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Thoughts On Wisconsin’s Win Over Rival Minnesota

Corey Clement had two fourth quarter touchdowns to help propel the Wisconsin Badgers to a 31-17 win over rival Minnesota. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images North America)
Corey Clement had two fourth quarter touchdowns to help propel the Wisconsin Badgers to a 31-17 win over rival Minnesota. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images North America)

Thoughts On Wisconsin’s Win Over Rival Minnesota

The Wisconsin Badgers needed a huge second half rally to defeat their rivals Minnesota 31-17. The Badgers came into the game knowing they had already clinched the Big Ten West with Nebraska’s loss against Iowa on Friday. The win keeps Paul Bunyan’s Axe in Madison for the 13th straight year and was the 20th win in the last 22 meetings between the teams. The series is now tied at 59-59-8.

There were some good things from the Badgers (second half) and some bad things (first half). We will look at both the good and bad below.

1. Tale of two halves – The first half was terrible for the Badgers. Minnesota ran roughshod over Wisconsin’s defense while Mitch Leidner was able to do whatever he pleased. The offense was moved the ball during the first 30 minutes, but were plagued by drops. Jazz Peavy, Robert Wheelwright, Troy Fumagalli, and George Rushing all had pissed hit off their hands and fall incomplete. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook was knocked out of the game late in the second quarter after a big hit on the sideline The special teams even got in the act by giving up a big return that led to a touchdown. It seemed like the Badgers were letting their Playoff hopes disappear, but they trailed just 17-7 at the break.


Then came the second half that put the Badgers back on track. The defense had four interceptions (with three of those leading to short fields for the offense), Corey Clement had 2 rushing touchdowns, the team looked way better, and Andrew Endicott even made a field goal (albeit barely inside the upright). They responded to their deficit with incredible resolve.

For the game, Minnesota had 286 yards on offense (158 passing and 128 rushing). The Gophers went 3 of 14 on third down, had those 4 turnovers, and finished with 3.4 yards per carry.

2. The defense showed issues in the pass game – This sounds ironic considering the defense had 4 interceptions and the fact Mitch Leidner had only 9 completions. However, there were some problems especially in the first half.

The secondary had issues against Purdue last week with receivers getting behind them. Well, that was an issue again this week in the first half. Luckily for the Badgers, the passes were dropped including one in the end zone by Drew Wolitarsky. The Gophers had 226 yards of offense in the first half with 115 of those coming in the air. Yes, the Badgers made the necessary adjustments, but they will be facing a more potent passing attack in Penn State next week that averages 251 yards per game passing.

Another first half performance like that from the Badgers and they may not be so lucky to be down just 10 at halftime.

3. Alex Hornibrook’s healthAlex Hornibrook took a big hit on the sideline late in the first half and his head hit the ground hard, which led to him going back to the locker room. He did not return after that and now the most important question is will he miss any more time and if so, how much? Hornibrook’s health comes first and foremost and Bart Houston can lead the offense if Hornibrook has to miss the Big Ten Championship.

It is hard to gauge the impact of Hornibrook missing time. The offense is run based and has been on a tear the last seven games averaging 230 yards per game on the ground. Both quarterbacks have been effective when they played. The downside to missing Hornibrook is Penn State potentially has to only focus on one quarterback instead of two.

4. Different ways to get the run game going – It goes without saying that the run game is key for Wisconsin. The Badgers are finding different ways to help the rushing attack. Last week it was screens (technically a pass, but it is really an extension of the run game) to Dare Ogunbowale, but those were not seen very much against Minnesota. Instead, it was end-arounds for Jazz Peavy (3 rushes for 83 yards) including a 71 yard run that set up Clement for his second touchdown. Peavy has been extremely effective (and efficient) this season in the run game with 180 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries (12.9 yards per carry average).

What will it be next week? Straight power runs from Corey Clement? Bradrick Shaw with his speed and power? More fullback dives from Alec Ingold and Austin Ramesh? Will it be back to the screen game with Ogunbowale? Or will Paul Chryst just keep going back to the well with Peavy on the end around? It may end up being a full combination of all those and then some.

The Badgers (10-2 overall and 7-2 in the Big Ten) will play next week in the Big Ten Championship game against Penn State. This will be the fourth time since the inception of the Big Ten’s Championship game that the Badgers will be in it. They previously defeated Michigan State 42-39 in 2011 and Nebraska 70-31 in 2012. They lost 59-0 to Ohio State in 2014. The game will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana with a kickoff of 8 PM Eastern time.

Below are previous columns providing thoughts on each Wisconsin game this season.

Wisconsin versus LSU

Wisconsin versus Akron

Wisconsin versus Georgia State

Wisconsin versus Michigan State

Wisconsin versus Michigan

Wisconsin versus Ohio State

Wisconsin versus Iowa

Wisconsin versus Nebraska

Wisconsin versus Northwestern

Wisconsin versus Illinois

Wisconsin versus Purdue

Thoughts On Wisconsin’s Win Over The Purdue Boilermakers

Bradrick Shaw had 2 touchdowns against Purdue including this 33 yarder. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)
Bradrick Shaw had 2 touchdowns against Purdue including this 33 yarder in Wisconsin’s win. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)

Thoughts On Wisconsin’s Win Over The Purdue Boilermakers

On a chilly and blustery day in West Lafayette, Indiana the Wisconsin Badgers were able to crush Purdue 49-20 after a slow start to the game. There were a lot of good things for the Badgers, but there are also some things to work on. We will take a look at both the good and bad.

1. Badgers start very slow – Wisconsin was sluggish in the first quarter and there could be many reasons for it. Was it confidence against an overmatched opponent? The weather? The offense going into the wind to start the game? The early start for this road game? It was most likely a combination, but the offense (and T.J. Watt’s pick six) sparked the team to life in the second quarter. It should be noted that the offense was against the wind in the first quarter and played with it in the second quarter.

