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Late-game dramatics were theme of Week 10 in the Big Ten
What a wild week in the Big Ten. The three best teams in the league — Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin — won in convincing fashion but the rest of the conference was under cardiac arrest in the fourth quarter.
Indiana came storming back with 28 unanswered points only to watch Philip Nelson throw the game-winning touchdown pass. Christian Hackenberg led a game-tying drive at the end of regulation and then tossed the game winner in overtime. And Nebraska won on a Ron Kellogg III Hail Mary in Lincoln.
Here are the Big Ten's Week 10 Superlatives:
Nelson and the Gophers built a commanding 35-13 lead with less than six minutes to go in the third quarter. However, Indiana stormed back with four unanswered touchdowns to take a narrow lead late in the final frame. But Nelson answered back with a 50-yard scoring strike to Maxx Williams to give Minnesota a thrilling three-point win over Indiana. Nelson finished with 298 yards on 16-of-23 passing and four touchdowns and 11 yards rushing on seven carries.
Defensive Player of Week: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Any number of key contributors from Michigan State could be mentioned here. Denicos Allen (nine tackles, three TFL, two sacks) and Ed Davis (four tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks) each had big games for the nation's best defense. Calhoun has become the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year candidate, however, and his performance against Michigan was worthy of a headline. He posted six tackles, three tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and is now leading the Big Ten in sacks this season (6.5). Nebraska's Avery Moss needs to get a mention as well for his performance against Northwestern. He posted four tackles, a tackle for a loss and returned his first career interception for a game-tying touchdown.
Team of Week: Michigan State
The Buckeyes earned a few more style points with a 56-0 win over Purdue on the road but no team was more impressive than Michigan State in Week 10. The nation's best defense held Michigan in check the entire afternoon, allowing just 168 yards of total offense and two field goals. The Spartans are unbeaten in Big Ten play and look like the top challenger to the Buckeyes. Connor Cook is making timely throws, and Jeremy Langford has emerged as a workhorse back. This team is averaging more than 30 points per game in Big Ten play and may be built to compete with Ohio State should it get past Nebraska in two weeks.
Coordinator of Week: Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State
Who else could it be? The No. 1 defense in the nation showed the nation why it might be the only unit in the Big Ten that can stop Ohio State. The Wolverines posted a school-record low of minus-48 yards rushing as Narduzzi dialed up pressure all night long. Michigan State finished with seven sacks, 12 first downs allowed 168 total yards of offense. The 23-point win was the most lopsided victory since 1967 between the two in-state rivals.
Freshman of the Week: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
The Penn State freshman has quickly proven he can handle himself in late-game pressure situations. For the second time in his young career, he drove his team down the field to tie the game in the final minute. And for the second time, he led his team to an overtime victory over a Big Ten foe. Hackenberg finished with 240 yards passing on 20-of-32 passing and two total touchdowns (one pass, one rush). He didn't turn the ball over and moved the Lions to even in the Big Ten this year. Hack still leads the Big Ten in passing (253 ypg).
Bonus: Play of the Year: Ron Kellogg III and Jordan Westerkamp, Nebraska
With no time remaining and his job potentially on the line at home against Northwestern, Bo Pelini watched one of the most memorable plays in Nebraska history unfold before yet another sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium. Kellogg heaved the ball 49 yards where Westerkamp snatched the tipped pass out of the air for the game-winning touchdown. It was Westerkamp's first career TD and it kept the Huskers Big Ten title hopes alive. Kellogg-to-Westerkamp now belongs next to Kirk Cousins, Kordell Stewart, Doug Flutie, Drew Tate and Marcus Randall in Big Ten lore.
• Michigan State is giving up a nation-best 210.2 yards per game. Only 2011 Alabama has posted a better mark (183.6) since 2000. The Spartans are also just one of four teams in the last 30 years to allow less than 50 yards rushing per game (Arizona, 1993; Michigan, 2006; TCU, 2008).
• Minnesota's David Cobb is the first Gopher back to top 100 yards in three straight game since Amir Pinnix in 2006. He has 60 carries and 326 yards combined in wins over Nebraska and Indiana.
• Minnesota became just the third team since 1980 to win three straight games as at least a touchdown underdog. The Gophers were double-digit underdogs in each of the last three games.
• Bill Belton rushed for 201 yards in Penn State's win over Illinois. It was the first 200-yard effort by a Nittany Lion since Larry Johnson in 2002. He nearly cost his team the game with a fourth-quarter fumble but was outstanding on his other 35 carries.
• Without Chris Borland, Wisconsin turned to Marcus Trotter to fill the void at linebacker on the road against Iowa. Trotter had nine tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss while holding Iowa to three field goals.
• Iowa entered play on Saturday leading the nation in rushing touchdowns allowed with two. They gave up two in a game for the second time in three weeks to Wisconsin.
• Michigan State's first offensive play from scrimmage was a busted throw back to the fullback. Trevon Pendleton rumbled 49 yards for the Spartans longest play of the season.