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NCAAF Team Report - Minnesota - INSIDE SLANT
Buckeyes seem poised for perfect season
Ohio State took a major step toward another undefeated regular season with a 40-30 road victory over Northwestern on Saturday night. The Buckeyes remained No. 4 in the Associated Press poll released Sunday and continue to be far and away the class of the conference so far.
At 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten, Ohio State is halfway through its schedule. The only obstacle to continued perfection in coach Urban Meyer's second year appears to be the season-ending confrontation with rival Michigan. The next five opponents should not be a threat: Iowa and Penn State at home, at Illinois and Purdue and at home against Indiana.
Meyer is now 18-0 at Ohio State after the Buckeyes extended the nation's longest winning streak to 18 games. They have a bye this week to rest and reload.
Indiana and Michigan State will match up for what should be an interesting game next week in East Lansing after both teams posted impressive wins on Saturday. The Hoosiers were 0-16 against Penn State before handling the Nittany Lions 44-24 in Bloomington. The Spartans, coming off a loss at Notre Dame, won 26-14 at Iowa in their Big Ten opener.
Michigan became the highest-ranked Big Ten team behind Ohio State at No. 18 after its 42-13 victory over Minnesota in Ann Arbor. The Gophers played without coach Jerry Kill, who remained at home after suffering another seizure, and lost their second straight conference game.
Northwestern dropped in the AP poll to No. 19 after a competitive performance against Ohio State. The Wildcats head this week to Wisconsin, which was idle on Saturday.
Nebraska took care of Illinois in a 39-19 win with Tommy Armstrong Jr. starting for injured quarterback Taylor Martinez. The Cornhuskers' much-maligned defense showed improvement and Illinois showed it's not ready yet to compete with the upper-tier teams in the Big Ten.
Iowa suffered a setback with its loss to Michigan State. The momentum the Hawkeyes picked up from a road win over Minnesota the previous week is now gone and could continue to disintegrate with their next three games against Ohio State, Northwestern and Wisconsin.
The results of Week 6 indicate a dogfight is shaping up in the Legends Division among Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern. Ohio State is sitting pretty atop the Leaders Division.
Game: Nebraska 39, Illinois 19. The Fighting Illini's offense, averaging 40 points per game, didn't score a touchdown until the third quarter against what had been a suspect Nebraska defense in non-conference play. Meanwhile, Illinois' defense gave up 521 yards against a Cornhuskers offense directed by backup Tommy Armstrong Jr. Illinois never got closer than 18 points in the second half.
Takeaway: Illinois went to Lincoln with high hopes for an upset. Instead, coach Tim Beckman had to be upset about the Illini's performance. Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah ran through the Illinois defense for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Armstrong, starting in place of injured Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, threw two touchdown passes. Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who had played well against lesser teams and not so hot against better opponents, was limited to 135 yards passing and one interception with no touchdowns. Running back Josh Ferguson was one of the bright spots for the Illini with 114 yards and a TD on 19 carries and eight receptions for 82 yards.
Next: vs. Wisconsin, Oct. 19.
Game: Indiana 44, Penn State 24. After falling behind early in the third quarter, the Hoosiers revved up their offense and outscored Penn State 31-8 the rest of the way. The win was Indiana's first ever over the Nittany Lions and its first victory in a Big Ten season opener since 2000. Hoosiers quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson combined for two touchdown passes and two rushing scores.
Takeaway: After non-conference losses to Navy and Missouri in September, Indiana was already being written off as a team that wouldn't live up to preseason expectations as a possible bowl contender. Not so fast. The Hoosiers resurrected their expectations with the convincing victory at home over Penn State with a strong second-half surge. Indiana won with what it does best -- moving the ball and scoring points. Tevin Coleman scored on a 44-yard run, wide receiver Kofi Hughes had a 36-yard touchdown pass and Roberson capped the scoring with a TD run in the fourth quarter. Indiana receiver Cody Latimer topped 100 yards for the third straight game with nine receptions for 140 yards. The Indiana defense "has come a long way. They're ballin' right now," Hughes said. The Hoosiers held the Nittany Lions to 70 yards on the ground and put pressure on Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who still threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns.