2. Pass defense was good and bad – There were times the defense was great against the pass and that was from linebackers T.J. Watt (see Tweet below) and T.J. Edwards. The bad was from the actual secondary when they were burned multiple times by DeAngelo Yancey including on a 75 yard touchdown late in the second quarter. Leo Musso made a nice interception at the end of the second quarter as the Badgers recorded three first half interceptions.

Not sure if TJ Watt or JJ Watt pic.twitter.com/iKWyYId4aq

3. Both sides fed off each other – After the slow start, the offense got going in the second quarter with Dare Ogunbowale on screen passes. That led to a touchdown and the subsequent pick six by Watt. The Badgers offense scored another touchdown on their next drive and the defense got another deflected interception by Edwards. Both sides were trying to match one another in big plays and that led to 35 second quarter points. The defense has usually been the catalyst for the team in 2016, but this game showed the offense has the ability prop up the defense. That may be needed next week against Minnesota and potentially in the Big Ten Championship Game in two weeks.

4. Quarterbacks were quietly effective – There was little doubt the run game would be used extensively with the blustery weather, but both quarterbacks had solid games even though the stats are far from overwhelming. Bart Houston went 5 of 6 for 102 yards and a touchdown while Alex Hornibrook went 7 of 9 for 89 yards and a touchdown. Neither player played poorly and were smart with their throws. Having a very good run game and playing Purdue sure helped, but this could see their confidence increase going into the final two (or 3) games.

5. Unsung players get the glory – Fullback Alec Ingold had two touchdowns against Purdue with one on the ground and one through the air. Coming into the game he had only one touchdown. It was much deserved for a guy who does blocking for Corey Clement, Dare Ogunbowale, and Bradrick Shaw. Speaking of Shaw, he had 2 touchdown runs and he had acres of space on those as well. Shaw finished with 68 yards on 8 carries.

6. Rough start to each half for Special Teams – The trouble started on the opening kick for the Badgers as they fumbled the kickoff, but were able to recover. Later in the first quarter, Anthony Lotti had a wobbly and short 29 yard punt. These were probably caused by the very windy weather (especially in the face of the wind), but that is how games can be lost.

The second half began the similarly as the Badgers were called offside on the opening kick and then Jazz Peavy fumbled his first punt return of the third quarter and Purdue recovered. As both halves went on the Badgers were able to clean up the mistakes, but these are the type of mistakes that can cost the team a game.

The Badgers are now 9-2 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten. They will play Minnesota next week at home in the regular season finale. Their path to the Big Ten Championship is simple: beat Minnesota and they are in.

Below are previous columns providing thoughts on each Wisconsin game this season.

Wisconsin versus LSU

Wisconsin versus Akron

Wisconsin versus Georgia State

Wisconsin versus Michigan State

Wisconsin versus Michigan

Wisconsin versus Ohio State

Wisconsin versus Iowa

Wisconsin versus Nebraska

Wisconsin versus Northwestern

Wisconsin versus Illinois

Wisconsin Badgers Report Card Through Five Games

T.J. Watt and the Wisconsin defense have been as good as advertised through five games. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America)
T.J. Watt and the Wisconsin defense have been as good as advertised through five games. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America)

Wisconsin Badgers Report Card Through Five Games

The Wisconsin Badgers may be on a bye during week six, but that just means we can review their season up to this point. Consider it a de facto mid-season review through five games. We will give a grade to each unit on the team as well as an overall team grade and a grade for head coach Paul Chryst. Let’s start with a quick glance at what the Badgers have done so far.

Wisconsin Results

Week 1 (9/3) – Defeated #5 LSU 16-14 (Green Bay)

Week 2 (9/10) – Defeated Akron 54-10 (Home)

Week 3 (9/17) – Defeated Georgia State 23-17 (Home)

Week 4 (9/24) – Defeated Michigan State 30-6 (Away)

Week 5 (10/1) – Lost to Michigan 14-7 (Away)

Head Coach Paul Chryst

Paul Chryst is only 18 games into his Wisconsin career and he stands at an 14-4 record. In 2016, the most noticeable attribute for Chryst is the willingness to take a chance and stick with it. He will roll the dice on fourth down as noted by his six attempts on fourth down. Of those, five of them were in opponent’s territory with an average placement of the opponent’s 18 yard line for those five attempts.

Then there was switch at quarterback. With the offense struggling against Georgia State in the third game of the season, Chryst pulled Bart Houston in favor of freshman Alex Hornibrook. The move paid immediate dividends as the offense perked up versus Georgia State and he looked solid against Michigan State. Hornibrook struggled against Michigan as did the offense, which is part of larger struggles that will be touched on below. The running game is not up to par by Wisconsin’s standards, which does hurt his grade.

 Chryst also made the right choice to hire Justin Wilcox as defensive coordinator to replace Dave Aranda, who left for LSU. The defense has not missed much of a beat, if any, despite an injury to star linebacker Vince Biegel.

Grade: B+

Quarterbacks

As noted above, Bart Houston started the season at quarterback, but was removed during the second half against Georgia State. Alex Hornibrook came in to spark the offense and then played a solid game against Michigan State. He looked more like a freshman against Michigan, but that was a top tier defense he faced.

After watching these two play, it is clear the offense has been better under Hornibrook. Houston’s game against Georgia State was poor, but it was also a perfect mix of things he cannot control coming together: Corey Clement did not play while Taiwan Deal and Troy Fumagalli both were injured during that game. In addition, there is still the chance Houston could come back in if Hornibrook struggles.

No matter what happens at quarterback, both have to play better. They will need to be smarter with their passes, not forcing passes, and not getting frustrated. That will come with in-game reps so improvement will be something to look for in the final half of the season. The quarterback position has also been hurt by the poor running game the Badgers have displayed. A good running game can open up the passing lanes.

Grade: C-

Running Backs

Corey Clement was looking to have a big 2016 season after an injury ravaged 2015 campaign.  His first two games were really good against LSU (21 carries for 86 yards and a touchdown) and Akron (21 for 111 yards and 2 touchdowns). It was against Akron that he injured his ankle late in the first half and subsequently missed the Georgia State contest. Against the Michigans, Clement amassed 40 carries for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns (both against Michigan State). It is hard to know exactly how much that ankle injury affected Clement against the Spartans and Wolverines, but his year has been above average.

