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Monday, October 10, 2011
Big Ten weekend rewind

By Brian Bennett

Those who do not study history are doomed ... to be confused by this post. Let's review Week 6 in the Big Ten.

Team of the week: Penn State. The Nittany Lions needed a confidence-building win, something to show us and themselves that they could be a legitimate contender in the Big Ten Leaders Division. They got that with a 13-3 victory against the thorn in their side, Iowa. The Nittany Lions' defense controlled the game from start to finish, and the offensive line had its best performance of the season. Penn State is 5-1, back in the coaches' poll and, with Purdue and Northwestern next, has a chance to get to 7-1.

Rex Burkhead
Nebraska's Rex Burkhead, center, celebrates his go-ahead TD against Ohio State with Quincy Enunwa.
Best game: Nebraska 34, Ohio State 27. So maybe this wasn't the clash of titans we thought it might be in the preseason, but the game still lived up to advance hype. The Cornhuskers completed the biggest comeback in school history by rallying from a 27-6 second-half deficit to add to Ohio State's misery. It was a season-saving type of game for Nebraska, which did not want to go into the bye week facing questions about an 0-2 start in Big Ten play.

Biggest play: Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David strip of Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller to ignite the team's comeback. The Cornhuskers went on to score 28 unanswered points, and Miller left the game a few plays later with an ankle injury. "That was a game-changing play," Huskers coach Bo Pelini said of David's forced fumble. "That was a huge play in the football game. He's been doing it since he got here."

Best call: After Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges ripped the ball free from Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg near midfield, the Nittany Lions' offensive coaches decided to get physical. They ran the ball 10 straight times, wearing out the already tired Hawkeyes front seven, before Matt McGloin hit tight end Kevin Haplea on a short play-action pass into the end zone. It was the only touchdown of the game.

Big Man on Campus (Offense): Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez. After a week of withering criticism, Martinez completed 16-of-22 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 102 yards and a score in the comeback win against Ohio State.

Big Man on Campus (Defense): Illinois cornerback Tavon Wilson. The senior had a team-high 11 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and a sack, and returned a fumble 66 yards to give the Illini a lead they would not relinquish against Indiana.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Nebraska's Brett Maher. The Huskers' punter/kicker drilled field goals from 50 and 34 yards and averaged 44.2 yards on four punts, putting two inside the 20-yard line.

Worst hangover: Ohio State. It was hard not to feel a little sorry for the Buckeyes at the end of the loss in Lincoln. Ohio State's coaches had a great game plan that was executed brilliantly for more than a half. But the injury to Miller short-circuited the offense, and it was painful watching Joe Bauserman repeatedly misfire on passes that had little chance. If Miller is out for significant time, that's only going to further damage this team's chances of getting things turned around. And with Illinois and Wisconsin up next, this has the potential to be one of the worst months in the program's recent history.

Strangest moment: Let me preface this by saying journalists are usually not math majors or close to it. Still, Illinois coach Ron Zook caused armchair quarterbacks everywhere to scratch their heads when he decided to go for the two-point conversion after an Illini touchdown gave them a 20-13 lead against Indiana. Since it came midway through the second quarter and a simple extra point would have put his team up eight, Zook's call went against every principle on a coach's two-point cheat sheet. Even odder was Zook's answer when asked about it.

‘‘We were down five, right?" he said. "Up five, I mean. It was 20-13? Up seven?

‘‘Maybe I didn’t know what the score was. That’s happened to me before. It’s usually when we’re behind. I have to go back and look at it. That will give you something to pound us about."

No pounding here, coach. Just maybe a little chuckle.