#2 Ohio State vs. #6 Michigan
Michigan beats Ohio State 42-27, ends 8-game skid in rivalry
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jim Harbaugh got the win he wanted perhaps as desperately as any coach in sports.
Hassan Haskins matched a school record with five rushing touchdowns and Aidan Hutchinson had three sacks to break a single-season program mark, helping No. 6 Michigan finally beat No. 2 Ohio State 42-27 Saturday to give Harbaugh his first win as a coach against the Buckeyes.
"It feels like the best one," Harbaugh said.
The Wolverines clinched the Big Ten East and will play in the conference title game next week with playoff hopes in hand after snapping an eight-game losing streak to Ohio State.
"It feels like the beginning," Harbaugh said.
Michigan (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten, No. 5 CFP) advanced to the conference championship for the first time. The Wolverines now have a chance to win a Big Ten title for the first time since 2004 and a national championship for the first time since 1997.
Harbaugh has been dissed and dismissed as a coach long on hype and short on substance over his first six seasons with his alma mater, but he earned a win that should quiet at least most of his critics.
"I'm so happy to be a part of his first win, and to have a top-five game at home," Hutchinson said. "He was just so happy."
Minutes after the game, long-suffering fans filled the Big House turf to celebrate a rare win in the storied series and they were in no rush to leave as music blared.
"Watching the snow fall and the crowd rush rush onto the field was truly a surreal moment," said Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara, who was 13 of 19 for 159 yards with an interception.
Ohio State had a school-record winning streak in the rivalry, taking 15 of 16 to turn The Game into its game.
The Buckeyes (10-2, 8-1) blew their chances to continue their dominance with 10 penalties, many before the snap, and because they simply could not stop Michigan's running game.
"I feel awful," Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. "I just got done talking to the team, and when you work this game 365 days out of the year and you come up short, it's a failure. It hurts. It hurts a lot."
Harbaugh clearly had his team ready to beat the Buckeyes.
After Harbaugh's pay was slashed in his new deal last winter in part because of his lack of success against the Buckeyes, he reshaped his coaching staff again and renamed a running-heavy period of practice the "Beat Ohio," drill for to add another layer of focus on the rivalry.
It seemed to work.
Haskins had 169 yards rushing on 28 carries, scoring a go-ahead touchdown late in the second half and four more after halftime to pad Michigan's lead.
"It's an amazing feeling, I want to thank each and every one of my linemen," Haskins said.
Blake Corum returned from a two-plus game absence to run six times for 87 yards, helping the Wolverines gain a total of 297 yards on a ground against a rival that has pushed them around for much of this century.
"It was dominant," Harbaugh acknowledged. "There was continual movement up front by the guys."
The Buckeyes could not disagree.
"You have to stop the run in a Big Ten game," Ohio State safety Bryson Shaw said. "It's embarrassing."
Harbaugh also seemed to out coach Day, who had not lost a Big Ten game until Saturday, by sprinkling in some surprise plays such as a slot-around with A.J. Henning running for a 14-yard TD to cap the game-opening 10-play, 75-yard drive and calling a flea flicker later in the game that fooled Ohio State.
Ohio State's high-powered offense seemed rattled against Michigan's new-look defense with first-year coordinator Mike Macdonald making all the right moves. Hutchinson, who set a single-season school record with 13 sacks, was in the backfield all day.
"Definitely should be in strong consideration for the Heisman Trophy," Harbaugh said.
C.J. Stroud was 34 of 49 for 394 with two touchdowns, including a 25-yard pass to Garrett Wilson that gave the Buckeyes a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. The Buckeyes turned it over on downs on their last possession, failing to protect Stroud. He was sacked four times, doubling the total from any other game this season.
"People are probably going to hate me for it, but I know in my heart I put up everything," Stroud said.
After Harbaugh's news conference, he was met by athletic director Warde Manuel.
"You hit a home run," Manuel told Harbaugh.
