Sooo... that was an uneventful day in the Big Ten, right? A blowout here, an unexpectedly tight game there, wins by two of BHGP's favorite embattled coaches, and a flawless day of work by the league's refereeing and replay officials. Yep. Nothing to see here. Just the usual. But if you insist... here's Wha Happened.
Come to think of it: has anyone ever seen Batman and Ron Zook in the same place? HMM.
Illinois 38, Michigan 13
Not a dream, not a hoax, not an imaginary story -- Illinois really did crush a conference rival by 25 points. The same sad-sack Illini outfit that hadn't cracked 17 points in a single game against FBS competition this year scored more than that by the ten minute mark of the third quarter; then tacked on another 17 points because they were feeling frisky. Much-maligned (and deservedly so) Juice Williams had a quiet but efficient day passing the ball (8/11, 123 yards), but he took care of the ball (no turnovers) and he helped key an Illinois rushing attack that churned out 377 yards on 56 carries (Juice had 97 yards and a score on 21 attempts), numbers would that make even the potent Illinois rushing attack of 2007 envious. Jason Ford and Mikel Williams both finished with over 100 yards rushing, including a 70+ yard touchdown run by each man. This was a very nice and much-needed win for the embattled Zooker, which makes the BHGP joke writers (we pay them in collector's edition STANZI 4 HEISMANZI t-shirts) very pleased. But, hell, after the ongoing nightmare that this season has been, a win like this is a nice port in the storm; so sit back, relax, and do the Batusi, Ron -- for one night, you've earned it. Wha Happened? was all prepared to write the official obituary for the 2009 Illinois season as they became the first B10 team to clinch bowl ineligibility, but that will have to wait for at least one week.
Meanwhile, former wunderkind Tate Forcier continued his brutal October; he did go 13/23 for 257 yards, but he fumbled three times (losing two), failed to throw a touchdown pass, and failed to lead Michigan to touchdowns of any kind after the first quarter (and failed to lead them to any points whatsoever in the second half). In fact, Forcier hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since the end of the Michigan State game. Whether it's his ailing shoulder, the increasingly cold and nasty midwestern weather, or just the physical grind of Big Ten football on an undersized true freshman's body, Forcier's play has clearly taken a dip. That 4-0 start looks more and more like a mirage and with a pair of home games (against Purdue and Ohio State) sandwiched around a road game at resurgent Wisconsin, achieving more than a 6-6 record may be difficult for the LOLverines. Good thing it's a short road trip to Detroit for the Pizza! Pizza! Bowl.
Finally, a sad farewell to the gloriously-named Boubacar Cissoko, unceremoniously booted from the Michigan team earlier this week for the always-mysterious "violation of team rules" (BHGP theory: swindled Rodriguez out of seed money for City Boyz, Inc. 2.0); between this loss and the impending departure of Zoltan Mesko, Michigan is losing ground in the "totally awesome names" department. At least they still have Martavious Odoms.
Only a quarter as insane as this actual game.
Minnesota 42, Michigan State 34
If Iowa-Indiana wasn't the wildest Big 10 game of the day, then this one almost certainly takes that honor. Over 800 total yards of offense, 76 points, five touchdowns of longer than 30 yards, and, oh yeah, 17 penalties for 157 yards for Minnesota (they tacked on 9 penalties for 73 yards against Sparty; needless to say, the officials had some busy whistles). Absolute lunacy. And words can't even begin to describe how preposterous some of the touchdowns were: Minnesota opened up the scoring with a 62-yard bomb that featured Duane Bennett doing one of the best tightrope walks you'll ever see; Brandon Green followed that up by hauling in an acrobatic 37-yard score. MSU scored their first touchdown on one of the wackiest, most schoolyard-looking scramble-and-chuck-it-downfield plays. MSU then attempted to trump that by having Keshawn Martin rattle off a 93-yard kickoff return touchdown and an 84-yard rushing touchdown within a ten minute span in the third quarter. But the icing on the cake was Minnesota's clinching touchdown: Duane Bennett plucked the ball out of the air after the initial receiver, Nick Tow-Arnett, got cracked by brutal hit and coughed the ball up, then scooted 59 yards. Like I said: pre-fucking-posterous.
