Tag:Taylor Martinez
Posted on: October 29, 2011 3:57 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 4:45 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Nebraska 24, Michigan State 3

Posted by Adam Jacobi

NEBRASKA WON. The Nebraska defense was stout in victory on Saturday, holding No. 11 Michigan State to just 187 yards and 12 first downs in an easy 24-3 victory at Memorial Stadium. Kirk Cousins was especially ineffective for MSU, going 11/27 for 86 yards and one interception. Meanwhile, Rex Burkhead was an absolute monster for the Huskers, with 35 carries for 130 yards and two scores, and a 27-yard touchdown reception on top of it.

WHY NEBRASKA WON: It would be wrong to take anything away from Nebraska's effort on Saturday, which was both exemplary and the best of the Huskers' season. Having said that, there was only one team that came ready to play in this game. Nebraska routinely converted 3rd and long on what was supposed to be the best defense in the Big Ten, and the toll of those physical drives on the MSU defense became readily evident down the stretch.

WHEN NEBRASKA WON: The game was still well within reach for MSU with the game at 17-3 midway through the third quarter. Rex Burkhead had just left the field with an injury and Nebraska faced a 3rd and 11 near midfield. Unfortunately, Taylor Martinez found Kenny Bell for a 20-yard first down, Burkhead came back in the game on the next snap, and Martinez found Burkhead out of the backfield for an easy 27-yard touchdown on the next play. That pushed the score to 24-3, where it would remain for the rest of the game, and MSU never threatened to score after that.

WHAT NEBRASKA WON: Nebraska's not only tied for the division lead now, it's got a tiebreaker lead on the Spartans. Road games at Michigan and PSU also loom for the Huskers, but still: this was a huge win. The Husker defense, which had long been a weak spot of this season's team (even before Jared Crick was lost for the year), was dominant against the Spartan offense. For once, Nebraska looked like it belonged in the Top 15, and it's got its biggest win of the season to show for it.

WHAT MICHIGAN STATE LOST: Gone for Michigan State is its perfect conference record, which is the biggie here; the Spartans are now in a four-team tie with one loss in the Legends Division (pending Iowa's game at Minnesota). But this is the second time that Michigan State has been utterly stifled on offense this season, which is shocking given the amount of talent at every portion of the MSU offense. The Spartans are still in decent shape in the division race, but their offensive production on road games has been disturbingly absent. That can't continue. 

THAT WAS CRAZY: Kirk Cousins threw an interception. Just one. It should have been more, but on 3rd and goal near the end of the first half, an errant Cousins throw found its way into the waiting arms of Nebraska DB Daimion Stafford, who was off to the races for what was about to be a 95-yard pick-six. Unfortunately, Stafford was so eager to take the interception to the house that he never secured possession, and he dropped the ball to the field for a harmless incompletion. MSU took the field goal instead to make the score 10-3. So yes, a 24-3 loss is bad enough, but this could have easily been a 31-0 win for Nebraska.

Posted on: October 26, 2011 12:27 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Michigan State at Nebraska

Posted by Adam Jacobi

MICHIGAN STATE WILL WIN IF: The rushing game starts living up to its preseason billing. Coming into the season, the general consensus was that Wisconsin had the best stable of running backs, but Michigan State with Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell, and Larry Caper was a close second. Well, we're halfway into the season, and guess who's dead last in the Big Ten in rushing offense? Indeed: Sparty, at a paltry 138 yards a pop. Nebraska's defensive line is still reeling from the loss of Jared Crick, but it's generally good enough to keep blockers off Lavonte David so the dynamic linebacker can make plays. The challenge to MSU's offensive line is clear: blow open holes and let the running backs do their thing.

NEBRASKA WILL WIN IF: It avoids 3rd and long. Taylor Martinez's passing numbers as a whole aren't horrible this season; he's 67th nationwide in passing efficiency, and his interception rate of 3.93% is downright palatable. Still, Martinez struggles mightily when the opponent knows he needs to throw; he's been chided by announcers for his entire career for his unique mix of poor mechanics and bad read progressions. Getting Nebraska to 3rd and long is much easier said than done, however, with both Martinez and Rex Burkhead so adept at moving the chains on the ground. 

X-FACTOR: As opposed to most of the Big Ten's top games of the season, this matchup between No. 9 MSU and No. 13 Nebraska won't exactly be under the lights; the two teams are kicking off at 11:00 a.m. local time. Usually, the early games are reserved for non-conference cupcakes and basement dwellers. Will the two teams be able to put forth their best 60 minutes with such an early kickoff? Or will it be a 17-point game one way or the other halfway through the second quarter with an announcer snarkily wondering whether the losing team left its effort on the bus?
Posted on: October 12, 2011 5:09 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Ohio State at Illinois

Posted by Adam Jacobi

OHIO STATE WILL WIN IF: It wins the battle of the trenches. Illinois can move the ball pretty well, and its defensive front seven pretty much ripped Brock Osweiler to shreds when Arizona State came to Champaign in September. That said, Ohio State is supposed to be able to win these types of battles, especially with all-conference linemen like Mike Brewster and Mike Adams up front on offense. So if the OSU rushing attack can push the point of attack 1-2 yards forward on a consistent basis, the stable of Buckeye tailbacks should be able to generate yardage, drives, and points.