Next: at Michigan State, Oct. 12.
Game: Michigan State 26, Iowa 14. The Hawkeyes opened a 14-10 halftime lead but were held scoreless in the second half and lost for the first time since their season opener. Iowa and leading rusher Mark Weisman went nowhere on the ground against Michigan State's stout defense, with the team held to 23 yards rushing and Weisman to 9 yards on seven carries. Quarterback Jake Rudock threw two interceptions that also hurt the Hawkeyes, whose defense was burned by two big plays.
Takeaway: Iowa dropped a home game it needed to win to have any hopes to be a factor in the Legends Division. The Hawkeyes, who were averaging 244 yards per game on the ground, couldn't run the ball against Michigan State, ranked No. 2 nationally in rushing defense. Rudock passed for 244 yards and two scores, but the interceptions and the absence of leading receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley for most of the game with a leg injury limited the offense's effectiveness. Iowa's defense held Michigan State to 135 yards rushing but had trouble with Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, who passed for a career-best 277 yards and two touchdowns. As Iowa moves forward, the prospects are not bright for the rest of the season. The Hawkeyes are likely to be favored in only one of their six remaining games.
Next: at Ohio State, Oct. 19.
Game: Michigan 42, Minnesota 13. The Wolverines put the game away with 28 second-half points. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner played a turnover-free game, Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns, and wide receiver Devin Funchess caught a career-high seven passes for 151 yards and a score. Blake Countess added a 72-yard interception return for a touchdown to lead a defense that limited Minnesota to 281 yards.
Takeaway: The bye week seemed to benefit Michigan. Gardner was more conservative, avoiding the 10 turnovers in earlier games that nearly led to two upset losses in September, but he passed for 235 yards and a touchdown. A key stat showing the offense's efficiency against Minnesota was its converting 10 of 13 third downs. "I was able to manage the game," Gardner said. Michigan's defense held Minnesota without a touchdown after the first quarter. The unbeaten Wolverines still have their doubters, but a trip to Penn State next week is another opportunity to answer the skeptics.
Next: at Penn State, Oct. 12.
MICHIGAN STATE (4-1)
Game: Michigan State 26, Iowa 14. The Spartans found some offense in Iowa City -- particularly from quarterback Connor Cook -- and claimed a key road win on Saturday. Cook, who started the previous game against Notre Dame but was pulled late in the fourth quarter, had a breakout day against the Hawkeyes with 277 yards passing. There were two big plays -- a 46-yard touchdown pass to Macgarrett Kings Jr. in the first half and a 37-yard scoring hookup with Bennie Fowler in the third quarter. Michigan State's defense throttled Iowa in the second half and allowed just 23 yards rushing in the game.
Takeaway: With Michigan State finding some offense against Iowa, there is renewed optimism that the Spartans can make a push for the Legends Division title. There were never any questions about the defense, which is among the FBS leaders in several categories, including fewest rushing yards and points allowed. The offense lagged far behind until Saturday. While a significant gap remains between the Michigan State offense and defense, Cook could help narrow it. His completions (25), pass attempts (44) and yards (277) were career bests, and he was not sacked by a respectable Iowa defense.
Next: vs. Indiana, Oct. 12.
Game: Michigan 42, Minnesota 13. Playing without coach Jerry Kill, the Gophers lost the battle for the Little Brown Jug and dropped their second consecutive Big Ten game. The score was tied until Minnesota gave up a touchdown with 1:25 left in the second quarter. From there, it was all Wolverines. Minnesota freshman Mitch Leidner started at quarterback and passed for 145 yards and a touchdown and ran for 66 yards.
