Posted on: November 29, 2010 10:53 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2010 11:22 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
The Big Ten released their all-conference teams on Monday, and clearly both the coaches and media value the play of the individual at each position. The conference has seen an amazing collection of quarterback performances this season, making the narrowing process difficult for the voters. But when the ballots were counted, Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien, Michigan's Denard Robinson and Northwestern's Dan Persa made the first and second teams, with Persa making both lists.
One quarterback not too happy with the results was Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Who, in the same fashion as so many brilliant athletes before him, took to Twitter to say something that will likely be misunderstood and blown out of proportion.
Obviously Pryor is not going to quit football anytime soon. But his frustration is somewhat understood. Pryor is still thought by some to be a longshot Heisman candidate and plays on a team that tied for the regular season title, so conventional wisdom would likely place him atop his other Big Ten counterparts. But this was not a conventional season at quarterback in the Big Ten.
Plus Pryor could have possibly won some of the "career honor" type votes if he wasn't so adamant about coming back next season. Come on Terrelle, work the system baby, work the system.
Below are the full media and coaches' All-Big Ten squads as reported by the conference.
Click here to enlarge media list
Click here to enlarge coaches' list
Posted on: November 27, 2010 4:36 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2010 4:38 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
With wins by both Ohio State and Michigan State on Saturday morning, Wisconsin came in to its regular season finale against Northwestern needing a win to grab a share of the Big Ten title and possibly punch its ticket to Pasadena. So far, things are going according to plan.
The game is still early in the second quarter, but the Badgers aren't having any trouble with the Dan Persa-less Wildcats. Montee Ball has three touchdowns in the first 18 minutes of action, as Wisconsin has jumped out to a 21-3 lead. Not helping Northwestern's case are the three turnovers that it has already committed.
Illinois gashed Northwestern for over 500 yards on the ground last week at Wrigley Field, and it looks like Wisconsin may be able to top that.
This win is huge for Wisconsin not just because of the Big Ten title, but because if the Badgers do win, they'll likely be bound for Pasadena and the Rose Bowl. With a three-way tie atop the conference, the BCS standings will be used to determine which team gets to go to the Rose Bowl. Up until this week Wisconsin has been ahead of both Ohio State and Michigan State, and that's not likely to change considering the way things are currently going in Madison.
Update: As I hit publish on this post, Scott Tolzien hit David Gilreath for an 18-yard touchdown pass. It's now 28-3 Wisconsin.
Posted on: November 21, 2010 4:36 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
1. Wisconsin fans shouldn't necessarily buy tickets to Pasadena, but they should at least be pricing them. We're sure that Badger fans weren't terribly excited to see their nemeses in East Lansing complete the comeback today, leaving the Big Ten title picture still in some measure of doubt, but Ohio State 's own comeback against Iowa later that day means that barring a sensational boost in the BCS rankings for the Buckeyes, Wisconsin is one win away from the Rose Bowl. Considering Northwestern -- the Badgers' last opponent -- clearly misses injured QB Dan Persa and struggles to stop the run, the likelihood of an upset at Camp Randall seems slim. Famous last words, yes, but still.
2. Don't mention fourth quarters to Iowa fans for a while. Or do if you want to anger them. In the Hawkeyes' game against Ohio State, the Buckeyes weathered Iowa's defense for three quarters before making a heroic drive in the last few minutes of the game to take the lead and win. For the Iowa fans, it was a broken record that desperately needs to stop; in each of Iowa's four losses, the vaunted Iowa defense has given up a go-ahead touchdown with less than five minutes on the clock, at which point the Iowa offense has failed to answer under pressure. In fact, Iowa would have five losses of that exact nature if Indiana wideout Damario Belcher hadn't dropped an easy fourth-down touchdown two weeks ago. It's to the point where "small sample size" just doesn't work as an excuse anymore: the Iowa defense clearly doesn't have the juice to play for 60 minutes, and that painful fact has snuffed out the high hopes of the Hawkeye faithful in Iowa City.
