Monday, September 26, 2011
Weekend rewind: Big Ten
By Brian Bennett
Wake me when September ends. Oh, wait. September Big Ten football is already over. Let's review the last week of the first month of the season.
Team of the week: Michigan. The Wolverines take home this honor for the second time in three weeks, as their win over a motivated, previously unbeaten San Diego State team was probably the best of the week in the Big Ten. Michigan is 4-0 and will be heavily favored to make it 5-0 against Minnesota this week. Then the fun starts.
Best game: Honestly, Week 4 was mostly a yawner in the Big Ten. Illinois' 23-20 win over Western Michigan had some good moments, though. The Broncos threw the ball just about every down, tied it up in the fourth quarter and got the ball back with about a minute left with a chance to tie or take the lead. That provided the best drama of an off-off-Broadway kind of weekend.
Biggest play: Right after San Diego State failed to convert a fourth down in the fourth quarter, Michigan's Denard Robinson sprinted for a 30-yard gain. That set up Vincent Smith's touchdown to make it 28-7 and get the Wolverines out of harm's way. Robinson struggled again throwing the ball, but there's no one better at ripping off a big play at the right time.
Penn State QB Matthew McGloin has earned praise from coach Bill O'Brien during spring workouts.
Best call: Luke Fickell's mid-week decision to promote freshman Braxton Miller to starting quarterback. Ohio State needed a spark on offense, and while Miller completed only five passes against Colorado, he did throw two touchdowns and run for 83 yards. The Buckeyes probably could have beaten Colorado with Joe Bauserman, but Miller provides them some optimism.
Big Men on Campus (Offense): Denard Robinson and Matt McGloin. The two quarterbacks each had big days in different ways Saturday. Michigan's Robinson completed a standout September by rushing for 200 yards and three touchdowns in a win over San Diego State. He moved into second place on the Big Ten’s career rushing yards list by a quarterback with 2,605, second only to Indiana's Antwaan Randle El (3,895). McGloin didn't start but was terrific for Penn State against Eastern Michigan. He went 14-of-17 for 220 yards and three touchdowns after coming in during the second quarter. During his time at quarterback, the Nittany Lions increased their lead from 3-0 to 31-0.
Big Man on Campus (Defense): Iowa defensive lineman Tom Nardo. The senior had a career-high 12 tackles, including two for loss, as the Hawkeyes beat Louisiana-Monroe 45-17.
Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Illinois kicker Derek Dimke drilled all three of his field goal attempts, from 39, 35 and 21, including the game-winner as the Illini survived against Western Michigan. Dimke is a perfect 6-for-6 on the year.
Worst hangover: (Tie) Minnesota and Indiana. Both teams are 1-3 and have a lot more questions than answers at this point. The Gophers somehow have played their best football against USC and Miami (Ohio) while looking their worst against New Mexico State and North Dakota State. The Hoosiers committed the unforgivable sin of falling behind North Texas 24-0 before losing 24-21. These are two teams not anxiously awaiting Big Ten play, because they're going to have a hard time finding more wins.
Strangest play: With five seconds left in the first half, Minnesota set up a fourth-down heave from midfield. North Dakota State's Colten Heagle picked it off near the 18, was tackled around midfield and just tossed the ball out. Marcus Williams picked it up and raced the rest of the way untouched for a score and a 28-14 Bison lead. Williams, who scored twice on defense, is from the Twin Cities but was not recruited by Minnesota. That's the kind of year it's been for the Gophers.