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Week Eight B1G Ballers – Connor Cook Blows His Top Edition

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Some huge plays and players this week. Connor Cook put the Spartans on his back and carried them to victory. J.T. Barrett looks like a different player from his early season games. And guess who has a wicked punter? It's the Best Players in the Big Ten Conference for Week Eight...

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Week Eight of the Big Ten Conference football season is now in the books. It was a fun week of football for some of us.

Northwestern got back on track. Michigan State’s quarterback is good. Wisconsin and Illinois played football. Ohio State boat-raced Rutgers until they took their foot off the pedal…at the end of the first half.

The Penn State/Maryland game was a hot mess. I was in Baltimore for the game. It was held in Ravens stadium so that UMD could collect a paycheck. The result wasn’t exactly a home game for the Terps. Penn State fans were everywhere. The entire marching band came. I just wished they left our offensive coordinator in State College.

There were eight turnovers. Maryland drove willy-nilly down the field, but couldn’t find the end zone when they had to. We gift wrapped that game for them, but they refused to take it. The win makes Penn State bowl eligible.

There were some stand-out Ballers this week, so let’s talk individual performances…

Illinois Fighting Illini: The defense had some solid plays in the losing effort to Wisconsin. Jihad Ward forced a fumble. Clayton Fejedlem tackled everything that moved and picked off a pass. Carroll Phillips had back to back sacks, knocking Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave out of the game.

Indiana Hoosiers: Indiana only trailed Michigan State by two points at the end of the third quarter. The defense sacked Connor Cook four times.

Quarterback Nate Sudfeld had a solid game, going 23 of 37 for 308 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a pick. He had some serious help from Simmie Cobbs Jr. He had a sick, one handed, 35-yard catch. He had five catches for 108 yards and a touchdown.

Iowa Hawkeyes: Bye week, no ballers for you.

Maryland Terrapins: The stat line doesn’t do Perry Hills credit for this game. He was 19 of 28 for 225 yards and a touchdown throwing the ball. But he threw three picks. He rushed 26 times for 124 yards and another touchdown. Maryland ran a modified option…which was basically Hills carrying the ball. And he gashed Penn State over and over again.

When Hills didn’t have the ball, he handed it to Brandon Ross. Ross had a big day, with 10 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown.

The defense sacked Penn State’s quarterbacks four times, but otherwise didn’t have a great outing.

Michigan Wolverines: Bye week, no ballers for you.

Michigan State Spartans: I’ve got one name for you…Connor Cook. He went 30 of 52 for 398 yards and four touchdowns. The Spartans needed him to step up because Indiana held the running game to modest gains.

Cook had help from his recievers. Aaron Burbridge had a big game, catching 8 balls for 128 yards and a touchdown. He had a 31 yard reception as well. R.J. Shelton caught 6 balls for 76 yards and two touchdowns. Macgarrett Kings Jr. stepped up as well. You’ve probably not heard of him before. He’s a journeyman receiver who’s caught balls all year. But this was his best game by far. He caught 7 balls for 69 yards, including a solid 28 yard play.

MSU special teams stepped up as well. Shane Jones forced Indiana’s Damon Graham to fumble a kickoff return. Two plays later, the Spartans’ Gerald Holmes scampered 22 yards for a touchdown.

The defense jumped on Indiana early, when Grayson Miller picked off Nate Sudfeld’s first pass. They also sacked Sudfeld two times.

Minnesota Golden Gophers: Bye week, no ballers for you.

Ohio State Buckeyes: Turns out J.T. Barrett is a good quarterback. A really good quarterback. He went 14 of 18 for 223 yards and three touchdowns. That included a big play - 50 yard TD pass to Michael Thomas. He also ran 13 times for 101 yards and 2 more touchdowns. Perennial baller Ezekiel Elliott carried the rock 19 times or 142 yards and another two touchdowns.

On defense, Joey Bosa was a force. He put offensive linemen on skates play after play. He ended up with three tackles for loss, including a sack. Gareon Conley had five tackles, a blocked pass, and an interception. Raeqwon McMillan had seven tackles and chased the Rutgers quarterback around all night.

Nebraska Cornhuskers: I thought, with that safety, that you guys were going to roll over Northwestern in a big way. Turns out, I was wrong. You had your chances. In fact, you had a shot to tie this one on a two-point conversion. It just didn’t happen.

