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?
LOUISIANA TECH 52, ILLINOIS 24
I wasn't sure if any B1G team would cross the five-dumpster fire threshold this season; little did I know that Illinois would put together such a heartbreaking work of staggering incompetence on Saturday night. (For the record, I might have also given Iowa the five-dumpster fire treatment this week if they were eligible for this post; it depends on how you feel about completely imploding to a MAC team in the final two minutes of a game versus getting a train run on you by a WAC team for a full sixty minutes, I suppose.) No Zook? No problem! Even Zook never managed to lose by 30 points (or 28, but what's a few points between friends?) to a WAC team. I suppose it's possible that Louisiana Tech is Not-Terrible (they're 3-0 so far this year, after all), but still: a Big Ten team getting beat by 30 points at home to a WAC team is a complete fucking debacle. Tech led 21-7 after the first quarter, but really took control of the game in the third quarter when they scored 24 unanswered points to take a 45-17 lead. (It was actually just 21-17 at halftime.) Tech had 403 yards of offense, with most of the damage coming from QB Colby Cameron, who racked up 284 yards and 4 TD (to 0 INT) on 15/22 passing. Illinois got QB Nathan Scheelhaase back, but he was only marginally effective and left the game in the first quarter.
#11 NOTRE DAME 13, #18 MICHIGAN 6
Speaking of the Golden Domers, they completed a three game sweep over B1G competition, their first since 2002. They did it with defense: they held Michigan to 299 yards and 6 points (which came on two fourth quarter field goals) and forced Denard Robinson into a pretty miserable evening (13/24, 138 yards, 0 TD, 4 INT; 26 carries, 90 yards). At one point in the first half, Michigan had five consecutive drives end with an interception. (The next drive, in the third quarter, ended with a Denard fumble in the red zone.) Needless to say, that many turnovers is A Very Bad Thing.
#16 OHIO STATE 29, UAB 15
When is a two-TD win not all it's cracked up to be? When you need a late TD to push the margin there and when you're a 37-point favorite at home, meaning Ohio State was still four scores away from covering the spread in this game. UAB is terrible (Troy beat them by 10 and South Carolina clobbered them by 43), but they put up over 400 yards of offense on OSU and were within a touchdown of OSU in the fourth quarter. And, oh yeah, Ohio State is kinda sorta supposed to be the best team in the league. Goddamn, we suck.
#21 MICHIGAN STATE 23, EASTERN MICHIGAN 7
Speaking of good (in theory!) B1G teams struggling with inferior opposition... Sparty trailed Eastern Michigan at halftime (7-3) and was up just 9-7 after three quarters. They didn't score their first touchdown of the game until midway through the fourth quarter. It was one thing for the MSU offense to be thoroughly flummoxed by Notre Dame's defense (which is proving to be pretty salty), but to be straitjacketed by Eastern Michigan... yowza. The Eagles had given up at least 31 points in every previous game this year, including a 54-spot for Purdue just a week ago. You know what's going to be awesome? When Purdue plays Northwestern for a spot in the Rose Bowl in a little over two months. If you need me then, I'll be busy performing a self-trepanation procedure...
#25 NEBRASKA 73, IDAHO STATE 7
Ah, so this is what good teams are supposed to do to bad teams... Nebraska was up 35-0 after the first quarter, 45-0 at the half, and 66-0 after the third quarter. This game was pretty much over as soon as Idaho State got off the plane. Rex Burkhead made a triumphant return from injury, hustling for 119 yards and 2 TDs on just 8 carries in barely a half of work. Taylor Martinez continued his strong play at home (9/13, 165 yards, 2 TD), but anything Nebraska got through the air was just icing on a particularly delicious cake of ground 'n' pound dominance: they amassed 385 yards and 5 TDs on the ground, good for a Weisman-esque 7.4 yards per carry average. Nebraska seems to have righted the ship after their L.A. meltdown against UCLA; in fact, right now they look like the Grain Belt division favorites.
WISCONSIN 37, UTEP 26
The Badgers scored 37 points in this game, or just 12 points fewer than they had scored in their first three games (against UNI, Oregon State, and Utah State) combined. Huzzah for offensive progress! (Sort of: they had just 23 points until tacking on a pair of touchdowns in the final three minutes of the game.) But that was the good news. The bad news was that Montee Ball got jumped by a gang of UTEP defenders and suffered another concussion, which could (should?) keep him out of the Nebraska game this coming weekend. I mean, I'm sure not having their best offensive weapon for a game against a good opponent in a rabidly hostile environment will work out just fine for them. Bielema's got it all figured out. Joel Stave had a better day after a full week of practice as QB1 (12/17 for 210 yards, 1 TD/1 INT) and former Iowa commit Melvin Gordon led the way for the running game in Ball's absence (8 carries, 112 yards, 1 TD).
just NORTHWESTERN 38, SOUTH DAKOTA 7
Our Armani-clad friends took a week off from whipping the BCS' SAT Squad schools and took on mighty USD. Two years ago, a middling USD team (they ended the season 4-7) broke into the Bank and stole Minnesota's
fortune pride; alas, this jNW squad appears to be far more formidable than that Gopher squad. (The USD loss was one of the final nails in Brewster's coffin that year.) jNW cruised to an easy win on the back of their surprisingly potent ground game: they had 277 yards and 5 TD on 53 carries, led by Venric Mark's 117 yards and 3 TDs (all in the first half). Frankly, it's unsettling to see a jNW offensive attack not predicated around a dink-and-dunk passing game.
MINNESOTA 17, SYRACUSE 10
As for the other joint leader of the Grain Belt Division (ed. note: KILL ME NOW PLEASE), Minnesota picked up a fourth straight win by using their defense to smother the Fightin' Citrus Fruit from Upstate New York. They held the 'Cuse to just three points (until a TD with less than a minute to go), which is impressive (jNW and USC gave up an average of 35 ppg to the Orange). The Gopher offense wasn't so golden (GETIT?), though: Max Shortell was 16/31 for 231 yards (no TDs or turnovers), while Donnell Kirkwood was the only running threat worth a damn (99 yards and 2 TDs on 28 carries). We could easily see a game on Saturday that features less than 25 points and Kirkwood and Weisman combining for 60 carries. OLD MAN FOOTBALL, Y'ALL.
PENN STATE 24, TEMPLE 13
Penn State won (again!) and, given the dumpster fire-ness of the rest of the league, it no longer seems like as much of a foregone conclusion that they're headed for a "avert your eyes, here comes the pain" 3-4 win season. Temple is not good, but Penn State handled them pretty well.: the Owls had just 237 yards of total offense and didn't score a TD until the final 90 seconds of the game. The PSU offense wasn't exactly, uh, dynamic, but Matt McGloin did throw for 318 yards and a touchdown with a 67% completion rate (he also threw an interception, natch) and Allen Robinson continued to stake his claim as the best receiver in the Big Ten (5 receptions, 82 yards, 1 TD); through four weeks, he leads the league in receptions (29), yards (404), and touchdowns (5). Not too shabby.