Takeaway: Kill's seizures will continue to be a topic of concern for the Gophers. The coach didn't make the trip to Ann Arbor after a Saturday morning seizure, Kill's fifth on game day in three seasons at Minnesota, kept him from traveling to the game. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys served as acting head coach in Kill's place and worked from the press box. Claeys said Kill's absence had no bearing on the outcome. Rather, the Gophers had trouble stopping the Michigan offense. "We are all pretty much used to this, and so are the kids," Claeys said of Kill's absence.
Next: at Northwestern, Oct. 19.
Game: Nebraska 39, Illinois 19. Ameer Abdullah rushed for a career-high 225 yards on 20 carries and scored two touchdowns to lead the Cornhuskers. Nebraska didn't need to pass much, but when it did, quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. connected on eight of 13 throws for 135 yards and two touchdowns. One of the highlights was a one-handed, 37-yard TD catch by Kenny Bell in the third quarter.
Takeaway: Most encouraging from the Big Ten-opening victory for the Cornhuskers was the play of their defense, which entered the game last in the Big Ten in yards allowed at 463.8 per game. The Huskers gave up 372 total yards but kept the Illini out of the end zone until the second half and limited Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase to 135 yards through the air. Nebraska has managed to win its past two games without senior quarterback Taylor Martinez, who is sidelined with a turf toe injury and could return this week.
Next: at Purdue, Oct. 12.
Game: Ohio State 40, Northwestern 30. The Wildcats failed to capitalize on the raucous atmosphere at Ryan Field on Saturday night and to get over the big-game hump, falling to the fourth-ranked Buckeyes after leading until late in the fourth quarter. Trevor Siemian's 12-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Dickerson put Northwestern in front with 9:10 left, but Ohio State went ahead to stay on Carlos Hyde's 7-yard scoring run with 5:22 left. The Wildcats' hopes to upend a top-five team for the first time since 1959 ended when Kain Colter was stopped at the Ohio State 34-yard line with 2:43 left.
Takeaway: Northwestern was in position to knock off Ohio State, but it just couldn't finish the job. The Wildcats were outscored 28-14 in the second half after leading by seven at halftime and by 10 early in the third quarter. Siemien was an efficient 13 of 18 passing for 245 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. But Northwestern couldn't effectively run the ball with consistency, managing just 94 yards on the ground compared with the Buckeyes' 248. Venric Mark returned from an upper-body injury to rush for 60 yards on 17 carries.
Next: at Wisconsin, Oct. 12.
OHIO STATE (6-0)
Game: Ohio State 40, Northwestern 30. The Buckeyes were able to run and Hyde in a tightly contested game in Evanston, Ill. Running back Carlos Hyde rushed for 168 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries as Ohio State beat Northwestern for the 29th time in the teams' last 30 meetings. The Buckeyes overcame a 10-point deficit in the third quarter to keep their national championship hopes alive.
Takeaway: Ohio State cleared one of the biggest hurdles on its schedule. Now it has a week off to rest and refocus for the second half of the season. Quarterback Braxton Miller didn't have a particularly good game, throwing an interception and fumbling twice, but the offense rolled up 451 yards, with Miller passing for 203 yards and running for 68. Northwestern's offense moved the ball against an Ohio State defense playing without injured safety Christian Bryant (fractured ankle), but the Buckeyes had an interception and some key stops in the fourth quarter. Defensive end Joey Bosa capped the scoring with a fumble recovery in the end zone on the final play.
Next: vs. Iowa, Oct. 19.
PENN STATE (3-2)
Game: Indiana 44, Penn State 24. The Nittany Lions had never lost to the Hoosiers, but that streak ended Saturday in Bloomington, Ind., when the defense was unable to corral Indiana's potent offense. Penn State gave up 23 points in the fourth quarter after taking a 17-13 lead in the third quarter on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Christian Hackenberg to Allen Robinson.
Takeaway: Hackenberg continued to show why he was one of the top quarterback recruits in the country last year. The freshman completed 30 of 55 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Robinson is one of the Big Ten's prolific receivers, catching 12 balls for 173 yards and two scores. But Hackenberg and Robinson don't play defense. And that's where the Nittany Lions struggled. They couldn't control Indiana's offense, which rang up 486 total yards, including 321 through the air, and two touchdowns from Nate Sudfeld. Penn State will need a quick defensive fix before playing host to Michigan.
