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Wha Happened? Week Three Around The Big Ten

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!

Mark Dantonio, you have balls.  Gigantic, swinging, hundred-pound cast-iron balls that would give normal men a hernia, but not you, you gutsy son of a bitch.  As Iowa fans, we suspected this already after the hook and ladder you called late in the Iowa-Sparty game a year ago, but you just confirmed it for the entire nation to see with that spectacular fake field goal to secure a walk-off win over Notre Dame.  Kudos to you sir, because that was one hell of a play call, and kudos to your players, because they executed it flawlessly.  Plays like that are precisely why we love football so again: all kudos, hat tips, and terrorist fist jabs to Sparty, for there is no other team more full of pure, unadulterated win than them this week.

Aside from that, the game went pretty much as expected after a slow, defensive start: Notre Dame wound up shredding the suspect MSU pass defense (Dayne Crist went 32/55, 369 yards, 4/1 TD/INT), Kirk Cousins finally had a pretty solid game (23/33, 245 yards, 2/1 TD/INT after a weak start), and the Spartan ground game continued tearing up big chunks of yards (203 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 43 carries).  If Couisins can maintain that level of play, MSU will have one of the scariest offenses in the league because they already have one of the nastiest ground games with the one-two punch of Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell at running back.  But that play, oh that play...

EDIT: And apparently the end of that game was a little too exciting for Dantonio, as he had a heart attack.  No, really.  In all seriousness, we wish Coach Dantonio a full and speedy recovery.  

Northwestern is one of the teams we've largely ignored in this feature so far (along with Indiana), but unlike Indiana, jNWU has actually been playing a few teams with a semblance of a pulse.  And they're 3-0, so we're probably due to give them a little dap.  Hell, they're the only Big Ten team with two road wins so far.  Mind you, they're also the only Big Ten team that would have to go on the road two times in the non-conference season, but that's neither here nor there.  The Wildcats continued their tour of the nation's rich-kid, smart-school circuit (having already taken out Vanderbilt) by traveling to Houston to take on Rice.  And they crushed the plucky little Owls.  Rice got a late TD to make the score look slightly more respectable, but not really: they got pwned.  It took the jNW offense a while to get going (they didn't score an offensive touchdown until the third quarter), but they eventually did and QB Dan Persa was again ruthlessly efficient: 24/32, 307 yards, 1/0 TD/INT.  The assembly line of smart, accurate passers jNW has stashed away in Evanston is really getting kind of irritating at this point.

For the second straight week a middling performance takes the "Show" category, but a win's a win and no one else beat a BCS-level foe this week.  In their continuing quest to emulate Iowa's football success, Wisconsin has apparently latched onto the notion of thieving our gameplay M.O. from a year ago: win ugly, but just win goddammit. Shit, they even stole our "block a kick to secure a victory" idea.  Although they only blocked an extra point, only did it once, and did it with plenty of time to fix things if they hadn't blocked it; further proof that sequels are never as good as the original.  Statistically, the Badgers looked pretty good: John Clay rumbled and stumbled his way to 123 yards and the game-clinching score on 22 carries; Scott Tolzien was a solid 19/25, 246 yards, 1/0 TD/INT; and Lance Kendricks was a beast, racking up 131 yards and a score on seven catches.  Yet to anyone watching them yesterday, the Badgers looked disjointed and sluggish much of the time and their defense struggled at times.  And like damn near every other Big Ten team, they cannot cover a kickoff to save their fucking lives: they gave up a  97-yard return for a score and a 95-yard return just before halftime that would have led to points if not for a last-gasp tackle and the fact that there was no more time remaining in the half.  Still, the Badgers keep winning and as we saw last year, the win's the thing: it doesn't really matter how pretty it is.

GO MICHIGAN AWESOME!  Denard Robinson is totally amazing in every way!  Not wearing shoelaces makes him a trendsetter!  He's not a one-man show; he totally got help yesterday!  DENARD4HEISMAN4EVER!  Maybe that will appease the Big Blue faithful.  None of which is to say that Robinson wasn't again breathtaking and impressive: he went 10/14  for 241 yards and 2/1 TD/INT through the air and tacked on 104 yards and another score on 17 carries on the ground.  We could point out that most of those passing yards came from YAC the receivers picked up after catching short screen passes or that Robinson's interception was every bit as horrendous as the ducks he tossed up last year, but hey: no turds in the punch bowl plz.  Bully for Michigan for finally finding a running back to help Robinson out, though: Michael Shaw zoomed for 126 yards and a trio of scores on 12 carries.  For his next trick, we'll see if he can do it against an actual decent defense.

