The B1G Week 13 Review saw Snow fall all over the States, and here in the UK too. Perfect weather for Big Ten football on rivalry weekend. This is why we love the Big Ten – hard hitting defenses, explosive offensive weapons, ridiculous rivalry-trophies and tight-fought battles across the conference. For many this was their last game of competitive football as they graduate from University and head for normality. This was a week for full-hearted, give everything you have kind of performances, and boy did we get some!
The sage was set for a classic encounter in The Game. #2 taking on #5 for the East title, a trip to Indy and a playoff place. These 2 programmes hate each other, it’s one of the most bitter rivalries in all of sport and Ann Arbor was ready for another chapter to be written.
The game started brilliantly for Michigan. They took the opening possession 75 yards for a touchdown as AJ Henning ran an end-around and strolled into the corner of the endzone behind his blockers. The Wolverine defense then forced Ohio State to go 3 & out, getting the ball back for their offense. Unfortunately their second possession wasn’t as fruitful. Cade McNamara took a shot and it didn’t pay off. Bryson Shaw picked him off and set up a Noah Ruggles field goal. The rest of the first half was cagey, and fairly even. Garrett Wilson caught a 25 yard touchdown and the Wolverines responded immediately with a Hassan Haskins TD run. Noah Ruggles added another field goal to make narrow the Wolverine lead to just 1 point at the break, 13-14.
A hotter start to the second
The second half started even better for Michigan than the first. The defense forced another 3 & out, giving the offense another chance to drive down the field. They obliged quickly thanks to a 55 yard run through the middle from Blake Corum. Corum was returning from injury and didn’t look 100% – if he had been fully healthy there was no catching him on that run. As it turned out, it didn’t matter much because Hassan Haskins cashed in on the very next snap for his second TD.
The good start to the half didn’t finish there – they forced another Buckeye punt and put together a quick score yet again. Haskins benefitting with a 1 yard touchdown run, up to 3 on the day now. Michigan now led 13-28 and looked absolutely unstoppable on offense. The Wolverines were able to do whatever they wanted in the run game, as their big boys dominated the line of scrimmage. Every time Ohio State got on the board – which they did with regularity from this point – Michigan weren’t phased. They knew that the Buckeyes couldn’t stop them, and Ohio State weren’t ever able to overcome the 2 score deficit. It felt very reminiscent of Ohio State’s loss to Oregon when you couldn’t trust the defense to stop anything.
Haskins runs the show
Michigan had 4 second half drives, and each one ended with a Haskins touchdown. The Wolverines controlled the entirety of the second half to finally end the drought against their biggest rivals. Haskins will take all the headlines as he ended the day with 5 touchdowns and 169 yards. The defense were also excellent – Aidan Hutchinson was absolutely balling and did his lofty draft stock no harm in the national spotlight.
It had been 3653 days since the last Michigan win in The Game, and Jim Harbaugh will be ecstatic and relieved to have his first win over the Buckeyes as a coach. He must be revelling in a sweet victory. This has been a great season, but it would all have been rendered a disaster with another loss to the Buckeyes. After somewhat surprisingly surviving the off-season, Harbaugh has given the Wolverines his best year yet. No matter what happens from here on out, Wolverines fans will count this as a brilliant season. But it’s not over, and Michigan have a chance to make history in the playoffs. Keep playing like this and they have a great shot!
Oh Nebraska! The Cornhuskers really know how to lose a close game, and on Friday night found a new way to throw away the Heroes Trophy.
Scott Frost’s team were in cruise control through the first half and most of the 3rd quarter. Logan Smothers had run in a TD on the first drive of the game and scored another in the 3rd to give Nebraska a 21-6 lead. Then it all unravelled.
After an Iowa field goal, the Cornhuskers were forced to punt from their 27 yard line. Joe Evans forced his way through to block the punt which Kyler Fisher returned for a special-teams touchdown. From there Nebraska’s offense coughed up a fumble, conceded a safety and threw an interception in a nightmare 4th quarter. Iowa capitalised on all these mistakes to creep from behind and establish a 28-21 lead that they wouldn’t let slip.
Tyler Goodson had a great day, rushing for 156 yards and leading the Iowa offense back into the game. Spencer Petras was back, rushed for a TD and played mistake-free football – exactly what the Hawkeyes needed from him. With this win on Friday Iowa set themselves up for a shot at the West title, and a trip to Indy to take on the Wolverines. All they needed was a favour from Minnesota.
For Nebraska there are soul-searching questions to be asked. Scott Frost’s seat is pretty warm and he will need to convince the school he deserves to stay another year. For the fans, it’ll be nice to not have to worry about a close loss again for a few months at least.
So the pressure was on Wisconsin with that Iowa win. The Badgers controlled their destiny, knowing a win would secure the Big Ten West but needed to overcome their state-border rivals Minnesota in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.
The Badgers got off to a good start, picking off Tanner Morgan and returning it to the house for a 10-3 lead in a low-scoring affair. Minnesota added a field goal and headed to the locker room to make some halftime adjustments. The Golden Gophers hadn’t hoisted the Axe at home since 2003 and started the second half in determined fashion. PJ Flecks’ defense forced an interception and Ky Thomas capitalised, punching it in from 2 yards out. Minnesota’s lead didn’t last long as Wisconsin drove 66 yards on the next possession and tied the game at 13 with a field goal. But that was the last of their scoring contributions.