Behind Clement are the duo of Dare Ogunbowale and Taiwan Deal. Ogunbowale has been the better of the two both visually on the field and on the stat sheet with 44 carries for 185 yards and a touchdown (also has a receiving touchdown). Deal has been hampered by injuries and only played in the opening three games (20 carries for 94 yards).

The surprise of this year has been freshman Bradrick Shaw despite playing in only two games. Shaw played in garbage time against Akron, but was impressive with 9 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown. He played a bigger role against Georgia State due to the injuries, but fumbled on the goal line in the first half. He finished with 62 yards on 15 carries in that game. He could be a force in the future if the injuries continue and if he avoids injuries of his own.

The running game has affected for several reasons: injuries, quarterback play, and opposing defenses. The injuries were documented above, but are not limited to just the running backs as they offensive line has been shuffled around as well. While the quarterback play has not been the best that may have to do with opposing defenses keying on stopping the run and putting the game in hands of Houston and Hornibrook. Despite that, the running back group has been decent.

Grade: B

Wide Receivers

This group was not expected to set the College Football world on fire this year with a new quarterback and some losses of their own to handle. The receivers have shown potential this year and some flashes of being a good group. Jazz Peavy has made some good plays (see an example below) and is the leading receiver with 17 catches for 281 yards and two scores. He also gets in on the rushing game with the sweep to the tune of 54 yards on only 4 carries.

Robert Wheelwright has 18 catches for 274 yards while Troy Fumagalli has 16 catches for 181 yards. Both of them have been vital to Houston and Hornibrook as they transitioned at the quarterback position. It has been mainly those three leading the receiving group, but George Rushing (8 catches for 82 yards) has also seen a lot of action.

The development of receivers outside of those four will be important as there are not a lot of other proven options. Tight end Kyle Penniston (3 catches for 35 yards and a touchdown) and fullback Alec Ingold (4 catches for 21 yards and a touchdown) have made the most of their very limited action. If the injury bug strikes, that could wreak havoc on this group.

Grade: B-

Offensive Line

The offensive line was expected to be better this year, but that has not been the case. Injuries have caused some shuffling to happen along with breaking in new quarterbacks. The Badgers are known for their run game, but it has not been that great since Chryst took over. Wisconsin averaged 3.8 yards per carry in 2015 and through five games this year have also averaged 3.8 yards per carry.

The five games in 2016 have produced the following yards per carry averages: 3.2, 5.3, 3.8, 3.0, and 2.5. The lowest total in the previous 6 years before Chryst (2009 through 2014) was 4.6 so there is still plenty of upside.

The pass blocking has been decent this year giving up 8 sacks. That does not tell the whole tale because there have been times when the Houston and Hornibrook have loads of time to find the best pass or open man. Overall, this is a work in progress like the rest of the offense.

Grade: C+

Overall Offensive Grade

The offense has been subpar this year even when taking in all the factors. The quarterbacks are inexperienced, but have the potential to be solid. The running backs have been banged up, the receivers have been okay, and the offensive line has not been very Badger-like in the run game.

Grade: C+

Defensive Line/Linebackers

No need to sugarcoat this because the front seven has been great. They give up only 12.2 points per game and just 90.4 yards rushing per game to the opponent. 2015 finished with averages of 13.7 points per game and 95 yards rushing allowed per game.

The defense has recorded 15 sacks so far with T.J. Watt leading the team at 5.5 (29 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss) and Alec James has three. Jack Cichy has been a beast at linebacker (35 tackles and 3.5 tackles-for-loss) along with Vince Biegel, who is currently injured. T.J. Edwards has been huge in the last three games with 26 tackles over those contests.

The front seven has easily been the strength for the Badgers in 2016. The only worry is on the injury front especially if it starts happening to more big time players like Biegel.

Grade: A+

Defensive Backs

The secondary was considered the weak link of the defense coming into the season and there have been some issues. Their worst outing was against Georgia State when slants and in routes were torching the Badger secondary. The team improved against Michigan State and also against Michigan on those kinds of plays.

The secondary is giving up 201 yards per game, which is worse than 2015 when they gave up 173 yards per game. Since the front seven is doing so well against the run, teams have little choice but to pass. In addition, when the Badgers’ opponents are trailing, they are going to pass more to get back in the game, which will also hurt the pass defense numbers.

Derrick Tindal leads the team with 3 interceptions and is also tied for the lead in pass breakups. He is tied with Sojourn Shelton who has been very good at his cornerback spot this year. Leo Musso (23 tackles and an interception) has come up with some big plays this year as well at safety (see the fumble return for a touchdown against Michigan State). The back four has not been without injury as Natrell Jamerson was injured with Lubern Figaro filling in. Also, Tindal had a recent surgery and while he is not expected to miss time, any injury or surgery is a concern.

Grade: A-

Overall Defensive Grade

The defense has been the strength of the team and they have helped the Badgers reach their 4-1 record. They will be the key the rest of the way as well and they deserve any accolades they get through five games.

Grade: A

Special Teams Grade

The Badgers lost kicker Rafael Gaglianone to a back injury and that hurts them. He is a reliable kicker (10 for 10 on extra points and 7 for 8 on field goals with a long of 48 yards). He will be replaced by Andrew Endicott, who was shaky against Michigan State with a missed extra point, but hit his other three kicks (1 field goal and three extra points). This will be worth watching for the final part of the season.

The punting game is still unsettled as both Anthony Lotti (37.5 average) and P.J. Rosowski (38.8 average) have seen action at that position. They will need to improve for the Badgers.

The return game has been held in check with no touchdowns and limited return yardage. Jazz Peavy has 7 punt returns for an average of 5.7 yards per return while the kickoff return is led by Dare Ogunbowale (22 yard average on 6 kick returns).  This group will have to improve as well, but they have the playmakers to make this unit dangerous.

