Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien is known for putting his quarterbacks to the test. This afternoon in Madison, Wisconsin freshman Christian Hackenberg aced his final exam for the season in a resounding way. Hackenberg passed for 339 yards and four touchdowns as Penn State (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) upset No. 15 Wisconsin (9-3, 6-2 Big Ten) in a 31-24.
Penn State had to hang on to this one though, and they responded well. After seeing a 31-14 lead whittled away to a seven-point advantage late in the fourth quarter, Penn State was faced with a 3rd and 9 after the eighth false start penalty on the offensive line. Rather than try to pass, Penn State kept it on the ground with Wisconsin out of timeouts. A draw play to Zach Zwinak worked beautifully with a 61-yard run up the middle to keep the drive alive and to run some more clock off. Penn State managed to get the game clock down to 35 seconds before asking Sam Ficken to convert a 31-yard field goal, which he missed. That left Wisconsin with just 31 seconds to drive the length of the field. The defense held on with a late stand despite the Badgers moving down field quickly. Ryan Keiser picked off a deep pass to the end zone to clinch the victory.
Penn State’s Allen Robinson turned in another fine performance with 122 yards on nine receptions. Eugene Lewis scored two touchdowns and added 91 yards to compliment Robinson’s day. Wisconsin receiver Jared Abrbederis led the Badgers with 114 yards.
Penn State did a great job holding down Wisconsin’s running game. Melvin Gordon and James White were never able to bust any big runs against a Penn State defense that figured to be vulnerable against the run. Wisconsin tried to get Joel Stave to lead the charge in the passing game but that often backfired on the Badgers.
The loss for Wisconsin takes the Badgers out of the conversation for a BCS at-large invite. Much of the week had centered on a debate between Wisconsin and Michigan State as the potential second Big Ten team in the BCS, but that debate has been silenced. Wisconsin had played in three straight Rose Bowls and had a decent argument to be considered for an at-large bid this season if there was an opening. Wisconsin will still be playing in a January 1 bowl game in the Big Ten line-up and should be a tough opponent for whatever team they get paired up with.
Penn State’s season is over of course despite a second straight winning season under O’Brien. This marks the completion of the second of four seasons serving a postseason ban for the Nittany Lions. O’Brien is now 3-2 against top 25 teams in his short coaching career. Penn State had lost eight straight games against ranked opponents prior to the hiring of O’Brien.
With injuries decimating its own linebacking corps, Penn State may have caught a break on the other side of the ball.
With the Week 5 game against Minnesota still three days away, the Gophers have already announced that Tai’yon Devers has been ruled out against the Nittany Lions. Devers is dealing with an ankle injury that will sideline the freshman through at least this coming Saturday.
The defensive end currently leads the Gophers in sacks with three, including one in last week’s game against Colorado State. That one proved to be an absolute smothering of the Rams’ unfortunate quarterback.
In addition to the sacks, Devers also leads the Gophers with three forced fumbles in three games. According to head coach Tracy Claeys, Dever being more aware of his on-field surroundings could’ve allowed him to add to those totals this weekend.
From the St. Paul Pioneer-Press:
The Rams tried to cut Devers, who has wreaked havoc off the edge.
“He has to learn to protect himself,” Claeys said. “He’s going to see that a little more.”
One of the biggest open secrets in all of college football has been confirmed (?) by a person who purportedly had a front-row seat to the spectacle.
Shortly after Rich Rodriguez was fired following the 2010 season, Michigan put on the full-court press to land Les Miles as his replacement. It was known at the time that then-UM athletic director David Brandon and other school officials flew down to Baton Rouge to meet with Miles, who played his football for the Wolverines in the mid-seventies and was an assistant at his alma mater a decade later.
The open secret many still swear by? That on that trip south Brandon had offered the job, along with a significant raise to what he was making at LSU, to Miles, who ultimately decided to turn it down and stay with the Tigers.
During a radio interview Wednesday, Skip Bertman, LSU athletic director from 2001-2008, confirmed that version of events
“Les Miles turned that job down for more money at Michigan. He turned it down,” Bertman told the ESPN Radio affiliate in Baton Rouge. “He would never say that because he’s a very humble guy. But I was there; he turned it down.”
Renowned Michigan historian John Bacon, however, disputes not only the 2011 claim, but the 2007 claim by Kirk Herbstreit and one made in 2014 as well.
The football program hired Rodriguez in 2007 and Brady Hoke in 2011, then stuck with Hoke through a rough 2014 season that had Miles-to-Ann Arbor speculation flying yet again. Ultimately, though, the university finally landed its Michigan Man in Jim Harbaugh. I’m thinking that’s working out just fine for the program, regardless of how exactly things transpired with Miles in the past.
Tributes to Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler have seemingly been a weekly occurrence across college football the first four weeks of the season, and the players’ conference will get on board in Week 5.
A commemorative coin will be used to honor both Foltz and Sadler at all seven Big Ten games this weekend, the league announced Wednesday. As this is the first full weekend of conference action, the coins, with Foltz on one side and Sadler on the other, will be used for the coin flip prior to each league matchup.
The Cornhuskers have decided to use the coins for the remainder of the season.
Folks and Sadler were killed in a July car accident on their way home from a kick camp in Wisconsin. LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye was injured in the wreck, but is kicking this season for the Tigers and honoring both by wearing special cleats.
Below are the coins that will be used, courtesy of the Big Ten:
At least from Alabama’s side of it, the door’s not completely shut on Blake Barnett‘s future being in Tuscaloosa.
Earlier Wednesday, a report surfaced that Barnett had decided to leave the football program and transfer out. In meeting with the media a short time later, Nick Saban confirmed that Barnett had “expressed some concern about his future” at a meeting earlier in the day.
The head coach said he “didn’t know” when asked if Barnett, who lost the starting quarterback job to true freshman Jalen Hurts earlier this year, was still a part of the team, although he made it clear that the redshirt freshman was still welcome in the locker room if he changes his mind.
“Blake is a fine young man,” Saban said. “He’s done a great job with his program, and we’d love to see him be a part of the program in the future, but we also want him to do what’s best for him.”
Barnett, who started the opener against USC but held on to the job for just tw series, was a five-star 2015 recruit who 247Sports.com rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the country. The California high school product originally committed to Notre Dame in November of 2013 before decommitting from the Irish in June of the following year.