3. The Spartans might not be going to the Rose Bowl, but their season's pretty special anyway. Barring an Ohio State loss to Michigan next week, Michigan State will not be going to Pasadena; the fact that MSU and OSU didn't play each other this season means that their tiebreaker would be BCS ranking, and OSU was already comfortably ahead of the Spartans even before OSU took down a ranked Iowa team while MSU struggled with very-not-ranked Purdue. Michigan State's season-ender at Penn State isn't a gimme, but even if the Spartans lose, this is still just the third time in program history that MSU has hit 10 wins on a season (1965, 1999). The Spartans have never won 11 games in a season, and they have two opportunities to do that now.
The accomplishment isn't that much of a stunner, as the Spartans looked on paper to be at worst a darkhorse contender for the league title. It's just, well, they barely ever do this, so it was hard not to wonder how MSU would screw it all up this year. But credit Mark Dantonio and his staff for keeping the team on track, even through Dantonio's heart attack and other off-field problems, and en route to its best Big Ten record its best conference record in at least 11 (and maybe 45) years.
4. Okay, so football at Wrigley can be pretty cool -- even if one of the end zones is sort of a death trap. The Big Ten got it right when it forbade Illinois and Northwestern to run offensive series toward that now-infamous east end zone at Wrigley, and when Northwestern defensive back Brian Peters took an interception to the house, he had to be tackled by teammates before hitting that wall. No, he wasn't three yards away from certain doom, and the tackle by his pals was also nice and celebratory, but still: he was only about three or four yards away from impact before being taken down as he slowed from his sprint. Running offensive plays (like fade routes) toward that wall would have been just begging for injuries -- and lawsuits.
But past that, the fans in attendance got to see a special occasion, even if Illinois absolutely worked the Wildcats. Wrigley Field is one of the most hallowed sports arenas, and to see its famed scoreboard used to show Big Ten football scores and its marquee painted purple must have been a thrill for Northwestern and Big Ten fans in Chicago. Ron Zook said he'd "absolutely" have his team play there again, and Pat Fitzgerald was equally effusive in his praise of the event. Should the two teams play their rivalry game there every year? Well, that seems like an abuse of the novelty of it all, but have you ever actually seen Memorial Stadium or Ryan Field? Not exactly cathedrals of the sport, those. It might -- just might -- be worth keeping Wrigley on the table going forward.
Tags: Big Ten, Brian Peters, Damario Belcher, Dan Persa, Illinois, Illinois Northwestern, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa Ohio State, Mark Dantonio, Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan State Purdue, Michigan Wisconsin, Northwestern, Northwestern, Northwestern Illinois, Ohio State, Ohio State Iowa, Pat Fitzgerald, Penn State, Purdue, Purdue Michigan State, Ron Zook, What I Learned, Wisconsin Michigan, Wrigley Field, Wrigley Field Football
Posted on: November 14, 2010 2:32 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
1. The Iowa defense is the biggest fraud in the Big Ten. Credit must go to Dan Persa and Northwestern for their gutsy fourth-quarter comeback against the Iowa Hawkeyes, but it's time to stop lauding the Iowa defense as one of the nation's best, because it isn't -- not when the game is on the line. Iowa has given up game-winning drives -- and long, sustained ones, at that -- to three different opponents this season, and if it hadn't been for an unconscionable end zone drop by Indiana wideout Damario Belcher on 4th down last week, that total would be four, in just 10 games. It's one thing to hold lightweights like Iowa State and Eastern Illinois to just one score. It's another to get a stop when the team needs one the most, and Iowa's defense just doesn't seem capable of doing that.
2. Bret Bielema's empathy generator is broken. Quick, name the one Big Ten coach who would run up 83 points on a conference opponent. It's probably the same one that goes for two while up by 25 with under seven minutes to play, isn't it? Why yes it is. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema continued his quest to get every mediocre coach in the Big Ten fired with an 83-20 firebombing of Indiana in Madison. And though Bielema will again claim not to be running up the score, it's worth pointing out that Scott Tolzien was throwing passes to fellow starters Lance Kendricks and David Gilreath with a 39-point lead and under five minutes left in the third quarter. Yes, it's up to Indiana to make the stop, and Indiana never did, but in a 63-point win, it's never good to see the winning team converting a 76-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter -- regardless of whether a backup threw it. Wisconsin, we're looking at you here.