ILLINOIS WILL WIN IF: The offense can get A.J. Jenkins free early and often. Ohio State is going to present the toughest challenge the Illinois offense has faced to date, and the running lanes the Illini have gotten thus far in the year won't be quite as wide open on Saturday. Thus, it's going to be imperative that the Illinois downfield passing game gets going, and in case you hadn't noticed, A.J. Jenkins is basically Illinois' entire downfield passing game. That singularity of talent has hardly been a detriment thus far, as Jenkins has an obscene 450 yards receiving in his two Big Ten games this year, but if he gets bottled up Illinois is probably in for a long afternoon. 

X-FACTOR: This is more like the Brax-Factor (actually, let's not call him that ever), as Braxton Miller's ankle is undoubtedly still sore from the injury that took him out of last week's loss at Nebraska. Miller's primary strength is his ability to run the ball, both on designed runs and on scrambles, so if his mobility is limited and he's primarily a pocket passer, that bodes extremely well for the Illini.

Miller's young enough that his read progression is basically Primary Receiver, then Scramble, and maybe a Secondary Receiver between the two if Bo Pelini's feeling optimistic. That's usually not a bad thing, because Miller on the move is generally a net positive for the Buckeye offense, but if he can't get moving as easily, then we're looking at a situation not unlike Nebraska's struggles in 2010 when Taylor Martinez was hampered by lingering ankle problems and was forced to rely on his arm more often. There lay pain for the Huskers, and if Miller's hobbled, there lies trouble for OSU on Sunday.
Posted on: October 10, 2011 9:36 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 4:44 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 6



Posted by Bryan Fischer


There wasn't a particularly appetizing slate of college football games this week. Sure there was the Red River Shootout Beatdown Blowout Rivalry and a few other entertaining match ups but there truly was not a must watch game from kickoff to the final whistle most of the day. AP Top 25 teams in week 6 won by an average of 24.8 points, with Florida State being the lone upset to an unranked team.

It was another good week of college football, don't get me wrong, but the drama was a bit lacking until late Saturday night when Ohio State-Nebraska took the stage down in Lincoln. The game itself was nothing to write home about in terms of style points but it made up for it in second half theatrics. Taylor Martinez helped lead the storied program's biggest comeback ever, from down 21 points, with three scores, 102 yards rushing and an efficient 191 yards on 16 of 22 passing.
 
When I watched OSU against Miami, I saw a team that was half a step slower than the Hurricanes and looked like they were going through their first spring practice execution-wise. They were a solid Big Ten team but one who just couldn't execute like previous years. It was much different from when my colleague Gregg Doyel watched the Buckeyes in their opener in early September. There was a sense of relief then after a tumultuous offseason and, just as important to the OSU faithful, hope that they would be ok until most of the 'Buckeye Five' returned from their suspensions. Luke Fickell was a coach to believe in and this was a team that still had seemed to have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, according to Doyel:
It was Akron, so who really can say, but what the heck -- I'll go ahead and say it:

Ohio State has two solid quarterbacks in Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller. Ohio State has a promising coach in Luke Fickell. And Ohio State has a team that won't be as bad as some people (OK, me) would have thought, given the terminations, suspensions and distractions of recent months.

Well, that was Akron and things certainly have changed since Doyel wrote that column (one he'd love to have back, I'm sure), including the step up in competition with Nebraska. Granted this isn't your father's Cornhuskers team. They're 46th in total offense and, even more surprising with the Pelini brothers patrolling the sidelines, 59th in total defense. They got whacked by Wisconsin and have flirted with several close games before putting inferior opponents away late. They are no Akron but they're not a top 10 team either.

The Buckeyes looked like they were on their way to a win Saturday by a surprising margin, ruining the Big Ten debut of Memorial Stadium. Things weren't going great but they were at least good. Freshman Braxton Miller looked comfortable running the offense, making plays with his feet and doing plenty to stake the team to a 27-6 lead in the 3rd. After the offense had looked pitiful against Miami and Michigan State the previous two weeks, there were signs of life for the scarlet and gray. With about five minutes left in the third quarter, Ohio State led 27-13 and had rolled up 312 yards of offense.

Then Miller sprained his ankle and all hell seemed to break lose.

"I'd like to say no," tight end Reid Fragel told the Cleveland Plain Dealer when asked if Miller's absence affected the whole team, "but it's one of those things at the back of everybody's mind. I'd like to say no, but at the same time, everybody cares about our quarterback and was kind of worried about him."

Senior Joe Bauserman came on to replace him and went 1 of 10 for 13 yards while the team as a whole had just 39 yards of offense the rest of the game. The Buckeyes went from grabbing an uplifting win on the road to a devastating loss; from a good team to mediocre to bad in a span of about 20 minutes of game time. There were mistakes in every phase of the game and at every level. Execution was lacking and any playmakers on the team seemed to be sitting on the bench drinking Gatorade.

