Quite literally, Wisconsin was the third-best team in the Big Ten’s Leaders division in 2012, finishing off an up-and-down regular season with three overtime losses in the last four games. Just as literally, the only reason the Badgers tripped into a spot in the conference championship game was because the two teams that finished ahead of them in the standings — Ohio State and Penn State — are ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions.
That was the dominant storyline woven into the run-up to the league’s title game, a fact that, with each passing day, dug further under the skin of the defending B1G champions.
Unfortunately for Nebraska, the Cornhuskers felt the full force of UW’s pent-up frustrations over the talk.
There are woodsheddings, then there are eviscerations that take place inside a woodshed, the latter of which aptly applies to the 70-31 beating Wisconsin laid on No. 14 Nebraska. The beating avenged the Badgers’ 30-27 loss to the Cornhuskers earlier in the season.
The one-sided nature of the game was never more evident than with a quick glance at the rushing side of the statistical ledger.
On 50 carries, a staggering 10.9 yards per carry. Three times UW scored on runs of 56 yards or more — by three different players. Two of those players — Melvin Gordon (216) and Montee Ball (202) — topped 200 yards, while the other — James White (109) — went over 100 and scored a title-game record four touchdowns on the ground. Gordon, incidentally, carried the ball just nine times in busting through the 200-yard ceiling.
The 539 yards allowed by the Cornhuskers was a school record.
Add it all up, and UW won its second consecutive Big Ten title game and earned its third-straight berth in the Rose Bowl. After back-to-back losses in those trips to Pasadena, the Badgers, who will face Pac-12 champion Stanford, will again be looking for their first win in the Grandaddy of Them All since the 1999 season.
The game between No. 11 Florida and Vanderbilt was exciting enough on its own. The Commodores jumped to a 21-3 lead but couldn’t hold it, and the Gators rallied for a 37-27 win, their 14th consecutive in Nashville. But the action when the clock was running was not the most entertaining thing to happen at Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday. Not even close.
After Florida’s James Houston IV laid a de-cleating block — for which he was flagged for targeting and ejected from the game — upon Vanderbilt’s Dare Odeyingbo, who remained on the turf long after the hit. That drew Vandy head coach Derek Mason and defensive line coach C.J. Ah You to check on their player. While at midfield, someone from the Florida sideline said something to Mason, Mason said something back, and all of a sudden grown men were being restrained by other grown men.
Asked by ESPN’s Tom Luginbill at halftime what was said, Florida head coach Dan Mullen said the conversation would have to be referred to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and coordinator of football officials Steve Shaw.
But by the time the game ended, Mason and Mullen had calmed down, and the two head coaches exchanged a warm, lengthy embrace at midfield.
That hug-it-out mentality extended to their respective post-game press conferences.
“Derek’s a great, really close friend of mine,” Mullen said. “And I think, our sideline, we’ve got to make sure we’re cleaner in that situation and he probably thinks the same thing.”
On Monday, SEC spokesman Herb Vincent told The Tennessean that no punishment would be handed down to either side for the altercation, citing the cooler heads each side displayed after the game.
“Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were appropriately administered on the field by the officials,” Vincent told the paper. “Any discussion about decorum among the coaches will be handled privately between the conference office and the participating institutions. Both coaches appeared to put this issue behind them in their post-game midfield meeting and post-game comments.”
On Wednesday, Connecticut linebacker Eli Thomas was rushed to a hospital before a team-wide weightlifting session. The school did not say why Thomas was hospitalized, only that he was in stable condition. UConn said in a release that it “will not share additional details at this time.”
Now, five days later, the school has revealed that Thomas suffered a stroke and that he is “making good progress” toward recovery.
“Thank you all for your love and well wishes for Eli,” Mary Beth Turner, Thomas’s mother, said. “TO say we are stunned by this turn of events is an understatement! A strong, healthy, 22-year-old man having a stroke is not anything we anticipated. However, Eli will fight back as he has with every challenge that has come his way with ‘Eli Style.'”
Turner’s statement begs the question why this healthy 22-year-old suffered a stroke. That detail was not revealed Monday, perhaps because it is not known at this time.
“Every day, you just never know what can happen,” UConn coach Randy Edsall. “Things like this are just very unfortunate. It’s one of those things where [you take it] one day at a time and do the very best you can every day because you just never know what can happen.”
A redshirt junior from Elmira, N.Y., Thomas first played at Lackawanna Community College in Scranton, Pa., before arriving at UConn in 2017. He sat out last season while rehabbing an ACL injury and collected 11 tackles, one TFL and one sack in four games as a linebacker and defensive end this season. He injured his neck in a Sept. 22 loss to Syracuse and missed the Huskies’ losses to Cincinnati and Memphis.
Thomas figures to miss UConn’s trip to No. 21 South Florida on Saturday as well.
Ole Miss has lost standout wide receiver D.K. Metcalf for the season to a neck injury sustained during the Rebels’ win over Arkansas on Saturday. Rebels head coach Matt Luke made the announcement on Monday.
“(Metcalf) hurt his neck, and it’s worse than we originally thought,” Luke said. “He’ll be done for the season. Long-term, he’ll bounce back and he’ll be fine. We’ll make sure he gets the very best care.”
A sophomore from Oxford, Miss., Metcalf paired with junior A.J. Brown to give Ole Miss one of the best passing attacks in the SEC. While Brown leads the club in catches (50) and yards (650), Metcalf is the Rebels’ big play threat, hauling in 26 catches for 569 yards and a team-high five touchdowns. His 21.88 yards per reception average trails only Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy among all players with at least 25 grabs.
Metcalf posted two games of at least 100 receiving yards and a touchdown grab this season and provided Ole Miss’s only points in a 62-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama earlier this year, hauling in a 75-yard touchdown grab to open the scoring.
The war on fans rushing the field continued Monday. In addition to LSU getting a fine of $100,000 from the SEC for their fans rushing the field after the Tigers beat Georgia, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen shared his opinions on the matter just days after he experienced the same situation on the road at Iowa State.
Calling the action “very unprofessional,” Holgorsen said it was quite a hassle just getting his players off the field as Iowa State fans rushed the field to celebrate the big win over the Mountaineers.
To be fair, Holgorsen has a point. Fans rushing the field is a dangerous situation for any team, especially the road team, to be caught up in. The concerns extend to basketball as well, as similar concerns by Duke men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski has long been speaking out against it. (Although, there are some rules that can be applied.) Storming the playing surface may be more of a hazard for opposing teams in basketball where the space is more condensed compared to a football field, but the dangers and hazards are the same for both sports.
“Our job is to keep players safe,” Holgorsen explained, per a Des Moines Register report. “We didn’t have time to get (players) off the field. That was not good. No one was hurt that I’m aware of. It was dicey for a while.”
This video watching the Iowa State fans rushing the field after Saturday night’s win, handing West Virginia its first loss of the season, has someone commenting in the background there was a fight taking place on the field as fans lefts the stands.
At this time, Iowa State has not been penalized by the Big 12 for allowing fans to rush the field in such fashion. The Big 12 does not have a standardized penalty system for field and court rushings the way the SEC has, and each case is reviewed internally by the league office.