Jordan Westerkamp balled in this game. He grabbed five balls for 92 yards, including a 30-yard catch. Brandon Reilly caught four balls for 83 yards and a touchdown. He also had a 37-yard play.

On defense, Ross Dzuris got a sack for a safety. Nate Gerry got to the quarterback too.

I have to give your punter some serious love. Sam Folz wis outstanding. He had six punts for 304 yards. That's a 50 yard average. I'll trade you for him...we'll give you our punter AND our fat kicker.

Northwestern Wildcats: Wow, you guys found your offense. Hell, even the defense scored in this game. Let’s start there…Nick VanHoose picked off a terrible Tommy Armstrong pass and ran it 72 yards for a touchdown. Dean Lowry had a huge game, mostly in Nebraska’s backfield. He sacked Armstrong twice in the game and had six tackles for loss total.

Clayton Thorson showed up big in this game. He threw for 177 yards and touchdown and ran nine times for 126 yards and another touchdown. That included a season long run of 68 yards. Dan Vitale, (the superback!) caught a Thorson pass for a 37 yard touchdown, one of five catches on the day.

Penn State Nittany Lions: If you don’t know anything about football and just looked at the stats (or read the headlines), you would think Christian Hackenberg was the big hero. You’d be wrong. All the credit…and I mean ALL THE CREDIT goes to his three wideouts who made him look good. Chris Godwin caught four balls for 135 yards and a touchdown. Daesean Hamilton caught five balls for 96 yards and a touchdown. Two other wideouts had catches of more than 25 yards.

What you need to know is that these were jump balls. Sometimes against double coverage. Without these guys balling, Hackenberg has a truly terrible day.

The defense really stepped up, taking the ball away from the Terrapins five times. Perry Hills threw three picks. Grant Haley, Trevor Williams, and Malik Golden all snagged interceptions. Both Brandon Bell and John Reid forced fumbles that team mates recovered. Those turnovers were the difference in the game.  

Purdue Boilermakers: Bye week, no ballers for you.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights: I know there was a game in Piscataway, but I’m not sure that Rutgers actually showed up for it. Okay, some guys did. I have to give a nod to Steve Longa. He made 19 tackles, including one for a loss against OSU. Quentin Gause was everywhere, making 15 tackles, including 2 more for loss.

There wasn’t much good on offense, but when Leonte Carroo went out with an injury, Carlton Agudosi made some plays. He had two catches for 76 yards, including a 58 yarder.

Wisconsin Badgers: Bart Houston is a baller. He came in after Joel Stave was knocked out by consecutive sacks. Houston came in and threw touchdown passes to Robert Wheelwright and Alex Erickson. He went 22 of 33 for 233 yards…but he threw two picks as well.

However, he did exactly what you want of your starting quarterback. When the game was tight in the third quarter (17-13 Wisconsin) he didn’t make a mistake. He engineered a 13 play drive that covered 65 yards, capped off by a 9 yard touchdown pass.

Micheal Caputo killed Illinois’ final drive with a pick of Wes Lunt’s pass (tipped by T.J. Edwards). He was flying around the field again in this game.

Ballers of the Week:

Offensive Baller was a tough one, so I'm copping out and giving it to both Connor Cook and J.T. Barrett. Both young men played insanely good football. 

Joey Bosa gets defensive baller of the week. If you watched the game, you know why. That kid can take over a game.

Special Teams Baller goes to Nebraska's punter, Sam Folz. That kid has a huge leg. He has 38 punts so far this year with an outstanding 45 yard average

Now for the Beer!

I drank a lot of beer this weekend in Baltimore. I drank several great selections from Baltimore’s own Heavy Seas brewery. I loved their Gold and Cutlass selections. Gold is a smooth, herbal hoppy beer. Cutlass is an English style pale ale, hoppy and slightly bitter. They also have a hoppy IPA called Loose Cannon that I heard was quite good. I had a great time in Baltimore. I highly recommend a jaunt along the water front. Head down to Fells Point and go underground to the Admiral Fell Inn bar. It’s down a short stairway under the Inn itself. It’s like going back in time. The tiny bar is a great place to knock back a few Heavy Seas beers for sure.

Your Friend,                                                                                                                                                   

Townie