Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, October 26, 2014
An interesting Saturday that included one upset (Illinois over Minnesota) and one near upset (Ohio State needed two overtimes to subdue Penn State).
Here?s my Week 9 wrap.
Biggest surprise: Illinois. The Fighting Illini got a much-needed win, taking a 28-24 decision vs. Minnesota. It was Illinois? first Big Ten win of 2014, ending a three-game losing skid behind the play of an inspired defense and QB Reilly O?Toole. Bowl hopes, believe it or not, remain alive in Champaign.
Biggest disappointment: Minnesota. The 6-2 Golden Gophers were rolling, winners of four in a row and off to a 3-0 start in the Big Ten with dreams of the West Division title. But Minnesota blew a flat at Illinois, losing 28-24. And the toughest part of the Gophers? schedule is coming up: Iowa; Ohio State; at Nebraska; at Wisconsin. Could this team end up 6-6?
Play this again: Ohio State?s trip to Penn State lacked a lot of explosive action on offense, but there was plenty of defense and drama. The Nittany Lions roared back from a 17-0 deficit to tie the game with a last-second field goal to force overtime. After the teams exchanged touchdowns in the first OT, OSU won it in the second extra session on Joey Bosa's walk-off sack. The Buckeyes pulled out a hard-fought 31-24 decision.
Never play this again: Wisconsin jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead on visiting Maryland and never looked back. The Badgers led 52-0 before the Terps scored in the last minute of the game to make it a 52-7 decision. This was never a contest.
Best play: There were several impressive highlights, but I really liked Wisconsin punter Drew Meyer's successful fake punt. Meyer took the snap and ran toward the line of scrimmage before delivering a jump pass to a wide open Troy Fumagalli.
Michigan State. The Spartans dominated Michigan, 35-11, making it six wins in the last seven meetings with the Wolverines. The Spartans have won six in a row since losing at Oregon, holding Michigan to 186 yards and forcing three turnovers. The Wolverines did score their first TD vs. the Spartans since 2011. MSU had a balanced attack with 227 yards rushing and 219 yards passing.
Wisconsin. Coming off a bye, the Badgers looked dominant in a 52-7 win vs. Maryland. In fact, Wisconsin bolted to a 52-0 lead before the Terps scored with 57 seconds left. The Badger defense welcomed back Warren Herring and Marcus Trotter from injury, as the unit dominated the Terps. Wisconsin has won two in a row with trips to Rutgers and Purdue on the horizon.
Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have won two in a row, coming off a dominating 42-24 win over Rutgers. A visit from Purdue is next. Nebraska is clicking on both sides of the ball and may have the Big Ten?s best player in RB Ameer Abdullah.
Minnesota. The Gophers committed three turnovers, missed a field goal and saw Illinois score a defensive touchdown to win the game. All of that torpedoed Minnesota in a 28-24 loss in Champaign. That ended a four-game winning skein for the Gophers, who are 6-2 and face four daunting games to end the season. A win would have made Minnesota 4-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1967.
Rutgers. That 5-1 start is fading fast as the schedule gets more difficult. The 5-3 Scarlet Knights have been outscored, 98-41, the last two games. And a visit from Wisconsin is next. To make matters worse, QB Gary Nova left the game with an injured knee. It?s not known how long he?ll be out.
Maryland. For the second time in three weeks, Maryland was blown away by a perennial Big Ten power. Two weeks after Ohio State drilled the Terps, 52-24, it was Wisconsin sending Randy Edsall's team to a 52-7 defeat. And no, neither game was closer than the score indicated.
WEEK 9 GRADES
Michigan State: A-
Ohio State: B
Penn State: B-
WEEK 9 TOP PERFORMANCES
Illinois QB Reilly O?Toole. He hit 14-of-21 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a team-high 59 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown to help the Illini end a four-game losing skid and win its first Big Ten home game since 2011.
Wisconsin QB Joel Stave. He looks to be over the ?yips,? hitting 9-of-15 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns vs. Maryland. The Badgers need Stave to give this offense the threat of the long ball, and Saturday's performance was a positive sign. Still, Gary Andersen said he plans to play Stave and Tanner McEvoy. Melvin Gordon was his typical self, too, rushing for 122 yards and three touchdowns.
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah. He was at his best on Saturday, setting a school single-game record for all-purpose yards with 341 in a 42-24 win vs. Rutgers. Abdullah ran for 225 yards and three TDs. He had 90 yards in returns (one was a 76-yarder) and 26 yards receiving.
Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford. He ran 35 times for a season-high 177 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-11 win over rival Michigan. Langford has rushed for over 100 yards in 11 straight Big Ten games, dating to last season. After a slow-ish start to the season, the Spartans star back is starting to find his groove.
Ohio State DE Joey Bosa. The star sophomore continued to terrorize Big Ten quarterbacks. On this night, Bosa tallied 2.5 sacks, which tied his career-high, including a highlight-reel sack on 4th down to clinch the game in double overtime. He also finished with six tackles.
Ohio State LB Joshua Perry. Perry racked up a career-high 18 tackles, the most by an Ohio State player this season, in the Buckeyes' double overtime victory at Penn State.
Also, it came in a losing effort, but I can't ignore Penn State LB Mike Hull's impressive night. The Big Ten's leading tackler was all over the field, once again, notching 19 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss, and an interception.
WEEK 9 TOP NUMBERS
2, Big Ten wins for Illinois? Tim Beckman. The victory vs. Minnesota was big, giving the Illini its first Big Ten win of the team and making Beckman 2-18 in conference action.
4, career return touchdowns for Illinois CB V?Angelo Bentley. He ran back a fumble 12 yards for the game-winning touchdown vs. Minnesota. He also has returned an interception, kickoff and punt for touchdowns in his career.
121, yards receiving for Wisconsin?s Alex Erickson on five grabs with a TD. That comes to 24.2 yards per catch.
311, rushing yards for Wisconsin. The Badgers finished with 527 yards overall. Conversely, Maryland had just 175 total yards with 46 coming on the ground. Melvin Gordon led the way for Wisconsin with 22 carries for 122 yards rushing and three TDs.
14, wins over Big Ten teams in a row for Michigan State. The Spartans are off next Saturday and then welcome Ohio State.
5, road winning streak for Maryland, which ended with the loss at Wisconsin.
127, receiving yards for Rutgers wideout Leonte Carroo on five catches vs. Nebraska. He also had a TD.
4, times Nebraska?s Ameer Abdullah has rushed for over 200 yards in a game this season. No one in the nation has done it more often. It was the fifth time Abdullah did it in his career.
118, rushing yards for Minnesota?s David Cobb, who also tallied two TDs. But he was bottled up the first three quarters with 34 yards on 16 carries. Cobb also fumbled in the fourth quarter, seeing it returned for the game-winning TD.
103, yards receiving with a TD for Michigan State?s Tony Lippett on just three catches vs. Michigan. He has eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark in four games in a row and six of eight this season with nine TD grabs.
14, catches for Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton that went for 126 yards.
98, points allowed the last two games by Rutgers, which lost 56-17 at Ohio State last week and 42-24 at Nebraska on Saturday.
|About Tom Dienhart||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.|
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