Grade: B

Overall Team Grade

Prior to the start of the season, Wisconsin faced a daunting schedule with LSU and then again at the beginning of the Big Ten slate. That did not change as the season went from week to week. LSU was a tough out, but the Badgers won. The same goes for Michigan State, but the Badgers won more convincingly. Then came the Michigan game when the Badgers lost by a touchdown to a Michigan team that had dominated them in every facet, but the score.

To start 4-1 is considered a very good based on what what expected of their opponents at the start of the season. That still has not changed even if LSU fired their coach and Michigan State has not been their best. The tough part is still not over as the Badgers as they face Ohio State, Iowa, and Nebraska to close out October.

The defense has been very good this year allowing 12.2 points per game and helping the offense gain some momentum. The offense has not been in peak form with something always seeming to need work from week to week.  However, the overall team performance has been impressive.

Grade: B+

Wisconsin Schedule

Below is the schedule for the Badgers for the rest of the year as well as the results of the first five games.

Week 1 (9/3) – Defeated #5 LSU 16-14 (Green Bay)

Week 2 (9/10) – Defeated Akron 54-10 (Home)

Week 3 (9/17) – Defeated Georgia State 23-17 (Home)

Week 4 (9/24) – Defeated Michigan State 30-6 (Away)

Week 5 (10/1) – Lost to Michigan 14-7 (Away)

Week 6 (10/8) – Bye

Week 7 (10/15) – Ohio State (Home)

Week 8 (10/22) – Iowa (Away)

Week 9 (10/29) – Nebraska (Home)

Week 10 (11/5) – Northwestern (Away)

Week 11 (11/12) – Illinois (Home)

Week 12 (11/19) – Purdue (Away)

Week 13 (11/26) – Minnesota (Home)

2015 Week 8 Big Ten Roundup

JT Barrett was named starter earlier this week and the Ohio State offense looked great under his guidance. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images North America)
JT Barrett was named starter earlier this week and the Ohio State offense looked great under his guidance. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images North America)

2015 Week 8 Big Ten Roundup

There were five Big Ten Conference games in Week 8 with Michigan, Iowa, Purdue, and Minnesota all on a bye week. Below is a look at each game.

Northwestern Wildcats at Nebraska Cornhuskers

Result: Northwestern Win 30-28 (Saturday, October 24)

Northwestern’s offense came to life against Nebraska, but their defense continued to struggle. Meanwhile, Nebraska lost another close game to drop them to 3-5 on the year.

Clayton Thorson went 13 of 28 for 177 yards and a touchdown, but it was his legs that led the Wildcats in the first half. He had two big runs to propel him to 126 yards and a touchdown on 9 carries. Justin Jackson struggled in the first half and finished the game running for 40 yards on 14 carries. Jackson made his presence felt in the passing game with 2 catches for 55 yards. Dan Vitale also had a nice game with 5 catches for 55 yards and a touchdown.

The offense had 333 yards total and went 5 of 13 on third down. Nick VanHoose had a 72 yard interception returned for a touchdown midway through the second quarter to give Northwestern a 14-5 lead, but the defense had their issues in the second half giving up 16 points.

Tommy Armstrong had an inaccurate game going 24 of 49 for 291 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for two touchdowns while Terrell Newby led the team with 52 yards on 16 carries. Jordan Westerkamp had 5 catches for 92 yards while Brandon Reilly caught 4 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. The Huskers finished with 373 yards of offense and were 9 of 20 on third down. They also held the ball for almost 39 minutes compared to 21 for Northwestern.

Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) has reached bowl eligibility for the first time since 2012. They face Penn State on November 7 after a bye next week.

Nebraska (3-5, 1-3) has lost their 5 games by a combined 13 points. They will face Purdue next week on the road.

Wisconsin Badgers at Illinois Fighting Illini

Result: Wisconsin Win 24-13 (Saturday, October 24)

Wisconsin put together a solid offensive performance despite losing quarterback Joel Stave very early in the game.

Stave went 3 of 7 for 49 yards, but was knocked out due to a head injury. He was replaced by Bart Houston, who did well at times, but also made some poor throws. Houston went 22 of 33 for 232 yards with 2 touchdowns, but also threw two picks. Those two interceptions were thrown in the end zone taking the chance for more points away. The offense finished 9 of 16 on third down, but racked up 419 yards.

Alex Erickson, normally the leading receiver, led the team in rushing with 81 yards on 4 carries. Dare Ogunbowale had 16 carries for 42 yards while Alec Ingold had the lone rushing touchdown to go along with 26 yards on the ground. Erickson did lead the team in receiving as well with 10 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. He was a big target for Houston to move the chains with Ogunbowale catching 5 passes for 63 yards. Troy Fumagalli had 5 catches for 52 yards while Robert Wheelwright had 3 catches for 47 yards and a touchdown that was pure determination on his part.

Illinois was stymied at times on offense with Wes Lunt going 22 of 43 for 278 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Ke’Shawn Vaughn was the only player to record a carry with 13 attempts for 55 yards and a touchdown. Geronimo Allison had 8 catches for 99 yards while Malik Turner caught 4 passes for 80 yards. Illinois finished with 333 yards on offense, but managed just 3 of 12 on third down conversions and also went 0 for 2 on fourth down.

Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1) will go back home to face Rutgers next week with an uncertain situation at quarterback. Even if Stave cannot play, Houston looked capable of picking up the slack while the defense will probably be its usual stout self.

Illinois (4-3, 1-2) still sits two games from bowl eligibility and next week’s road contest at Penn State will not be easy.

Penn State Nittany Lions at Maryland Terrapins

Result: Penn State Win 31-30 (Saturday, October 24)

Penn State’s offense came to the rescue this week to secure a big 31-30 road win over Maryland.

Christian Hackenberg went only 13 of 29, but threw for 315 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. He found Chris Godwin 4 times for 135 yards and a touchdown while also hitting DaeSean Hamilton with 5 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. Saquon Barkley was not as effective this week with 65 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Penn State was an awful 3 for 12 on third down including a terrible third down throw in the final 90 seconds clinging to a one point lead. They finished with 363 yards of offense despite having the ball only 24 minutes.

