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?
Wha Happened? took a brief hiatus last week to find some more things to burn in the gigantic dumpster fire that was the loss to Minnesota, but we're back now and our schadenfreudeometer is ready for action. Buckle up.
just Northwestern 28, #10 Nebraska 25
Oh, Wizgerald, you're a wily one. Yes you are. We were starting to think that your near-annual trend of upsetting an unsuspecting ranked opponent was going to take a break this year. You missed out on your usual victim (Iowa), although they weren't ranked (which probably kneecapped your motivation to spring the big upset, right?). You also missed out on chances to notch upset wins at home against Michigan and Penn State, despite leading at halftime against Big Blue and trailing by just three against Penn State. You even missed out on a chance to topple a ranked Illinois team on the road by choking away a late lead and forgetting to stay in the same zip code as A.J. Jenkins. Why you mixed in a five-game losing streak to make us wonder if you were even any good at all. But that was all just a devilish prelude to one of your most unlikely upsets in years: toppling the Big Ten's mighty newcomer, Nebraska, who was riding high at home after delivering a comprehensive beatdown to fellow division favorite Michigan State a week earlier. Well done, Wizgerald. Well done indeed.
As enjoyable as it was to see the Annual jNW Upset Bug bite a new victim this year (and oh it was, particularly when the victim was Nebraska), the strangest thing about the game was how little it really felt like an upset. In contrast to past Annual jNW Upset Games, this one involved very little chicanery: there were no magic potatoes (OK, none that we know about), no timely injuries to star players (in fact, Nebraska's best player, QB Taylor Martinez, actually had by far his finest passing day of the season -- 28/37, 289 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT), no Dan Persa magic tricks (#PERSASTRONG once again failed to finish the game after suffering a big hit; this has been quite a forgettable senior season for Persa), and no fortuitous turnover luck (jNW actually had a -1 turnover margin on the day). Northwestern simply looked like the better team: they outgained Nebraska (468-411), owned them on the ground (207-122), dominated time of possession (34:06-25:54), and generally made the newly-anointed "Blackshirt" defense look soft and lost. On the decisive fourth quarter drive, Northwestern didn't use any trickery to get the game-icing score -- in fact, they ran a drive that would have had Tom Osborne nodding in approval if it hadn't been happening to his beloved Huskers: they ran the ball thirteen straight times for 66 yards and a touchdown, gobbling up almost half of the fourth quarter (7:21) in the process. Welcome to the Big Ten, Nebraska: you've just been Northwestern'd.
#20 Wisconsin 62, Purdue 17
So Wisconsin loses two road games against tough opponents on last-minute downfield heaves and they drop all the way to 20th? Poppycock, I say. I still think they're the Big Ten's best and most complete team, although they'll only get a chance to prove that in Indianapolis if they can knock off Penn State on Thanksgiving weekend (and get a little help in the form of another PSU loss, too). In the meantime, the Badgers are on a mission to inflict pain and suffering on the Big Ten's lesser lights; Purdue was this week's unfortunate victim. OMHR held serve with the Badgers for a few drives (it was just 14-10 Wisconsin at the end of the first quarter), but they could not stave off the impending Buckylanche forever; by halftime it was 38-17 Wisco and the only thing left for the Badgers to do was rack up style points. They tacked on another 24 points in the second half to finish with 62 points (the most a Big Ten team has hung on another Big Ten squad since... Wisco put 70 on Northwestern last year) and had 605 yards of offense, paced by another ruthlessly efficient day from Russell Wilson (15/20, 205 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT; 10 carries, 76 yards, 1 TD) and another marvelous game from Montee Ball (20 carries, 223 yards, 3 TD). They are still quite good.
Ohio State 34, Indiana 20
Early on, Saturday's action looked like a glimpse at Big Ten action from Earth-2: all three underdogs (Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota) were leading their favored opponents (Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State). Two of the three favorites (Ohio State, Michigan State) wound up winning, but the supposedly overmatched underdogs fought valiantly: Indiana was tied with Ohio State as late as 0:09 in the third quarter. The story of the game for the Hoosiers was the continuing emergence of true freshman quarterback Tre Roberson, whose stat line (11/21, 174 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 20 carries, 70 yards) suggested that this solid showing against Iowa wasn't just a fluke caused by the Iowa defense's tendency to make plenty of quarterbacks look better than they really are. Roberson looks like the sort of dynamic playmaking threat at quarterback that the Hoosiers have lacked since Kellen Lewis -- if not Antwaan Randle-El; those two signal-callers led Indiana to their best seasons in recent memory, a fact which should give Big Tens pause when the Hoosiers show up on the schedule for the next few years. Meanwhile, Ohio State still found passing the ball to be an overrated fad (Braxton Miller went 5/11 for 55 yards, 0 TD, and 1 INT), but you can do that when you have three 100-yard rushers in one game and run for 346 yards and 4 TDs total. The Buckeyes we left for dead in the wake of Tatgate are now just one Penn State loss away from controlling their own destiny in the mighty IlliBuck Division.
#17 Michigan State 31, Minnesota 24
You're welcome, Big Ten. You can thank Iowa for awakening the slumbering Gopher menace. That or Jerry Kill was just waiting for a finished contract to start doing some actual coaching. In any event, the previously hapless Gophers have looked a hell of a lot less hapless the last two games -- especially the last five or so quarters. They picked up right where they left off in toppling Iowa a week ago in opening up three separate first half leads (7-0, 14-7, 17-14) on the Spartans -- and adding another lead change in the third quarter (24-21) for good measure. Alas, their mojo ran out in the fourth quarter, but they put one hell of a scare into the Sparty. The Gophers' co-Men of the Match were undoubtedly MarQueis Gray (19/32, 295 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT) and Da'Jon McKnight (9 catches, 173 yards, 3 TD), who made mincemeat of the Spartan secondary. The Gopher run defense also had a bounce-back day after giving up almost a quarter of Marcus Coker's 1000+ yards a week ago: they held Michigan State to just 106 yards and 2 TD on 28 carries. Unfortunately, Kirk Cousins more than made up the difference with a highly efficient passing performance: 23/34, 296 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT. Still, a program that lost to New Mexico State and North Dakota State earlier this season can still take some solace in the moral victory that this loss provides. Sparty, meanwhile, desperately needs to recover the mojo they had during their stunning October march through the Big Ten (although hopefully not for another week).
NEXT WEEK: Penn State attempts to put the worst bye week in recorded history behind them by entertaining... a Nebraska team seeking to rebound from an Epic Northwestern'ing (; Michigan State seeks to solidify their grip on the Floyd of Rosedale division by beating Iowa in their personal house of horrors (Kinnick Stadium); Michigan tries to rebound from their own Kinnick Stadium heartache by taking on The Fightin' Zookers; Ohio State heads to West Lafayette to try and add to OHMR's misery; and Wisconsin fights to avoid giving Minnesota an oversized wooden axe to go with their giant bronze pig.