Other than in West Lafayette, smiles abound amongst college football fans in the Hoosier state. Biggest win in years for Notre Dame, first league win in nearly two years for Indiana, and bowl eligibility win for Ball State. Not a bad day at all…
Notre Dame 30, Oklahoma 13
Notre Dame answered a lot of critics with their play on Saturday night. While the Irish put 30 on the board, what has become their standard 20 point offensive output would’ve sufficed. This game was played at the style at which the Irish have been accustomed: physical on both sides of the ball, and simply wearing teams out down the stretch.
The Irish have answered the bell when challenged each time this season. When Purdue tied the game late in week two, Tommy Rees leads the Irish to a game-winning field goal. After trailing late against Stanford, ND forces overtime, and gets a goal-line stand to win the game. Notre Dame gives up their first two touchdowns allowed in over a month to BYU, then overpower the Cougars in the second half to win by three.
However, the Irish hadn’t responded to a challenge as vigorous, against as good of a team, and on the road in the fashion that they did on Saturday night. Notre Dame allowed their first rushing touchdown of the season with 9:10 left in the game, bringing the game to a 13-13 tie. The visitors responded by immediately marching down the field with a seven play, 75 yard drive, including a 50-yard strike from Everett Golson to Chris Brown. That was followed by a Manti Te’o pick, which led to a long Kyle Brindza field goal. Add in another defensive stop leading to an icing on the cake touchdown, and the Sooners lose at home twice in the same season for the first time under the leadership of Bob Stoops.
In our preview of this game, we talked about the challenge Notre Dame would face in trying to slow Oklahoma’s passing attack, that Landry Jones would easily be the best quarterback the Irish had faced this year. The stats certainly bare that out, with Jones finishing with 364 yards passing. Those numbers came at the expense of the running game, which would muster just 15 yards and a .6 yards per carry average for the game.
Also referencing the pregame predictions, we indicated style and tempo would likely be different than games the Irish had played previously. It wasn’t. This game was played on Notre Dame’s terms, with the Irish rushing for 215 yards, and winning the time of possession battle by five minutes. Golson was solid completing 13 of 25 passes for 177 yards, with no interceptions. His legs were as big of a threat as they’ve been all year, rushing 11 times for 58 yards and a score.
The Irish will move up at least one spot in the BCS rankings with Florida’s loss to Georgia. I also think they’ll temporarily leap frog Oregon in the rankings with the Ducks win on Saturday coming over a truly terrible Colorado squad. However, with Oregon’s run of USC, Stanford, Cal, and Oregon State to finish the season, plus a potential PAC-12 championship game, the Ducks would jump back over Notre Dame if they keep winning.
Notre Dame has three games they should win handily in the next three weeks, with home dates with Pitt and Wake Forest sandwiching a road trip to a two-win Boston College squad. That should easily put the Irish at 11-0, but could also put them in the back of the line in terms of undefeated teams atop the BCS rankings. If you’re thinking national championship game, the Irish still need a little divine intervention with losses from Alabama, Oregon, and Kansas State.
That’s of little concern right now to Irish fans. The magical run continues. It’s been a long time since it’s been this fun to be an Irish fan, enjoy it.
Indiana 31, Illinois 17
So let’s get this straight: The team that appeared it could hang with anyone in the Big Ten on offense wins a game where they had less than 300 yards of total offense, and went 1 for 13 on 3rd down conversions?
Yes, that happened. Kevin Wilson’s team is a winner in Big Ten play for the first time since Kevin Wilson became the head coach in Bloomington.
The Hoosiers held the Illini to an average of 3.6 yards per carry, and picked up a pair of crucial Illinois turnovers in the win. Stephen Houston found the end zone three times, and Nate Sudfeld got the win in long-relief for the Hoosiers, entering the game in the first quarter and throwing two touchdowns.
I can spit more numbers at you from this game, but the win wasn’t about numbers for Indiana. It was simply about bouncing back after a bitterly disappointing loss last week at Navy. And in a state where success is often measured not in what bowl game you played in, or how you fared in the Big Ten, but simply were you better than the other team in this state in your league, the Hoosiers did exactly that. They found a way to win. Purdue did exactly the opposite.