Gophers stifle The Badgers
Minnesota shut down the Wisconsin offense in the second half, limiting freshman sensation Braelon Allen to under 50 yards and holding him, and the rest of the Badgers out of the endzone. Chris Autman-Bell caught caught the go-ahead TD and the Golden Gophers rode to victory on the back of their defense. It means Wisconsin’s hot streak is over, Minnesota take back the Axe and Iowa win the West. To rub salt in the wound, Wisconsin’s home anthem ‘Jump Around’ blared from the speakers in Huntington Bank Stadium at the end, taunting the Badgers and getting the hysterical crowd even more pumped.
Both teams will progress to bowl games and will reflect on poor starts to the season that ultimately hampered what they could achieve this year. These are 2 teams who will be pleased with how 2021 has turned out and have bright hopes for next season. Tanner Morgan hopes to be a part of that for Minnesota, as he announced he will be returning for another shot with the Gophers.
It was tricky to see Jahan Dotson on the TV, as Penn State’s white uniforms blended perfectly into the snow that flooded Spartan Stadium. Maybe Michigan State’s defense had the same problem, as they couldn’t keep tabs on the prolific receiver! The Nittany Lions needed him to fightback from an early deficit as Michigan State came out the traps quickest. The Spartans established a 0-14 lead just 9 minutes into the game thanks to touchdowns from Kennesth Walker III (of course!) and Tre Mosley.
Penn State hadn’t been down 2 touchdowns all season, and came roaring back into the contest thanks to Sean Clifford and Jahan Dotson. They combined for 2 spectacular touchdowns as their impressive connection on the field seemed to flourish in the tricky weather. Dotson ended the day with 137 yards and 2 TDs as Clifford defied the elements and gave a reminder of his talent.
Michigan State grabbed the lead back before half time with a Matt Coghlin field goal, and went the more traditional route in the snow. The Spartans stuck to the run game and when you have Kenneth Walker, why not?! The Heisman candidate rushed for 138 yards and 1 touchdown as he shook off the injury that limited his game last week. Penn State did have the chance to tie the game before the break but Jordan Stout’s 27 yard field goal was no good. Stout also missed an extra point straight after halftime. Daequan Hardy intercepted Payton Thorne and returned it to the house, but Stout’s miss meant Penn State had left 4 easy points off the board already.
A Thorne in the side of the Lions
Thorne rectified his mistake on the next drive, leading a 15 play march down the field and cashing it in for 6 himself.
Penn State running back Keyvone Lee actually had a decent day on the stats sheet. He rushed for 79 yards, averaging over 5 yards per carry. But Penn State have struggled in short yardage situations. In have-to-have it scenarios they just can’t get it done. On 4th & 1 in the final quarter, down just 3 points Penn State went for it. Linebacker Noah Harvey smashed through the middle of the line and wrapped Lee up for no gain. The gamble didn’t pay off but this was the signal for chaos on the field! Penn State’s defense forced a punt to get the ball back, but Lee had the ball stripped from his hands early in the drive. The Spartans put a drive together and scored a TD as Jayden Reed caught a 20 yard pass from Payton Thorne.
Yet again Penn State had handling issues, as John Lovett fumbled the kick off! The defense stepped up again, forcing a turnover on downs and giving the game life when Penn State really didn’t deserve to still be alive. Parker Washington caught a late TD to set up an onside kick attempt. After all that had gone on I expected some more drama, but Michigan State fielded the attempt and sealed the win, finally!
There is another ‘P’ on the Old Oaken Bucket! For the first time in 3 years Purdue claimed the win in this fascinating rivalry. And it wasn’t at all close.
The 2 teams exchanged touchdowns to start the game, Zander Horvath giving Purdue the lead before Donaven McCulley evened it up on the ground in his only action of the day. If only the Hoosiers could have ended the game there. Purdue went on a rampage, scoring 37 points without reply to bury Indiana.
Aidan O’Connell has been electric in the past 5 weeks. He has thrown for 15 touchdowns and 0 interceptions while leading the Boilermakers to 4 wins out of 5, and still put up 31 points in the loss to Ohio State. O’Connell found 4 different receivers for each of his touchdown passes in a stellar performance.
Indiana have now lost their last 8 in a row and have gone winless in-conference for the first time in a decade. After a great year in 2020 hopes were high, but a tough schedule, injuries and a bit of bad luck have completely ruined a season of promise. Now the questions will come asking what needs to change.
Illinois became the latest team to trample Northwestern on Saturday. Chase Brown was a major beneficiary of the generous Wildcat defense, rushing for 112 yards and a score in a comfortable win.
The game was over early in the 2nd quarter. Illinois added a 4th touchdown and the scoreboard read 0-28. From there the Fighting Illini coasted to victory, keeping the scoreboard ticking over with some short distance field goals and a late touchdown from Joshua McCray.
Evan Hull has too often been the solitary bright spark for Northwestern. Again he managed to top 100 yards and scored a garbage time TD, but there was no consolation in this score. Coach Pat Fitzgerald observed “Today was kind of a microcosm of the season.” “On our end, opportunities lost. We turned the ball over early, gave up explosive plays, and had opportunities to get off the field. I’m disappointed, obviously.”
Illinois await news of a bowl invite, despite registering just 5 wins. Their strong finish to the season could still earn them a berth. Northwestern just need to pack it all up and shut down for the year. The Wildcats are another team with plenty of evaluating to do ahead of 2022.
Written by Jack @JackCDCTT