Snap Reactions: Signs of life in 4 wins

Earlier, BTN.com’s Tom Dienhart analyzed the first round of games. Now he tells us what he saw during the four afternoon Big Ten victories. Find every video highlight we got right over here. The afternoon wins: Iowa 27, Northern Iowa 16, Michigan 63, UMass 13, Northwestern 22, Boston College 13, Penn State 34, Navy 7.

Northwestern 22, Boston College 13
1. The Wildcats defense may be legit. Last week against Vanderbilt, the Wildcats allowed 318 yards. And only 101 of those came on the ground. This week vs. Boston College, NU allowed 316 yards with only 25 coming on the ground on 21 totes. Did this Northwestern team really give up 596 yards at Syracuse in the opener?

2. While the defense has picked up the pace, the Northwestern offense looked sluggish for a second week in a row. Vs. Vandy, the Wildcats had 324 yards, scoring two touchdowns with three field goals. Against Boston College, Northwestern kicked five fields and had 560 yards of offense with just one touchdown.

3. This may be Pat Fitzgerald’s best Northwestern team. Really. The Wildcats figure to move to 4-0 after playing host to South Dakota next week. The defense is playing well—and the offense has some nice playmakers. Could this team really make a run at the Legends Division title?

Michigan 63, UMass 13
1. Michigan remains a bit too one-dimensional on offense, still depending too much on Denard Robinson, who had 397 yards of offense and accounted for four touchdowns. The running game led by Fitz Toussaint needs to get into more of a rhythm to take pressure off Robinson, the closest thing to a one-man gang in the nation. Devin Gardner continues to emerge as a legit wideout, which is a good sign.

2. That’s two wins in a row for Michigan, which earned a gutty victory over Air Force the week before. So, the Wolverines take a two-game winning skein into a huge game at Notre Dame next Saturday.

3. The rush defense has come under scrutiny, ranking 11th in the Big Ten entering today (261.0 ypg). But the unit was able to boost its confidence today with a strong effort against an overmatched UMass team that is in its first FBS season.

Penn State 34, Navy 7
1. The Nittany Lions are alive. I wasn’t sure how Penn State could continue to summon grit and effort after two gut-wrenching losses. But the players and staff showed today they will fight each week in getting Bill O’Brien’s first win in State College to end a four-game losing streak dating to last year.

2. After two spotty efforts on offense, the Penn State attack showed life in notching 34 points and 341 yards. The team scored a combined 30 points in its first two games. The Nittany Lions did most of their damage through the air with 231 yards, as Matt McGloin hit 13-of-21 passes for four touchdowns.

3. Allen Robinson looks like he’s emerging as the go-to wideout and star offensive player. On this day, Robinson caught five passes for 136 yards and three touchdowns. The search for a playmaker at running back continues, as Bill Belton and Derek Day are beat up. So, on this day fullback Michael Zordich led the team in rushing. Hey, it worked on this day, it worked.

Iowa 27, Northern Iowa 16
1. The offense has a pulse! After scoring one touchdown in the first two games, the Hawkeyes exploded for THREE! Iowa entered the game averaging a Big Ten-low 12 points per game. So, 27 points was a virtual avalanche. The Hawkeyes needed a lift coming off an ugly 9-6 home loss to Iowa State last week. And they delivered vs. a pesky FCS Northern Iowa team. This should help restore the confidence of the Iowa program.

2. The hex at running back looks like it won’t go away. Damon Bullock and Greg Garmon both went down. No problem. Sophomore Mark Weisman—Mark Weisman?–ran 24 times for 113 yards and three touchdowns.

3. The Iowa passing game had struggled mightily the first two games, averaging 182.5 yards. But today, James Vandenberg hit 18-of-28 passes for 228 yards. Alas, he still doesn’t have a touchdown pass on the season. Wideout Kevonte Martin-Manley looked good in nabbing five passes for 101 yards, averaging 20.2 yards, for an attack that needs playmakers on the edge.

BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.

Find out more about: , , , ,

1 Comment

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (1 Comment)
John on 9/15/2012 @ 9:41pm EST Said:

Northwestern is for real. If their defense continues to play good, they are serious contenders in the Legends.