Who deserves blame for it? Well there's plenty to go around. Bauserman, certainly, for the interception and stagnant offense. The defense too, for allowing Nebraska to rush for nearly 200 yards in the second half after holding them to just 37 in the first half. Many OSU fans are quick to blame offensive coordinator Jim Bollman and he rightfully deserves the lion's share for one reason: he didn't have a game plan for Bauserman. At all. He bet big on Miller and when it came time for Bauserman to take over at a key point in the game, Bollman seemed to panic and out-think himself.

What makes it interesting is that Bauserman was at one time the starter and he's played in every game this year. You'd think they would adjust the play calling so that he could nurse the lead and allow the senior to manage the game. Following Miller's injury, there were eight rushes and 10 passes, one of which was intercepted.

"No, Joe is not as mobile," Fickell said after the game. "We have to do a better job of putting him in situations he can handle a little better."

"The floodgates kind of opened and we started to panic a little bit and we never got ourselves back on track."

Those are not the words of a head coach. Jim Tressel - despite his compliance issues - was a terrific head coach because he had everybody buy in to what he was doing. More importantly, he knew what he was doing.

Fickell, a Buckeye through and through, seems to be in over his head and the inexperience really came through Saturday. There are plenty of people rooting for him to succeed but there's a reason why so many other names have been mentioned as the head coach of the team in 2012. Fickell has been thrown into the fire, a very hot one, and is doing the best that he can. Knowing how to manage a program, especially one like this, is not something many know how to do. It takes time and it takes a very good coach, one who is in control of everything and knows just what button to push at the right time. At this point in the season, it's hard to say Fickell has total control nor knows what to do. It's unfortunate but it's also life.

Ohio State's 3-3 with six games left, four of which they'll likely be decided underdogs. A bowl game is probably still likely but the program seems like it's adrift and capable of falling off the cliff if the staff isn't careful.

"You've got to rely on some guys," Fickell said. "And it's about leadership. But I don't know. That's what we're going to have to really look back at."

The leadership has to come from Fickell and the upperclassmen on the team, it shouldn't be 'I don't know' coming from the head coach or something that they'll 'have to look at.' There will be a lot of soul-searching going on in Columbus this week as well as some growing up for Fickell and company.

Stat of the week

According to the Associated Press, the state of Florida has been shut out of the AP poll for the first time since December 6, 1982. Not just the big three of Florida, Florida State and Miami, the entire state. There's just one California team (7. Stanford) and four from the state of Texas (20. Baylor, 21. Texas A&M, 22. Texas, 25. Houston).

Stats of the week

- Florida's loss to LSU was the worst loss for the program since 1996.

- Texas A&M is ranked in the top 25 but feature the nation's worst pass defense at 347.6 yards per game. They're behind Kansas and UNLV who have three wins between them.

- There were five SEC conference games and the winning quarterbacks had a combined 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

- Mark Richt earned his 100th win at Georgia and has a 100-36 overall record with the program.

- 27 players across the country are averaging over 100 yards rushing per game. Last year, just 19 finished with an average over the century mark.

- Arizona's Nick Foles leads the country in completions per game, is third in yards per game, second in total yards, fourth in total offense and has a 5-1 touchdown to interception ratio. Yet his team is 1-5 because the defense is 115th in total defense, 117th in scoring defense and second to last in the country in sacks.

- With a touchdown catch against Texas, Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles is the active leader in career receiving touchdowns with 10 more than the next guy, Notre Dame's Michael Floyd.

- Surprisingly Illinois is tied for the nation's third longest winning streak at seven games. Stanford has the longest (13) followed by Oklahoma (10). Alabama and LSU both have seven game streaks as well but obviously will play each other in November. New Mexico and Florida Atlantic have the longest losing streaks at eight games, while Memphis has lost 15 straight in conference.

- The Pac-12 leads the country in passing and has 31 more passing touchdowns than any other conference (153 total). The Big Ten leads the country in rushing and has 11 more rushing touchdowns than any other conference.

- UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel improved to 9-0 against Washington State at three different schools (Colorado, Washington, UCLA). One of the wins came as a non-conference win while at Colorado. With eight wins in conference play, that would mean 25% of Neuheisel's Pac-12 conference victories have come at the expense of the Cougars.

- According to the Big Ten Network, every time Michigan has started 6-0, they've gone to the Rose Bowl.

Yard-by-yard

- There was plenty of Boomer Sooner at the Cotton Bowl this weekend, enough to cause Bevo to turn away from the field of play so he didn't have to see anymore of the Longhorns. Most saw Texas as overrated, moving into the top 10 largely because they hadn't lost and because they're, well, Texas. They had some momentum coming into the game and thought they had a solid backfield that would be able to make a few plays in Bryan Harsin's offense. Nope. The story of the game wasn't Oklahoma's potent offense, but its spectacular defense that had a coming out party and reminding everyone that though they might not be Alabama or LSU's, they are still pretty good. The Sooners set six defensive school records against the Horns, including eight sacks. Final score: Oklahoma's offense 34, Oklahoma defense 21, Texas 17.

