Big Ten Recap: Wildcats Clinch West Behind Defense and a Superb Showing From Sidney, Ohio True Freshman

By Andrew Ellis on November 11, 2018 at 7:05 am
Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats clinched a spot in Indy.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

There's still a ton to play for as the Big Ten's top programs duke it out for the East and West Division crowns and a spot in Indy on Dec. 1st. Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats became the first to punch their ticket and one half of the championship matchup is now set.

The Buckeyes clashed with Michigan State in East Lansing and it was a cold, ugly day at Spartan Stadium. The same can certainly be said for both offenses, but at least the defense showed some signs of life on the road.

The game's first half featured plenty of punts, fumbled snaps, and ugly special teams play, but Drue Chrisman's precision and the Buckeye defense were the top stories of the day. The offense came to life a little bit in the second half and was able to take advantage of some Michigan State miscues, but there's still plenty of work to do before the Wolverines come to town. 

The Wildcats were the biggest winners as we offer a full recap from week 11.

No. 20 Penn State 22, Wisconsin 10

The Badgers came out hot as they hit the Nittany Lions with a quick strike via a 71-yard touchdown dash, but the rest of the half didn't go as planned despite 143 rushing yards from Jonathan Taylor. It took a little time to get things rolling, but Trace McSorley and the Penn State offense found their groove after an ugly opening drive. The defense also clamped own while holding the sophomore tailback to just 42 yards after the break.

Four Badger turnovers certainly didn't help Paul Chryst's efforts on the road. With Alex Hornibrook out, it was Jack Coan again running the show. It was a rough day for the Wiscy signal-caller who completed just 9 of 20 passes and threw for 60 yards. Coan was responsible for all four of the team's turnovers thanks to two fumbles and two interceptions. Taylor rumbled for 185 yards and the first-quarter touchdown but was really a non-factor when the Nittany Lions got up by multiple scores. Coan was also sacked five times on the day.

James Franklin relied heavily on Miles Sanders and the ground game as the junior tailback recorded a career high 25 touches. Sanders went for 159 yards and a score while averaging just about seven per carry. McSorley threw for 160 yards and connected with DeAndre Thompkins for a 14-yard touchdown strike in the game's first quarter. Jake Pinegar converted on three of five field goal attempts.

No. 4 Michigan 42, Rutgers 7

This game was interesting for a quarter and then turned into the snoozer we all were expecting. Michigan got out to a 7-0 lead late in the first before Rutgers responded with an 80-yard jolt from true freshman tailback Isaih Pacheco. That was the only scoring the Scarlet Knights would do on the day. 

Shea Patterson threw for 260 yards and three touchdown strikes as he continues to impress. Nico Collins was on the receiving end for two of the scores with Oliver Martin hauling in No. 3. It wasn't the most productive day for Karan Higdon, but he did find the end zone twice and finished with 42 yards on 15 carries. Chris Evans added a 61-yard touchdown dash in the fourth quarter

Rutgers managed just 252 yards of total offense with about a third of that coming on the Pacheco touchdown. Artur Stikowski threw for just 40 yards and added an interception. Pacheco was the game's leading rusher with 142 yards and Raheem Blackshear added 41 on 11 carries.

Northwestern 14, No. 21 Iowa 10

I watched the first half of this one and then found myself questioning my decision making. Iowa was up 3-0 at the break and its defense was putting together a dominant performance at home. The second half was a different story as things got a lot more interesting.

Pat Fitzgerald captured his first West Division title and will face either Ohio State or Michigan in Indianapolis. The Wildcat victory was led by true freshman tailback Isaiah Bowser – a Mario Bros. villain and native of Sidney, Ohio – and his 31-carry, 165-yard workhorse performance. His third-quarter touchdown gave Northwestern the lead before Iowa went back on top. A late 32-yard Clayton Thorson touchdown strike to Bennett Skowronek (and a ridiculous catch) proved to be the deciding factor. 