But we know that Michigan had a dynamite offense; it was no surprise to see that they had way too much speed for UMass to handle.  The bigger revelation is that holy shit, the Michigan defense is a goddamn disaster site. Someone call FEMA.  The UMass offensive line -- UMass! -- pushed them around and dominated the Michigan defensive front: the Minuteman running backs had gaping holes to run through pretty much all day.  The secondary was once again the expected oil spill of blown coverages, missed tackles, and flat-out shame that we've come to expect. Sometimes stats lie and sometimes they don't: giving up 439 yards and 37 points to UMass is a pretty clear sign that your defense is big fucking problem and Robinson and the offense can't cover that forever.

#18 USC 32, MINNESOTA 21 
To be fair to our Gopher friends, this performance was far less wretched than their loss to USD a week ago and it happened against a far better team.  Still, only wins are going to save PLAY4BREW's hide at this point and a scalp of USC, even this depreciated version, would have looked nice on the mantelpiece.  But, hell, the fact that they managed to cover the spread goes down as a moral victory of sorts (and probably a real victory in the PLAY4BREW record books).  The Gophers kept it close for a half and even led briefly in the third quarter before they too succumbed to the Big Ten's kickoff coverage flu and gave up a 97-yard kick return score that turned the tide for USC.  The Trojan defense stoned the Gopher running game, which put the game on Adam Weber's shoulders; you can guess how well that went.  More remarkable than anything was Coach Kiffykin's continuing insistence on being a gigantic fucking douche by inexplicably going for two not once, not twice, but three times.  The fact that he failed all three times is surely evidence that the college football gods have a keen sense of justice.  

#22 PENN STATE 24, KENT STATE 0 (coverage)
One of these days a team from Ohio will beat Ohio State and end the Buckeyes' absurdly long streak of dominance over their fellow Ohio schools (they haven't lost since something like 1920); that day will be amazing.  That day was not yesterday.  The only thing of note from the game is that the Buckeyes do seem pretty firmly committed to the whole "Terrelle Pryor, actual passing quarterback" idea now.  He went 22/29 for 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns (as well as two fairly meaningless interceptions that came late when Ohio State had the game well in hand and was seemingly just fucking around), marking the fourth straight game (going back to the Rose Bowl) where he's thrown the ball 20+ times.

Meanwhile, whither Penn State?  Same ol' story for their season thus far: solid defense and an offense that remains a work-in-progress.  Freshman QB Robert Bolden was decent (17/27, 217 yards, 1/2 TD/INT), but the running game was still pretty meh.  Evan Royster had a few nice runs, but a final line of 11-38-1 isn't wowing anyone.  Stephon Green was a bit more productive (59 yards on 11 carries), but they still aren't wowing anyone on the ground.  Still the usual good defense, though.

PURDUE 24, BALL STATE 13 (coverage)
For the first time since 2008, the Fightin' Zookers have a winning record (2-1)!  Huzzah!  With games against Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State coming up next, that mark may be short-lived, so enjoy it now.  Not that they made it easy against NIU (it never is with the Illini); they trailed after the first quarter (12-7) and allowed NIU to pull within two with six minutes to play in the fourth quarter before sealing things with a late TD.  In the midst of all that, Zook took the opportunity to channel his inner Kiffykins and (inexplicably) go for two.  Just Zook bein' Zook.  Man of the match was Mikel LeShoure, the best running back in the Big Ten no one talks about; he amassed 180 yards and the game-clinching score on 24 carries.  

And we would like to say something about the game between our next opponent and OUR MOST HATED RIVAL, but it was so stupefyingly boring whenever we flipped over to watch it that we took nothing away from it.  Even the box score is boring.  We're still pretty sure that Ball State is terrible, though.

No offense to our unicorn-riding Hoosier friends, but wake us when Indiana plays someone who won't be ranked among the bottom 10 teams in the nation at season's end.  Bully to them for not spitting the bit against the Fightin' Amorphous Red Blobs on their strange trip to Bowling Green, Kentucky, but at this point these results are all just noise.