Big Ten Recap: Golden Gopher Passing Attack Blasts Nittany Lions and Dino Could Be Doomed in East Lansing

By Andrew Ellis on November 10, 2019 at 7:05 am
P.J. Fleck made a statement with a win over the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions.
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It's been an interesting few days for the Buckeyes as the Chase Young situation has been the talk of the college football world. While we await further information on the country's best player, Ohio State certainly didn't seem too distracted yesterday against Maryland. 

The Buckeyes dominated the Terrapins from start to finish as the offense topped 700 yards and the defense held Mike Locksley's crew to just 139. Several younger players got some valuable playing time and Ohio State's usual stars all continued to shine.

There were a couple of key contests in the Big Ten as we finally got to see what P.J. Fleck and the Gophers can do against a talented foe. A West Division clash went down in Madison and the Spartans continue to have some serious problems in 2019.

No. 17 Minnesota 31, No. 4 Penn State 26

Despite being perfect on the season, most have been questioning just how good Minnesota is thanks to a less-than-impressive strength of schedule. The Gophs delivered in a big way yesterday against the No. 4 team in the country.

The Minnesota passing game was too much as Tanner Morgan threw for 339 yards and three scores. Rashod Bateman was the star of the show with seven catches for 203 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Johnson topped the century mark and also pitched in with a score. 

Sean Clifford had a big day as well, but his three interceptions – along with some mistakes from his coach – likely were the difference in this one. The sophomore threw for 340 yards with a touchdown to go along with the turnovers. K.J. Hamler and tight end Pat Freiermuth both caught seven passes and topped 100 yards on the day. Tailback Journey Brown had a big day with 124 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. 

Some questionable decisions from James Franklin and offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne also didn't help things. The Nittany Lions had a chance to take the lead with just seconds left, but a Clifford interception sealed the deal for P.J. Fleck and the still-undefeated Golden Gophers. 

One apple certainly hasn't fallen far from the tree as Antoine Winfield Jr. recorded 11 tackles and a pair of interceptions while leading the Gopher defense. It still saddens me that we didn't get to see that kid in an Ohio State uniform.

Justin Fields and the Buckeye passing game have to be licking their chops because Franklin may have some serious issues in the secondary. Coming into this one, the Nittany Lions were ranked No. 9 in total defense but just No. 48 against the pass.

No. 13 Wisconsin 24, No. 18 Iowa 22

The Badgers snapped their two-game losing streak with a win at home, but 16 fourth-quarter points from the Hawkeyes made this one close. Iowa's eighth-ranked rush defense was no match for Jonathan Taylor. The junior recorded a season-high 250 yards on 31 carries. Danny Davis hauled in a touchdown pass and added another on a 17-yard rush. Quintez Cephus was the Badgers' leading receiver with 94 yards and a score.

Nate Stanley led the way for the Hawkeyes with 208 yards and a pair of scores. Tyrone Tracy Jr. had a solid performance as he hauled in five for 130 yards and a touchdown. Iowa had a chance to tie things up with just over three minutes remaining, but the two-point conversion attempt fell short.

The Gophers are in prime position to take the West, but a battle with Wisconsin for Paul Bunyan's Axe looms large on Nov. 30 in Minneapolis.

Illinois 37, Michigan State 34

Two days ago Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman assured that Mark Dantonio's job was not in jeopardy. He may be rethinking that statement right about now. The Illini scored 27 fourth-quarter points to storm back and take down the Spartans in East Lansing.

Down 31-10 at the start of the fourth, Illinois rallied and defensive back Sydney Brown picked off Brian Lewerke and returned it 76 yards for what should have been the game-tying score. The Illini proceeded to miss the extra point, leaving them down 31-30. The Spartans answered with a field goal, but then a 75-yard touchdown drive gave Lovie Smith the huge road win. 

Brandon Peters had himself a day throwing for 369 yards with three touchdowns and a pick. A big passing day was needed as the stout Spartan run defense allowed just 36 yards on the day. Josh Imatorbhebhe was the game's leading receiver with four receptions for 178 yards and two scores; including an 83-yarder that started the fourth-quarter scoring barrage.

Lewerke put up 347 yards of total offense with a pair of scores and four costly turnovers. Elijah Collins had a fine showing with 170 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Cody White was the Spartans' top receiver with 128 yards on seven receptions. 

It would hardly be a surprise if this loss proves to be the downfall of the Dantonio Era. Meanwhile, Lovie Smith and the Illini are going bowling.

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

Purdue 24, Northwestern 22

Northwestern got off to a 14-0 home lead, and then it was mostly all downhill from there. Purdue quarterback Aidan O'Connell – a former walk-on making his first start – led the Boilers to the game-winning drive which culminated with a 39-yard J.D. Dellinger field goal as time expired. 

O'Connell threw for 271 yards with two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. True freshman wideout David Bell continues to do big things as he hauled in a whopping 14 passes for 115 yards and a score. Amad Anderon Jr. also had a touchdown reception and tailback King Doerue found the end zone on the ground. 

Wildcat tailback Kyric McGowan came into this game with just 31 yards rushing on the season. The former receiver had a nice showing with 146 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Riley Lees was the leading pass-catcher with eight catches for 62 yards and a score. Aidan Smith threw for 184 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. 

For a while now, I've been hesitant to move the Gophers too high up the power rankings. With a backloaded schedule, the team's previous best win probably came on Oct. 5th over Illinois. Yesterday's victory told us that Minnesota is for real, and I hope the playoff committee takes notice as well.

Does that mean the Gophs are a playoff contender? Probably not quite yet. But there's a reason Penn State was ranked No. 4 and had been one of the country's most well-rounded teams. Minnesota is up to No. 2 on our board thanks to yesterday's impressive win.

What a horrible weekend for the Spartans. I stopped watching that one because a) Michigan State had a comfortable lead and b) I was more interested in the LSU/Alabama game. That fourth quarter has to be one of the more disastrous ones in recent memory and we'll have to see what the repercussions may be for Mark Dantonio. 

The Buckeyes cruised past the Terps and should do the exact same thing next week. Any guesses as to what the spread will be against Rutgers? Somewhere in the vicinity of 55 points sounds about right. 

Week 12's headliner is going to be in Iowa City when the Hawkeyes welcome the Gophers. The Spartans will head to Ann Arbor and Penn State hosts Indiana. I feel bad for anyone who watches a 1-8 Northwestern team square off against 1-9 Massachusetts. 

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