Call them lucky. Call them good. Call them whatever you want -- except for losers. The Buckeyes showed everyone once again what they can do during crunch time to win a big game - even if it wasn't pretty. This time it took a missed field goal by Purdue in overtime for Ohio State to get the win, 16-13. It seems like almost every week the Buckeyes continue to escape by the seat of their collective pants, but they continue to get it done on the scoreboard. This win sets up the game of the year next week in Michigan for the Big Ten title (see below). Purdue had a shot at competing for at least a share of the title, but that all ended when kicker Ben Jones missed a field goal in overtime. To call this game ugly was an understatement, but that has been the Buckeyes' calling card all season long. It really doesn't matter how you do it though, just as long as you get it done. And Ohio State gets it done time and time again. This time, the Buckeyes didn't even manage to score an offensive touchdown the entire afternoon, yet still ensured they will play a regular season-ending game against Michigan for the conference title. The kickers were the most important players in this game, and they were the players that would decide it when it went down to the wire. The Boilers got on the board first midway through the first quarter as Jones kicked a 45-yard field goal to give Purdue the lead. The teams matched field goals in the second quarter and went into their respective locker rooms tied, 6-6. There was no scoring at all in the third quarter, but in the final quarter things got real interesting. With 11:23 left in the game, Purdue DE Mike Kudla jumped on a fumble by QB Kyle Orton in the end zone that put Ohio State up 13-6. Two possessions later, Orton drove his team down the field on a great drive that was capped by a Jared Void 11-yard touchdown run. Void was untouched on his way to the end zone after an Orton pump-fake fooled the Buckeyes defense. In overtime, OSU's Mike Nugent kicked his third field goal of the day and put the pressure on the backs of the Boilers. On their possession, the Purdue drive was stalled at the Ohio State 19, so they had to settle for an attempt to tie the game. Everything seemed right with the snap and the hold, Jones just flat-out missed it. Besides the kickers, there were really no standout performances on either side of the ball. Both QBs had similar days. Ohio State's signal caller, Craig Krenzel, threw for 226 yards on 15 of 29 passing. Orton had many more attempts - 47 - but threw for only 249 yards on 27 completions. Buckeyes WR Michael Jenkins did have a nice day, as he caught six passes for 123 yards. RB Lydell Ross added 79 yards on the ground for the Buckeyes. Purdue's leading ground gainer was Void, who rushed for 60 yards on 22 carries and had the team's only touchdown. Purdue will finish its regular season at Indiana while Ohio State will play the game of the year for the Big Ten title against the Wolverines. The Boilers have been installed as 25 ½-point favorites in their final game. Even with the big line, I am still leaning towards the favorite.
Northwestern had an upset on its mind, but it was not meant to be as Michigan took control of their own destiny in the Big Ten with a 41-10 win over the Wildcats on Saturday. The Northwestern faithful were hoping their team might catch the Wolves looking ahead. Because, of course, Michigan will face off against Ohio State on Saturday in Ann Arbor with the conference title on the line. The recently resurgent Wildcats were hoping to play the spoiler role, but Michigan controlled the game through the air and on the ground. Two recovered fumbles and a pick didn't hurt either. Michigan did most of its damage in the second quarter. After a Wildcats field goal late in the fist quarter - with the score 7-3 in favor of the Wolves -- Michigan unleashed their offense, scoring three touchdowns and a field goal before the half. RB Chris Perry got his second score of the day early in the quarter. QB John Navarre backed him up with two touchdown passes, one to Braylon Edwards for 26 yards and one to Jason Avant for 22 yards. The second half wasn't too exciting, as Michigan worked on the clock and ran their lead out with RBs Chris Perry, Jerome Jackson and David Underwood. Navarre finished the game with 288 yards passing, including the two touchdown strikes, and completed 22 of 31 passes. Perry contributed 122 yards on 25 carries. WR Braylon Edwards was a bright spot for the Wildcats, as he caught nine passes for 112 yards. Next week the Wolverines will be in the hunt for their 41st conference championship and a possible trip to the Rose Bowl. Michigan is listed as an early 6 ½-point favorite. Even though the Cats looked like they were asleep against the Wolves, I feel they will wake up next week against Illinois. Most sportsbooks have Northwestern listed as 3 ½-point favorites.
