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Big Ten Players of the Week: Week 3

Just a warning: Big Ten offenses were very bad

Pat Narduzzi should be fired. The head couch of the Pitt Panthers really should have been fired within ten minutes of the end his team’s loss against Penn State, but I’ll settle for sometime later today. And before you ask, no, I’m not calling for his firing only because he let nearly all of OTE down by losing to Penn State. Here’s why he’s gotta go:

Five minutes left in the fourth quarter and Pitt is losing to Penn State 17-10. Pitt’s got the ball on Penn State’s one yard line. After three straight ____ and 1 plays, all of which Penn State’s defense stuffed, Narduzzi is faced with a “decision”: Go for the touchdown on 4th and 1, or settle for a field goal attempt.

Check that. Narduzzi didn’t face a “decision.” And yet he still somehow screwed it up. He opted to attempt the play that would leave his team still down four, would give his opponent the ball back, and would rely on his until-that-point gangbusters offense to score a touchdown at some point later in the game? Okay so he played it conservatively and it didn’t work, what’s the problem?

“You can go back, question the fourth and 1,” Narduzzi said. “Go for it, not go for it. If we go for it and we don’t get it, it’s like ‘why didn’t you kick the field goal, because you need two scores anyway to win the football game.’ That’s what it comes down to. You need two scores. We had three plays.”

Just to make it Crystal Clear Pepsi clear, when asked why he went for a field goal, on fourth and one, from the opponent’s one yard line, in a game his team was losing by 7...his response was YOU NEED TWO SCORES ANYWAY TO WIN THE FOOTBALL GAME. Jesus f-ing Jesus.

Okay first, college football has used the two-point conversion as a play since the late 1950s. I sometimes forget that this was this case, getting confused because the NFL didn’t use it until 1994. But I’m also not a guy with an entire career built around knowing how college football rules work. Narduzzi, my man, if your team is down by 7, you can score a touchdown and GO FOR TWO POINTS ON THE SUBSEQUENT PLAY. Fired.

Fine fine fine, let’s assume, because word count and such, that given how his team failed to score from the one yard line three straight times, Narddawg is uneasy about having to score on back-to-back plays from that close. He kicks the field goal, gets his three points and then...hopes his team gets the ball back on offense. Not a terrible assumption given how bad PSU’s offense kinda was all day. Alright, assumption assumed.

At that point in the game, Pitt’s offense had gotten within Hail Mary distance of PSU’s endzone THREE times all day. Once for a TD, once for a FG, and once when Pitt punted from the Penn State 37 yard line (lol). But sure, Narddawg, you can totally settle for the field goal attempt and then get your anemic offense to make just its fifth trip all day into Penn State’s half of the field. Solid plan, expecting your offense to do something that it’s barely done all day. Fired.

Let’s do another assumption. Let’s assume Narduzzi did actually forget you can go for two points. His plan was STILL to...try to put his team in a position to outright win or lose the game, rather than in a position to survive til overtime, barring Penn State’s offense doing something it couldn’t do much all day—drive against Pitt. In Narduzzi’s mind, it’s far, far better to kick a field goal, try to stop PSU’s offense, and then have a chance to win (or not lose, given that his team would be down four with maybe two minutes to play). Did he forget that he could have scored the touchdown, kicked the ball away, hoped his team got it back, and then drived (driven?) for the win? And worst case he goes to overtime? On no planet is it better to go into the last few minutes of the game losing instead of tied, even if you want to just win outright (which he COULD HAVE DONE ANYWAY BECAUSE YOU CAN GO FOR TWO). Fired.

Nobody who watched the game live thought he made the correct choice on 4th and 1. People sorta tried to defend him by playing the “he failed three times in a row, he wanted the points” argument, but that falls apart the second you think about the post-FG attempt consequences. Nobody thought Pitt had a better chance of making the FG, stopping PSU, and then scoring a touchdown on a later drive than they did punching it in on 4th and 1....except brain genius Narduzzi.