Northwestern didn't allow Iowa to do much on the ground as the Hawkeyes totaled just 64 yards on 22 carries. Ihmir Smith-Marsette led all receivers with 90 yards and a score. Nate Stanley connected on 27 of 41 pass attempts for 269 yards and the touchdown. Iowa coughed the ball up twice including late in the game on a fumble by tailback Ivory Kelly-Martin. With less than three on the clock, the Hawkeyes were driving with a chance to take the lead before the ill-timed blunder.

Minnesota 41, Purdue 10

I remember a time when we thought Purdue was an up-and-coming team in the conference and maybe could make some noise in the West. Then the Boilermakers proceeded to get spanked by 31 points against a 4-5 Minnesota squad

The Golden Gophers fired their defensive coordinator following last week's embarrassing loss to Illinois and that move appears to already be paying off. Purdue managed just 233 yards of offense on the day and didn't reach the end zone until late in the final quarter. David Blough threw for 142 yards and connected with Rondale Moore for the lone touchdown. Moore hauled in eight passes for 76 yards and the score.

Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan threw for 139 yards and a score while Seth Green added a pair of touchdowns out of the wildcat. Mohamed Ibrahim was the game's leading rusher with 155 yards while Tyler Johnson and Jake Paulson both hauled in touchdown passes.

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

Nebraska 54, Illinois 35

This offensive explosion featured over 1,100 yards and nearly 90 total points. The two teams combined to rush for over 400 yards in the first half alone and totaled a crisp 699 rushing yards on the day.

True freshman Adrian Martinez tallied 345 yards of offense and four touchdowns to lead the way for the Huskers. Devine Ozigbo found the end zone three times while averaging nearly 15 yards per touch. He finished with 162 and another 36 through the air. Stanley Morgan Jr. unsurprisingly led the passing game with eight catches for 131 yards and a pair of scores. 

Illinois has the nation's No. 11 rushing offense and that was the story of the day yet again. Quarterback A.J. Bush Jr. ran for 187 yards and three scores and also threw for another 126. Ra'Von Bonner pitched in with 81 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. A solid showing for the Illini offense, but five turnovers were just too much to overcome.

Indiana 34, Maryland 32

The Hoosiers used 21 second-quarter points and a late game-winning field goal to take down the Terps in Bloomington. Maryland's offense outperformed that of Indiana, but four turnovers told the tale in this defeat.

Peyton Ramsey threw for 243 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. The Hoosier quarterback added 25 rushing yards and another score with his legs. Stevie Scott led the Indiana backfield with 103 yards and a score. Donavan Hale pitched in with three catches for 92 yards and a touchdown. Logan Justus booted a 42-yard field goal with about two minutes left and that proved to be the game-winner.

The Terrapin offense totaled 542 yards and was led by redshirt freshman tailback Anthony McFarland and his 210-yard performance on the ground. Tyrrell Pigrome connected on 10 of 13 attempts for 146 yards and a touchdown. Dontay Demus was the game's leading receiver with four receptions for 98 yards. Kasim Hill got the start at quarterback but was in street clothes for the game's second half following an injury. Hill was struggling mightily before exiting.

I don't think many had Northwestern pegged as the West Division champion, but props to you if you saw that one coming. The Wildcats could find their way into the top-25 but who really knows what the committee will do at this point? Tennessee beat Kentucky this weekend so the 5-5 Volunteers are bound to make some miraculous jump because that tends to happen with the SEC.

But seriously, two of Nothwestern's losses have come to Michigan and Notre Dame and those came by a combined total of 13 points. I still have no idea what happened against Duke and Akron but the Wildcats are clearly a much better team as we sit here in mid-November. 

The Michigan game went about as expected and Penn State bounced back nicely after a sluggish start against Wisconsin. I have no clue what to think of Purdue so I've pretty much given up on trying to figure that team out. Scott Frost had a rough start in Lincoln, but he has the Huskers playing well and Adrian Martinez is going to be a heck of a quarterback. 

Next week has Michigan hosting Indiana, Wisconsin heading to West Lafayette, and the Buckeyes making the trip to take on Maryland. The weekend's most intriguing matchup could be the Spartans looking to bounce back in Lincoln.

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