I apologize for the delay in the last installment of our season in review series. I wrote the entire article last night and just as I was getting ready to publish the browser closed without saving my work. Ugh. There is truly little more frustrating than writing the same feature twice.
Since we last met there have been some exciting changes in my life. I just finished moving from Columbus to Los Angeles where I'm starting work with a large law firm at the end of the month. My wife and I are getting settled into a Craftsman-style bungalow in the Pasadena area. Needless to say, we're swimming in a sea of boxes.
Nevertheless, lets take a moment to reflect on the best month of the season. November doesn't just represent the end of the conference race, it's where the journey comes full circle. The same low light that defined 6:00 a.m. winter workouts lasts all day now. As does the chill in the air and the sting from contact.
If October separates the men from the boys, November defines bragging rights for a full calender year. It's the month where rivalries live.
Here is the biggest game, best win, worst loss and greatest moment.
Biggest Game: No. 9 Ohio State at No. 20 Iowa (20-17)
If November felt a bit melodramatic this time around it's because the month failed to break a three-way tie for the conference crown. The closest we came to chaos was on November 19th at Kinnick Stadium, where Ohio State traveled with dreams of at least a portion of a sixth consecutive Big Ten championship on the line. Sure, it wasn't the colossus we predicted last spring, but both clubs had a lot to play for. I was in Iowa City that day, and watched from the stands as the Hawkeyes went ahead 17-10 early in the Fourth Quarter on Marcus Coker's 1-yard run. It was a terrific thrill to watch the Buckeyes battle back, first on a 48-yard Devin Barclay field goal, and later on an epic 12 play, 76 yard touchdown drive. More on that in a minute...
Best Win: No. 13 Iowa at Northwestern (17-21)
Iowa fans love to belittle the brainiacs from Evanston, but for five of the past six years it's been all talk and no walk. Face it Hawks, just Northwestern is just as competitive as you. They proved that on November 13th. The Wildcats trailed 7-17 after two Ricky Stanzi touchdown passes inaugurated the third quarter, and the Hawks kept driving, but Northwestern's Brian Peters made an agressive pick near the goal line, turning the tide in favor of the Cardiac Cats. Dan Persa did the rest. Although this game was chalk full of wild plays and improbable completions, it will be remembered for Persa's last throw: a 20-yard strike to Demetrius Fields with 1:22 to play that gave the Wildcats the lead. It also took Persa. The star ruptured his Achilles' tendon while sprinting to celebrate with his teammates, leading to a bittersweet scene as the final seconds ticked off the clock in Evanston. Northwestern wouldn't ever recover from Persa's loss, but they would completely exorcise the jNU meme.
Worst Loss: No. 24 Iowa at Minnesota (24-27)
No team made more of an impression in November than the Hawkeyes, but it certainly wasn't a favorable one. The veteran team from Iowa City self-destructed down the stretch in 2010, dropping its final three games. No loss was more embarrassing than the season finale, where the Hawks were positively out-muscled and out-hustled by a 2-9 Minnesota squad with an interim head coach. The rival Golden Gophers got it going early on the ground, ultimately churning out a 216 yard effort against a previously impressive Iowa front seven. The Minnesota defense did the rest, forcing a late Marcus Coker fumble to ice the game for the home team, completing another terrifying fourth quarter collapse for the Hawkeyes. The pre-season national championship contenders didn't just surrender their pride that day, they also bid farewell to Floyd of Rosendale for the first time in four years.
Biggest Moment: Pryor Scrambles on Fourth and Ten
It's no secret that the biggest games often breed the biggest moments. Down 13-17 with a little over four minutes left in the fourth quarter, Ohio State faced a 3rd and 10 from midfield. In a play that looked eerily similar to the fabled Holy Buckeye completion from 2002, DeVier Posey slipped past the coverage and Terrelle Pryor heaved a long ball to the endzone. The pass was perfectly thrown and Posey was wide open, but the ball inexplicably dropped through his hands. The near miss set up a do-or-die 4th and 10 with Ohio State's season in the balance. No pressure, or anything.
Not for Terrelle Pryor, who dropped back into coverage and stepped forward on a called Quarterback run. He scrambled in the backfield for a moment before turning on the jets and riding an open lane to the outside. The fourteen yard pickup was just another of a long list of clutch long distance third and fourth down running conversions by Pryor. It gave the Buckeyes a fresh set of downs and a new lease on life. They didn't waste the opportunity. Five plays later Dan Herron rushed for the go-ahead score, and a destructive defensive series by Cameron Heyward sealed the deal.