NCF Nation: Zach Derby

Big Ten weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 3, 2012
9/03/12
10:00
AM ET
The first week is in the books. And that means it's time for our first weekend rewind of the season.

Team of the week: Michigan State. The Spartans' 17-13 win over Boise State wasn't a thing of beauty. They turned the ball over four times, committed way too many penalties and needed a late score to eke out a victory in a game they statistically dominated. But the bottom line is this: Michigan State beat a ranked nonconference team. No other Big Ten team can say that, and outside of possibly the Notre Dame games, no other league team will even get the chance to do so.

Game of the week: In a week when six of the 12 Big Ten games were decided by a touchdown or fewer, Northwestern's 42-41 win over Syracuse still stood out. The wild affair featured lots of big plays -- such as Venric Mark's 82-yard touchdown on a punt return, Chi Chi Ariguzo's 33-yard fumble return for a score and Ryan Nassib's 50-yard touchdown pass to Jeremiah Kobena on the final play of the third quarter. There were also enormous momentum swings, as the Wildcats went from up 35-13 to down 41-35 in a little more than a quarter. And of course, it had the great finish, as Northwestern drove for the winning touchdown with 44 seconds left when Trevor Siemian found Demetrius Fields from 9 yards out.

[+] EnlargeDemetrius Fields
AP Photo/Hans PenninkDemetrius Fields' fourth-quarter touchdown won the game for Northwestern
Best play: Le'Veon Bell's hurdle was jaw-dropping. But Ohio State receiver Devin Smith's one-handed touchdown catch against Miami nudges Bell out for the top. Smith not only jumped high in the air for the grab but never needed his other hand to secure the ball. We're guessing Urban Meyer found that to be competent.

Best call: Trailing Northern Illinois 17-12 late in the fourth quarter, Iowa faced a third-and-9 from the Huskies' 23. All game long, Northern Illinois had blitzed on third downs and flustered quarterback James Vandenberg. This time, the Hawkeyes went with a running play. NIU brought the pressure as expected, and Iowa got seal blocks from Zach Derby, Brandon Scherff and Matt Tobin. Running back Damon Bullock ran untouched into the end zone for the game-winning score.

“I told Coach after, 'That was just a brilliant call,'" Bullock told reporters. "I wasn’t even expecting it. It was third down and I was ready to pass-block."

Big Man on Campus (offense): It's a tie between Michigan State's Bell, who had a superhuman performance against Boise State with 265 total yards on 50 touches, and Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, who had a career day with 354 passing yards and five touchdowns. Both should be getting some Heisman attention after Week 1.

Big Man on Campus (defense): Minnesota safety Derrick Wells had two interceptions against UNLV, both of which set up field goals in the Gophers' 30-27 triple-overtime victory. Wells' second pick allowed Minnesota to kick the game winner in the third extra period. Honorable mention to Illinois' Michael Buchanan (a sack and an interception against Western Michigan) and Iowa's Joe Gaglione (three TFL's versus Northern Illinois).

Big Man on Campus (special teams): Northwestern's Mark averaged 67 yards on two punt returns and had that key touchdown. Special recognition to Iowa's Greg Castillo, who made a great play to down a punt on the 1-yard line and change field position late, and Purdue's Kawann Short, who blocked a field goal and an extra point against Eastern Kentucky.

Worst hangover: It's tough to choose between Penn State and Michigan. The Nittany Lions lost their opener to Ohio, adding to what has already been an extraordinarily difficult year. They could be looking at a long season with little letup in the schedule. As for the Wolverines, they were major underdogs against Alabama. But they were thoroughly clobbered in every aspect against the Crimson Tide, and Brady Hoke's pained facial expressions in the second half said it all. If injured starters Blake Countess and Taylor Lewan have to miss significant time, the Alabama loss could add to Michigan's hangover in a big way.

Strangest moment: We're not questioning Bill O'Brien's judgment, and he came to Penn State from the New England Patriots, an organization that knows something about moving players into unexpected roles. Still, it was awfully strange seeing All-Big Ten linebacker Gerald Hodges returning kicks and punts against Ohio. The 237-pounder looked awkward doing so and fumbled a punt return at his own 13 to set up a Bobcats field goal. That's not what cost Penn State the game, but it sure was a weird and totally surprising sight that we might not see again this season.

Iowa's A.J. Derby to transfer

January, 16, 2012
1/16/12
5:46
PM ET
More tough news for Iowa, as the team announced Monday that redshirt freshman A.J. Derby will transfer after asking for his release from his scholarship.

Derby, an Iowa City native, came to the Hawkeyes as a heralded quarterback recruit with terrific athleticism. He was one of Iowa's most decorated recruits and instantly became a fan favorite.

He redshirted the 2010 season and entered the 2011 campaign as a quarterback, completing 3 of 6 passes for 30 yards, before moving to linebacker in October. He entered the year as Iowa's No. 2 quarterback but moved to linebacker shortly after serving a two-game suspension following an arrest for fourth-degree criminal mischief and public intoxication.

Although he made the move to linebacker, he seemed to do so a bit reluctantly. Derby's next stop likely will provide him another chance to call signals on offense.
"I would like to thank the University of Iowa and football coaches for the opportunity," Derby said in a statement. "Unfortunately, I don't feel this is the best fit for me personally to reach my goals as a student-athlete. I especially wish my brother [Zach, a junior tight end for Iowa] the best of luck in the coming year. I will miss all of my teammates, family and friends who have supported me here. Good luck to everybody. Once a hawk, always a hawk."

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz wished Derby well, calling him "a pleasure to coach."

It would have been interesting to see where Derby's career would have gone at Iowa. The team seems fairly set at quarterback for the next few years, as starter James Vandenberg returns in 2012 and Jake Rudock, a heralded recruit, redshirted the 2011 season.

Without much of a chance to compete for snaps, Derby is likely best served to play elsewhere.

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