The Wolverines and Buckeyes were pushing, shoving and talking in the tunnel at halftime. The emotions spilled out onto the field many times.
As Michigan receiver Roman Wilson lay in the end zone, he grabbed the left leg of cornerback Cameron Brown, who responded by ripping Wilson's helmet off and getting called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
That set off a scrum that officials and coaches were able to contain.
"These guys have been disrespecting us, stepping on our jerseys, talking about hanging 100 on us," Hutchinson said.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes had won 26 straight Big Ten games, a streak that trailed only the school's 30-game run from 2012-15 in Big Ten history. Ohio State also had won 21 games in a row over ranked Big Ten teams.
Michigan: The Wolverines will have to come down quickly and focus on the Big Ten title game. Win that and a spot in the College Football Playoff is practically a lock.
Michigan will jump past Ohio State in the College Football Ranking and the AP Top 25.
Ohio State: Waits for its postseason plans, likely landing in a New Year's Six bowl game.
Michigan: Plays Iowa in Indianapolis next Saturday. The Wolverines did not play the Hawkeyes in the regular season.
Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/larrylage
#5 Notre Dame vs. Stanford
No. 5 Notre Dame beats Stanford 45-14, awaits playoff fate
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Notre Dame did its job and now all the Fighting Irish can do is wait.
Jack Coan threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score and No. 5 Notre Dame finished off the regular season with a 45-14 victory over Stanford on Saturday to keep its playoff hopes alive.
“We controlled what we needed to control and that was to play really good football on offense, defense and special teams over the past six, seven weeks,” coach Brian Kelly said. “We’ve done that. So we made our case. We’ll now sit back and see what other people think. But we got one of the best four teams without question in my mind. We’re ready to prove it.”
The Irish (11-1, No. 6 CFP) won their final seven games following a home loss to Cincinnati but will likely need some help next week to get into the College Football Playoff for the third time in the past four seasons.
“We did what we could with the games we had left,” tight end Michael Mayer said. “So now we kind of just sit and wait. I really believe that we’re one of the best four teams in the nation.”
Stanford (3-9) lost its seventh straight game to end the season following an upset of then-No. 3 Oregon for its longest losing streak and most losses in a season since a 1-11 campaign in 2006. The Cardinal were outscored 173-46 over the final four games.
“There are some things here that we’ve done extremely well in the past that we need to do better,” coach David Shaw said. “Some things we got to tweak and change. So we’re not going to be stagnant and rest on the things we did in the past. We’re going to get back to work, continue this recruiting process, which has gone extremely well, recruiting the right guys to the right place, and get to the point where we take out the bumps in our road.”
This game wasn’t competitive from the start as the Irish forced a three-and-out on the first possession and answered with a 74-yard drive capped by Coan’s 16-yard TD pass to Braden Lenzy.
Coan added another TD pass to George Takacs and the Irish built a 24-0 halftime lead. He finished 26 for 35 for 345 yards with the 1-yard TD run in the third quarter.
Jonathan McGill intercepted Coan’s pass on the first drive of the second half to set up a 13-yard drive capped by Austin Jones’ 5-yard run. That ended Notre Dame’s streak of not allowing a TD at 219:17 of game action since North Carolina scored in the fourth quarter on Oct. 30.
“We weren’t focusing on that,” defensive lineman Justin Ademilola said. “We just knew that we wanted to dominate our opponent.”
Notre Dame: The Irish are peaking at the end of the regular season even if the competition hasn’t been the stoutest. Notre Dame outscored its four opponents in November by a score of 162-23 but whether that’s enough to make the playoff may depend on what happens next weekend in the conference championship games.
“We knew that we had to control this situation because we don’t control anything after this,” Kelly said. “It was control the controllables. That was the theme all week because after today we don’t control anything.”
Stanford: The Cardinal head into the offseason with serious questions about the direction of the program after their worst season in 15 years. Shaw had built Stanford into a powerhouse last decade but the Cardinal are 11-19 the past three seasons.
“It’s not what happens to us but how we respond,” Shaw said. “This program will respond.”