I think back to Wilson’s weekly presser on campus this past Tuesday, where the analogy was made that this team has gone from several plays away from winning a game down to one play away. On Saturday, that play, or those handful of plays finally went the way of the Hoosiers. Expect one or two more of those before this season comes to its conclusion.
However, Indiana has now won more games than last year, won on the road twice, and won in Big Ten play. That’s a lot of check marks in the column of what would make 2012 a successful season for the Hoosiers.
Minnesota 44, Purdue 28
We take this pause from everything right in Indiana college football to talk about Purdue. From talking about the Big Ten penthouse to the outhouse in one month, that would be the death spiral that continues for the Boilermakers.
For the third time in four weeks, the effort, heart, and intelligence of this football team has come into question. Purdue allowed a winless squad in league play to lead 44-7 at one point in the third quarter. The Boilermakers would add some cosmetic points and yards to make this game appear closer than it really was.
To put this in perspective, Minnesota didn’t complete a pass in the second half. And still won the game.
Last week’s loss at Ohio State can serve to further infuriate what Purdue fans are left. Against a 9-0 team, Purdue lead in the final minute, and gave a Heisman Trophy candidate fits before knocking him out of the game. This Saturday, Purdue allowed Minnesota’s third quarterback of the season to throw for three touchdown passes and average over 16 yards per completion.
It’s clear that there’s a serious disconnect at Purdue. Either this team is terribly unprepared for numerous games, has quit on their coach, or has a serious lack of heart once the first sign of adversity occurs during a game. Take whichever of those options you’d like, none of them are good. While winnable games still dot the Boilermaker schedule, does anything you’ve seen in the last four weeks give you any indication that a win is going to happen?
The quick answer is no.
Best of the rest
Congrats to Pete Lembo and the rest of the Ball State Cardinals. With their 30-22 win at Army, the Cards are bowl eligible at 6-3. They now move off of Saturday play and become the prime time players, as they’ll play on a Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday the rest of the way to get airtime on ESPN2 and ESPNU. They also play a trio of tough MAC teams in Toledo (which won at Cincy last week), Ohio (who won at Penn State to begin the season), and Miami (who beaten previously unbeaten Ohio on Saturday). The Cards can win any of those three, and can lose any of those three. One win likely guarantees a bowl bid.
Indianapolis has a share of its first conference championship in football since 1981, blasting William Jewell 48-3 for its seventh straight win. The Hounds are now 7-2, and were ranked 4th in the first NCAA D2 regional poll this week. The top six make the playoffs in each region, with two regular season weeks remaining. Indy will have its toughest challenge since the first two weeks of the season with a non-conference home game against last year’s national semifinalist in Delta State next Saturday.
Indiana State has its first seven-win season since 1995 after dropping South Dakota 45-14. The Sycamores may have an FCS playoff berth locked up already, but would clinch with a home win over fellow 7-2 MVC foe Illinois State next Saturday.
Marian will be ranked #1 in the country again in the NAIA, after beating Menlo (CA) 34-7 in their regular season home finale. They’ll head to play St. Xavier in Chicago next week in their final regular season game. St. X ended the Knights’ dream season last year in the playoff semifinals. With a win, Marian could again play three home games in the national playoffs before the neutral-site championship game in Rome, GA.
Butler ran their Pioneer Football League record to 6-0 winning at Davidson 31-20. Next up is their Senior Day against Jacksonville, a team that always gives the Dogs fits. Franklin kept their perfect HCAC record in tact, winning at Defiance 35-14. Hanover remained unbeaten in the HCAC as well, blasting Earlham 55-14. Wabash took a huge step towards the D3 playoffs, winning at Ohio Wesleyan 28-0. That’s back-to-back shutouts for the Little Giants for the first time since 1983. Wabash is part of a four-way tie atop the league, but owns the tiebreaker and play their final two games in Crawfordsville.