Perry Hills went 19 of 28 for Maryland with 225 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions. He also had a nice game on the ground with 26 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown. He was giving the Penn State defense fits throughout the entire game. Levern Jacobs led the team with 5 catches for 93 yards and Malcolm Culmer had 3 catches for 65 yards. Maryland was barely better than Penn State on third down with a 4 of 13 tally. The Terps finished with 470 yards of offense, but will rue the fact they settled for 4 field goals (converted 3 of them) and had 5 turnovers that yielded a touchdown, but also caused them to miss out on potential points on three occasions.

Penn State (6-2, 3-1) takes on Illinois at home next week. Maryland (2-5, 0-3) faces a tough task next week on the road against Iowa, the leaders of the Big 10 West Division.

Indiana Hoosiers at #7 Michigan State Spartans

Result: Michigan State Win 52-26 (Saturday, October 24)

The final score of this game is far from indicative of how close this contest was until late in the fourth quarter. Indiana kept it close, but the Spartans pulled away late.

Nate Sudfeld went 23 of 37 for 308 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception. Jordan Howard returned to the lineup and went for 78 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Simmie Cobbs had 5 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown while Mitchell Paige had 8 catches for 99 yards. The offense put up 389 yards of offense and went 5 of 11 on third down.

Connor Cook nearly had a record day passing for the Spartans with 398 yards and 4 touchdowns on 30 of 52 passing. The running game was bolstered with the game in hand late. LJ Scott ran for 68 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries while Gerald Holmes had 10 rushes for 39 yards and a touchdown. Aaron Burbridge finished with 8 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown, R.J. Shelton had 6 catches for 76 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Macgarrett Kings had 7 receptions for 69 yards. The Spartans were dominant on offense with 570 yards, holding the ball for 39 minutes, and 13 of 20 on third down.

Indiana (4-4, 0-4) still need two wins to reach bowl eligibility after losing four games in a row. They have a bye next week before taking on Iowa at home on November 7.

Michigan State (8-0, 4-0) also have a bye next week and face Nebraska on the road November 7.

#1 Ohio State Buckeyes at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Result: Ohio State Win 49-7 (Saturday, October 24)

Ohio State looked well oiled on offense with JT Barrett behind center as they crushed Rutgers on the road.

Barrett finished the game going 14 of 18 for 223 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns on 13 carries. Ezekiel Elliott ran for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns on 19 carries while Michael Thomas had 5 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown receiving. Braxton Miller had 2 catches for 55 yards, as the offense racked up 528 yards. They went 5 of 10 on third down and 2 of 3 on fourth down.

Rutgers struggled for much of the night with Chris Laviano going 10 of 20 for 117 yards and an interception. Hayden Rettig went 3 of 7 for 72 yards and a touchdown in garbage time to give Rutgers their only points. Paul James ran for 56 yards on 10 carries while Robert Martin had 6 rushes for 43 yards. Carlton Agudosi had 2 catches for 76 yards and Leonte Carroo had 3 grabs for 55 yards.

Rutgers finished the game with 293 yards of offense and went 5 of 15 on third down. They managed just 12 first downs for the game.

Ohio State (8-0, 4-0) have a bye next week before a home date against Minnesota on November 7. Rutgers (3-4, 1-3) will travel to face Wisconsin next week.

Check back next Sunday for a recap of the ninth week of Big Ten action.

2015 Week 7 Big Ten Roundup

Michigan State celebrates after their improbable win against Michigan. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America))
Michigan State celebrates after their improbable win against Michigan. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America))

2015 Week 7 Big Ten Roundup

Week seven of the college football season saw six Big Ten Conference games. Sitting idle were the Maryland Terrapins and Illinois Fighting Illini.

#17 Iowa Hawkeyes at #20 Northwestern Wildcats

Result: Iowa Win 40-10 (Saturday, October 17)

Iowa put forth a dominant win over Northwestern on the road to put a virtual hammerlock on the Big Ten West Division midway through October. There was a loss in the form of running back Jordan Canzeri, but they did just fine with his replacements.

Iowa raced out to a 16-0 lead before a 10-0 run by the Wildcats made it 16-10 at the half. It was all Iowa after that with the final 24 points. C.J. Beathard had a pedestrian game with 15 of 25 passing for 176 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, but this was all about Iowa’s rushing attack.

Canzeri went down early with an injury and was seen in a walking boot a short time later. Akrum Wadley stepped right in and made it seem like Canzeri never left. Wadley ran for 204 yards and 4 touchdowns on 26 carries. Derrick Mitchell Jr. had 79 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries as well. Iowa finished with 492 yards of offense and went 9 of 18 on third down. Matt VandeBerg had 8 catches for 78 yards.

Northwestern’s offense struggled once again. Clayton Thorson went 17 of 35 for 125 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also had 11 carries for just 10 yards. Even Justin Jackson was stymied with only 30 yards rushing on 10 carries. The Wildcats saw 10 different receivers catch a pass and six of them had at least two catches.

Northwestern had only 198 yards of total offense and went 8 of 19 on third down. For Iowa, Desmond King recorded his sixth interception this season and continues to be a one-man turnover machine.

Iowa (7-0, 3-0) will welcome the bye next weekend before a home game against Maryland on Halloween. Northwestern (5-2, 1-2) have lost back-to-back games and face a road test at Nebraska next week.

Purdue Boilermakers at Wisconsin Badgers

Result: Wisconsin Win 24-7 (Saturday, October 17)

Wisconsin waited until late in the third quarter to put some breathing space between them and Purdue in a lackluster performance by the offense.

Joel Stave went 30 of 39 for 322 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. His interception was an overthrown ball with a big return that eventually led to a touchdown for Purdue. The running game was handled by Dare Ogunbowale with Taiwan Deal out with an injury. Corey Clement was dressed for the game but did not play. Alec Ingold had 9 rushes for 19 yards, but had the first and last touchdowns of the game.

The passing game for Wisconsin was made up of mostly the short variety of passes. Alex Erickson had 9 catches for 86 yards while Robert Wheelwright had 6 catches for 61 yards. Dare Ogunbowlae also had 6 catches, but for 51 yards. The Badgers racked up 418 yards of offense and went 7 of 14 on third down.

