Ihmir Smith-Marsette

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Big plays ignite Iowa to halftime lead on Mississippi State in Outback Bowl

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Mississippi State seemed to start the game off well on defense, but big plays by Iowa’s offense and defense have stunned the Bulldogs in the first half of the Outback Bowl in Tampa. Iowa turned a 6-0 deficit after one quarter of play into a 17-6 advantage at halftime with big plays on both sides of the football.

Mississippi State cornerback Maurice Smitherman was ejected from the game early in the second quarter for targeting on Iowa’s Brandon Smith. Smith kept on his feet after the contact was made and scrambled to pick up two yards on the play by sweeping to the other side of the field, but the 15-yard penalty moved the Hawkeyes to the Mississippi State 33-yard line. The drive ended with Iowa scoring their first points of the game by way of a Miguel Recinos field goal from 43 yards.

Iowa took the lead with just one play on their next offensive series when Nate Stanley found a wide open Nick Easley down the field, and Easley took off and managed to reach the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown before a defender could close in on him with the angle.

Things got even worse for Mississippi State on the ensuing possession. Nick Fitzgerald was strip-sacked by Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa, giving the Hawkeyes the football at the Mississippi State 13-yard line. Stanley then connected with Ihmir Smith-Marsette two plays later to give Iowa a 17-6 lead.

Mississippi State looked like they had a chance to cut into the lead just before halftime, but a holding penalty at the line of scrimmage wiped out a big pass play to inside the 10-yard line.

Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald sweeps B1G Coach of the Year honors

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What appeared to be a lost season for Northwestern took a sharp turn once the calendar flipped to October, earning Pat Fitzgerald some well-deserved postseason conference honors.

The Big Ten Tuesday announced a handful of individual awards, with Fitzgerald taking home both the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year and the Dave McClain Coach of the Year.  The former award is voted on by the coaches in the league, the latter by the media that covers it.

Northwestern started the 2018 season with a 1-3 mark in September, including a 1-1 record in Big Ten action.  The Wildcats finished off the regular season by winning seven in a row in conference play, with their only loss in that stretch coming to third-ranked Notre Dame the first weekend of November.

Thanks to that closing stretch, Northwestern claimed its first-ever B1G West crown and a spot opposite Ohio State in the conference championship game this weekend.

The Big Ten also announced several individual honors, including Michigan linebacker Devin Bush being named as the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Below are all of the individual honors doled out by the conference thus far (offensive awards will be announced Wednesday night). For the complete all-conference teams for both defense and special teams, click HERE.

Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian Award: Jake Wood, Wisconsin
Named for Minnesota’s Tony Dungy and Indiana’s Anthony Thompson

Ford-Kinnick Leadership Award: Antwaan Randle El, Indiana
Named for Michigan’s Gerald Ford and Iowa’s Nile Kinnick

Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year: Devin Bush, Michigan
Named for Minnesota’s Bronko Nagurski and Michigan’s Charles Woodson

Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year (coaches vote): Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Named for Ohio State’s Woody Hayes and Michigan’s Bo Schembechler

Dave McClain Coach of the Year (media vote): Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Named for Wisconsin’s Dave McClain

Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year: Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
Named for Michigan State’s Bubba Smith and Penn State’s Courtney Brown

Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year: Devin Bush, Michigan
Named for Illinois’ Dick Butkus and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald

Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year: Amani Hooker, Iowa
Named for Ohio State’s Jack Tatum and Purdue’s Rod Woodson

Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year: Chase McLaughlin, Illinois
Named for Wisconsin’s Jim Bakken and Michigan State’s Morten Andersen

Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year: Will Hart, Michigan
Named for Illinois’ Dike Eddleman and Michigan State’s Brandon Fields

Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year: Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Iowa
Named for Nebraska’s Johnny Rodgers and Iowa’s Tim Dwight