Week six is in the books and the homecoming festivities are have come and gone for several Big Ten programs. The Buckeyes struggled a bit early on against a pesky Indiana team, but Dwayne Haskins and the passing game rolled in the second half as the Ohio State signal caller came within a few yards of a new single-game passing record.
So what about the rest of the Big Ten? Well, homecoming in East Lansing didn't go as planned thanks to Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats. The Nittany Lions got a much-needed break following last week's home loss to the Buckeyes, but the rest of the conference's top teams were all in action as the weekend went just about as most expected minus the one major collapse at home.
No. 15 Michigan 42, Maryland 21
This one was mostly what we've come to expect from the Wolverines. Don Brown's defense was on display and Michigan's offense started slow but eventually found its rhythm and got things going.
Shea Patterson threw for 282 yards – a new season high – with three touchdowns and a pick. Zach Gentry was his favorite target on the day hauling in seven passes for 112 yards. The offense continues to rely heavily on the 6-foot-8 tight end who had his best game of the season against the Wildcats. Donovan Peoples-Jones caught just one pass but it was good for a 34-yard score. Karan Higdon led all rushers with 103 yards on 25 carries.
Brandon Watson puts a bow on Michigans day. Pick-six. pic.twitter.com/S2dZNo4igE— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) October 6, 2018
The Terps scored twice on offense thanks to the ground game. The other score came courtesy of a 98-yard Ty Johnson kick return. Maryland managed just 220 yards of offense on the day. Wolverine cornerback Brandon Watson added a late pick six in a game in which Rashan Gary was held out due to what is believed to be a lingering shoulder issue.
Northwestern 29, No. 20 Michigan State 19
The Michigan State faithful has some serious questions for the offensive coaching staff; especially co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Dave Warner. Wide receiver Felton Davis III was by far the team's leading rusher on the day thanks to a 48-yard touchdown run. Outside of Davis, the Spartans totaled 46 yards on 26 carries. That's an atrocious performance from a program that's become known for a solid ground game.
The Wildcats took the lead 7-3 late in the fourth quarter and didn't look back. Following the game's first touchdown, a Michigan State punt quickly gave the ball back to Northwestern and Clayton Thorson tossed a long touchdown pass to J.J. Jefferson. Sixteen minutes into the game Thorson was 11 for 15 with 190 yards and two scores. He ended the day with 373 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. Flynn Nagel led all wideouts with 10 receptions for 111 yards. Northwestern totaled just eight yards rushing against the country's No. 1 run defense.
I'm not sure if Brian Lewerke is regressing or if this one falls on the shoulders of the coaching staff for trying to make him into something he's not. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle as the Spartan offense just hasn't been clicking. He completed 31 of 51 passes for 329 yards with a touchdown and what may have been the worst interception of his career. The quarterback rushing element is really lacking and seems to no longer be a part of the offense. He's run for just 47 yards thus far on the season.
Michigan State had a chance to take the lead late in the fourth, but the offense then proceeded to move 15 yards in the wrong direction. Felton Davis was really the lone bright spot on the day. The senior tallied 146 yards of total offense and scored twice in the third quarter.
For the Wildcats, it's the third straight win over the Spartans. Not quite the homecoming Mark Dantonio was hoping for.
No. 16 Wisconsin 41, Nebraska 24
This game was pretty close early on and then I switched my focus over to Notre Dame/Virginia Tech. Flipped back over shortly after the half and Wisconsin had pulled away and was up by a score of 34-10. A glimpse at the box score and one would instantly notice that Nebraska had no answer for Jonathan Taylor and the Badger ground game.
Taylor rushed for 221 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries. The sophomore averaged just shy of 10 per touch and one of his scores came courtesy of an 88-yarder in the fourth quarter. Alex Hornibrook did what he usually does, completing 13 of 24 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Jake Ferguson was on the receiving end of the touchdown pass.
Adrian Martinez has had an up-and-down season thus far, but he didn't look like a true freshman last night in Madison. He threw for 384 yards and two touchdowns while adding another 57 and a score on the ground. J.D. Spielman had a career days with nine receptions for 209 yards and a score. Stanley Morgan Jr. chipped in with eight catches for 93 yards.
Scott Frost continues to look for that elusive first win.
Iowa 48, Minnesota 31
It was a bit of a shootout in Minneapolis as the Hawkeye and Gopher offenses were moving the ball at will. It was also a game that featured a total of six turnovers; four of which came from the Minnesota passing game.
Nate Stanley tossed four touchdown passes to go along with 314 yards for the Iowa offense. He also was responsible for a pair of turnovers. Ihmir Smith-Marsette was the leading pass catcher hauling three for 78 with a touchdown. Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson, and Nick Easley also scored on Stanley strikes. The Hawkeye ground game went for 106 yards and two scores. True freshman defensive back Riley Moss picked off two errant Gopher passes.
Kirk Ferentz delivered a bit of razzle-dazzle when the Hawkeyes had the ball fourth and goal from the Minnesota four-yard line. The field goal team took the field but instead it was a nifty diagonal snap to Hockenson – a tight end – who then dashed into the end zone.
Minnesota's Zack Annexstad threw for 218 yards and three scores but the true freshman walk-on also was picked off three times. The Iowa defense provided plenty of pressure as Annexstad was sacked five times on the day. Gopher wideout Tyler Johnson was the game's leading receiver, hauling in six passes for 107 yards and a score.
Illinois 38, Rutgers 17
A true clash of titans went down yesterday in New Jersey, and Rutgers has solidified its spot at the bottom of the conference power rankings; perhaps even the bottom of college football as a whole.
Quarterback A.J. Bush Jr. and the Illini ground game were all Lovie Smith needed against Chris Ash and the Scarlet Knights. Bush Jr. threw for just 89 yards, but he rushed for 116 and totaled three touchdowns on the day. Tailback Reggie Corbin ran for 137 yards and a score while averaging nearly 13 per carry. Overall, the Illini rumbled for 330 yards and four touchdowns on the day.
Rutgers' quarterback Artur Stikowski was plagued by turnovers. The true freshman threw for 267 yards and a score but was picked off three times. Jonathan Hilliman rushed for 76 yards and a score while Bo Melton was the top receiving target on the day, hauling in six for 70 yards. Tight end Travis Vokolek was on the receiving end of the Stkowski touchdown strike.
So what did we learn this week? Not a heck of a lot, but I think there are some people out there who have been slightly worried about Ohio State traveling to East Lansing on Nov. 10. Right now the Spartans aren't showing anything whatsoever, but who knows what kind of shape they'll be in by the time that one rolls around.
Northwestern is quietly playing like a pretty good football team. I still have no idea how they lost to Akron, but the Wildcats are moving up the power rankings thanks to the win in East Lansing and the effort they put forth against the Wolverines.
Shea Patterson is playing better of late, but it still doesn't seem like Michigan's offense is really clicking. It's still a struggle to get the ball into the hands of the playmakers. They've got a big one next week and they're gonna need Rashan Gary back if they want to put the clamps down on Paul Chryst's offense.
We've got two big ones to watch out for next weekend. The Badgers make the trip to Ann Arbor and Michigan State heads to State College. Elsewhere Scott Frost will look for his first win against Northwestern and the Buckeyes host the Golden Gophers.