I don’t want to math, and I don’t even know how you’d start, but I’d bet the odds of scoring on 4th and 1, even following three straight stuffs, are way, way, way, way, way, way higher than making a FG, getting a stop, and scoring another TD in the final five minutes. Absolutely inexcusable that Narduzzi chose the latter path. Fired.

Narduzzi’s decision was indefensible when he made it, was indefensible when we all had time to consider it, and he looked and sounded somehow even less defensible when he tried to explain his decision. Pitt hasn’t been good enough since Narduzzi got there to justify keeping him, when any high school head coach in the country would have known to go for the touchdown.

Maybe Narduzzi was right that Pitt couldn’t have scored there, but that means PSU has to start at their own 1 yard line, and Pitt has a good chance to drive for the tying (OR WINNING CUZ YOU CAN GO FOR TWO) touchdown from about midfield rather than, say, their own 20. Maybe that scenario could have played out. Narduzzi didn’t even give his team a chance to win via that route. Instead, he took Pitt’s relatively small odds of scoring a touchdown and tying/going ahead by one, took a dump on those odds, and opted for the plan that gave him like a 1% chance of winning.

Pat Narduzzi, everyone. Your 2020 Michigan State Spartans head coach!

Offensive Player of the Week: JK Dobbins

Runningback - Ohio State Buckeyes at Indiana Hoosiers

22 carries, 193 yds, 1 TD; 2 receptions, 14 yards, 1 TD

JK Dobbins is rightfully overshadowed by Jonathan Taylor (Thomas) of the Wisconsin Badgers, but the Ohio State Buckeyes running back is really, really good and he’s finally getting his time to shine. He carved up Indiana relentlessly until the game was out of hand, then he did it some more until it became silly for him to keep playing. He had a long, beautiful TD run. He also showed that JT(T) isn’t the only elite back in the conference who can also catch touchdowns, something I’m sure will seriously hurt the Badgers later this year when OSU runs like ten straight wheel routes to Dobbins against outmatched linebackers.

Whenever possible, I’ll drop Taylor in this spot over Dobbins, because I’m biased and I’m in charge. Taylor didn’t play this week, and it’s feasible Dobbins could outplay Taylor again later this season, so we should probably get used to the idea of Dobbins in this spot. In fact, we’ll all probably cope with the rest of the season better if we just get used to the idea of OSU players filling up a lot of these columns.

Honorable Mention - Offensive Player of the Week: Week 3

Tyler Johnson - WR - Minnesota Golden Gophers
I almost put Tyler Johnson and his absurd 10 recs/140 yds/3 TD performance as the OPOTW, and I think he’s as close to a co-winner as we’ll see this season. The Gophers needed everyone one of his scores. Without him, Minnesota would have lost to the mighty Georgia Southern Eagles of the Sun Belt. With him, they won by three.

Adrian Martinez - QB - Nebraska Cornhuskers
Well well well, looks who’s back! After winning a whole bunch of awards last season, Martinez is back in POTW after turning it a 301 total yard, 3 total TD performance against what I think is Jerry Kill’s former former former former former team. (VT, Rutgers, KSU, UM, NIU?)

Drake Anderson - RB - Northwestern Wildcats
I didn’t realize Northwestern had options behind Isaiah Bowser, but apparently this guy Drake Anderson can run—and far better than 4 ypc! 26 carries, 141 yards, and 1 TD is good enough against UNLV to win the game and good enough in the Big Ten’s thoroughly meh Week 3 to get a POTW mention.

Defensive Player of the Week: Damon Arnette, Jr.