Mayer had nine catches for 105 yards, giving him 64 catches on the season. That breaks the school single-season record for tight ends of 63 set by Tyler Eifert in 2011.
The Cardinal have been unable to generate anything offensively the last month of the season as they have fallen in deep holes each game. In the final four first halves of the season, Stanford averaged 77.5 yards of offense and was outscored 90-3.
The Cardinal had one big play against the Irish with Isaiah Sanders hitting Benjamin Yurosek on a 44-yard TD pass on a trick play in the second quarter only to have it wiped off by an illegal block.
Notre Dame: The Irish will wait to find out their bowl fate.
Stanford: The Cardinal prepare for 2022.
#12 Michigan State vs. Penn State
No. 12 Michigan State bounces back, beats Penn State 30-27
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State was unfazed by injuries, illness, snowy conditions and an embarrassing loss the previous week.
The Spartans put all that behind them and finished the regular season on a high note.
Payton Thorne threw two touchdown passes and ran for another to lead No. 12 Michigan State to a 30-27 victory over Penn State on Saturday.
Kennett Walker III rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries as the Spartans (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) bounced back from last week’s 56-7 loss to Ohio State. Michigan State finished undefeated at home for the first time since 2015.
“At the end of the day, it really comes down to mental and physical toughness,” coach Mel Tucker said. “That’s a big part of it.”
Sean Clifford threw three touchdown passes, two to Jahan Dotson, for the Nittany Lions (7-5, 4-5). Penn State closed out the regular season with five losses in its last seven games.
“Overall, I thought that we did a decent job of containing (Walker) for most of the game. But there were critical stops that we needed at important times throughout the game that we weren’t able to make,” Penn State coach James Franklin said.
Walker was questionable to play after leaving the Ohio State game early due to an ankle injury. He instead took on a workhorse role.
“After the Ohio State game we watched the film and then it was like, ‘On to the next,’ ” Walker said. “It’s just how we’ve done it all season.”
Daequan Hardy’s 27-yard interception return for a touchdown put Penn State up 20-17. Thorne’s 1-yard plunge late in the third quarter gave the Spartans a 23-20 advantage.
Thorne connected with Jayden Reed on a 20-yard scoring pass on a fourth-and-15 with 5:10 left to give Michigan State some cushion.
Reed made a leaping grab over a defender.
“He comes up with big plays every week, it seems,” Tucker said. “Fourth- down conversions are a big part of the game.”
Clifford threw to Parker Washington for a 15-yard TD in the final minute. He passed for 313 yards but the running game was limited to 61 yards on 26 carries.
“We tried to mix in the run game all day long,” Franklin said. “Obviously, we weren’t able to run the ball consistently enough.”
The Spartans scored touchdowns on their first two possessions, including a 99-yard drive, and led 17-14 at halftime.
WALKER GETS TOUGH YARDS
Walker was named one of three finalists for both for the Maxwell Award and the Doak Walker Award on Tuesday. The Maxwell Award is presented annually to the college player of the year, while the Doak Walker Award is given to the nation’s premier running back.
He added to his resume on Saturday with 138 rushing yards, giving him 1,636 yards for the season. He added his 18th rushing touchdown this season. He did that on a snow-covered field that limited his options.
“It’s harder to cut, so you know you’ve got to get the tough yards between the lines,” he said.
FLU BUG BITES
Penn State dealt with major flu issues in its program during its last game, a 28-0 win over Rutgers. It was the Spartans’ turn this time, though most of their regulars suited up.
“We had to shuffle some lineups during the week,” Tucker said. “We weren’t exactly sure who was going to answer the bell but we knew the guys would play if they could. And we knew we’d get everything that they had.”
Penn State’s Dotson caught eight passes for 137 yards and two scores. He finished the regular season with 91 receptions for 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Spartans showed resiliency after their 49-point loss at Ohio State and put themselves in position for a New Year’s Day bowl. Tucker, who agreed to a 10-year contract extension earlier in the week, had his team ready to go as it scored on its first two possessions. The Spartans’ defense didn’t allow a point in the second half until the final minute.