Rafael Gaglianone missed a field goal late in the first half, which marks sixth game this year that he has missed a field goal. He is 10 for 17 on the season.

David Blough could not get any rhythm as he finished 15 of 26 for 136 yards. Markell Jones ran for 46 yards on 12 carries and D.J. Knox had 10 carries for 24 yards. Purdue had 191 yards of offense and went a paltry 4 of 13 on third down. The Boilermakers held the ball for only 22 minutes and 14 seconds during the game.

Purdue (1-6, 0-3) has a bye next week and will play at home against Nebraska on October 31. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) faces Illinois on the road next week. The Illini are coming off a bye.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Indiana Hoosiers

Result: Rutgers Win 55-52 (Saturday, October 17)

This game was about offense and only a touch of defense. It was also about Indiana blowing a 52-27 lead in final 18 minutes of the game.

As one can imagine with a 55-52 score line, the quarterbacks had pretty good games. Chris Laviano went 28 of 42 for 386 yards with 3 touchdowns and a pick. His top target was none other than Leonte Carroo who had another massive game. Carroo had 7 catches for 157 yards and 3 touchdowns, but left in the third quarter after an injury and did not return.

Robert Martin ran for 124 yards and 3 touchdowns on 17 carries while Paul James added 42 yards and a touchdown on 6 carries. Rutgers rushed for 210 yards as a team. Rutgers did pretty well on third down going 12 of 20 and amassed 596 yards of offense.

Indiana was glad to see Nate Sudfeld back and he had a big game going 32 of 42 for 464 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Jordan Howard was still out, but Devine Redding was able to rush for 99 yards and 2 touchdowns including a 66 yard touchdown run in the third quarter to make it 52-27.

Three different Hoosiers finished with at least 100 yards receiving. Mitchell Paige had 8 catches for 126 yards, Ricky Jones had 6 grabs for 119 yards and a touchdown, and Simmie Cobbs Jr. had 7 catches for 107 yards. Jordan Fuchs had just two catches for 9 yards, but both went for touchdowns.

Indiana had 627 yards of offense, but struggled on both third and fourth down. The Hoosiers went a combined 3 of 14 on those two downs.

After Redding’s touchdown run made it 52-27, a series of miscues allowed Rutgers to tie the game. A 26 yard fumble return by Kemoko Turay made it 52-39 while the two interceptions by Sudfeld were turned into touchdowns as well.

Rutgers (3-3, 1-2) faces Ohio State next week at home. Indiana (4-3, 0-3) saw one of their better opportunities for a win fade away in the final quarter and have to play Michigan State next week in East Lansing.

#7 Michigan State Spartans at #12 Michigan Wolverines

Result: Michigan State Win 27-23 (Saturday, October 17)

Of the craziest finishes to a college football game in history, this ranks up there near the top. The Spartans pulled off a shocking final play to win 27-23.

Connor Cook was not very accurate going 18 of 39, but threw for 328 yards with a touchdown. The rushing game for both teams was stuffed all game long. The Spartans finished with 58 yards on 33 carries with Gerald Holmes leading the team with 8 carries for 33 yards. LJ Scott had two touchdown rushes on 8 carries for 16 yards.

Aaron Burbridge had a big game with 9 catches for 132 yards. Macgarrett Kings had 3 catches for 57 yards and a touchdown, but also had a few big drops. The Spartans had 386 yards of total offense, went 3 of 12 on third down, and 0 for 4 on fourth down.

Michigan was led by a decent performance from Jake Rudock. He went 15 of 25 for 168 yards with no touchdowns, but did not commit a turnover. The rushing game did only slightly better than Michigan State with 33 rushes for 62 yards. De’Veon Smith led the team with 46 yards on 19 carries while Sione Houma had 3 rushes for 30 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Jehu Chesson had 4 catches for 58 yards and Amara Darboh had 3 catches for 52 yards. Michigan had only 230 yards of offense and converted 4 of 15 on third down.

There was just one turnover in the game and it came on the last play. A bobbled punt by Blake O’Neill was returned by Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson for the win in a truly incredible finish.

Michigan State (7-0, 3-0) faces Indiana next week at home. Michigan (5-2, 2-1) has a bye week and faces Minnesota on the road October 31.

Nebraska Cornhuskers at Minnesota Golden Gophers

Result: Nebraska Win 48-25 (Saturday, October 17)

Nebraska played a good game on offense and did not have to worry about another heartbreaking loss this week. In fact, it was the defense that made sure there would not be another late loss.

Tommy Armstrong went 18 of 26 for 261 yards with 3 touchdowns while also rushing for 38 yards. Terrell Newby had a nice game on the ground with 116 yards and 2 touchdowns on 13 carries. Alonzo Moore had 4 catches for 84 yards and a score while Jordan Westerkamp made 6 grabs for 76 yards. Nebraska had 464 yards of offense and went 7 of 13 on third down.

With under three minutes to play, Minnesota was mounting one last challenge down 16 points before a 41 yard pick six by Joshua Kalu. Just to be safe, Nate Gerry intercepted Minnesota on the next drive to truly end the game.

Minnesota got a rare big game passing from Mitch Leidner. He went 26 of 40 for 301 yards with a touchdown and the two aforementioned picks. The rushing game was held in check with only 65 yards on 26 carries. Shannon Brooks had 25 yards, KJ Maye had 21 yards and a touchdown, and Rodney Smith had 20 yards.

Maye also had 11 catches for 94 yards while Eric Carter caught 4 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. Minnesota had 366 of offense and went 6 of 15 on third down.

Nebraska (3-4, 1-2) faces Northwestern next week at home. Minnesota (4-3, 1-2) will play Michigan on October 31 after a bye next week.

Penn State Nittany Lions at #1 Ohio State Buckeyes

Result: Ohio State Win 38-10 (Saturday, October 17)

It was a slow start for the Ohio State offense, but a 21 point stretch on three straight touchdown drives gave them more than enough points.