Next: vs. Michigan, Oct. 12.
Next: vs. Nebraska, Oct. 12.
Next: vs. Northwestern, Oct. 12.
NCAAF Team Report - Minnesota - NOTES, QUOTES
--Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde is seeking to make amends after a suspension cost him the first three games of his senior season.
On Saturday night against Northwestern on a national stage in the Buckeyes' 40-30 victory, Hyde rushed for 168 yards on 26 carries and scored three touchdowns, including the winner in the fourth quarter. He added 38 yards on four receptions.
Hyde was tearful after the game, recalling his disappointment after an alleged altercation with a woman at a Columbus nightclub during the summer resulted in his three-game banishment from the team.
"I go out every game with the mindset that I have to make up for those three games," Hyde said. "That suspension ... really hurt."
Coach Urban Meyer certainly was happy to have his horse back on the field, especially with senior running back Jordan Hall bothered by a knee injury.
"We all make mistakes," Meyer said. "I think this is a game-changer for him."
--Minnesota coach Jerry Kill missed an entire game because of an epileptic seizure for the first time in his career on Saturday.
Kill felt ill on Friday and was hoping to travel to Ann Arbor on Saturday morning for the Little Brown Jug game against Michigan, but he couldn't make it and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys took over in his absence. The Gophers lost 42-13.
The 52-year-old Kill has missed parts of four games in three seasons at Minnesota because of seizures. One of those came in the first half in a game against Western Illinois in September.
Athletic director Norwood Teague told the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis that he doesn't expect Kill to take a leave of absence. The Gophers have a bye before facing Northwestern on Oct. 19.
"You know Jerry; he's going to go hard, and it's more him just trying to manage it with his doctors, rather than doing anything drastic," Teague said, according to the Star-Tribune. "He's been working extremely hard behind the scenes on it, so when he has this come up, it's frustrating for him, and your heart goes out to him. He wants to be here more than anybody else."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's a team getting on the bus going back to Columbus that just got into a fight with (our) football team. That's what I'll take from this game." -- Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald after the Wildcats' 40-30 loss to Ohio State on Saturday night in Evanston, Ill.
NCAAF Team Report - Minnesota - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FIVE BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK 6 IN THE BIG TEN:
1. The Legends Division is shaping up as an interesting race for the title. Though most teams have played only one Big Ten game, a case could be made for Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern and Nebraska. Michigan had a good week against Minnesota, Michigan State and Nebraska improved their stock with wins, and Northwestern represented itself well in the loss to Ohio State.
2. Indiana's offensive firepower will make it competitive in the conference. If the Hoosiers can outscore opponents, as they did Saturday in a 44-24 win over Penn State, a third-place finish in the weak Leaders Division is not out of the question.
3. Michigan State's offense has a pulse, which didn't seem possible several weeks ago when coach Mark Dantonio was searching for a leader. Quarterback Connor Cook has stepped up to fill the void, and he seemed to form a connection with receivers Macgarrett Kings Jr. and Bennie Bowler in Saturday's win at Iowa. The Spartans' dominance was reflected in a 15-minute advantage in time of possession.
4. Three running backs stand out in the Big Ten after Week 6. Ohio State's Carlos Hyde has amassed 253 yards rushing in two conference games, Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah ran wild against Illinois on Saturday and moved up to second in the Big Ten in rushing with 690 yards. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon leads the conference with 698 rushing yards.
5. Penn State could be feeling the effects of the scholarship reductions that resulted from the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault case. At least that's what Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien offered as a possible explanation for a 44-24 loss to Indiana on Saturday. "I don't think in any stretch of anybody's imagination that this is a normal Penn State team -- 61 kids on scholarship and 40 walk-ons. But you know what? These kids are practicing hard. We need to coach them better."