Saturday, December 3, 2011
1Q update: Both offenses clicking early on
By Adam Rittenberg
INDIANAPOLIS -- So much for the Big Ten championship game being a defense-driven contest.
Both offenses are moving the football very well so far tonight at Lucas Oil Stadium. A Michigan State turnover has allowed Wisconsin to take a 21-7 lead against the Spartans.
Some notes from the first quarter:
- Much like in East Lansing on Oct. 22, Wisconsin opened the game with an impressive touchdown drive. The Badgers marched 71 yards in nine plays behind Montee Ball's running, play-action passes and excellent blocking from the offensive line. They went 80 yards in 11 plays in the previous contest against Michigan State.
- Ball is making a major statement so far tonight that he deserves serious consideration for the Heisman Trophy and other national awards. The Badgers junior already has 105 rush yards and two touchdowns -- moving him three shy of Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record of 39 -- on 13 carries. Michigan State entered the game ranked 11th nationally in rush defense, allowing only 102.5 yards per game. It's about time Ball started to get noticed outside the Big Ten footprint.
- Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst is showing off his creativity so far. In addition to the steady diet of well-designed runs, Wisconsin set up its second touchdown on a halfback pass from Ball to quarterback Russell Wilson, who caught the ball in stride for a 32-yard gain. The Badgers have had Michigan State's defense off balance from the start.
- You have to like the way Michigan State came out to establish the run first. The Spartans ran five times on a six-play, 59-yard scoring drive and once again were effective running from the shotgun formation, which they featured often down the stretch. The power-speed combination of Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker seems to be clicking.
- Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins also looks sharp so far, completing his first three pass attempts.