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Around the Big Ten: James Morris Defends, Buckeyes Go Off, Another Gophers Upset & Spartans Get On a Roll
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28 Oct 2013 02:53 PM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Braxton Miller accounted for five TDs against Penn State. (Image Source: FrankHyatt.com)

Breaking down Week 9 in the Big Ten:

The Team of the Week is Ohio State: Excuse me, THE Ohio State Buckeyes, who played their best all-around game of the season against Penn State. They were dominant on both sides of the ball and from start to finish (OK, I’ll fess up I didn’t watch the third string QB in the fourth quarter). Their 63 points is the most allowed by Penn State since 1899 and Ohio State’s 686 yards of offense is the most they’ve ever had in a Big Ten game. QB Braxton Miller was sharp (18/24 passing), dynamic (39-yard TD run) and highly productive (320 total yards, 5 TDs). Explosive coming off the edge, DE Noah Spence had a breakout game with two sacks among his three TFLs and a forced fumble. At one point OSU’s defense held PSU’s offense without a first down for over 15 minutes of game time in the first half.

Game Ball Goes to James Morris: In what was a defensive slug fest in Iowa City, MLB James Morris of the Hawkeyes was the centerpiece to Iowa’s defensive scheme against Northwestern, as they held the Wildcats to just 10 points. With dual-threat QB Kain Colter playing virtually the entire game (he came out for seven plays after getting banged up) it was Morris’s job to keep him in check. Coming back after missing Northwestern’s loss to Minnesota, Colter ran the ball for 60 yards (18 rushes, 3.3 YPC). His longest run was for 13 yards and Morris twice sacked the QB. The MIKE finished with eight tackles, two sacks, 2.5 TFLs and a fumble recovery. On several passing situations Morris played along Iowa’s three and four-man line and he often mirrored Colter.

The Turning Point Came When: Michigan State stopped Illinois at the goal line on third and fourth & goal in the second quarter. The score was 7-3 in favor of the Spartans and the Fighting Illini were on the cusp of taking the lead, however their 10-play drive fell one-yard short. RB Josh Ferguson was stuffed as he attempted to rush over left tackle on third down and TE Jon Davis was stopped in his tracks as he tried to power it up the middle on fourth down. It was curious play calling from a team that lacks a power running game, especially against MSU’s front seven. At that point, Illinois had seven first downs for 115 yards compared to MSU’s 68 yards. After that point, the Illini would move the chains just once more for eight second-half yards, while Sparty scored 35 more points (421 yards), starting with their 15-play, 99-yard scoring drive. The half ended dramatically when a pair if Illinois defenders had a chance at the football only to tip it up in the air for WR Bennie Fowler to snag in the end zone for a 29-yard scoring strike on fourth down with nine seconds remaining in the second quarter. The second half was all MSU.

Maybe It’s Time to Rethink Minnesota: It appeared to me that Minnesota’s 4-0 start was a product of a soft non-conference schedule (UNLV, @ New Mexico, Western Illinois & San Jose State), a belief that was confirmed when they were dropped by Iowa 23-7 at home and Michigan 42-13 on the road in their first two Big Ten games…or so I believed. Maybe their last two wins—20-17 at Northwestern and 34-23 over Nebraska—turn out to be more about the opposition as well, but it’s time to rethink the Gophers and ponder if they really are ready to make the much talked about Jerry Kill leap in year number three of the rebuilding process. The Gophers bullied Nebraska’s front seven with some downhill running from RB David Cobb (31 carries, 138 yards, 4.5 YPC) and QB Philip Nelson (8 carries, 55 yards, 6.9 YPC, 2 TDs), while deftly sprinkling in some jet sweeps/end arounds from their receivers (7 carries, 138 yards, 9.7 YPC). With star DT Ra’Shede Hageman (3 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 sack, 2 sacks negated by face mask penalties) setting the tone, they also pushed around Nebraska’s offense, sacking Taylor Martinez four times. Nebraska’s 23 points was their second-lowest scoring output of the season. Could Minnesota belong in the top half of the Big Ten? That’s something to think about.

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. 

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