- It really didn't matter what true freshman quarterback took snaps under center for Florida, they were getting fed to the wolves. Or at least one Honey Badger, who picked off starter Jacoby Brissett's deep pass in the third quarter. It's rare for LSU to have the advantage at the quarterback position but it was pretty clear they had the advantage at just about every position in their 41-11 rout at home. The Gators have issues but they're still a solid football that's just trying to find some footing. The Tigers, meanwhile, look like they used the weekend to tune up every phase of their game, controlling throughout and limiting their opponent to 2 of 11 on third down and 213 total yards. The lasting images of the game might have come from a punter and a back up quarterback. Much-maligned quarterback Jordan Jefferson threw a touchdown pass in a manner Florida fans are quite familiar with - a jump pass near the goal line. Brad Wing became an overnight sensation after faking a punt and taking it 52 yards to the house late in the first. Wing, however, raised his arms slightly before crossing the goal line and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag that took the points off the board. That was about the only thing that went wrong all day for Les Miles' crew.

"We showed everybody that we are capable of some special things against a really good Florida team," said Tigers defensive end Sam Montgomery. "I want more. I want a National Championship. I want to play the best ever."

- Virginia Tech just doesn't lose back-to-back games at home under Frank Beamer. Perhaps it's the 'Enter Sandman' music the PA announcer puts on late in games but there's not much you can do to stop the Hokies. Miami thought they did thanks to Lamar Miller, who broke off several big runs in the fourth quarter before catching a throwback pass for a touchdown to pull the Hurricanes to within three. He gave them the lead with a 30 yard run late in the game before Tech quarterback Logan Thomas said 'Sorry, I'll take that' on an option on fourth-and-one to scamper 19 yards for the game-winning score. The comeback by Thomas capped an overall great day for him, going 23 of 25 for 310 yards and three touchdowns.

- Staying in the ACC, the surprise team in the league might be Georgia Tech, not Clemson. The 6-0 Yellow Jackets held off a late charge from Maryland after building a 21-3 lead going into the fourth. "They whipped our tail pretty good in the end," Tech coach Bobby Johnson said. Still, his squad is undefeated and among the top 10 in a good number of offensive categories. The passing game wasn't there against the Terrapins like it was in previous games but they still managed to eek out a victory. By the way, it's ok if you missed watching this game on account of Maryland's uniform combination, which featured mustard yellow pants.

- Arizona State has finally started to live up to expectations while Utah hasn't even come close to them. The Sun Devils defense forced three straight turnovers at one point in the third quarter, quick enough that quarterback Brock Osweiler couldn't even get his jersey cleaned in time. "They were cleaning it one second and the next second it was, 'Hey, you got to go,"' he said. "But that's a credit to our defense. They were staying focused, playing with a lot of intensity, creating turnovers." As sharp as the defense has looked the past few games, the offense has shown off an explosive side as well, scoring 18 straight points in four minutes. Dennis Erickson's squad also won a road game, big because they have a showdown and possible championship game preview with Oregon this week. For the Utes, we all worried about the grind of a BCS conference and it does seem like they're wearing down in the second half of games after starting relativly strong. Of course, it helps to have a healthy quarterback but they just haven't had one as Jordan Wynn missed yet another game. They've lost six of their last 10 and need to do something against the back half of their conference schedule to make a bowl.

- Remember when Florida State was fifth in the country and everybody was whispering they were back? Me neither. The only ranked team to lose to an unranked foe, the Seminoles had their issues with Wake Forest. After a previously injured E.J. Manuel returned in the second quarter to replace starter Clint Trickett, he threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Rashad Greene and many expected FSU to start moving from there. Wake running back Josh Harris had other ideas, breaking off big run after big run on his way to 136 yards and an upset. The Demon Deacons have now won four straight and are undefeated in ACC play even if they are flying under most people's radar. Wake has only five wins against Florida State all-time but have won four of them since 2006 and four of the last six.

- On one hand, it was Kentucky. On the other hand, it was an impressive showing by South Carolina. Steve Spurrier made a change at quarterback and Connor Shaw paid off as the Gamecocks had more yards on offense since the Old Ball Coach started calling plays in Columbia. The 54-3 win was also South Carolina's biggest victory since joining the SEC, thanks in large part to the sharp play of Shaw, who went 26 of 39 for 311 yards and four touchdowns. About the only one who didn't score was running back Marcus Lattimore.

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Quote/Tweet of the week

"That #11 ranking was such a farce. If Texas had Complete Scouting Services they wouldn't lose to OU so bad."

- Infamous recruiting scout Willie Lyles.

Fisch's Finest

Like the AP poll, my top 10 does not change.

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma

4. Boise State

5. Wisconsin

6. Stanford

7. Oklahoma State

8. Oregon

9. Clemson

10. Georgia Tech

Where we'll be this week

Mr. College Football Tony Barnhart will see if Connor Shaw is the real deal as South Carolina heads to Starkvegas to play Mississippi State. Dennis Dodd will take in the sights and sounds of Knoxville as LSU plays Tennessee. Brett McMurphy will see if Texas shows any improvement as they host Oklahoma State while Bruce Feldman will head to the Pacific Northwest to see a possible Pac-12 Championship Game preview with Arizona State and Oregon.

Leaning this way

Michigan at Michigan State

Anything can happen in rivalry games and it would certainly make the Spartans' season if they pulled off an upset of Big Blue and a top 10 team. Mark Dantonio has had a bye week to help prepare to stop Denard Robinson but Michigan's improved defense will be enough to help squeak by in a close game in East Lansing.

Oklahoma State at Texas

Those 55 points Oklahoma scored? Oklahoma State had that by halftime last week. The young Texas defense will have their hands full again this week with what might be an even better passing offense. The defense for the Cowboys is nothing special so the Horns should be able to put up some points of their own but there's just too many weapons for Brandon Weeden to keep it close.

Arizona State at Oregon

Dennis Erickson's squad got a road win and have been playing as well as anyone on defense the past couple of weeks. They've been forcing turnovers left and right and will need to continue that if they're to have a shot against the Ducks. LaMichael James won't play but the offense is still potent with Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas coming out of the backfield. This could be a championship game preview and Oregon wins thanks to another big second half.



Posted on: October 9, 2011 5:00 am
 

Big Ten Winners and Losers: Week 6



Posted by Adam Jacobi


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Nebraska's season

Ignore the fact that 4-2, all things considered, isn't a terrible record; for No. 14 Nebraska, dropping the Ohio State game would have been a backbreaker for a season that started with realistic Rose Bowl aspirations -- especially with OSU looking like an unusually easy victory coming into Saturday. Instead, the Buckeyes opened up a 27-6 lead and seemed to be putting the final nail in the coffin of Nebraska's reputation as a Big Ten contender before the Huskers pulled off their largest comeback in program history on the back of Rex Burkhead (pictured above, finding plenty of comfort in the middle of OSU's rush defense). Now the Huskers are 5-1, and more importantly, only have one loss on their Big Ten slate instead of starting out 0-2. This season still might not end up in the Rose Bowl -- in fact it probably won't -- but sheerly by dodging the bullet on Saturday, Nebraska was a big, big winner.

LOSER: Joe Bauserman, yet again

It's not entirely fair to pin Ohio State's collapse on Joe Bauserman; the backup QB came into the game in the second half cold, and Nebraska had already begun its fight back at that point. And yet, the score was 27-13 OSU when Bauserman came in for an injured Braxton Miller on a 3rd and 8, and the score was 34-27 Nebraska by the time Bauserman put the finishing touches on his 1-10, 17-yard, 1 INT magnum opus. In the last four weeks -- the only games in which OSU has faced BCS conference competition this season -- Bauserman's stats are a terrifying 12-40, 144 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. That's a 63.49 passer rating, which is reprehensible. Oh, and not only is Bauserman going to play for as long as Braxton Miller's hurt, he's also the quarterback Luke Fickell tabbed to start the season for the Buckeyes. Enjoy, OSU!

WINNER: Do-everything QBs in the Big Ten

Nathan Scheelhaase, Taylor Martinez, and Denard Robinson may all be vying for the Second Team All-Big Ten role behind Wisconsin dreamboat Russell Wilson, but all three QBs put on an absolute show on Saturday. Scheelhaase had 210 yards passing, 88 yards rushing, and 4 combined TDs for Illinois in a win at Indiana. Martinez had his best passing performance of the year against a tough Ohio State defense, going 16-22 for 192 yards passing and rushing for 102 more yards; he accounted for three of Nebraska's four TDs. Robinson's numbers were the gaudiest: 325 yards passing, 117 yards on 25 rushes, and four total TDs in Michigan's 42-24 win over Northwestern. Even Braxton Miller had 95 yards passing and 91 yards rushing before he was forced to leave the game. Conference play will sort out this hierarchy, but it's fantastic to see such a breadth of dynamic talent at QB.

LOSER: Timid 4th down playcallers

Indiana kicked a field goal on 4th and goal from the 3 with a 4-point deficit. Iowa punted from Penn State's 33-yard line down 6-3. Ohio State punted from Nebraska's 32-yard line with a late 27-20 lead. What do all these decisions have in common? They were all unnecessarily conservative, and they all backfired. Indiana immediately gave up a touchdown drive, Iowa's punt led to a 90-yard Penn State drive that mercifully ended in an end zone interception (but still wore down the Iowa defense), and Ohio State would never see its lead again after Nebraska responded with a touchdown drive. Yes, the field position is important, but the points battle is the real one that matters, and all three of these teams did themselves a disservice by not even attempting to maximize their opportunities.

WINNER: Penn State's defense

In a stat that will undoubtedly become a trivial relic by the end of the season, Iowa came into this week's game against Penn State with the Big Ten's most prolific passing attack, averaging 281 yards a game under QB James Vandenberg. Penn State bottled that attack up beautifully, limiting Vandenberg to 169 yards on 17/34 passing with two interceptions and a lost fumble on a sack. More importantly, the Nittany Lions allowed only a field goal in a 13-3 victory. delighting a partisan PSU crowd that was hungry for a Penn State win over the nemesis Hawkeyes.

LOSER: Rob Bolden Fan Club president Joe Paterno

There is truly no reason for Rob Bolden to be starting anymore, yet start he does, week in and week out. Bolden's passer efficiency is out of the NCAA's top 100; Matt McGloin's was 42nd nationwide coming into the game. McGloin was far better against Iowa, hitting pass after pass in tight windows while Bolden's best gains came on tipped balls -- his biggest completion ricocheted off of an unsuspecting referee's leg, for crying out loud. Nobody at Penn State outside of the coaching staff knows why Bolden plays so much, yet he does, and he's probably going to ride his 3/7, 31 yard performance to another starting week unless Joe Paterno puts an end to this farce of a quarterback battle and just gives the job to McGloin already.

WINNER: Ron Zook's mojo

Imagine, if you will: Team X is ranked and undefeated, and playing at outmatched-but-feisty Team Y. Team Y takes the opening kick to the house, then makes a stop and turns it into a field goal for a 10-0 lead. At this point, one would assume that if Team X had a good coach, he would have his charges weather this storm and not panic, and if Team X's coach was a raving lunatic, then this was an upset in the making. Well, Team X is obviously Illinois, Team Y is obviously Indiana, the Team X head coach is obviously Ron Zook, and his team responded admirably to the adversity by turning the game into a 41-20 rout. Illinois is now 6-0. It could be 9-0 heading into the Michigan game. Ron Zook is doing all this. This is the reality you must accept.

LOSER: Whoever had to watch Minnesota-Purdue

One Husker blogger tabbed this matchup "the game that fun forgot" on Saturday morning, and while that's not a fair assessment of a game that ends up featuing 62 points scored, it's not quite that far off from this game either. Now. Purdue is not good at football. Not even in a young and sneaky and what if they put it all together sense. Just not good. Purdue also opened up a 45-3 lead on Minnesota en route to a 45-17 win, and we're left to wonder just what level of football the Gophers actually belong in (hint: not FBS!). And yet, there were still only 589 total yards combined in this game; even the PSU-Iowa eye-clawer, by comparison, had 648 total yards from scrimmage. Purdue and Minnesota can't even put on a blowout correctly! Just a mess all the way through here, and there are probably plenty more such messes that await fans of both these teams this season.
Posted on: October 9, 2011 5:00 am
 

Big Ten Winners and Losers: Week 6



Posted by Adam Jacobi


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Nebraska's season

Ignore the fact that 4-2, all things considered, isn't a terrible record; for No. 14 Nebraska, dropping the Ohio State game would have been a backbreaker for a season that started with realistic Rose Bowl aspirations -- especially with OSU looking like an unusually easy victory coming into Saturday. Instead, the Buckeyes opened up a 27-6 lead and seemed to be putting the final nail in the coffin of Nebraska's reputation as a Big Ten contender before the Huskers pulled off their largest comeback in program history on the back of Rex Burkhead (pictured above, finding plenty of comfort in the middle of OSU's rush defense). Now the Huskers are 5-1, and more importantly, only have one loss on their Big Ten slate instead of starting out 0-2. This season still might not end up in the Rose Bowl -- in fact it probably won't -- but sheerly by dodging the bullet on Saturday, Nebraska was a big, big winner.

LOSER: Joe Bauserman, yet again

It's not entirely fair to pin Ohio State's collapse on Joe Bauserman; the backup QB came into the game in the second half cold, and Nebraska had already begun its fight back at that point. And yet, the score was 27-13 OSU when Bauserman came in for an injured Braxton Miller on a 3rd and 8, and the score was 34-27 Nebraska by the time Bauserman put the finishing touches on his 1-10, 17-yard, 1 INT magnum opus. In the last four weeks -- the only games in which OSU has faced BCS conference competition this season -- Bauserman's stats are a terrifying 12-40, 144 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. That's a 63.49 passer rating, which is reprehensible. Oh, and not only is Bauserman going to play for as long as Braxton Miller's hurt, he's also the quarterback Luke Fickell tabbed to start the season for the Buckeyes. Enjoy, OSU!

WINNER: Do-everything QBs in the Big Ten

Nathan Scheelhaase, Taylor Martinez, and Denard Robinson may all be vying for the Second Team All-Big Ten role behind Wisconsin dreamboat Russell Wilson, but all three QBs put on an absolute show on Saturday. Scheelhaase had 210 yards passing, 88 yards rushing, and 4 combined TDs for Illinois in a win at Indiana. Martinez had his best passing performance of the year against a tough Ohio State defense, going 16-22 for 192 yards passing and rushing for 102 more yards; he accounted for three of Nebraska's four TDs. Robinson's numbers were the gaudiest: 325 yards passing, 117 yards on 25 rushes, and four total TDs in Michigan's 42-24 win over Northwestern. Even Braxton Miller had 95 yards passing and 91 yards rushing before he was forced to leave the game. Conference play will sort out this hierarchy, but it's fantastic to see such a breadth of dynamic talent at QB.

