B1G Recap: Accentuate the Negative Yardage

By Nicholas Jervey on November 10, 2013 at 6:00a
Eight's great.

Some weeks tell you more than others. Coming into Week 11 of the college football season, it wasn't clear if Minnesota was actually good, if Michigan's negative rushing yardage against Michigan State was a fluke, if 2013 would witness the worst Big Ten team of all time, or Wisconsin would be bitten by strange scheduling. All of these questions and more were answered.

Nebraska (7-2, 4-1) 17, Michigan (6-3, 2-3) 13

Nebraska and Michigan demonstrated the most obvious rule about offensive line play on Saturday: it matters. Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Ron Kellogg III platooned for the ever-efficient Taylor Martinez, while Devin Gardner was still aching from what Michigan State did to him the week before. Though Gardner was the better talent by far, the offensive line's failure to get any push proved the difference as Nebraska handed Brady Hoke his first home loss.

Ameer Abdullah was king for Nebraska, scoring touchdowns and powering through tackles. He scored the first touchdown of the game to put the Cornhuskers up 10-0, and received an awkward double pump option pitch/forward pass for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:03 remaining.

In between, not much happened. Brendan Gibbons kicked a second quarter field goal for Michigan, a few series of flailing begat Michigan's one touchdown drive, and a muffed punt by Jordan Westerkamp set up Michigan on Nebraska’s 30 with under five minutes to go, allowing Gibbons to deflect the ball off the upright through the goalposts and give the Wolverines a 13-10 lead. At the end, Nebraska went for it on 4th-and-2 from the Michigan 32, resulting in a reception for 26 yards. Two plays later Armstrong Jr. pulled off the funky shovel/pitch to Abdullah to give the Cornhuskers its final lead, and Nebraska's defense stopped a fourth down conversion to secure the win.

Michigan’s offensive line play is abysmal. One could have argued that the seven sacks and minus-48 yards rushing Michigan managed against Michigan State the week before was because of MSU's top-ranked defense and hyper-aggressive blitzing. Nebraska's passive, far less sound, 85th-ranked rushing defense also netted seven sacks and held Michigan to minus-21 yards rushing. Schemes, coaching, talent, youth, execution... something if not everything is terribly wrong, and Michigan might want to resolve it so they don't rush for minus-300 yards next year.

To add insult to injury, Michigan football's official Twitter account makes drive infographics that coming from anyone else would be mocking:

Coming into 2013, Devin Gardner was tough, talented, and confident. After nine games of being battered, Gardner has had the confidence beaten out of him. He deserves better from his team than 175 yards of total offense, though that's not going to happen with Michigan's woefully ill-prepared line. Fortunately for Gardner, Michigan's next opponent is Northwestern, a demoralized team with the conference's smallest defensive line. Maybe he'll only be sacked five times.

Now that Nebraska has escaped with two close wins against middling teams and the loss to Minnesota is defensible, Bo Pelini’s seat has cooled off. Nebraska's defense had its best performance of the year, blowing the Wolverines off the ball and often putting them in a tough down and distance. Fans still have their complaints about offensive coordinator Tim Beck and some of the defensive staff, but a strong finish might buy Pelini enough goodwill to clean house and start fresh in 2014. Next week Nebraska has a golden opportunity when it plays Michigan State to determine who's in control of the Legends division. The Spartans look like the better team, but Nebraska has the talent to win. Beat MSU and Iowa, and it's onto the Big Ten Championship Game. If this happens, Lil' Red will dance with joy.

Minnesota (8-2, 4-2) 24, Penn State (5-4, 2-3) 10

SHOULD'VE USED ELMER GLUEWhy is Minnesota-PSU a trophy game?

Philip Nelson took Minnesota to its highest point in a decade with a convincing victory over Penn State. On the day, the only thing that went poorly for the Gophers was breaking the rivalry trophy.

Penn State’s errors let Minnesota build a lead it would not relinquish. Bill Belton fumbled on the first snap of the game, leading to a field goal for Minnesota and a benching for Belton. The Gophers showed flair by attempting and succeeding on some nifty fourth down conversions to build a 10-7 lead, and Nelson’s touchdown run and 24-yard pass to Maxx Williams built a 24-10 lead by halftime. The Golden Gophers defense shut out Penn State in the second half  – including two stops in the red zone – to give Minnesota its best season since at least 2003. Another bewildering fact: this is the first time since 1973 that Minnesota football has beaten four Big Ten teams in a row.