Both teams are headed to bowls.
#14 Wisconsin vs. Minnesota
Minnesota chops down No. 18 Wisconsin 23-13 to take back Axe
MINNEAPOLIS -- — Minnesota's fans gleefully converged on the field as Paul Bunyan's Axe was slowly paraded through the crowd, eager for a peek at this long-sought trophy that has gone so often to Wisconsin.
The Gophers' defense swarmed the field like that all afternoon.
Tanner Morgan overcame an interception that was returned for a first-half touchdown, leading three scoring drives after halftime to take down the 18th-ranked Badgers in a 23-13 victory that regained the Axe and gave Iowa the Big Ten West Division title Saturday.
"We all put a ton into it. I'm just so proud that they have a big reward for it," Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said.
The Badgers had only 160 total yards over the final three quarters and three points after halftime. They turned the ball over on downs on their last two possessions, and the Gophers got to sprint to the end zone to hoist the 73-year-old trophy on their home field for the first time since 2003. The rap song "Jump Around" played over the speakers in a taunt of Wisconsin's home-game anthem.
"Nobody wants to be the team that loses the Axe, so it's truly disappointing," Badgers outside linebacker Noah Burks said.
Collin Larsh made two field goals for Wisconsin, but he had a 48-yard try — four yards beyond his career long — bounce off the crossbar early in the fourth quarter. Minnesota went the other way for Matthew Trickett's third field goal of the game to put the stamp on it.
Morgan went 11 for 16 for 199 yards and a third-quarter touchdown pass to Chris Autman-Bell, but the defense stole the show. The Gophers (8-4, 6-3) delivered the kind of stifling performance by their defense the Badgers (8-4, 6-3, No. 14 CFP) were so used to demoralizing their opponents with.
Freshman standout Braelon Allen was limited to 47 yards on 17 rushes. He topped the 100-yard mark in each of the last seven games, all wins for Wisconsin. The Badgers had 62 rushing yards, after averaging 269 yards on the ground during their winning streak.
"We hit them low. We swarmed. There wasn't many broken tackles, and if guys got a hand on them, they held on for dear life and everybody rallied around him," Fleck said.
Over the last 23:05 of game time, Allen had just two carries for minus-2 yards. Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi sent a flurry of early down blitzes that caught the Badgers off guard.
"They showed a lot of stuff that we hadn't seen all year as a offense and a lot of stuff that wasn't on tape," Allen said.
Wisconsin went 4 for 14 on third down conversions — and 1 for 8 on third-and-4-plus-yards.
"The biggest thing was just not getting in a rhythm. They're a good defense, but we've all got to execute together and truly move the ball one first down at a time," quarterback Graham Mertz said.
Scott Nelson returned a tipped-ball interception 25 yards for a touchdown for the Badgers early in the second quarter to give them a 10-3 lead.
"My teammates had my back the whole time," said Morgan, who moved into second place on the program's all-time list with 56 career touchdown passes.
Justin Walley, who had two pass interference penalties while covering Kendric Pryor, wrestled away a catch by Pryor for his first career interception at the Wisconsin 28 early in the third quarter.
Morgan hit tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford for 26 yards to the 2 on the next play. Then Ky Thomas ran it in for a 13-10 lead with eight offensive linemen blocking on the play. The Gophers had five scoring drives of 50-plus yards.
Even by settling for a field goal, the Gophers served notice on their first possession they weren't going to go quietly. Wisconsin also lost safety Collin Wilder, who had two interceptions against Nebraska last week, after the first snap because of an automatic-ejection targeting foul for leading with his helmet on Autman-Bell.
"We didn't play to our potential and what we could have done. I think we left a lot of meat on the bone as the term goes," Badgers linebacker Leo Chenal said.