Cardale Jones had poor numbers going 9 of 15 for only 84 yards and was substituted in or near the red zone by J.T. Barrett. Barrett went 4 for 4 with 30 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air, but was most effective with his legs. He ran for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns on 11 carries and really helped spark the offense.

Ezekiel Elliott had his usual good game with 153 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Braxton Miller had some rushes finishing with 4 carries for 30 yards. Miller lead the team with 4 catches and was second with 33 yards along with a touchdown catch. Michael Thomas had 3 catches for 34 yards and a touchdown as well. The offense had 429 yards while going 5 of 11 on third down.

Penn State had a rough time passing the ball with Christian Hackenberg going 7 of 13 for 120 yards and a touchdown. Penn State had success on the ground thanks to Saquon Barkley’s 194 yards on 26 carries. Chris Godwin had 3 catches for 103 yards and a big 56 yarder. Penn State had 315 yards of offense, but struggled mightily on third down with only 1 conversion on 12 attempts.

Penn State (5-2, 2-1) will face Maryland next week at home looking to secure bowl eligibility. Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) will travel to play Rutgers next weekend.

Check back next Sunday for the Week 8 edition of the Big Ten Roundup.

2015 Week 6 Big Ten Roundup

Michigan continues to trend up in the Big Ten with their third straight shut out. (Leon Halip/Getty Images North America)
Michigan continues to trend up in the Big Ten with their third straight shut out. (Leon Halip/Getty Images North America)

2015 Week 6 Big Ten Roundup

The sixth week of the college football team saw all 14 Big Ten teams playing in conference clashes. Some teams performed well while others did not. Let’s take a look at each game.

Maryland Terrapins at #1 Ohio State Buckeyes

Result: Ohio State Win 49-28 (Saturday, October 10)

Ohio State may be the top ranked team, but they have not played like the team was saw last year.

Cardale Jones started the game, but J.T. Barrett saw plenty of action as well. The offense had a pretty good performance overall with almost 500 yards, but the defense gave up 21 points to a previously hapless Maryland offense.

Jones went 21 of 28 for 291 yards and 2 touchdowns while Barrett had 3 rushing touchdowns along with 62 yards rushing on 12 carries. Ezekiel Elliott was held in check compared to last week, but still finished with 106 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Michael Thomas had 7 catches for 107 yards while Braxton Miller was electric again with 5 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.

For Maryland, they opted to go with Perry Hills and it appears to have paid early dividends even if they still lost by 3 touchdowns. They key here is the offense found something that was not there previously. Hills was a terrible 10 of 27 for 133 yards with a touchdown and 2 interceptions, but was a menace running the ball. He had 25 carries for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns to give the Buckeyes fits.

Ohio State gave up 386 total yards and allowed 6 of 16 on third and fourth down conversions. They struggled early against a team that also had their coach relieved earlier this week. It is a troubling pattern for a team that is ranked number one.

Maryland (2-4, 0-2) has a bye next week before facing Penn State at home on October 24. Ohio State (6-0, 2-0) will get Penn State next week at home.

Illinois Fighting Illini at #22 Iowa Hawkeyes

Result: Iowa Win 29-20 (Saturday, October 10)

Iowa’s offense looked better at home one week after struggling on the road at Wisconsin. This week was against Illinois.

C.J. Beathard went a paltry 15 of 31 through the air, but had 200 yards and 2 touchdowns in a secondary performance to the running back. Jordan Canzeri ran wild for Iowa on offense with 256 yards and a touchdown on 43 carries. Jerminic Smith had a big game with 4 catches for 118 yards including a few nice grabs. The offense had 478 yards of total offense with no turnovers.

One of the only knocks on the offense was they ended up settling for 3 field goals with all three converted by Marshall Koehn. Koehn did miss an extra point early in the game that nearly had consequences late in the fourth quarter, but was good outside of that miss. Another knock was that they converted just 4 of 16 third downs.

Illinois seemed to have trouble finding consistency in the first half with only 7 points that came on their second drive. Part of the issue may have been due to the absence of Josh Ferguson, who missed the game due to a shoulder injury. Illinois’ touchdown drive went for 67 yards while their other six drives totaled 49 yards combined.

The second half was better for Illinois with some up-tempo offense. Wes Lunt looked better throwing the ball and he combined with Geronimo Allison for several big plays. Lunt finished 25 of 42 for 317 yards and a touchdown while Allison caught 8 passes for 148 yards and a score. Ke’Shawn Vaughn had 67 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

Illinois will need to be better on defense as noted by the 256 rushing yards allowed to Canzeri. They will also need to force more turnovers to give their offense a chance to build a lead.

Illinois (4-2, 1-1) has a bye next week and will face Wisconsin at home on October 24. Iowa (6-0, 2-0) play Northwestern on the road next week with a chance to put a hammerlock on the Big Ten West division with a win.

Indiana Hoosiers at Penn State Nittany Lions

Result: Penn State Win 29-7 (Saturday, October 10)

Indiana struggled on offense this week while Penn State was decent on offense and very good on defense to lead them to yet another win.

Zander Diamont got the start with Nate Sudfeld out. He suffered an injury of his own in the third quarter and was replaced by Danny Cameron. Diamont led Indiana to a touchdown early, but the offense did not do much after that. Diamont finished the game going 9 of 17 for 90 yards passing as well as 11 rushes for 38 yards and a touchdown.

Cameron was 6 of 16 with 65 yards and an interception. Devine Redding had 13 carries for 32 yards with Jordan Howard not playing. It was not pretty for Indiana outside their touchdown drive. For the game, Indiana went 3 of 16 on third down and finished with 234 yards of total offense.

Penn State did not have any issues on offense as Christian Hackenberg went 21 of 39 for 262 yards and 2 touchdowns. On top of that, he also had 9 rushes for 21 yards and 2 touchdowns thanks to two short runs near the Indiana goal line.

The Nittany Lions continued to be without their top two rushers. Nick Scott got 8 carries for 57 yards while Mark Allen also had 8 carries and 45 yards. Penn State had 420 yards of total offense and held a nearly 36-24 minute lead in time of possession.

