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Around the Big Ten: Spartans Spank Wolverines, Philip Nelson Leads Gophers & Buckeyes Pitch Shutout
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4 Nov 2013 05:49 PM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: LB Denicos Allen led a Michigan State defense that smothered Michigan for 60 minutes. (Image Source: Mike Carter/USA TODAY Sports)

Breaking down Week 10 in the Big Ten:

The Team of the Week is Michigan State: What didn’t the Spartans do well? They shutdown Michigan’s running game and sacked the quarterback seven times. QB Connor Cook threw for 252 yards as MSU took the lead and put up points, while RB Jeremy Langford ran for 120 yards and helped Sparty ice the game in the fourth quarter. With their statement win over instate rival Michigan, the Spartans are clearly the team to beat in the Legends Division.

Game Ball Goes to Philip Nelson: The Minnesota quarterback had a career day. For much of the season Minnesota’s passing attack has been non-existent but in Bloomington it was a big reason why the Gophers scored 42 points and came out on top. Philip Nelson completed 16 of 23 passes for 298 yards and four TDs (no INTs). He was crisp and accurate with his passes. Nelson showed confidence when completing a 10-yard TD pass on 4th & 2 when he could have run for the first down and was clutch as he completed back-to-back passes for 59 yards, including the game-winning TD to Maxx Williams with just over three minutes remaining in the game, after IU scored 26 unanswered points to take the lead.

The Turning Point Came When: Nickelback Darius Hillary of Wisconsin intercepted Iowa’s Jake Rudock in the third quarter. The score was 7-6 in favor of the Badgers but up until that point, the Hawkeyes were outplaying Wisconsin. Throwing out of his own end zone on first down, Rudock faced heavy pressure from a blitz and forced a pass into coverage, basically throwing it for grabs. Hillary came down with it at the Iowa 20-yard line and on the very next play Joel Stave hit Jared Abbrederis in the end zone and the Badgers led 14-6. Not only was Wisky able to take the lead, but also Rudock was knocked out of the game. That forced freshman C.J. Beathard (grandson of former NFL GM Bobby Beathard) into action and he struggled (4 of 16). At 14-9, Beathard’s INT in the fourth quarter at Iowa’s 25-yard line set up James White’s 11-yard scoring scamper as Wisky began to pull away.

Sure, They Won But: Nebraska did not look like Nebraska against Northwestern and they were not the better team in Lincoln on Saturday. They trailed the Wildcats 21-14 at the half and in the second half starting QB Tommie Armstrong Jr. threw three interceptions. This is how they scored in the second half: DE Avery Moss had a pick six and third-string QB Ron Kellogg III completed a 49-yard Hail Mary pass to Jordan Westerkamp on the game’s final play. The Huskers weren’t impressive at all in their win and shouldn’t feel like they’ve figured anything out from their loss to Minnesota. Sure, they won, but not much is working other than the running of Ameer Abdullah.

Sure, They Lost But: Illinois keeps getting closer and closer. Sooner or later they’re going to break through and snap their 18-game Big Ten losing streak. They’re not that far off and it’s not a matter of if, but when. Nate Scheelhaase threw for 321 yards and his first TD in conference play this season…they had a three-point lead in the fourth quarter before losing in OT. As much as they blew it at the end, which they did, it was mistakes in the beginning of the game that cost Illinois. Scheelhaase threw an INT on the game’s opening drive after the Illini moved the ball to the PSU 20-yard line and they had a TD called back because of a penalty. Illinois is used to getting beat and on Saturday they beat themselves with critical penalties and turnovers.

The Department of Defense: Sure it was against Purdue, but a shutout on the road against a Big Ten team is impressive, regardless of the foe. Ohio State’s defense continues to improve as they held the Boilermakers to an almost unthinkable 116 yards of total offense. OSU held Purdue to 27 rushing yards (including -35 yards by Danny Etling) and allowed just 89 passing yards on 13 of 29 passing. Five players combined for six sacks led by Ryan Shazier blitzing from his linebacker spot. I’m not sure how good the Bucks D is but this young unit, especially their front seven, seems to be getting better each and every week.

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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