Coachin 'Em Up
UW's Bielema earned our Big Ten Coach of the Year nod.
By: Braden Gall | 11/29/10, 3:15 PM EST
Tolzien led the nation in completion percentage.
… And it’s Tolzien by a nose.
Now that the Big Ten season is in the books (all except Illinois’ final contest), it’s time to hand out the end-of-season awards …
Most Valuable Player: Scott Tolzien, QB, Wisconsin
It’s a crowded field, with Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor not far behind the Badgers signal caller. Voters may give Robinson style points for setting a new NCAA rushing mark for a quarterback, but I felt Robinson failed to excite in his team’s biggest games. Tolzien, on the other hand, was consistent throughout the year. He owns the nation’s best completion percentage and the fourth-highest QB rating. And while it’s clear John Clay was replaceable in Wisconsin’s run-first offense, I doubt the same can be said of Tolzien.
Defensive Player of the Year: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
The Badgers’ J.J. Watt has picked up momentum at the end of the year due to some outstanding play, but Watt has more help surrounding him than Kerrigan, who might as well play on an island at Purdue. In terms of statistics, Kerrigan dominated the league like no other; he led the Big Ten in sacks, tackles for loss, forced fumbles and posted a respectable 70 tackles. His 12.5 sacks rank second nationally.
Top Freshman: Nathan Scheelhasse, QB, Illinois
Another Badger — James White — will be the frontrunner for this award, but the fact that fellow backup running back Montee Ball put up similar numbers to White in the final month of the season should scare voters. Scheelhasse played a bigger role in getting his team to the bowl season. The first-year signal caller has a two to one touchdown-to-interception ratio (16 to 8), with 12 touchdowns and just one interception in the past five weeks. And he’ll finish the season among the top 10 in the conference in rushing yards.
Coach of the Year: Bret Bielema, Wisconsin
Little room for debate here. Bielema guided his club past No. 1 Ohio State at home, then went to Iowa City the following week and knocked off the Hawkeyes. Throughout the year Bielema kept his club prepared and focused and he refused to look ahead. Voters may deduct points if they believe Bielema is guilty of “piling it on” in games against Austin Peay, Minnesota, Indiana and Northwestern.
Best Game: Illinois at Michigan, Nov. 6
Fans will remember the score — a 67-65 Michigan victory — but the three-overtime game was exciting for the simple fact that neither team owned more than a seven-point lead at any point in this game. It was back and forth from the start. Illinois held Denard Robinson to just 3.3 yards per carry; too bad they couldn’t stop the Michigan passing game: 419 yards and five touchdowns. The win gave Michigan its sixth win, earning the program bowl eligibility after a two-year layoff.
Indiana 34, Purdue 31
Michigan State 28, Penn State 22
Ohio State 37, Michigan 7
Minnesota 27, Iowa 24
Wisconsin 70, Northwestern 23
Penn State comeback falls just short
It was a valiant effort, but Penn State came up just short against Michigan State on Saturday. The Spartans held a 21–3 lead entering the fourth quarter, and a 28–10 lead with less than nine minutes to play, but Penn State kept fighting. The Nittany Lions actually had more total yards and committed fewer turnovers, but that wasn’t enough.
Hoosiers take home the Bucket
Freshman Mitch Ewald nailed a 26-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining to help his Hoosiers send their game with Purdue into overtime. There Ewald made a 31-yard field goal that earned Indiana the Old Oaken Bucket. The Hoosiers celebrated for a day until coach Bill Lynch was fired after a 5–7 season.
Clay plays, not needed
Star running back John Clay was healthy but his team did not need him in its win over Northwestern. In fact, the coaching staff did not insert Clay into the game until the second half when things were already in hand. He carried four times for seven yards after missing two games with a bum knee.
Team of the Week: Wisconsin
No one believed Northwestern would have a chance without Dan Persa in the lineup — and for good reason. The Wildcats were never in this game. The Badgers forced six of the Wildcats’ seven turnovers, and outgained their opponent, 559 to 284. Wisconsin scored 70 points, all in the game’s first three quarters. Total domination.
Disappointment of the Week: Iowa
If you didn’t know better, you’d think Iowa tossed in the towel this week. Sure, Floyd was probably a big motivator for a Minnesota team with nothing to lose, but how could Iowa play so poorly? They gained just 3.4 yards per rush against the conference’s worst run defense. They allowed the Gopher offense to convert nine of 16 third downs. And Iowa lost the time of possession battle, 36:06 to 23:54. Ugly, plain ugly.
Offensive Player of the Week: Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State
The numbers don’t suggest it, but Pryor had a magnificent day in Ohio State’s win over rival Michigan. He made difficult passes to sustain drives, and found Dane Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey for second quarter touchdowns. And Pryor’s feet did some work, too — 49 yards.
Defensive Player of the Week: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Watt’s effort against the Wildcats may have been the best defensive performance of the season. He stripped quarterback Evan Watkins of the ball early, leading to a Badger fumble recovery. Then he pressured Watkins into an interception. On another down, Watt chased down the ballcarrier from behind and stripped the ball for another fumble. Oh yeah, and he blocked an extra point.
Freshman of the Week: Rob Henry, QB, Purdue
It may have come in a losing effort, but Henry’s performance was still noteworthy. He posted season bests of 252 yards and three touchdowns and led his club in rushing. Henry has much to learn, but he will give the Purdue coaching staff reason to consider their options at quarterback when spring camp opens in a few months.
The Week Ahead
Player to Watch: A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois
The junior has caught a touchdown pass in three of the past four games. In a week when the passing game will be important to Illinois’ success, Jenkins will be a key figure in his team’s hopes for a seventh victory.
When Illinois and Fresno State met at the end of the 2009 season, the Bulldogs won thanks to a last-second touchdown pass from Ryan Colburn to Jamel Hamler. Fresno State decided to go for the win instead of the tie and was successful on its two-point try in the 53–52 win.
Fresno State ranks 82nd in the country in points allowed per game (29.7). The Illini rank 29th in the country in scoring (32.9).
Fresno State 31, Illinois 24
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