Monday, September 19, 2011
Weekend rewind: Big Ten
By Brian Bennett
Let's use our third eye to look back on Week 3 in the Big Ten (and hope that third eye is not blind):
Iowa's Micah Hyde, 18, celebrates with Broderick Binns, 91, after intercepting a pass during the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh.
Team of the week: Illinois. Ron Zook is back, and so are the Illini. After beating a ranked team -- Arizona State -- for the first time since it upset No. 1 Ohio State in 2007, Illinois finds itself back in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2008. What was most impressive about Saturday's effort was the defense led the charge, showing this team is more than just a high-powered offense.
Best game: Iowa's 31-27 win against Pittsburgh. I'm a sucker for comebacks, and this was the largest comeback in Hawkeyes history. They trailed 24-3 late in the third quarter, and people were already writing this season's obituary. One frenzied fourth quarter (and a typical Pitt meltdown) later, and Iowa is suddenly feeling much better about itself.
Biggest play: Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti made a terrific, diving interception at the Temple 44-yard line with his team trailing 10-7 in the fourth quarter. His takeaway set up the Nittany Lions' winning score. Speaking of which ...
Best call: Joe Paterno's decision to go for it at 4th and 1 from the Temple 3-yard line. Perhaps this was an easy call (even from the press box) because Penn State has been so bad on field goals this year. But if the plan didn't work, the Nittany Lions could have suffered a historic defeat that would have raised the criticism level of the coaching staff considerably. Instead, Brandon Beachum powered ahead two yards for the first down, leading to the winning touchdown on the next play.
Most questionable call: Mark Dantonio's decision to try a fake field goal at the Notre Dame 2-yard line late in the first half. After "Little Giants" last year, everyone in the stadium was on high alert for fakes, which raised the degree of difficulty of that play to ridiculous heights and led, predictably, to its demise. Michigan State probably wasn't going to win this game anyway. But if the Spartans kick the field goal there, they cut the lead to 21-13 while getting the ball to start the second half, putting a little more pressure on a desperate Irish team. Of course, if the fake had worked, everyone would be praising Dantonio as a riverboat gambler with magic up his sleeves. That's coaching for you.
Big Man on Campus (Offense): Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg. For the second straight week, this honor goes to a guy who struggled for most of three quarters before leading a huge comeback. Vandenberg scored on a 1-yard run late in the third quarter to cut the Pitt lead to 24-10. Then he led three touchdown drives in the final 10 minutes, throwing for each score. He finished with a career-high 399 passing yards.
Big Man on Campus (Defense): Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown. The Illini dialed up a heavy blitz scheme against Arizona State, and Brown helped lead the charge by moving all over the field. The sophomore had seven tackles, including 3.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks. He caused an interception by hitting Sun Devils quarterback Brock Osweiler as he threw, and later Brown grabbed his own interception to stop a promising Arizona State drive.
Big Man on Campus (Special teams):Duane Bennett, Minnesota. Normally the Gophers starting running back, Bennett made his biggest contribution on special teams this week. He blocked a Miami of Ohio punt and returned it for a touchdown to give his team a 29-16 lead. That proved the difference in Minnesota's first win of the season.
Worst hangover: Plenty of people wake up feeling bad after a night in Miami, but maybe not quite like Ohio State felt Sunday morning. The Buckeyes were thoroughly exposed in their 24-6 shellacking against the Hurricanes, and their feeble offense looked like some sort of pre-World War II design. Any outside hopes of a national title are gone, and serious changes will be needed for this team to compete against the best in the Big Ten.
Strangest stat: Indiana committed 20 penalties for 176 yards on Saturday and still won (thank goodness for South Carolina State). Eleven of the 20 penalties were false starts, and on two occasions the Hoosiers committed false starts on back-to-back snaps. Remember, they were playing at home, not in a deafening road environment. Kevin Wilson wants his team to play fast, but head starts still aren't allowed.