Wisconsin: Mertz went 21 for 38 for 171 yards and an interception. The sophomore smoothed out his season with some stellar performances down the stretch after his turnovers were a major factor in the 1/3 start. On this rare day when the rushing attack was nearly nonexistent, Mertz showed he's got a long way to go.
Minnesota: For all that the Gophers have done well in five seasons under Fleck, they've lacked these fire-up-the-fan-base wins over border-state rivals Iowa and Wisconsin. This was the second time in four years they've beaten the Badgers, following 14 straight losses. Had Iowa lost Friday to Nebraska, the Gophers would've won the West for the first time.
"There wasn't one person last night sad about what happened with Iowa and Nebraska. Would we have liked it to be different? Sure. But we had plenty of time to control that," Fleck said.
Wisconsin: The Badgers will get their bowl game invitation Dec. 5. The Las Vegas or Music City bowls (both Dec. 30) are strong possibilities, with a Jan. 1 game not out of the question.
Minnesota: The Gophers are essentially in the mix for the same as the same postseason games as the Badgers. They've won four straight bowls.
#17 Iowa vs. Nebraska
No. 17 Iowa’s rally deals Huskers another heartbreaking loss
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Iowa once again did what Nebraska has been unable to do all season, and that’s why the Hawkeyes own at least a share of a Big Ten West title and the Cornhuskers head into winter off their worst year since 1957.
Spencer Petras ran for a 2-yard touchdown with 2:58 left to give the 17th-ranked Hawkeyes their first lead, and they came back from a 15-point deficit in the third quarter to beat Nebraska 28-21 on Friday.
The Hawkeyes (10-2, 7-2) won their seventh game decided by 10 points or less. Now they need Minnesota to beat Wisconsin on Saturday to go to the conference championship game next week in Indianapolis.
“I think that’s been the story of the season. We’ve been in these close games and we just find ways to win, find ways to finish on top,” Iowa star center Tyler Linderbaum said.
Iowa won the border battle for the seventh straight year, along with the Heroes Trophy, but not before Jermari Harris intercepted Logan Smothers’ pass at the Iowa 2 with 43 seconds to play.
“It’s a great feeling coming into a packed house and leaving with a trophy,” Linderbaum said.
The loss was another gut punch to Nebraska (3-9, 1-8). The Cornhuskers, who won’t go to a bowl for a fifth straight year, finished with losses in six straight games and eight of nine. Their nine losses were by a total of 56 points.
“Everything we’ve been through this year as a team, 99% of teams would have folded and quit,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said. “There’s no quit in these guys. Sometimes life teaches you tough lessons. I appreciate the fight and commitment they’ve had. No one can say that group shut it down.”
Tyler Goodson ran for 156 yards on 23 carries to become Iowa’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Akrum Wadley in 2017.
Smothers, making his first start in place of the injured Adrian Martinez, threw for 199 yards and ran 24 times for 64 yards and two touchdowns.
Iowa used a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, two field goals and a safety to wipe out a 21-6 deficit and tie it 21-21 with 7:21 left.
“It’s victory from the jaws of defeat maybe, but we kept fighting and we never lost faith on the fact that we were going to come out with a victory,” defensive end Zach VanValkenburg said.
Nebraska had looked ready to get its breakthrough win when Goodson fumbled at the Huskers’ 6 and Smothers led them 94 yards in six plays for a double-digit lead.
But Iowa, with the Big Ten’s least productive offense, was able to turn to its elite defense and special teams to pull this one out.
“It’s kind of been death by paper cuts this year,” Frost said. “Same thing happened today.”
Iowa got within 21-16 early in the fourth when Henry Marchese blocked William Przystup’s punt and Kyler Fisher grabbed it and ran it 14 yards for a touchdown.
On Nebraska’s next series, Smothers fumbled and Iowa’s Logan Lee recovered at the Hawkeyes’ 46. The Huskers forced a three-and-out, but Tory Taylor’s punt pinned them at their 7. Smothers, under pressure, made a desperation throw from his end zone and was called for intentional grounding, resulting in a safety.