Meanwhile, the Iowa-Indiana game wasn't the only one that featured some questionable replay calls; moments before Minnesota's clinching touchdown, the replay booth inexplicably overturned a critical fumble call after a Minnesota receiver appeared to catch the ball, take 1-2 steps, and then get hit and fumble the ball. I have no idea what the replay official saw there to change that call. Regardless, Adam Weber had a career day -- 19/31, 416 yards, 5 TD/1 INT -- and the fact that this happened a week after he lost his safety blanket in Eric Decker seemed somehow appropriate on a thoroughly wild and woolly day of Big Ten action. A week after Ricky Stanzi made the Spartan secondary look good for 58:23, Adam Weber confirmed what we all knew to be true: they kinda suck. As for the rest of Spartans, it's hard not to look at the catastrophic opening of the game and not conclude that there was a hangover effect from the Iowa game a week ago; whether there was or not, they're 4-5 and may need to win out to guarantee themselves a bowl game (which could be tricky since they end the season against Penn State), which is not exactly how you want to follow up a 9-win campaign that finished up in the Capital One Bowl. All five of their losses have been by single digits, but close losses don't do anything but keep you up at night. But what to make of the TRY FIGHT WIN HEAVILY PENALIZED Gophers a week after losing their top offensive weapon (Decker) and nearly getting shut out in back-to-back games by Penn State and Ohio State (only a garbage-time touchdown against OSU's reserves prevented that ignominious fate)? Was this an aberration? A sign that the Gopher offense may not be quite as woeful as we thought? Considering that Weber hadn't thrown for a TD pass since the Wisconsin game 28 days ago and that he nearly doubled his season total for TD passes in one game, we lean towards the former explanation.
Penn State 34, just Northwestern 13
At halftime, jNWU was actually winning 13-10. After three quarters, the game was still tied, 13-13. Then came
STANZITIME, er, the fourth quarter and Penn State absolutely blew up, scoring touchdowns on three consecutive drives to take control of the game. Daryll Clark continued to cruise towards 1st-team All-Big Ten honors, going 22/31 for 274 yards and a touchdown; just another fine day at the office for him. Evan Royster tacked on 118 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries. The bad news from LOLcat land is that starting quarterback and existential warrior Mike Kafka left the game with a hamstring injury, which puts into doubt his availability for the Iowa game this coming weekend. Back-up Dan Persa wasn't bad, per se (14/23, 115 yards; 14 carries, 42 yards; 0 TDs), but he didn't exactly do much, either. Once again, the jNWU running backs were a no-show: their top two leading rushers were Persa and Kafka. Actual running backs ran the ball 14 times for 33 yards. These are not exactly the proud descendants of Darnell Autry, Damian Anderson, and Tyrell Sutton.
Is there anything that muppets don't make better? Of course not.
Wisconsin 37, Purdue 0
Two weeks ago, Purdue was on top of the world after engineering a wildly improbable upset over Ohio State. They followed that up with a tidy win over a reeling Illinois team. It's safe to say the honeymoon is over now. John Clay carried the load on offense (123 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries), a blocked punt returned for a touchdown late in the first half deflated Purdue, and the Badger defense squeezed the life out of Purdue, holding them to a measly 141 yards on 62 plays, or barely more than two yards a play. This was vintage, Alvarez-era Wisconsin football.
Ohio State 45, New Mexico State 0
Even this seemingly innocuous blowout is still further proof of what a thoroughly insane day it was in the Big Ten. When the fuck does Senator Sweatervest (who is now getting actual political advice from someone who knows a thing or two about moving from coach to politician) ever beat someone 45-0? Especially with an offense that, prior to the past few weeks, had been one of the most anemic offenses of the Sweatervest Era? Has Terrelle Pryor truly turned the proverbial corner? Well, let's not get too hasty -- he was just 11/23 for 135 yards and a touchdown, plus 83 yards and a touchdown on nine carries -- and New Mexico State (who, it should be noted, is not the New Mexico school with the "fists of fury" coach) does have one of the worst defenses in the nation. They also have one of the worst offenses in the nation, which is just making it a little too easy for the stout Buckeye defense; that said, anytime you can hold FBS competition to just 62 yards of total offense, well, you're doing something very, very right. Either way, Ohio State did exactly what a good team is supposed to do at home to a horrifically overmatched team: beat the everloving shit out of them.