Big Ten Recap: Illinois Pulls a Homecoming Shocker and K.J. Hamler Torches the Wolverines in White Out

By Andrew Ellis on October 20, 2019 at 7:05 am
The Illini pulled off one of the season's biggest upsets on Saturday.
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Week eight in the Big Ten started off with a bang Friday night in Evanston as the Buckeyes had no problem whatsoever with the Wildcats. Justin Fields used some wizardry to escape pressure on a few plays and ended up with four more scores; upping his season total to 30 touchdowns (22 passing, 8 rushing) with just one interception.

J.K. Dobbins provided some splash plays of his own en route to a 121-yard rushing performance with two total touchdowns. What else can be said about the Buckeye defense? They were phenomenal again on Friday and held Northwestern to less than 200 yards of total offense. 

The weekend's main event went down in Happy Valley with the Penn State faithful honoring the apparel requirements for another "White Out" in Beaver Stadium. But it was a different matchup that will shake things up in the Midwest and should have some national implications as well.

No. 7 Penn State 28, No. 16 Michigan 21

This turned out to be a pretty good one in Happy Valley. Penn State's offense started out hot, but it hit a bit of a wall after going up 21-0 in the first half. Michigan stormed back and momentum really began to shift in the third quarter. And then the Wolverines made the weird decision of letting a safety attempt to cover K.J. Hamler one-on-one, which would prove to be their downfall.

Michigan had a chance to tie things up with about two minutes left, but wideout Ronnie Bell dropped what should have been a touchdown. Shea Patterson looked like a competent quarterback through much of the game as he completed 24 of 41 attempts for 276 yards with an interception. He added 34 yards rushing and a score with his legs. True freshman Zach Charbonnet ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns.

Hamler torched the Wolverines twice on the night. The speedster scored on a 25-yarder in the second quarter and then from 53 yards out in the fourth. Hamler was the key contributor on offense as he hauled in six passes for 108 yards and the scores. Sean Clifford threw for 182 yards and four total touchdowns, but the Nittany Lion ground game was held in check by the Michigan defense.

It wasn't a bad showing for the Wolverines. But in the end, it's another loss against a ranked opponent for James Joseph Harbaugh. He's now 5-8 against his three East Division rivals, 9-12 against ranked teams, and 1-10 against top-10 teams while at Michigan.

Illinois 24, No. 6 Wisconsin 23

The Badgers hadn't trailed all year heading into the homecoming game in Champaign. They trailed when the clock struck zero in this one after James McCourt booted a 39-yard game-winner that sent shockwaves throughout the Big Ten and the College Football Playoff picture. 

Paul Chryst was a 31-point road favorite in this one, but critical second-half turnovers from Jonathan Taylor and Jack Coan – along with some gaping holes for the Illinois ground game – helped Lovie Smith to pick up his biggest win to date

A scoring strike from Brandon Peters to Josh Imatorbhebhe brought Illinois within two points with five minutes to play. Coan then threw a horrendous interception which gave Illinois the chance to get into enemy territory and line up for the game-winner. Peters tossed a pair of touchdowns on the day and Reggie Corbin rumbled for 83 yards and a score against the nation's top-ranked defense. 

Jonathan Taylor ran for 132 yards and a score on 28 carries, but his fourth-quarter fumble undoubtedly helped the Illini pull off the upset. Coan threw for 264 with a touchdown and the late game-changing interception. Tight end Jake Ferguson hauled in five for 77 yards and a touchdown. 

I'd also like to give some major props to Illinois for its superb troll tactics.

No. 23 Iowa 26, Purdue 20

Purdue is still plagued by injuries and still not very good at football, but this one was closer than just about everyone expected. The Boilers scored a late touchdown to get within six but couldn't convert on the onside kick attempt.

Nate Stanley threw for 260 yards with an interception. Mekhi Sargent and Tyler Goodson's rushing scores were the only Hawkeye touchdowns on the day. Brandon Smith hauled in nine passes for 106 yards and kicker Keith Duncan had a busy game connecting on all four of his attempts. 

Jack Plummer had a decent showing for the Boilermakers completing 30 of 50 passes for 327 yards with a pair of scores and an interception. True freshman David Bell is going to be a problem for the conference. He caught 13 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown in the losing effort.

No. 20 Minnesota 42, Rutgers 7

The Scarlet Knights wore a long-sleeved retro uniform in this game. You'll be shocked to learn that it didn't help them on the field. Still, Rutgers did show some signs of life with its touted passing attack. After throwing for just one yard last week against Indiana, the Knights reached that total in the first half of this one and ended the game with 48 yards and three interceptions through the air.

On a more serious note, this contest did have the weekend's best moment when four-time cancer survivor and Minnesota walk-on Casey O'Brien saw his first action.

Tanner Morgan threw for 245 and a pair of scores while Rodney Smith ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman were both busy once again for the unbeaten Gophers. Johnson hauled in six passes for 130 yards and Bateman added another four for 72. Both were on the receiving end of Morgan touchdown strikes.

OHIO STATE 7-0 1 1
PENN STATE 7-0 2 3
MICHIGAN 5-2 5 4
IOWA 5-2 6 6
INDIANA 5-2 8 8
NEBRASKA 4-3 9 9
PURDUE 2-5 10 10
MARYLAND 3-4 11 11
ILLINOIS 3-4 12 13
RUTGERS 1-6 14 14

Indiana 34, Maryland 28

The Hoosiers picked up a road win in College Park thanks to the play of Peyton Ramsey and Stevie Scott III. Ramsey came in when Michael Penix Jr. suffered yet another injury and hit on 20 of 27 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown. Scott rushed for 108 yards and two scores to lead the Hoosier backfield. 

The Terrapins had the ball down three points with just under four minutes left in the game. Tailback Javon Leake then put the ball on the turf, which allowed Indiana to recover and then go up six with a field goal. Still, Maryland had yet another shot at taking the lead, but quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome tossed an ugly interception which led to Indiana sealing the win. 

Pigrome got the start for the second straight game in Josh Jackson's absence. He threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns to go along with the interception. Leake had a solid outing with 158 yards rushing and two scores (including a 60-yarder). Dontay Demus Jr. was the Terps' leading receiver with five receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown.

If you saw the Illinois upset coming, then a lengthy trip to Vegas is probably in your best interests. It may take some luster off of next week's showdown in Columbus, but the Gophers and the rest of the West – along with some other playoff hopefuls – have to be rejoicing after that one.

Was it a classic example of looking ahead to next week? That's impossible to say, but Paul Chryst has plenty of concerns coming out of that one. Lackluster play in the trenches, poor open-field tackling, and some key turnovers helped to doom the Badgers. Jack Coan was actually pretty good outside of the bad interception, but I'm sure Wisconsin fans don't care much for silver linings right now.

Give Michigan credit for bouncing back after going down 21-0. There were a few promising offensive drives and Zach Charbonnet was impressive against a tough defense. I'll never understand Don Brown's strategy for trying to cover KJ Hamler, however. It was a big win for the Nittany Lions who will continue to climb up the rankings despite looking vulnerable.

Minnesota is 7-0 and may be one of the biggest surprises in the country. Do the Gophs have a whole lot of players that strike fear into the opposition? Perhaps a few at the offensive skill positions, but they're still flying under the radar a bit despite being unbeaten and ranked.

We've got two big ones to look forward to next week, and maybe even three depending on how you view the Spartans hosting the Nittany Lions. Ohio State welcomes Wisconsin at noon on Saturday and FOX's new pre-game show will be in town. In the evening, we'll get to tune in as the Wolverines take on the Fighting Irish in Ann Arbor.

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