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Football Tue Nov 09 2010

Big Ten Football Monday: The Weekend That Was

b10logo.jpgPenn State got Joe Paterno his 400th win in style, Michigan and Illinois made a mockery of the record book and some title contenders fared better than others.

It's never too late for The Weekend That Was in Big Ten football.

Best win -- Penn State 35, Northwestern 21

Best Bachman Turner Overdrive* -- Michigan State 31, Minnesota 8

Et cetera -- Michigan 67, Illinois 65, 3 OT ... Iowa 18, Indiana 13 ... Wisconsin 34, Purdue 13.

Sitting this one out -- Ohio State

Best Charley Steiner** -- Joe Paterno, Penn State

paterno.jpegOh, let's give the old guy top honors this week. There's the whole first-coach-to-400-wins thing, and surely he has played some role in Penn State's recent push past Michigan and Northwestern on the ladder of halfway decent Big Ten teams. (Still behind Illinois and the big four, though.)

Don't look now, but the Nittany Lions have scored 33, 41 and 35 points in beating Minnesota, Michigan and Northwestern. They scored all of their points against the Wildcats after falling behind 21-0, matching their largest comeback win under Paterno. Everything was clicking, with Evan Royster and Silas Redd running behind a dominant offensive line and Matt McGloin throwing four touchdown passes.

Can they do it again next weekend at Ohio State? That would be a real feat.

Best blitz -- Michigan

A game that featured a Big Ten-record 132 points ended with a big defensive play by the otherwise laughable Michigan defense. The Wolverines allowed 65 points, the most in program history, but they made one play to clinch the win, sacking Nathan Scheelhaase on Illinois' two-point conversion attempt in triple overtime.

Putting single coverage on the four Illini receivers, Michigan sent six pass rushers and broke through the blocking of running back Mikel Leshoure and the Illinois offensive line. Linebacker Jonas Mouton, rushing off the right edge, eluded left tackle Jeff Allen's cut block attempt and was on Scheelhaase in a split-second. Cameron Gordon, blitzing from the slot, beat Leshoure's block and closed quickly from the other side. And up the middle came Craig Roh, a stunting defensive end who came free when defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen commanded a double team by Illinois' right guard and right tackle. (It's at 9:20 of the video below.)

The triumphant swarming of Scheelhaase -- who actually had Eddie McGee open near the goal line if he had had a moment to throw the ball -- helped the Wolverines snap a three-game losing streak, but this was overall an unusually poor performance even for a defense that ranks in the bottom 15 or 20 nationally in nearly every important statistical category.

One mild caveat to the defensive carnage: Six of the game's SEVENTEEN touchdowns came in overtime, and we all know those aren't real touchdowns. Better that the NCAA treat football overtime like a tennis tiebreaker and give the victor a one-point win, instead of awarding a full six points for each 25-yard touchdown drive.

Saddest man in town -- Damarlo Belcher, Indiana

Belcher leads the Big Ten with 65 receptions, but he dropped a potential touchdown pass with 28 seconds left, denying the Hoosiers an epic upset of visiting Iowa. On fourth down from the 18-yard line, he broke open as he crossed the goal line and Ben Chappell hit him right in the hands. Falling to the ground, Belcher could not pull it in.

Best cure for what ails you -- Minnesota

Michigan State's formerly robust running game had in consecutive weeks produced 93 yards against Illinois, 105 yards at Northwestern and a mere 31 in last week's deflating loss at Iowa. Enter the hapless Gophers, who allowed the Spartans 189 yards, including 179 yards and four touchdowns on 27 carries by lead back Edwin Baker. Problem solved.

Stickiest hands -- Wisconsin defense

Facing a 10-6 halftime deficit at Purdue, the Badgers surged in the second half thanks to three interceptions. They scored on drives of 18 and 14 yards and got a third touchdown on a 36-yard interception return by Antonio Fenelus.

Best play ultimately rendered meaningless -- Drake Dunsmore, Northwestern

On third down from the 9-yard line, Dunsmore leaped to make a full-extension, one-handed catch in the back of the end zone, getting his right foot down before crashing out of bounds. He didn't palm the ball so much as catch its pointy end, as it traveled roughly parallel to the ground.

(Photographer Nabil Mark captured the moment for the Centre Daily Times.)

The Wildcats celebrated a 21-0 lead, and for the last time all day. On the following drive, McGloin and the Nittany Lions drove 91 yards in 53 seconds to end the half with a touchdown -- a similarly excellent catch by tight end Brett Brackett, actually -- that turned the game in their favor.


Worth watching -- Penn State at Ohio State ... Iowa at Northwestern.

Also -- Indiana at Wisconsin ... Michigan at Purdue ... Minnesota at Illinois.

* Bachman Turner Overdrive: "Taking care of business"
** Charley Steiner: "Follow me to freedom"

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