Monday, November 5, 2012
Big Ten weekend rewind: Week 10
By Brian Bennett
Remember November (third).
Team of the week: They drive their fans crazy, but no one can doubt the heart and the will of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Again on the ropes in the fourth quarter this week, they rallied from a 10-point deficit at Michigan State and drove in for the winning score with six seconds to go when Taylor Martinez hit Jamal Turner for a 5-yard touchdown pass. Nebraska will be going to the Big Ten championship game if it can stay on the plus side of crazy for the next three weeks.
Game of the week: It has to be that 28-24 road victory for Nebraska. Some huge individual performances (among others: Martinez, Ameer Abdullah for Nebraska, Le'Veon Bell, Kurtis Drummond, Darqueze Dennard for Michigan State) were paired with wild momentum swings, key turnovers and loads upon loads of dumb and sometimes questionable penalties. More on the latter in a moment.
Drew Dileo caught a 45-yard touchdown strike from Devin Gardner, who filled in ably for the injued Denard Robinson.
Best play: Michigan looked to be in trouble early at Minnesota with Denard Robinson out and the offense not doing much of anything in the second quarter. But then fill-in quarterback Devin Gardner made something out of nothing, scrambling several seconds before finding a wide-open Drew Dileo in the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown. On a third-and-17, no less. "It was kind of my fault because I don't think I got in the right protection," Gardner told reporters. "Afterward, I just tried to do the best I could." His best was pretty good and seemed to infuse him and the entire offense with confidence the rest of the way, as the Wolverines went on to a 35-13 victory.
Biggest call: They will be debating the pass interference call against Michigan State's Dennard in the final minute for a long time in Lincoln, East Lansing and possibly even Ann Arbor and/or Evanston. It was third-and-10 from the Spartans' 20 when Dennard was called for interfering with Nebraska receiver Kenny Bell, setting the Huskers up on the 5-yard line with first-and-goal. Replays showed that Dennard had solid coverage, and it appeared that Bell hooked his arm. Michigan State players were furious with the call, and several tweeted diatribes against the officials before later deleting them.
The Spartans were also upset about a personal foul against Johnny Adams that wiped out what would have been an interception return for a touchdown earlier in the game. But complaining about the officials is little more than whining. Michigan State benefited from a questionable call earlier in the game when Nebraska's Daimion Stafford was called for a late hit out of bounds on Andrew Maxwell, which extended a drive and led to a touchdown. Bad calls even out, and the Spartans should blame themselves for letting the Huskers convert a fourth-and-10 earlier on the winning drive or not picking up a loose fumble earlier in the quarter. Mark Dantonio summed it up well with his postgame quote.
“Everybody’s trying to do the very best they can do out there,” he said. “I don’t think anybody’s out for Michigan State, I don’t think anyone’s out for Nebraska. It’s an instinctive game and it’s instinctive for officials too.”
Big Man on Campus (Offense): Indiana receiver Cody Latimer had a monster game against Iowa, hauling in seven catches for 113 yards and three touchdowns in the 24-21 win. His 30-yard score proved to be the game winner. Afterward, he said this: "We need to get some big wins to help us get to the bowl game we want, the Rose Bowl." And no one laughed.
Big Man on Campus (Defense): Penn State's Gerald Hodges was a force of nature in his team's 34-9 win at Purdue. The linebacker had eight tackles, including three for loss, and a pass breakup to help hold the Boilermakers to just 87 rushing yards.
Big Man on Campus (Special teams): There weren't many standout special-teams plays on Saturday, but how about some love for much-maligned Penn State kicker Sam Ficken? He made both of his field goal attempts (from 27 and 24 yards) and all four of his extra points. Maybe Bill O'Brien won't have to go for it on every fourth down now.
Worst hangover: Michigan State will have to stew over another close loss at home for two weeks. But how about Iowa? The Hawkeyes still technically controlled their own destiny in the Legends race before Saturday. They not only lost to Indiana but also got pushed around by the Hoosiers. That's three straight losses for Iowa, its longest losing streak since 2008. The 4-5 Hawkeyes will have to work hard just to get to a bowl game now. You get the feeling that Iowa fans are just ready for this season to end.
Strangest moment: Ohio Stadium went dark for about 20 minutes before the Buckeyes played Illinois. The video screens, ribbon boards and sound system all were without power. Luckily, the game clock came back on right before kickoff, and the video boards resumed early in the first quarter. I hope Ohio State got a warranty with that $7 million upgrade.