Penn State’s defense was led by Carl Nassib, who had two forced fumbles and two sacks. The entire defense had a very good game and continue to look good.

Indiana (4-2, 0-2) will face Rutgers at home hoping to see Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard play. Penn State (5-1, 2-0) have a big test on the road at the Horseshoe against Ohio State.

#13 Northwestern Wildcats at #18 Michigan Wolverines

Result: Michigan Win 38-0 (Saturday, October 10)

Michigan continued their incredible defensive streak by posting a third straight shut out. All phases of the game got in on the act as well.

Jake Rudock had a quiet, but efficient game going 17 of 23 for 179 yards. De’Veon Smith had 8 carries for 59 yards while Derrick Green had 47 yards and a touchdown on 12 rushes. The offense finished with 380 yards of offense and went 7 of 14 on third downs. Northwestern had only allowed 35 points in the first five games prior to this contest.

The Michigan defense was superb. Justin Jackson had only 25 yards on 12 carries. Clayton Thorson went 13 of 27 for 106 yards with an interception. Northwestern totaled 168 yards of offense and went a putrid 2 of 13 on third downs. A lot of that is due to the Michigan defense, which got a pick six from Jourdan Lewis, who ripped the ball out of the receiver’s arms and sprinted down the sideline for a 37 yard return.

Michigan’s special teams started the day with a 96 yard kickoff return by Jehu Chesson and it was all Wolverines after that.

Northwestern (5-1, 1-1) faces Iowa next week at home in a massive Big Ten West game. Michigan will take on Michigan State at home next week in a huge game of their own.

Wisconsin Badgers at Nebraska Cornhuskers

Result: Wisconsin Win 23-21 (Saturday, October 10)

Stop if you have heard this one before: Nebraska lost a heartbreaker. It was their fourth loss of the season, all in close fashion.

Wisconsin had a tough time getting their running game involved early on. It was not until the fourth quarter when the Badgers were able to run the ball. Dare Ogunbowale finished with 18 carries for 117 yards while Taiwan Deal managed just 4 carries for 8 yards and left early due to an ankle injury. Alec Ingold was the third string running back and finished with 14 yards and a touchdown on 8 carries.

Joel Stave went to the air quite a bit due to the poor rushing attack. He went 24 of 50 for 322 yards with a touchdown. He found two of his favorite targets in Alex Erickson (7 catches for 113 yards) and Robert Wheelwright (5 catches for 81 yards). With Austin Traylor out at tight end, Troy Fumagalli stepped up to finish with 6 catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. The offense struggled on third down again going just 5 of 16, but racked up 469 yards of offense.

Nebraska ha issues moving the ball at times against Wisconsin. Tommy Armstrong went 11 of 28 for 129 yards and a touchdown through the air, but was dangerous running the ball with 50 yards and a touchdown on 8 carries. Andy Janovich and Terrell Newby both had 59 yards rushing while Janovich had a nice 55 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to give the Huskers a slim lead. Nebraska had 325 yards of offense and went 8 of 18 on third downs.

The defenses were both solid for much of the game. In the fourth quarter, the offenses came to life to provide an excellent game. Wisconsin was lucky to get the win thanks to Rafael Gaglianone, but he went 3 of 5. Nebraska kicker Drew Brown missed his only field goal attempt in another play that could be looked back on as a what if moment.

Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1) faces Purdue at home next weekend. Nebraska (2-4, 0-2) has another tough game with Minnesota next week on the road.

Minnesota Golden Gophers at Purdue Boilermakers

Result: Minnesota Win 41-13 (Saturday, October 10)

A potentially dangerous game for Minnesota turned into a rout with a big 28 point third quarter for the Gophers.

Minnesota’s passing game was hardly featured, but it was not needed often. Mitch Leidner went 8 for 12 for 59 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. Brandon Lingen caught both of those touchdowns and had 3 catches for 22 yards total. Shannon Brooks had a great game rushing with 176 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries while Rodney Smith had 52 yards on 13 carries. The Gophers ran for 326 yards and 2 touchdowns on 48 carries as a team.

Purdue struggled on offense. David Blough went 21 of 49 for 207 with a touchdown, but also threw 3 interceptions. D.J. Knox had 13 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown with Purdue managing just 275 yards of total offense. One of the interceptions was returned for a touchdown by Minnesota’s Jalen Myrick. Purdue went 3 of 17 on third down and the turnovers hurt them immensely.

Minnesota (4-2, 1-1) faces Nebraska next week at home. Purdue (1-5, 0-2) has the tough task of going into Madison and playing Wisconsin next weekend.

#4 Michigan State Spartans at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Result: Michigan State Win 31-24 (Saturday, October 10)

Michigan State was able to escape their road game at Rutgers thanks to a blunder by the Scarlet Knights on a night that featured both quarterbacks.

Connor Cook had a good game going 23 of 38 for 357 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. His top target once again was Aaron Burbridge, who had 9 catches for 146 yards. The Spartans struggled to run the ball at times with LJ Scott led the team with 9 carries for 42 yards and 2 scores.

Michigan State seemed as if they had no trouble converting on third down and they finished 11 of 17 on that important down. Rutgers was led by Chris Laviano going 15 of 24 for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns, but most importantly did not throw an interception. Leonte Carroo had his second three touchdown receiving game of the year with 7 catches for 134 yards and 3 scores. Paul James had only 2 carries, but that was good enough for 74 yards thanks to his long 72 yard run. Robert Martin had 61 yards on 13 carries as well.

Rutgers was the opposite going 3 of 12 on third down and 2 of 3 on fourth down. Neither defense played terribly, but neither was outstanding. Laviano spiked the ball with seconds remaining on fourth down after a sack, which caused Rutgers to lose. It was fourth and 20 at midfield so the chances were not great, but it became zero with the spike.

Michigan State (6-0, 2-0) will face in-state arch-rival Michigan on the road next week. Rutgers (2-3, 0-2) plays Indiana on the road next weekend.

Check back next Sunday for the Week 7 edition of the Big Ten Round Up.