3. There's plenty of Hawkeye fans in East Lansing. The Big Ten title race is down to three one-loss teams, and as of right now, Wisconsin owns the tiebreaker for the trip to Pasadena (or if all hell really breaks loose, Glendale, but let's assume Pasadena). Of the three teams, only one -- Ohio State -- faces a ranked team down the stretch, and that's OSU's trip to Iowa next weekend. If Iowa wins, all of a sudden, Michigan State has the upper hand for the league title. Ohio State wins, and we're back to the three-team non-round-robin tiebreaker, which is BCS standing. MSU is not such a big fan of that idea: the Spartans are firmly mired at third among Big Ten teams in that department. So yes, there's still plenty of endgame drama left in the Big Ten, even if it involves two teams that are at best longshots for the title.
4. Matt McGloin has "moxie," but Ohio State has a secondary. Advantage, OSU. It's hard to believe, looking at the 38-14 final score from Columbus, but Penn State actually led the Buckeyes 14-3 at the break, and it could have been worse. PSU QB Matt McGloin threw two touchdown passes in the first half, and unlike the two he threw in the second half, the first half scores were to his own team. Yes, things sort of fell off a cliff for Penn State, and the turning point was likely late in the first half, when Joe Paterno got greedy on 4th and 1 at the OSU 20 and went for it. The Evan Royster rush failed, the Buckeye defense's heart grew three sizes, and PSU never even threatened to score for the rest of the game.
It was a sobering return to reality for Penn State fans who witnessed McGloin's dissection of the Northwestern defense last week and were entertaining dreams of McGloin as a wildly successful three (or two-and-a-half, anyway) -year starter over true freshman Rob Bolden, Joe Paterno's choice at the beginning of the season. The fact of the matter is, there's usually plenty more to turning a struggling offense around than just making a switch at quarterback, and when Bolden's got a full year of film study and practice under his belt, he's probably going to be a better quarterback than McGloin. That fact doesn't have much relevance today, which is why McGloin started at Columbus and probably will next week, but it would be extremely presumptive to look at McGloin's first two quarters at OSU and attach a tag like "the future" to him -- unless the words "clipboard holder for Rob Bolden" immediately follow.
Tags: Ball State, BCS Tiebreakers, Big Ten, Big Ten Tiebreakers, Bret Bielema, Damario Belcher, Dan Persa, David Gilreath, Evan Royster, Indiana, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Lance Kendricks, Matt McGloin, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Rob Bolden, Rose Bowl, Rose Bowl Tiebreakers, Scott Tolzien, What I Learned, Wisconsin
Posted on: November 13, 2010 4:08 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
On first and goal from the Iowa 6-yard line, Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa took the snap, scrambled, and leapt to throw a pass. That pass found Jeremy Ebert for what would be the game-winning touchdown. And as if the pass weren't consequential enough, when Persa came down, he appeared to injure his ankle, and was helped off the field.
According to head coach Pat Fitzgerald , the worst-case scenario for that leg injury has come true: Dan Persa has a ruptured Achilles tendon. The injury will cost Persa the rest of his season, of course, and it's not even certain that Persa will be healthy for the start of next season.
Obviously, this is a tough blow for Northwestern, even as the Wildcats celebrate their fifth victory over Iowa in their last six meetings. Persa was the 10th-ranked quarterback in the nation in passing efficiency, and he was also the Wildcats' leading rusher on the season (he still may end up being the team leader even after missing the last three games). He single-handedly tired out the Iowa defense on Northwestern's two fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Dan Persa basically is the Northwestern offense. How the 'Cats will respond to this devastating news against Illinois next week will be something worth watching.
Posted on: November 2, 2010 12:35 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:08 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa has done just about everything for the Wildcats this season. Not only does Persa rank second in the country in completion percentage (74.4%) and ninth in pass efficiency (162.7) but he also leads Northwestern in rushing with 360 yards. Without Persa, the Wildcats aren't 6-2 and on their way back to another bowl game under Pat Fitzgerald.
There was some concern that Northwestern would have to take on Penn State this weekend without its lynchpin on offense, as Persa suffered a concussion during a win against Indiana last week. According to Fitzgerald, though, there's no reason to worry as he "fully expects him to play" this weekend. Still, before it can be made official, Persa will have to pass Northwestern's "post-concussion protocol" which is a series of tests he'll need to pass before being cleared.
The team plans on having him participate in non-contact drills on Tuesday and hopes to have him cleared to play on Thursday.