Penn State is where everyone except the crazies expected it to be. The offense could hardly move, the defense couldn’t get Minnesota off the field, and the team was nowhere near as effective as last year’s 8-4 squad. The real concerns are recruiting effectively and staying healthy; Allen Robinson was 22 yards away from PSU’s single season receiving record but left with a shoulder stinger. Fortunately, the balm for sadness arrives next week with Purdue.

Minnesota’s season is going as well as could be expected. Jerry Kill has been an excellent press box coach and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has done a fantastic job filling in for Kill on the field, which might have something to do with the 124 years of continuity on Minnesota’s staff. The Golden Gophers' pathetic defense has stiffened, and Nelson and David Cobb running down opponents’ throats they have a good offense. My most resilient belief for this season has fallen: Minnesota is a good team.

If the Gophers beat No. 21 Wisconsin on Nov. 23, after a bye week, they will be ranked in the top 20. Jerry Kill is a miracleworker, and though it rankles certain Ohio State fans his name is already engraved on the Big Ten Coach of the Year Award.

Iowa (6-4, 3-3) 38, Purdue (1-8, 0-5) 14

PROD MERY KEP ON BERNENSBig "Whels" keep on turning.

Iowa defeated Purdue to join Minnesota as a fellow unexpected bowl eligible team. With the heartpounding win over Purdue, the Hawkeyes are bowl eligible again.

The game started as sluggish as expected; Iowa displayed some of its worse “horizontal offense” tendencies and Purdue was its usual inept self. Iowa eventually broke through with a 90-yard touchdown drive capped by a nice Jordan Canzeri run. Purdue responded by driving into Iowa’s red zone – its first drive to the opponent’s red zone since September – and throwing the equalizing touchdown. After that it was all Iowa, culminating in Canzeri knifing for 161 rushing yards and Iowa's 38-7 fourth quarter lead before Danny Anthrop scored a garbage time touchdown for the Boilermakers.

This game speaks to Iowa's blandness, which is an unenthusiastic canvas for other teams to demonstrate how good or bad they are. Still, when the offense is working Iowa is a reasonably competent team that deserves the 7-5 record and Music City Bowl it will probably end up with. Iowa has a bye, then hosts Michigan on Nov. 23.

There’s some bad news and some less-bad news for Purdue. The bad news is that Purdue lost by four scores to a mediocre opponent that gave a C- performance. The less-bad news is that Purdue looked the best it has in nearly two months. By scoring two touchdowns, not only did Purdue’s offense show enough life in its coffin to creep out the funeral goers, it avoided the kind of point differential that would make it the worst Big Ten team of all time. The pain continues at Penn State this week, and then it’s a game against fellow loser Illinois to determine the conference’s most depressing team.

#24 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1) 27, Brigham Young 17

It was the James White Show for Wisconsin, as the Badgers held off a strong Brigham Young team at home on White's three touchdowns and 196 all-purpose yards.

Wisconsin began the scoring with a short touchdown run by White in the first quarter, but BYU kicked a field goal to make it 7-3. Before halftime, Wisconsin made the most of its takeaways to kick a field goal and score on a White touchdown catch to go up 17-3. BYU tried to get back in it with Cody Hoffman’s touchdown pass to make it 20-10, but White’s third touchdown of the day made it 27-10 in the early fourth quarter. With the game decided, BYU doubled its yardage in the fourth quarter and scored a touchdown to look respectable. It's a good victory for Wisconsin, but the closer score will impress the voters less than a 17-point win would have.

Wisconsin picked a tough opponent for the unusual November game, and it paid off. BYU is known for its rigid defense and devastating option offense, both of which Wisconsin manhandled. Wisconsin extended its home winning streak against nonconference opponents to 29 games; if the Badgers win out, it’ll be tough to pick between them and a potential 11-2 Michigan State team for an at-large BCS berth. Wisconsin fattens up its offense one more time against Indiana’s defense.

Indiana (4-5, 2-3) 52, Illinois (3-6, 0-5) 35

Pick something and stick with it.Indiana has more helmets than Baskin-Robbins has flavors.

Indiana kept its quest for a bowl game alive and extended Illinois’s losing streak as the Hoosiers ran wild on the Illini defense.