Cornerback - Ohio State Buckeyes at Indiana Hoosiers
1 interception, 96 yard return, 1 TD

That’s it. That’s all Damon Arnette, Jr. did the entire day for Ohio State, at least according to the box score for the game. (Ohio State’s official stats say he also had two tackles, but that’s less fun, so I’m not counting it.) By OTE POTW advanced stats, Arnette had the perfect statistical day from an efficiency standpoint. I don’t know if he got injured, got torched all day, or is such a shutdown corner that Indiana didn’t dare throw at him, but based on what those bold numbers tell me, Arnette scores 100% of the time he impacts a play. Pretty solid, and long touchdowns by defensive players will always score high on POTW.

The other reason it’s fun to put Arnette here is because the Big Ten had some absurd stat-sheet-stuffing performances in Week 3, several of which are listed below. Because for as bad as the B1G Offenses were last week, the B1G Defenses were equally amazing but in the good way.

Honorable Mention Defensive Players of the Week: Week 3

Kenny Willekes - DE - Michigan State Spartans
7 tackles, 2 TFL, 0.5 sack, 5 QB hurries. 5? I know Michigan State lived in Arizona State’s backfield all day, but 5 seems like a lot.

Dele Harding - LB - Illinois Fighting Illini
17 tackles, 1.5 TFL. Just an absurd amount of tackles.

Ben Holt - LB - Purdue Boilermakers
17 tackles. That’s it, just the 17 tackles. Ben Holt!

And so many, many others: Antoine Brooks Jr. (13, 1PD, 1fumrec), Joe Bachie (12, 0.5, 0.5, 1PD, 1hurry), Joe Gaziano (9, 2.5, 1.5, 1 fum rec), and on...

Special Teams Player of the Week: Blake Hayes

Punter - Illinois Fighting Illini hosting Eastern Michigan University uh....
7 punts, 48.3 avg, 55 long

Not quite a Korsak, but a day that’s most of what you could want from a Big Ten punter. Sure things could have been better (namely, we’d love to see some punts downed inside the 20), but you can’t go wrong as a punter when you’re bombing nearly 50 yards every time, and you can’t go wrong as an OTE “writer” picking a punter for Best Of something.

Plus this means an Illinois player has won a major award in back-to-back weeks. Crazy! (Note: I couldn’t find a high school photo of Hayes. Do they even have high schools in Australia? If you find a good high school punting picture of him, or whatever kicky thing they do down there, let me know!)

Honorable Mention Special Teams Players of the Week: Week 3

Michael Sleep-Dalton - Punter - Iowa Hawkeyes
Always the second place guy, never the first place guy. Or so the saying goes, right? Sleep-Dalton booted 5 times, 47.2 avg, and 51 long. A really good day against what’s surely a top 10 punt defending unit for the Iowa State Cyclones.

Keith Duncan - Kicker - Iowa Hawkeyes
Wait I picked two Iowa players for STPOW hon mens? This is disappointing. I am disappointed in myself. 4/4 FGs, 24 long, does not kick XPs?

Jordan Stout - Kicker - Penn State Nittany Lions
Dude kicked but one ball toward the uprights, but it was a doozy. 1/1 FG, 57 long. Fifty-seven yards. 90% of the OTE commentors can’t even jog that far.

OTE’s Offensive Play of the Week: Week 3

The only part of the game I saw was this final Minnesota drive. I was disappointed but this is a good catch.

OTE’s Defensive Other Offensive Play of the Week:
Week 3

No defensive plays this week, you get two offensive plays. Yay!

Rondale’s Corner


3 receptions, 25 yards; non-noteworthy rushing and returning stats

Jammin’ with Jonathan

JT(T) had the week off!

Ohhhh can you feel it? It’s almost conference play time!


Okay...NOW who’s winning the West?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    (81 votes)
  • 50%
    (198 votes)
  • 6%
    Still Minnesota
    (25 votes)
  • 6%
    Still Nebraska
    (25 votes)
  • 5%
    Still Northwestern
    (22 votes)
  • 3%
    Still Purdue
    (12 votes)
  • 6%
    (27 votes)
390 votes total Vote Now