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Conference Corner: Dominant defense

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The defense showed up big for several teams this past weekend

Iowa v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

This past weekend was one of dominant defense for Big Ten teams. Penn State recorded 10 sacks against Purdue, Wisconsin recorded nine sacks against Kent State, and Michigan recorded eight sacks against Iowa. All three teams won their matchups this weekend, and all three teams held their opponents to seven points or less.

Purdue vs No. 12 Penn State. Purdue traveled to Happy Valley to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions, and it went about as you would expect. Penn State’s Sean Clifford completed 20 of 29 passing attempts for 264 yards, 3 TDs, and an INT, and Noah Cain went for 105 yards and a TD on the ground. Clifford also had a rushing TD. Purdue rushed for -19 yards on 28 attempts due in large part to Penn State’s defense recording double-digit sacks on the day. The Nittany Lions won comfortably, 35-7.

Kent State vs No. 8 Wisconsin. This game was exactly what the Wisconsin Badgers needed to get back on track after a closer-than-it-should-have-been win over the Northwestern Wildcats last week. Jack Coan was sharp, completing 12 of 15 passing attempts for 134 yards and 2 TDs. Jonathan Taylor was dominant on the ground, running for 186 yards and 4 TDs. On the other side, Kent State managed just 124 yards of total offense on 45 plays. The Badgers ran away with this one, 48-0.

Maryland vs Rutgers. The Rutgers Scarlet Knights found themselves in an interesting situation on Saturday, and likely for the rest of the season. Following the firing of head coach Chris Ash, both starting QB Artur Sitkowski and starting RB Raheem Blackshear may elect to not play for the rest of the year so that they can take redshirts this season. With that backdrop, the game against the Maryland Terrapins went about as you would expect. Maryland took a 27-7 lead into halftime and shut out the Knights in the second half to win 48-7. With their best offensive players electing to stay on the sideline, I see maybe one win on Rutgers’ remaining schedule this season.

Illinois vs Minnesota. The Minnesota Golden Gophers rode a big second half to a comfortable win over Illinois. Tanner Morgan threw for 155 yards, 3 TDs, and an INT for Minnesota, while Rodney Smith added 211 yards an a TD on the ground. Shannon Brooks also ran for 111 yards and a TD for Minnesota. Illinois QB Brandon Peters left the game with an injury and was replaced by Matt Robinson. Robinson, or really any Illinois player wasn’t able to get much going on the day. Both of Illinois’ TDs came on defense. In the end, Minnesota came away with a 40-17 victory.

Northwestern vs Nebraska. I highlighted this game last Thursday as one to watch saying it, “doesn’t have Big Ten title implications, but it should be a good back-and-forth game.” The back-and-forth bit wasn’t on target, but it was a close and hard fought game. Much like Michigan’s game against Iowa, there wasn’t a whole lot of offense in this game. Adrian Martinez threw for just 145 yards for Nebraska, while Aidan Smith threw for just 136 yards for Northwestern—and neither threw for a TD. No team had a rusher who broke 65 yards on the ground, but Aidan Smith did score a TD on the ground for Northwestern and Wandale Robinson found the endzone for Nebraska. Ultimately, a late chipshot FG gave Nebraska the 13-10 win.

No. 25 Michigan State vs No. 4 Ohio State. On Thursday, I said Michigan fans should “File this one in the category of ‘likely schadenfreude,’” and it certainly delivered that. Ohio State thoroughly dominated the Michigan State Spartans, taking a 27-10 lead into halftime. In the second half, the Buckeyes added another TD and shutout the Spartans. Justin Fields threw for 206 yards, 2 TDs, and an INT, while J.K. Dobbins ran for 172 yards and a TD. Fields also added 61 yards and a TD on the ground. The Buckeyes won, 34-10.