The game started as the shootout everyone imagined. Tevin Coleman gave Indiana the first score with a 64-yard run, but Josh Ferguson tied the score with his own touchdown run a few minutes later. From that point on, the two teams traded touchdowns until the score was 35-all, and then Indiana blew Illinois away. After Illinois’s Corey Lewis recovered a fumble in the end zone to retie the game, Coleman had a 75-yard touchdown run on the next play from scrimmage. A quick Illini turnover led to another Hoosier touchdown, and a late field goal padded the score.

Indiana has the best offense in the Big Ten. Its ability to match home run threats like Coleman and solid pounders like Stephen Houston (17 carries, 150 yards, two touchdowns) with franchise receivers like Cody Latimer (11 catches, 189 yards, two touchdowns) and lightning pace makes it hard to stop. By contrast its defense is a horrorshow, something coach Kevin Wilson must improve in future years for the Hoosiers to contend in the Big Ten. Indiana plays at No. 24 Wisconsin next week.

This is the second straight Big Ten game Illinois looked like it had a shot of winning, making the fall all the worse. It has the offensive resurgence to thank for a return to power, and though Indiana’s defense is just a hair better than a youth football league’s defense, it’s hard to gain 612 yards against air, let alone an opposing defense. It’s a shame that Steve Hull’s nine catches for 224 yards went to waste. It doesn’t get any easier for Illinois as it hosts No. 4 Ohio State next week.

Syracuse 20, Maryland (5-4, 1-4) 3

Maryland started the year hot, and then Florida State ruined everything. The Terrapins had to beat Syracuse to break out of the slump, but Syracuse embarrassed Maryland to further the Terrapins' downward spiral.

The most dispiriting part of the game for Maryland is how little competitive fire it showed. C.J. Brown's return from injury didn't help the offense as Maryland's offense shuffled its way for 292 yards and a lackluster 3.84 yards per play. Syracuse didn't do anything particularly well, yet a touchdown run by Jerome Smith and two field goals by Ryan Norton gave it a 13-0 halftime lead. Late in the third quarter, the Terrapins got on the board with Brad Craddock's 23 yard field goal – an odd decision, considering how hard moving the ball had been and close Maryland was to the goal line – to cut it to 13-3, but Smith's second touchdown put the game away.

Maryland fans are livid with Randy Edsall, and I can't blame them. His Maryland teams are winless in November, 0-15 in the second half of the season over the last three years. The team is one point away from a five-game skid, and none of the last three games is a gimme for bowl eligibility, starting with Virginia Tech next week. Maryland's athletic department is going through hard times, but it might fire Randy Edsall in time for its Big Ten debut next year. When beat reporters are laughing at your program, it's hard to blame them.

That's all for Week 11. Week 12 has three themes: desperation (Purdue-Penn State, Michigan-Northwestern), desolation (Ohio State-Illinois, Wisconsin-Indiana) and coronation (Michigan State-Nebraska). Adjust your TV schedule accordingly.


Comments Show All Comments

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Isn't Diggs out for the year for Maryland?

With Oklahoma, Miami, LSU, and ND losing, it means MSU and Wisconsin will move up. If the voters had any sense, Wisconsin would already be in the top 15.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Nicholas Jervey's picture

Yes, Maryland is without Diggs and three or four other skill position players. Still, you'd expect the starting quarterback to be better.

Ceci n'est pas une signature.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Still, you'd expect the starting quarterback to be better.

Not really. It is Maryland after all. XD

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Seattle Linga's picture

Thanks for the update Jervs

45has2's picture

Nebraska hardly played a passive defense against the weasels. They copied the MSU script and blitzed on almost every down.

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

buckeyedude's picture

That seems like the successful paradigm vs. TTUN. I hope Fickell watched that game last night.



zbd's picture

Looks like OSU will play the winner of the M.State/Nebraska game next week.

Nicholas Jervey's picture

If Michigan State wins, they go to the championship game. If Nebraska wins but loses to Iowa and Michigan State wins out, Michigan State is 7-1 to Nebraska's 6-2.

Ceci n'est pas une signature.

O-H I-O's picture

Looks like Ohio State should go ahead and jam Michigan's WRs and blitz on every down then Hyde it all day!
Soundproof game plan against the Wolverines.

"I don't motivate the players. I get them to motivate themselves. That's the only kind of motivation that's worth a damn." - Woody Hayes

Seattle Linga's picture

And against most teams as well - OHIO

vitaminB's picture

Indiana has the best offense in the Big Ten

This is going to upset more people than when you said goddamn last week.

gumtape's picture

Give the poor guy a break, he has to watch B1G games all day.

