Big Ten Recap: Turnovers Doom Badgers, Wildcats Control West, and a Red Zone Blunder Spoils Hawkeye Hopes

By Andrew Ellis on October 28, 2018 at 7:05 am
Northwestern got a signature win against Wisconsin this weekend and now sits atop the West.
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Buckeyes got some needed time off this weekend as Urban Meyer looks to fix a myriad of issues starting with the running game and defensive back seven. Nebraska is up next for Ohio State and games against Michigan State and Michigan will certainly present a challenge in November. 

The Wolverines are in a much different place right now and are very much trending in the right direction. Following the opening loss to Notre Dame, Jim Harbaugh has his troops getting better each week and many pundits now have Michigan circled as the team to beat in the conference.

While Ohio State was looking to get things back on track and the Wolverines also got some rest, the Big Ten saw some key contests go down in State College and Evanston.

No. 17 Penn State 30, No. 18 Iowa 24

Things got off to a horrendous start for the Nittany Lions. Penn State's opening drive ended with a safety when punter Blake Gillikin couldn't handle the football. Shortly thereafter, Iowa brought out the special teams but ended up scoring a touchdown on a strange formation. I'm not even sure if this can be considered a fake? 

The Nittany Lions were down 12-0 in the first and things were looking bleak when Trace McSorley exited with knee injury in the second quarter. Backup Tommy Stevens filled in admirably until his return, however, and things went into halftime knotted up at 17. A 51-yard McSorley rushing score sparked Penn State's second half, and they were able to hold on for the win thanks in part to an Iowa red-zone blunder when it could have taken a late lead. 

With the ball at the Nittany Lion three-yard line, Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley attempted to connect with Noah Fant to take the lead. Fant had no idea the ball was even snapped yet Stanley still threw it his way resulting in a Nick Scott interception which essentially sealed the deal for Penn State. You can watch it right HERE and see just how bad it really was.

McSorley accounted for 230 yards of total offense with two touchdowns and an interception. True freshman K.J. Hamler led all received with five receptions for 96 yards. Stanley struggled on the day as he completed just 18 of 49 passes for 205 yards and two interceptions. Mekhi Sargent was the game's leading rusher with 91 yards on 16 carries. Hawkeye safety Geno Stone had a 24-yard pick six in the fourth quarter that brought Iowa within a field goal before Penn State kicker Jake Pinegar extended the lead back to six.

Northwestern and Wisconsin fans collectively rejoice for the Nittany Lion victory. And speaking of....

Northwestern 31, No. 20 Wisconsin 17

Perhaps we should have seen it coming with Alex Hornibrook out along with a number of injuries on defense, but even if you were siding with the Wildcats then I'm guessing you were expecting a close one. Northwestern pulled out a 14-point home victory, but it really never felt that close.

Turnovers told the tale in this one and they were especially key in the Badgers' collapse. Jonathan Taylor coughed it up twice and quarterback Jack Coan also lost a fumble on the day. The turnovers resulted in 17 of Northwestern's 31 points. For Taylor, it was the worst performance of the season for the nation's leading rusher. He recorded just 46 yards on 11 carries to go along with the critical fumbles. Coan threw for 158 and a score.

Clayton Thorson tried to return the favor with three interceptions of his own, but he did enough with his legs to get the job done in Evanston. Thorson threw for 167 yards and a score but added another 29 and a pair of touchdowns on the ground. Isaiah Bowser was the game's leading rusher with 117 yards and a score on 34 carries.

Northwestern got off to a great start in what will be a challenging three-game stretch. Pat Fitzgerald and Co. will face Notre Dame next weekend before a road showdown with Iowa. The Big Ten's West Division is very much up for grabs, but the Wildcats are in sole possession of the top spot.

Team W-L Rank Prev
MICHIGAN 7-1 1 1
OHIO STATE 7-1 2 2
PENN STATE 6-2 4 6
IOWA 6-2 7 4
PURDUE 4-4 8 7
MARYLAND 5-3 9 9
NEBRASKA 2-6 10 11
MINNESOTA 4-4 11 12
INDIANA 4-5 12 10
ILLINOIS 3-5 13 13
RUTGERS 1-7 14 14

Michigan State 23, Purdue 13

Last weekend Purdue's offense looked like something out of a video game. That was nowhere to be seen yesterday in East Lansing and a trio of turnovers certainly didn't help Jeff Brohm's pursuit of a five-game winning streak.

With Brian Lewerke dealing with a shoulder injury, it was Rocky Targaryen Lombardi leading the charge for the Spartan offense. The redshirt freshman put together a fine showing in his first career start completing 26 of 46 for 318 yards and two scores. True freshman Jalen Nailor and Darrell Stewart Jr. were on the receiving ends of the touchdown strikes. L.J. Scott led the ground game with 48 yards on 15 carries.