Petras, who replaced Alex Padilla to start the second half, got the Hawkeyes to the Nebraska 26 on their ensuing series and Caleb Shudak kicked his fourth field goal of the game from 44 yards to tie it.
The Hawkeyes forced a punt, and Goodson broke a 55-yard run before Petras scored the go-ahead touchdown.
“Pretty special, just the way it happened,” Petras said. “We knew that we needed a spark, and Henry Marchese gives us a huge punt block, they turn them over a couple times and it gives us a chance.”
Iowa: The Hawkeyes were able to overcome a two-score deficit for the second time this season and reach 10 wins for the seventh time under 23rd-yera coach Kirk Ferentz.
Nebraska: The Huskers ended with nine losses for only the second time in program history. Frost is 0-13 against ranked opponents, and the Huskers have dropped 17 in a row against the Top 25 since 2016.
The Hawkeyes won’t drop and probably will move up if teams ahead of them slip up on Saturday.
BUSY OFFSEASON FOR FROST
Frost now turns his attention to recruiting and hiring four offensive assistants to replace the ones he fired Nov. 8. Plus, he’ll be waiting to hear which veterans will return for an extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA because of the pandemic, and which players will head to the transfer portal.
His struggle to turn around the program through four years led to his contract being restructured and cutting his pay from $5 million to $4 million in 2022.
Iowa: Big Ten championship game on Dec. 4 if Minnesota beats Wisconsin on Saturday. Otherwise, it’s time to prepare for a bowl.
Nebraska plays Northwestern in Dublin, Ireland, on Aug. 27.
Maryland vs. Rutgers
Maryland beats Rutgers, bowl bound for 1st time since 2016
PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- — Shortly after securing their first bowl berth since 2016, Maryland players and coaches gathered in the end zone with a massive video screen at SHI Stadium behind them and took a team photograph with the score of their 40-16 win over Rutgers showing.
Coach Michael Locksley called it a Christmas Card photo players could send in less than a month. It was more than that. It was a sign Maryland (6-6, 3-6 ) is turning the corner in the Big Ten Conference.
"I came here to build a program that our former players and all of our fans could be really, really proud of," said Locksley, who was hired for the 2019 season. "This is just one step. We talked about taking the next step and that's being bowl eligible now. The next step for us is to build upon what we've established, the culture, the identity. We have young players that I think give us a bright future."
Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa is basis of that future. He threw three touchdowns, ran for another and grabbed the school's single-season record for passing yards in the biggest game of the year for both teams.
"It means so much to get to a bowl game as a team," Tagovailoa said. "We wanted to be the team that did it, not next year's team. We wanted to be the team that started that."
Maryland was certainly deserving of its in the one-side won over Rutgers (5-7, 2-7) that sent the Scarlet Knights to their 19th straight loss at home against a Big Ten opponent.
The setback was obviously a disappointment for Rutgers' fans, but coach Greg Schiano said the team at least was playing a meaningful game in November. That has not been the case between 2016-19. Rutgers last played in a bowl game in 2014.
"It's important that we all recognize that we are growing we are building," said Schiano, whose eight wins over the past two seasons are one less than the team had between 2016-19.
Halfback Tayon Fleet-Davis also had a big-day with a bowl-bid on the line, rushing for a career-best 152 yards and two touchdowns as the Terps had 575 yards in total offense. Fleet-Davis scored on runs of 13 and 2 yards in the fourth quarter.
"You know, I've been here since 2017, I'm a fifth year senior so so this is my first time bowling and I'm still still in shock," Fleet-Davis said. "I just can't believe it. I'm ready for it and I can't wait to experience, and I'm also excited that my team get experience this, too, especially the young guys."
Tagovailoa had touchdown passes of 25 and 11 yards to Corey Dyches and 38 yards to Brian Cobbs in getting the Terps bowl eligible. He also tallied on a 10-yard run as Maryland opened a 20-2 halftime lead and never looked back.