High and tight boo boo

O-H I-O's picture

Let the media babble over the excellence of Hoosiers' offense so the Buckeyes can look better for containing it.

"I don't motivate the players. I get them to motivate themselves. That's the only kind of motivation that's worth a damn." - Woody Hayes

ogama843's picture

Mark May: Babble babble.
Lou Holtz: Babble, babble babble.
Mark May: Babble? Babble, babble babble babble.
Charles Barkley: Turrible. Dem gonna do gooder on da oh-fense.

Holy Buckeye!

HotSauceCommittee's picture

All season I have worried more about the IU game than any other. Hopefully our D continues to play well.

nfischer's picture

Illinois scored 35 against them.  I am not worried...even if our defense is not playing as well as the have the last several games.

Hovenaut's picture

Saw some good with Minny and Wisky and their wins, some bad with the Iowa highlights (that's weird to type) and Indiana's flag football win over the Illini, and the ugly in what has to be the worst 6-3 M...igan team if there ever was one.

For extra fun I went out for dinner with my son and wife to a nearby sports bar where I was extra fortunate to catch the last few minutes of the Maryland game.

Got some looks as I was wearing my favorite Ohio State sweatshirt. Going to have to do that again next year.

painterlad's picture

When November rolls around, people think of pumpkin pie and the smell of turkey roasting in the oven. You can now add the bittersweet taste of Michigan tears to your list of November treasures.

To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Is there a recipe for turning Michigan tears into a glaze? Could come in handy for Thanksgiving morning rolls and such.

ogama843's picture

1. Beat the sh-t out of TTUN.
2. Collect tears in a jar or tupperware.
3. Simmer on stove to release toxins.
4. Squeeze juice out of a bouquet of roses. (Even better, use mortar and pestle to grind up shards from a crystal football.) sometimes both these can be used, at least in the past.
5. Add to tears and simmer for several hours to reduce.
6. Glaze is good on a ham or leg of lamb, but is traditionally used on roasted wolverine during the holidays.

Holy Buckeye!

gumtape's picture

I tried m*chigan tears once, couldn't stand the odor.

High and tight boo boo

Seattle Linga's picture

Wolverine pie is awesome around Thanksgiving

igo43's picture

OK, I only upvoted this once, and in the spirit of Woody, it's because they wouldn't let me upvote it multiple times. Sooooo...99 more ghost helmet stickers from me to make it an even 100.

"The minute I think I'm getting mellow, I'm retiring. Who ever heard of a mellow winner?" - WWH

GOOMBAY's picture

Watching UM lose at home was the bye week feast. Letting the home field fan booing wash over me was the intoxicating nightcap. 

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

HEY Kyle Kalis - how is that working for you now?!?!?  See you in a couple of weeks, eh!
TSUN is a dumpster fire right now and it appears that the honeymoon is over for Flounder and company!  I hope Urban and the Buckeyes drop about 70 on their asses!!!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

Sean N's picture

My favorite Sunday morning tradition has become pouring a nice hot cup of coffee and then heading over to Michigan blogs to read the whining posts.

ogama843's picture

I know M*chigan's line is terrible, and probably the root of their problems, but Soutaint goes down VERY easy. He is so delicate. Also, with the poor blocking, Gardnerd looks like a three year old playing Whack-a-mole at the roller skating rink. Never knows when or where the next defender is gonna pop up and smash him.

Holy Buckeye!

MN Buckeye's picture

Great recap, Nicholas! 
I still cannot buy the Gophers as being good yet, and most people in MN are skeptical, too. Their hearts have been broken far too long. But it looks like there is hope and positivity, and for the first time in forever, confidence.
An average to decent NB team beats MI in their own house. While neither team looked very good, I am always happy when our rival loses.

gravey's picture

Tracey Claeys interviewed after Minnesota beats PSU
Watched the post game interview - fake tanned reporters interviewing Tracey Claeys...this scene popped in my head.
Makes Hoke look svelte.

Seattle Linga's picture

Umpa Loompas always get a laugh

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

Nebraska handed Brady Hoke his first home loss.

This saddens me.  I wanted Urban Meyer to be the coach that handed Hoke's fat-a$$ his first loss at home. 
But then this made me feel better...


But my most resilient belief for this season has fallen: Minnesota is a good team.

This universe makes little to no sense anymore. 

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama