The “Cinderella,” feel-good story of the Indiana Hoosiers crashing the Big Ten’s championship ball turned into more of a remake of “Carrie” without the supernatural explosions at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Indiana, forever the Big Ten dormat, was within a win of gaining control of the Leaders Division’s Big Ten title berth. All the Hoosiers needed to do was beat Wisconsin at home and finish … oh forget it. It didn’t happen, and it wasn’t going to happen.
Wisconsin (7-3, 4-2) smashed the Hoosiers for a school-record 594 rushing yards in a 62-14 beatdown. The Badgers earned the Leaders Division championship game pass for the second straight season and will attempt to claim its third straight Rose Bowl berth. Wisconsin has beaten Indiana by a combined score of 204-41 the last three years.
The Badgers’ running attack once again was potent, spearheaded by running backs Montee Ball (198 yards), James White (161) and Melvin Gordon (98). It was the third time in the last four games Wisconsin has rushed for at least 337 yards.
But the Badgers also produced some lackluster rushing statistics this year, too. Wisconsin rushed for 56 or fewer yards three times. In fact, Wisconsin’s record effort Saturday was one game after the team rushed for only 19 yards on 37 carries in an overtime loss to Michigan State.
“This record may not be as high as it’s been in years past and our ranking and all that jazz, but we are a really good football team,” Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema said. “We get better each week and are going through this with our third-string quarterback. I rattled off probably 20 schools (Friday) night to our guys in a team meeting that have been right there in the BCS talks the past few years, and they’ve got worse records than us.”
The Legends Division race now is down to two 5-1 teams: Nebraska and Michigan. For the second straight week, the Cornhuskers rallied from a double-digit, second-half deficit and survived on a controversial call in their favor. Nebraska trailed Penn State by two touchdowns at halftime but took a four-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. Nittany Lions tight end Matt Lehman tried to stretch the ball over the goal line but it was knocked free by Nebraska’s David Santos and recovered by safety Daimion Stafford in the end zone.
The ball appeared to cross the goal line while in Lehman’s hand, but replays were deemed inconclusive and Nebraska received the ball.
“I know one thing that helps you in that situation is how they called it on the field,” Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini said. “You have to have indisputable evidence to overrule it, and something that is that bang-bang usually ends up going how they ruled it on the field. We were kind of fortunate that they called it that way out there on the field.”
With the win Nebraska is in complete control of taking the Legends Division crown against Wisconsin. Nebraska beat Michigan 23-9 a week ago and holds the tiebreaker. Nebraska also plays two lower-division opponents — Minnesota and Iowa — to finish the season. Michigan plays host to Iowa before finishing the regular season against Ohio State.
“I think for us we just look at it as a playoff system, like in high school,” Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez said. “You have to win five straight. So now we won the first one like the quarterfinals. We just have to keep winning.”
Michigan survived in the Legends Division race with a miraculous play against Northwestern. The Wolverines trailed 31-28 and took over at their 38-yard line with 18 seconds left. Back-up quarterback Devin Gardner heaved a 53-yard pass to Roy Roundtree, who hauled it in while being hit, at the Northwestern 9. After a game-tying field goal, the Wolverines won the game in overtime.
“(Roundtree) did a tremendous job fighting for it, keeping his eye on the football, and he came down with a big one,” Michigan Coach Brady Hoke said.
STARS OF THE WEEK
Michigan QB Devin Gardner passed for 286 yards and two scores, plus rushed for two touchdowns in Wolverines’ 38-31 overtime win against Northwestern. … Wisconsin RB Montee Ball rushed for 198 yards and three scores against Indiana. Ball is second in all-time TDs with 77. … Purdue DT Kawann Short had four tackles for loss against Iowa.
Indiana safety Mark Murphy had 13 tackles. … Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde had 13 tackles and returned a fumble 9 yards for a TD. … Northwestern RB Venric Mark totaled 260 yards and a touchdown. … Penn State linebackers Glenn Carson and Gerald Hodges each had 14 tackles. … Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez rushed for 104 yards and passed for 171 and a TD. … Minnesota RB Donnell Kirkwood rushed for 152 yards and two TDs. … Illinois MLB Mason Monheim had 15 tackles, including 1.5 for loss.
1. Ohio State (1) 10-0 6-0
2. Nebraska (2) 8-2 5-1
3. Michigan (4) 7-3 5-1
4. Wisconsin (6) 7-3 4-2
5. Penn State (3) 6-4 4-2
6. Northwestern (5) 7-3 3-3
7. Michigan State (7) 5-5 2-4
8. Minnesota (9) 6-4 2-4
9. Indiana (8) 4-6 2-4
10. Purdue (12) 4-6 1-5
11. Iowa (10) 4-6 2-4
12. Illinois (12) 2-8 0-6
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