Persa may have some extra motivation to play this weekend as well, as he grew up a fan of Penn State only a few hours away from campus, and his mom graduated from the school. When he was in high school the Nittany Lions didn't show much attention to him, so he may want to give them a hint on what they missed out on.
Posted on: October 25, 2010 6:57 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:11 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The Davey O'Brien Award, given annually to the nation's top quarterback, announced its 16 semifinalists for the award today. The list is as follows, in alphabetical order:
All in all, this is a pretty thorough list of the quarterbacks who might end up being the top quarterback in the nation once December rolls around, but it certainly does seem as if there was one glaring omission: Northwestern sophomore Dan Persa . Persa currently leads the nation in completion percentage, is eighth in passing efficiency and is fifth in total offense . Oh, and Persa also leads his team in rushing yards (341) and rushing touchdowns (six) -- each by pretty substantial margins over the nearest teammate.
Of course, it certainly merits mention that Northwestern is currently on a two-game losing streak, and that the Wildcats hadn't really beaten anyone of merit before the streak either. But in the Wildcats' losses to Michigan State and Purdue -- neither of whom have lost a Big Ten game yet, for what it's worth -- Persa was hardly "at fault" for the losses; he averaged 281 yards of total offense in the two games and scored four touchdowns to just one turnover.
It's hard to say who should be bumped for Persa's sake, though; every one of the top 16 semifinalists has a legitimate claim to deserving some sort of accolade. It's also worth pointing out, however, that until Missouri and Oklahoma faced each other this past weekend, Dalton, Gabbert, and Jones were all quarterbacking undefeated teams, and that's probably the only reason they're on the list; Jones and Gabbert, in particular, aren't even close to the top 16 of passing efficiency in the nation (34th and 39th, respectively). None of the three are terribly gifted runners, either, while Persa's been forced to anchor the woeful Northwestern ground game.
Of course, the O'Brien Award probably wants to avoid the embarrassment of not being able to even nominate a title contender's quarterback as a finalist, and with two conference losses, it's extremely unlikely that Northwestern will represent the Big Ten in Pasadena, much less make a run at a spot in the Top 10. Persa and his Wildcats aren't high-profile, and that's enough to leave him off this list. Inclusion's academic either way, since this is clearly Cam Newton's to lose, but it'd be nice to see a quarterback like Persa rewarded for putting together one hell of a season so far even when he doesn't have the supporting cast to win 11 games in a season.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Big 12, Big Ten, Blaine Gabbert, Boise State, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Dan Persa, Darron, Davey O'Brien Semifinalists, Denard Robinson, Iowa, Kellen Moore, Kirk Cousins, Landry Jones, Matt Barkley, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri, Mountain West, Nebraska, Nevada, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pac-10, Purdue, Ricky Stanzi, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Mallett, SEC, Stanford, Taylor Martinez, TCU, Terrelle Pryor, USC, WAC
Posted on: October 23, 2010 3:27 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
When we last off with Michigan State vs. Northwestern , the homestanding Wildcats were manhandling the favored Spartans on the ground and had opened up a commanding 17-0 second quarter lead. They never really stopped manhandling them, either; until a late, essentially meaningless Edwin Baker touchdown run, Northwestern was outgaining the Spartans 2-to-1 in the rushing game.
Which is why Michigan State went to the air in the second half, changed the game, and won 35-27 . Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins enjoyed a monster second half, finishing with 335 yards on 32-of-45 passing, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. MSU wideouts B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell each finished with over 100 yards receiving. They were all at their best on the Spartans' critical 11-play, 89-yard fourth-quarter drive to take the lead, as Cousins went 8-of-9 for 96 yards (the Spartans turned 2nd-and-20 and 3rd-and-15 situations into first downs after sacks) and Cunningham added a brilliant touchdown reception after an end-zone deflection.
Sparty also got a boost from another Mark Dantonio fake punt that led to a touchdown and two critical Northwestern turnovers, one on the Spartan 1-yard line in the first half and a Dan Persa interception that helped lead to MSU's first score of the second half. But Cousins was the difference-maker, hitting his routes on perfect timing again and again. Ohio State annihilated Purdue as comprehensively as it's possible to annihilate a Big Ten opponent, but it's not going to matter as long as Cousins and his receivers continue executing at this level and Dantonio's squad continues to show the kind of resilience they did today.