David Blough didn't have a good showing for the Boilermakers as he threw for 277 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. Brycen Hopkins was the game's leading receiver with 80 yards on four receptions. Rondale Moore had an alright showing with 11 receptions. However, he managed just 74 yards as the Spartans were able to do something the Buckeyes couldn't in eliminating the explosive plays.

Maryland 63, Illinois 33

Maryland is a decent football team while Illinois is one of the conference's worst. I doubt anyone really watched this game, but the box score is probably about what we expected. 

With the D.J. Durkin saga is still ongoing, the Terps offense continues to roll right along. This time Kasim Hill and Co. put up 712 yards with 431 of those coming via the ground game. Javon Leake ran for 140 yards and three scores on just five carries and I'm fairly confident in saying that a 28 yard per carry average is fairly good. Leake also added a 97-yard kickoff return score to bring his total to four. Hill completed 11 of 19 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns. 

A.J Bush Jr. and Reggie Corbin again led the Illini offense. Bush threw for 216 yards with two scores and an interception. Corbin was the game's leading rusher with 155 yards and a touchdown.

Minnesota 38, Indiana 31

If you had an uneventful Friday night, you may have tuned in to watch a couple of squads that recently gave the Buckeyes some fits. And this one turned out to be a darn good one.

The Hoosiers started the game with a field goal but Minnesota then took the lead and looked as though it was cruising to a home victory. The Gophs were up by as many as 22 – and 16 at the start of the fourth – but Indiana stormed back scoring 22 straight and tying things up. It was all for not, however, as Minny quarterback Tanner Morgan connected with Rashod Bateman for a 67-yard game-winner.

There wasn't a whole lot of defense in this one as the two teams combined for nearly 900 yards of total offense. Morgan threw for 302 yards and three scores. Tyler Johnson hauled in five passes for 102 yards and a pair of scores. Bateman led all receivers with 108 yards and the touchdown. Senior tailback Shannon Brooks also delivered in the ground game as he rumbled for 154 yards and a touchdown of his own. It was his season debut following a torn ACL and an alleged domestic assault. Brooks also put the ball on the turf twice with two lost fumbles.

Peyton Ramsey tossed two touchdowns for the Hoosiers but was plagued by a pair of interceptions. Donavan Hale and Ty Fryfogle were on the receiving end of the scoring strikes. Stevie Scott led the Indiana ground game with 96 yards and a score.

Nebraska 45, Bethune-Cookman 9

The Bethune-Cookman defense probably gave Nebraska a nice sneak peak of what it can expect next weekend in Columbus. Scott Frost recorded win No. 2 in yesterday's contest against the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference foe. Frost's offensive starters only saw action in the first half before giving way to the backups.

Adrian Martinez had another solid outing for the Husks as he completed 15 of 22 for 213 yards with two touchdowns and a pick. The ground game was the story of the day, however, accounting for 226 yards and three scores. Devine Ozigbo, Maurice Washington, and backup quarterback Noah Vedral all found the end zone. Ozigbo was the game's leading rusher with 110 yards on 11 carries. Stanley Morgan Jr. caught seven passes for 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The Wildcats actually were able to move the ball at times in Lincoln. The passing game totaled 214 yards while the ground attack went for another 141. The Nebraska defense forced three turnovers on the day. 

This one was scheduled as a replacement for the Sept. 1st opener against Akron that was canceled due to the inclement weather. Per ESPN, Bethune-Cookman earned a hefty $800,000 guarantee for making the trip to Lincoln.

Heading into the season there was plenty of chatter about the Big Ten''s East Division and how it could be the toughest in the country. Nine weeks are now in the books and while the East is coming down to a pair of old rivals, the race for the West is more intriguing than most would have guessed. How many would have predicted that Northwestern would be sitting at the top with a full game lead over Wisconsin and Iowa? 

There weren't too many surprises this week, but the Wildcats' performance against the Badgers was certainly the headline. With two challenging contests coming up, it's unlikely that Northwestern finishes the season unscathed, but Pat Fitzgerald has bounced back nicely after the 1-3 start.

Iowa's late interception against Penn State is probably going to be one of those plays we look back on as one of the season's critical moments. The Nittany Lions were on their way to possibly losing a third straight home game, but the Hawkeye offense melted down when it mattered the most.

Next week the Buckeyes host Nebraska for an oddly timed 12 p.m. "blackout" affair. The Husks are an improved team and none of us should be overlooking this one. Iowa heads to Purdue and Michigan State will hit the road for a dangerous matchup against Maryland. The biggest games will be in Evanston and Ann Arbor as Northwestern squares off against Notre Dame and the Wolverines welcome the Nittany Lions.

Who do you think captures the West Division?

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