebackers such as Vince Biegel, who had 25 tackles last season, as well as dynamic sophomore Leon Jacobs and Alec James, a decorated recruit who redshirted in 2013.



Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12