Tagovailoa finished 21 of 30 for 312 yards. The yardage gave him 3,595 yards, breaking the Terps' single-season record of 3,499 set by Scott Milanovich in 1993.
After taking the final snap, Tagovailoa chest bumped with receiver Rakim Jarrett, who had seven catches for 111 yards as the Terps ended a three-game losing streak.
The Scarlet Knights got second-half touchdown runs of 1 yard from Johnny Langan and 3 yards from Aaron Young.. Kessawn Abraham returned a blocked PAT attempt 85 yards for the other two points. Maryland's defense stopped Rutgers twice on downs inside its 3-yard line, once in each half.
Maryland: After opening the the season with four straight wins, Maryland finally sealed its bowl berth. Tagovailoa was outstanding and he will be an attraction at any bowl game.
Rutgers: With everything on the line, Rutgers came up way short. They missed inside linebacker and leading tackler Olakunle Fatukasi (leg) and the offense showed little against a Maryland defense that gave up 130 points in its losing streak.
Maryland: The Terps will wait until next Sunday to find out what bowl has selected them.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights open at Boston College next season, unless they somehow get a bowl berth with a losing record.
Illinois vs. Northwestern
Illinois rolls over Northwestern, keeps bowl hopes alive
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- — Brandon Peters threw for 242 yards and a touchdown and Illinois rolled over Big Ten rival Northwestern 47-14 on Saturday.
With the resounding win to end the regular season, Illinois hopes to secure its second bowl bid in five years.
“It's been fun to build this thing,” first-year Illinois coach Bret Bielema said. “If we get a bowl bid, I would welcome the practices and being allowed one more game with these guys (seniors).”
Peters also threw an interception. Chase Brown rushed 14 times for 112 yards and a touchdown, Josh McCray carried 12 times for 42 yards and a score. Isaiah Williams and Daniel Barker also scored rushing touchdowns for the Illini. Williams also caught seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Ryan Hilinski passed was 12 of 23 for 123 yards passing for Northwestern. Evan Hull rushed 32 times for 101 yards and a touchdown for the Wildcats. Malik Washington caught seven passes for 83 yards.
Illinois (5-7, 4-5 Big Ten) took control of the game early, scoring midway through the first quarter after Isaiah Gay recovered an Evan Hull fumble on the Illinois 8-yard line. Daniel Barker punched it in for a touchdown, followed two minutes later by another score on a 39-yard Peters pass to Williams to put Illinois up 14-0.
After Peters hit Casey Washington with a 56-yard pass, Chase Brown scampered one yard for the Illini’s third touchdown of the half. Williams then ran 21 yards for yet another Illinois touchdown.
Northwestern (3-9, 1-8) got on the board with 6:58 left in the first half on a one-yard Hilinski run capping an 11-play, 75-yard drive to make the score 28-7 Illinois.
Three James McCourt field goals gave the Illini a 37-7 lead at the half.
“Today was kind of a microcosm of the season,” said Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald. “On our end, opportunities lost. We turned the ball over early, gave up explosive plays, and had opportunities to get off the field. I'm disappointed, obviously."
THEY SAID IT
Bielema: “I believe we are heading in the right direction. I've felt all along that we were on a steady path to this place. I liked our focus all week, and it showed.”
Fitzgerald: “I believe we’ll continue to keep growing and keep building. We went from probably my most veteran team to probably my youngest. Those are excuses. We’ve just got to get to work and get better. It all starts and ends with me. I’m the leader. I’m the guy who needs to get things in the right place. Obviously, I didn’t push the right buttons and get the right combinations this year, which is disappointing.”
THE BIG PICTURE
Illinois dominated the Wildcats from the beginning and scored more points (37) in the first half against Northwestern than it did in any one full game (30 against both Nebraska and UTSA) all season. The Illini now wait to see if they can manage a bowl invitation with five wins, not impossible given the strong end to the Illini season.
Northwestern looked lost throughout the game and will have to wait a year for a chance to win back the Land of Lincoln Trophy, which the winner of this longstanding rivalry game keeps.
