Wha Happened? is the weekly round-up of the rest of the games that were in the Big Ten -- you know, the ones that were going on while you were shotgunning that beer, or watching Iowa, or sleeping off that early-morning tailgating. Who won? Who lost? Who made us quiver with fear? Who made us laugh hysterically? In short... Wha Happened? Now with new-and-improved performance ranking system!
PENN STATE 35, just NORTHWESTERN 21 (coverage)
Sure, Michigan and Illinois played one of the most exciting games in recent memory, but did Rich Rodriguez notch his 400th career coaching victory with that win? No, he did not. Anytime you accomplish something as stupendous as four hundred career wins -- at the same school, no less! -- well, that's pretty much a guaranteed slot in the "WIN" category right there. Sure, objectively there's really not much different from winning 400 or 399 or even 380 games -- they're all the sort of absurd, utterly ridiculous stats that we'll never see again unless Alabama's plan to convert Nick Saban into an unkillable cyborg comes to fruition. No one is going to coach that long and/or be that good for so long. So hats off to JoePa for adding yet another sparkling accomplishment to a career that's already chock-full of them.
The game itself was strange; jNW leapt out to an early 21-0 lead on the arm (and feet) of Pennsylvania native Dan Persa and his two touchdown runs and jaw-dropping touchdown pass to Drake Dunsmore (still one of the most Northwestern-y names ever). PSU started the game with Bob Bolden at QB, but after two drives netted few yards and two punts, JoePa handed the reins to the Ginger Avenger. Matt McGloin wasn't an instant fix (his first three drives went punt, punt, missed field goal), but he became energized right before half (perhaps it was the nightfall; he's played his best football under the cover of darkness the past two weeks -- gingers, after all, are mortal enemies of the sun) and led PSU on an 91-yard scoring drive with less than a minute to play. He picked up where he left off after half and led PSU to touchdowns on the next four straight drives, with the offense suddenly looking alive and well for the first time all year against a non-Michigan (or Minnesota) opponent. He finished with solid numbers (18/29, 228 yards, 4/0 TD/INT) and was ably backed up by a brutal ground game (Evan Royster went for 134 yards on 25 carries, while Silas Redd tacked on 131 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries). McGloin may or not may not be the quarterback of the future at PSU, but there's little doubt that he gives them the best chance to win the rest of their games this year. The offense simply works with him in charge in a way that it simply doesn't with the other QB options there.
MICHIGAN 67, ILLINOIS 65 (3OT) (coverage)
Much has already been said about this spectacular point orgy -- it was higher-scoring than the last three Illinois-Michigan basketball games, it was the highest-scoring game in Big Ten history, it featured well over half-a-mile in yards of total offense -- so there's really not much left to say. Denard Robinson racked up over 367 yards of offense -- and didn't even play in the fourth quarter or any of the overtimes. Illinois nearly had three 100-yard rushers (Mikel LeShoure had 120 yards and 3 TD on 24 carries, Nathan Scheelhaase and 101 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, and Jason Ford had 91 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries). Roy Roundtree shattered the Michigan single-game receiving yards record by catching nine passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns. It was a game of mind-boggling, outrageously over-the-top statistics. It was the kind of game that, had it been played in NCAA Football '11, would make you think that maybe you need to turn the difficulty up -- at least for the AI defense.
That Michigan's defense gave up such ridiculous production was hardly surprising; they've allowed damn near every offense this season to ring up career days and the Illinois offense has been blossoming into an increasingly potent attack over the last month. That Illinois' defense gave up such insane numbers is a little more surprising, since they actually had been pretty stout all season prior to Saturday. But it's not that surprising, since the Michigan offense has fricasseed pretty much every defense they've faced this season and, as Iowa fans rooting for Michigan to throw a spanner in the Big Ten title race, it's the one thing that gives us hope that they might be able to pull a shocker and beat Wisconsin or Ohio State. Despite five turnovers in regulation, Michigan still managed to rattle off 45 points; granted, turning the ball over that much against either Wisconsin or Ohio State is almost certainly a guarantee that you'll be getting your head stomped into a fine crimson mist, but still... with such an absurdly potent offense, Michigan is never going to be out of any game. As for Illinois, the loss is an ugly blemish on their otherwise impressive turnaround season and leaves them one win short of bowl qualification; luckily Minnesota comes to town next week.
#9 WISCONSIN 34, PURDUE 13 (coverage)
For about a half it seemed as though Our Most Hated Rival might actually be do us a solid in our quest to get to Pasadena -- they opened up an early 7-0 lead on the Badgers, led throughout the first half, and took a 10-6 lead into halftime. Then OMHR remembered that they both hate Iowa and suck at football and everything went to hell. Wisconsin took the lead barely three minutes into the third quarter and hardly looked back, tacking on another 20 points and coasting to a fairly easy win. Purdue did pull within a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but they threw an interception that led to an icing Wisco touchdown on their ensuing possession. OMHR is feisty, but that can't disguise their overall lack of talent -- when you're down to your third-string (or worse) options at QB and RB, it's hard to get wins. That is, unless you're Wisconsin and your third-string RB (Montee Ball) can bust off 127 yards and two scores on 21 carries. Then again, Bielema could pull a fan out of the stands and let him run behind that line and he'd get at least 75 yards.
#14 MICHIGAN STATE 31, MINNESOTA 8 (coverage)
Once again, when you're in need of a pick-me-up in Big Ten play, there's no better team to play than Minnesota. They could make a team of blind midget lepers feel good about themselves. MSU needed a nice bounce-back opponent after the drubbing they suffered at the hands of Iowa a week ago, and Minnesota was more than happy to oblige. Kirk Cousins still wasn't very good (9/20, 130 yards, 0/1 TD/INT), but it didn't matter because Edwin Baker was very good: 27 carries, 179 yards, 4 TD. That was more than enough offense to dispatch the lowly Gophers... although it was not enough offense to cover the spread, which means that Minnesota continues their season-long trend of getting sneaky, backdoor covers. The only other thing you need to know about this game is that someone other than Adam Weber finally took snaps at Minnesota -- MarQueis Gray went 2/6 for 24 yards and added 31 rushing yards on five carries. It's bad enough that Minnesota took Brewster away before Iowa could say goodbye in three weeks; if they take Weber away too, we may have to stage some sort of protest.