LOSER: Timid 4th down playcallers

Indiana kicked a field goal on 4th and goal from the 3 with a 4-point deficit. Iowa punted from Penn State's 33-yard line down 6-3. Ohio State punted from Nebraska's 32-yard line with a late 27-20 lead. What do all these decisions have in common? They were all unnecessarily conservative, and they all backfired. Indiana immediately gave up a touchdown drive, Iowa's punt led to a 90-yard Penn State drive that mercifully ended in an end zone interception (but still wore down the Iowa defense), and Ohio State would never see its lead again after Nebraska responded with a touchdown drive. Yes, the field position is important, but the points battle is the real one that matters, and all three of these teams did themselves a disservice by not even attempting to maximize their opportunities.

WINNER: Penn State's defense

In a stat that will undoubtedly become a trivial relic by the end of the season, Iowa came into this week's game against Penn State with the Big Ten's most prolific passing attack, averaging 281 yards a game under QB James Vandenberg. Penn State bottled that attack up beautifully, limiting Vandenberg to 169 yards on 17/34 passing with two interceptions and a lost fumble on a sack. More importantly, the Nittany Lions allowed only a field goal in a 13-3 victory. delighting a partisan PSU crowd that was hungry for a Penn State win over the nemesis Hawkeyes.

LOSER: Rob Bolden Fan Club president Joe Paterno

There is truly no reason for Rob Bolden to be starting anymore, yet start he does, week in and week out. Bolden's passer efficiency is out of the NCAA's top 100; Matt McGloin's was 42nd nationwide coming into the game. McGloin was far better against Iowa, hitting pass after pass in tight windows while Bolden's best gains came on tipped balls -- his biggest completion ricocheted off of an unsuspecting referee's leg, for crying out loud. Nobody at Penn State outside of the coaching staff knows why Bolden plays so much, yet he does, and he's probably going to ride his 3/7, 31 yard performance to another starting week unless Joe Paterno puts an end to this farce of a quarterback battle and just gives the job to McGloin already.

WINNER: Ron Zook's mojo

Imagine, if you will: Team X is ranked and undefeated, and playing at outmatched-but-feisty Team Y. Team Y takes the opening kick to the house, then makes a stop and turns it into a field goal for a 10-0 lead. At this point, one would assume that if Team X had a good coach, he would have his charges weather this storm and not panic, and if Team X's coach was a raving lunatic, then this was an upset in the making. Well, Team X is obviously Illinois, Team Y is obviously Indiana, the Team X head coach is obviously Ron Zook, and his team responded admirably to the adversity by turning the game into a 41-20 rout. Illinois is now 6-0. It could be 9-0 heading into the Michigan game. Ron Zook is doing all this. This is the reality you must accept.

LOSER: Whoever had to watch Minnesota-Purdue

One Husker blogger tabbed this matchup "the game that fun forgot" on Saturday morning, and while that's not a fair assessment of a game that ends up featuing 62 points scored, it's not quite that far off from this game either. Now. Purdue is not good at football. Not even in a young and sneaky and what if they put it all together sense. Just not good. Purdue also opened up a 45-3 lead on Minnesota en route to a 45-17 win, and we're left to wonder just what level of football the Gophers actually belong in (hint: not FBS!). And yet, there were still only 589 total yards combined in this game; even the PSU-Iowa eye-clawer, by comparison, had 648 total yards from scrimmage. Purdue and Minnesota can't even put on a blowout correctly! Just a mess all the way through here, and there are probably plenty more such messes that await fans of both these teams this season.
Posted on: October 9, 2011 1:17 am
 

QUICK HITS: Nebraska 34, Ohio State 27

Posted by Adam Jacobi

NEBRASKA WON. In the biggest comeback in program history, No. 14 Nebraska stormed back from a 27-6 deficit to stun Ohio State, 34-27, in front of a packed Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. The man of the match for the Huskers was oft-maligned QB Taylor Martinez, who overcame a sluggish start to finish with 16/22 passing for 191 yards and two passing touchdowns. Martinez also shined in the ground game, sparking the rally with an 18-yard touchdown and finishing with 102 yards on 17 carries.

WHY NEBRASKA WON: In the second half, Nebraska gave Ohio State a heavy dose of Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead, and the Buckeye defense basically caved lated under that relentless rushing attack. Both Martinez and Burkhead finished over 100 yards rushing, and Nebraska outgained OSU 337 yards to 112 in the second half. It's nearly impossible to protect a lead by getting pummeled like that in yardage, and OSU just found that out the hard way this week.

WHEN NEBRASKA WON: In a one-possession game, the win's not secure until there are all zeroes on the clock (or at least the team's in victory formation), but there were really two key plays here that swung the game for Nebraska. The first big play was Lavonte David essentially stealing the ball from Braxton Miller's grasp deep in Buckeye territory when the game was 27-6 midway through the third quarter. Nebraska scored two plays later to get the game within 27-13, and the swing woke up a Husker crowd that had been silent for most of the game.

The second big play happened on Ohio State's next possession, as Miller appeared to twist his ankle while on a rollout. Miller would not return to the game, even after taping his ankle and trying to test it on the sideline, and Joe Bauserman was utterly horrific in relief. Bauerman finished the day 1-10 for 13 yards, and the one long pass he actually kept in the field of play (instead of throwing it into the seats, which happened several times) was intercepted. Nebraska would turn that pick around into the game-winning touchdown drive, and OSU never threatened again. 