Northwestern: Season over.
Illinois: Hoping for a bowl invitation.
Purdue vs. Indiana
Purdue takes back Old Oaken Bucket with 44-7 rout of Indiana
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- — Quarterback Aidan O'Connell started his Purdue career as a walk-on.
He may have closed it out Saturday with an unforgettable performance.
The fifth-year senior matched his career high by throwing for four touchdowns, helping the Boilermakers set a single-season team record for completions and bringing back the Old Oaken Bucket for the first time in three years with a 44-7 victory over rival Indiana.
"He stands in there, makes throws, sees things and has distributed it pretty dang well good the last few games," coach Jeff Brohm said. "He's come this far through some of our help but really it's a credit to him and his work ethic."
O'Connell has been sensational lately, throwing 15 TD passes and no interceptions in the last five games — leading Purdue to four wins. That run has given the Boilermakers (8-4, 6-3 Big Ten) their highest single-season victory total since 2006, their first Bucket win since 2018 and their most lopsided in the rivalry since a 62-10 victory in the late Joe Tiller's final game as Purdue coach.
With one game left this season, and perhaps another season also in 2022, O'Connell now holds the school's single-season and career records for completion percentage at 73.5% and 69.3%, respectively.
He got plenty of help from his teammates in the annual rivalry, which was canceled twice last season because of COVID-19. This time, the traditional themes returned — big plays, hard hits, loud chants and plenty of penalties on a rainy, windy afternoon that eventually gave way to clearing skies as night fell over cold, sold out Ross-Ade Stadium. And the Boilermakers wasted no time rushing to reclaim the prized trophy.
"It was a great day to be a Boilermaker," Brohm said, citing some wins by other Purdue teams Saturday. "It's a big win. We challenged our guy to come out and play a better second half. We thought we were a little sloppy in the first half and we did."
For Indiana (2-10, 0-9), it was more frustration in a season full of disappointment. The Hoosiers lost their final eight games and finished their first winless season in league play since 2011.
"We've got to make sure we fix the things that are part of the problem of how this occurred," coach Tom Allen said. "I thought there was a lot of execution things that hurt us, like the snap over (quarterback Grant Gremel's) head. But the buck stops with me."
Purdue took control quickly when Zach Horvath opened the scoring with 1-yard TD plunge. Indiana tied the score on a 2-yard run from Donaven McCulley and then O'Connell was off and throwing.
He broke the tie with a 24-yard TD pass to Paul Piferi early in the second quarter and broke open the game with TD throws on Purdue's first two second-half possessions — 21 yards to Jackson Anthrop and 5 yards to T.J. Sheffield — to make it 31-7.
Indiana never recovered.
O'Connell finished 26 of 31 with 278 yards while David Bell had six catches for 79 yards and one score in what could also be his final home game. Bell, a junior, is considered a top NFL prospect.
Indiana: After posting their best season in more than a half century, the Hoosiers opened this season with so much promise. A brutal schedule, a rash of injuries and some bad luck ruined everything.
Purdue: The Boilermakers made it look easy again Saturday — completing a surprise turnaround behind O'Connell and a rebuilt defense. Eight wins should be enough to get Purdue into a respectable bowl, it's first postseason trip in three years.
Indiana: Gremel became the fourth starting quarterback for the Hoosiers this season and finished 18 of 30 with 147 yards and an interception. ... Peyton Hendershot had six catches for 41 yards and Ty Fryfogle finished the season with two receptions for 19 yards. ... Indiana scored 11 touchdowns in nine conference games.
Purdue: O'Connell became the first Boilermakers player with20 TD passes in a season since David Blough in 2018. He now has 23. ... The six conference are their most since 2003. ... Purdue broke the school's single-season team record for completions (381). The previous mark was 377 set in 1998.
Indiana: Must decide what changes will be needed to get the program back on track in 2022.
Purdue: Will find out its postseason fate next weekend.
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