All season I have said that Iowa is one of the most overrated teams in the Big Ten, but they looked very impressive this past Saturday as they dismantled the Golden Gophers, 40-22, in Iowa City. In Minnesota's final regular season game, it managed to compile 563 yards in total offense, but five turnovers proved to be the Gophers' downfall. The turnovers were even more frustrating for Minnesota because several of them occurred on drives deep into Iowa territory. The Gophers actually led after the first quarter, as kicker Rhys Lloyd scored on a pair of field goals -- Hawkeyes kicker Nate Kaeding also added one --making the score 6-3 heading into the second quarter. That's when the action started - most of it in Iowa's favor. QB Nathan Chandler started off hot early in the quarter as he ran in a 3-yard touchdown, reclaiming the lead. The Gophers looked like they may storm back and match the score after QB Asad Abdul-Khaliq completed a 26-yard pass to WR Aaron Hosack that took his team to the Iowa 12-yard line. On the next play, however, DE Tyler Luebke sacked Abdul-Khaliq and Iowa's LB Matt Roth recovered the ball. This was the first crucial mistake but not the last. Later in the quarter Abdul-Khaliq connected on a 66-yard pass play to WR Jared Ellerson that took the Gophers to Iowa's two-yard line. But on the next play RB Laurence Maroney fumbled at the goal line and, again, Iowa took over. Another crucial turnover came when SS Bob Sanders sacked Abdul-Khaliq early in the third quarter. LB Kevin Worthy recovered the ball on the Minnesota 19-yard line. Abdul-Khaliq, who was knocked out of last week's game against Wisconsin with a shoulder injury, became the Gophers career leader in total offense -- even though it was in a losing effort. He threw for 384 yards on 28 of 46 passing but had one interception, three fumbles and no touchdowns. Remarkably, Minnesota - the nation's No. 1 rushing team - had no RB gain over 100 yards. This could be in part because starter Marion Barber III left the game early with an injury. Maroney was the leader for the Gophers, gaining 70 yards on 24 attempts. FB Thomas Tapeh played well as he had 59 yards on 10 attempts and added two touchdowns. Ellerson was probably the highlight of the day for Minnesota as he caught ten passes for 157 yards. Kaeding was definitely the star for Iowa. The kicker tied his own school record by booting four kicks through the uprights. Chandler was efficient all day, and he wound up with 208 yards on 18 of 28 attempts with one touchdown and one pick. No other offensive player for the Hawkeyes racked up more than 100 yards, but many contributed good games to this impressive win. The Gophers will have to wait and see which bowl they will wind up in, and this performance won't help their situation. Iowa will finish their regular season next week as they travel for Wisconsin in what should shape up to be a very good game. The Badgers have been installed as an early 1 ½-point favorite.
Wisconsin senior WR Lee Evans loves playing the Spartans. In 2000, he grabbed the winning touchdown catch that broke Michigan State's back. This was his only catch of the game. The following year he racked up 228 yards in receiving yardage and scored three times against the Spartans. Evans evidently saved his best for last, as if those feats were not enough. This past Saturday Evans caught nine passes from QB Jim Sorgi for 250 yards and five touchdowns. This helped his team demolish the sinking Spartans, 56-21. Michigan State played Evans with man-to-man coverage all day, which was a huge mistake. After he beat his guy time after time, the coaches never adjusted the coverage. His five scores tied a Big Ten record. Almost overshadowed by Evans' performance, RB Dwayne Smith had quite a day himself. The backup tailback rushed for 213 yards on 21 attempts including three touchdowns. This one was all Badgers from the outset. Evans got the scoring started early with his first touchdown catch, a 10-yarder from Sorgi. Smith followed up with a three-yard touchdown in the second quarter and then Evans got another touchdown - this time on a 75-yard pass from Sorgi - early in the second quarter to give the Badgers a 21-0 lead. Michigan State finally got on the board before the half as QB Jeff Smoker hit WR Kyle Brown for a 21-yard touchdown pass. If there were any time that the team could have gotten back into the game, it would have had to have been here. But Evans scored his third touchdown late in the first half and put the game out of reach. It was more of the Evans-Smith show in the second half and the Spartans never had a chance. Thanks in large part to the sticky fingers of his prolific WR; Sorgi compiled a career day passing. The Badgers QB threw for 381 yards on 16 of 25 passing and all of his five touchdowns went to Evans. Remarkably, Wisconsin had enough offense left for WR Darrin Charles to get 90 yards receiving of his own on three catches. Smoker had a mediocre day as he threw for 205 yards on 16 of 31 passing with a pair of touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Sorgi also set a school record in the win, as he became the first Wisconsin QB to throw four or more touchdowns in two consecutive games. This game snapped a three-game losing streak for Wisconsin and was the third-straight loss for the Spartans. Michigan State will attempt to stop their slide as they finish the regular season on Saturday at home against Penn State. The Spartans are favored by 4 ½-points early and I and leaning towards them at that number.
Penn State got their first Big Ten win of the season in a 52-7 romp over the Hoosiers. The victory ended a six-game losing streak, the longest in Coach Joe Paterno's career leading the Nittany Lions. Paterno probably felt good about his chances here, as Penn State had never lost to Indiana in nine career meetings. The Hoosiers actually looked like they came to play early as they scored the first points on a 12-yard touchdown pass from QB Matt LoVecchio to Glenn Johnson. But any hopes they had of keeping this game close were soon erased, as the Nittany Lions rolled up and down the field at will for the rest of the day. They did much of their damage in the third quarter as they racked up four touchdowns and a field goal after going into the locker room at halftime up 21-7. There were plenty of starts in this game for Penn State. QB Zack Mills threw for three touchdowns and 173 yards. Two of those touchdowns went to WR Tony Johnson, who only had three receptions for 47 yards but scored on all three catches. He made all of his catches count. WR Maurice Humphrey added five catches for 121 yards. RB Michael Robinson rushed for 85 yards on 11 carries and ran for one touchdown and passed for one touchdown. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had an incredible game for the Hoosiers in the loss. The RB carried the ball 42 times and gained 203 yards. Indiana will be at home next week against Purdue in its season finale and will have a chance to play spoiler to the Boilers.
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