WHAT NEBRASKA WON: This was an inestimably important victory; Nebraska had looked underwhelming all year long, and when it found itself down three scores to Ohio State, it was easy to wonder if perhaps this wasn't going to be the Huskers' year -- or if Taylor Martinez was even the best option at quarterback. Safe to say, all is well now in Lincoln, at least for the next week or so. At the very least, the season no longer threatens to spiral out of control, and now that the Huskers know they've got a comeback in them, they'll be even tougher for the rest of the Big Ten to handle for 60 minutes at a time.

WHAT OHIO STATE LOST: If Braxton Miller's ankle keeps him out for an extended amount of time, that's awful news for the Buckeyes; Miller was hands-down the better quarterback on Saturday, and Joe Bauserman looked as bad as he's ever been. More than that, though, Ohio State had an opportunity to get its Big Ten season back on track and even keep its division title hopes alive; with this loss pushing the Buckeyes to 0-2 in conference play, that's significantly less likely. There'll need to be some soul-searching on the defensive side of the ball too, as the Buckeye D wilted after Nebraska started to turn things around. That's wildly uncharacteristic for a defense in Columbus, and the OSU coaches will undoubtedly let their players know that. 

THAT WAS CRAZY: At the time of Braxton Miller's injury, Ohio State had run 41 plays: 33 rushes and eight passes. It had a 27-13 lead. So with Joe Bauserman coming in cold and a 14-point lead to protect, did OSU stick with a rushing game that was busy netting six yards a carry? No, of course not; Bauserman threw on 10 of his 18 snaps (and was sacked on an 11th), and his interception came on a 2nd and 6 after Carlos Hyde (who finished with 104 yards on only 13 carries) had gained 16 yards on his last two carries. What Bauserman was doing throwing a deep pass in that scenario is baffling.

Posted on: October 3, 2011 6:20 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 2:48 am
 

Big Ten poll reactions, Week 5

Posted by Adam Jacobi

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big Ten fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

4/5. Wisconsin

Wisconsin
jumped back up in the ratings after that legalized manslaughter it put on Nebraska, although the Badgers are still going to need to hope a couple teams lose in front of them before they can start even thinking about a championship. This is about where Wisconsin should be, since they're on a top tier with LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, Boise State, Stanford, and probably Oklahoma State. The level of quality drops down pretty substantially after those seven, and with the exception of Stanford, all seven have a marquee victory that helps differentiate them from the rest of the pack. It's a shame that none of this top tier is remaining on Wisconsin's schedule, but the Badgers will likely make do with the rest of the Big Ten slate this year.

12/11. Michigan 

Apparently, voters have just been waiting for a reason to hail, hail to Michigan, because this is a meteoric rise in the polls; Michigan was 10 spots lower in both polls two weeks ago, and those two weeks have seen victories against San Diego State and Minnesota. SDSU isn't bad, but that's a game that even a hypothetical 25th-ranked team ought to win at least 90% of the time -- and don't get me started on what a horror show the Gophers are this year. Two straight road contests against Northwestern and Michigan State loom for the Wolverines. If they win both, they'll deserve a ranking this high. If not, well, they won't be rated this high anymore so the problem'll just take care of itself in pretty short order.

14/15. Nebraska

Not nearly low enough. I had them at 16th and anticipated a 10-13 point loss at Wisconsin -- anything closer than that, and I was willing to move Nebraska up, anything worse and the Huskers go down. They're now 21st on my list. The defense is a mess in pass coverage, Taylor Martinez is probably regressing in terms of his football IQ, and there's really only so much Rex Burkhead (whom I have totally come around on this year) can do. At least Ohio State comes to Lincoln this week, though. There's nothing a struggling defense could use more than an opposing offense that can't throw, and boy howdy, OSU cannot throw. If Nebraska wants to act like it deserves its ranking for once, this week is a good time to do it.

19/16. Illinois

It seems like a terrifying proposition to depend on Ron Zook-led teams to produce week after week, which is what being ranked this high entails -- especially this early in the season. But here we are, with Illinois at 5-0 and riding a three-game streak of three-point victories against legitimate competition. Even more terrifying: with Week 7 opponent Ohio State looking outright toothless, Illinois could easily be 8-0 headed into a road date at Penn State on October 29. Illinois. 8-0. It could happen. Strange times we live in.

NR/20. Michigan State

There's a good reason why Michigan State is 20th in the coaches poll and unranked in the AP version: the coaches poll is a joke. Seriously, they barely watch any games, especially considering how quickly their ballots need to be turned around for tabulation. Why are we including their polls in the BCS system again?

Also receiving votes:

Michigan State (154 AP votes), Penn State (9 AP votes, 54 coaches votes), Iowa (5 coaches votes), Ohio State (1 coaches vote)

I don't usually editorialize on the "also receiving votes" portion, but I'd love to know who gave Ohio State a vote so we could demand his immediate ouster from the voting. Sincerely, someone who has actually watched Ohio State play this year.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com