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Fall’s Tarts, Week One: Journeys into the Improbable

Big Ten Football is back, and dumber than ever!

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Ohio State
Fair warning, we will be addressing dick noses in this episode... and probably every episode this season. Because America!
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Wow! What a first weekend, huh? That afternoon time slot really clothed the whole “let’s play football during a global pandemic” in glory with some crazy games that made us all remember why we missed this dumb pastime so much.

We’re also back in the swing of things with Fall’s Tarts, a weekly feature which celebrates the wild, the weird, and the downright silly of college football. It’s good to be back.

In Which a Mark of Shame is Earned

Rutgers may in fact turn out to be much improved from last year - in fact, it seems likely that they are. Nevertheless, coming into the first game of the season, they had a 21-game conference losing streak. Given the magnitude of that, uh, accomplishment, whoever it was that broke that particular streak for the Scarlet Knights was going to be a shoo-in for this list.

However, Michigan State didn’t just lose to Rutgers, they went ahead and really botched the whole enterprise in a particularly tart-eriffic effort. While no one thinks that MSU is spectacular this year, this is a game they might have won if they hadn’t turned the ball over SEVEN TIMES. (Say that in a Principal Rooney voice, please.) If you’d like a breakdown of that ineptitude, it was five lost fumbles and two interceptions.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
...and repeat.
Kirthmon F. Dozier via Imagn Content Services, LLC

This game was interesting in that it was the first game for two new head coaches (although as we’ve covered many times before, Greg Schiano is a re-boot). This is likely to energize the Rutgers faithful and give the narrative of “Schiano-as-Savior” more juice, at least for another week. For Spartan fans, this likely only confirms the foreboding surrounding the program in the last year or so, and it certainly isn’t how Mel Tucker wanted this to start. The man gave up living in Boulder, CO, which is a cool place, to move to East Lansing, MI, which is not, and right now, he may be having some second thoughts.

For real though: congrats to Rutgers. A renewed Rutgers would mean that every “writer” and commenter on this site would finally have to get some new material, and while that sucks for us, it’s a relief for Rutgers fans, who really and truly have been through it.

Oh, and if you were wondering, like we were, what the record is for turnovers in a game, WSR and Jesse found the answers:

  • 8 fumbles lost in a game Illinois at wisconsin 10/20/45 on 11 fumbles and Illinois at Purdue on 10/10/87 on 10 fumbles.
  • 7 interceptions thrown Minnesota vs. wisconsin 11/20/54 and Michigan at MSU 10/14/87.
  • All time, apparently the answer is 13, which... dammmmmmn. Georgia vs Ga Tech in 51 (5 fum, 8 INT)

But none of those teams lost to Rutgers.

In Which Iowa Demonstrates Marvelous Ball-Stripping Technique, Minus One Tiny Detail

This one gives me great joy, because unlike feature regulars Rutgers, Nebraska, and Northwestern, Iowa tends to play solid, boring ball and is helmed by a solid, boring coach, so I’m rarely able to give them a slot in Tarts. However, the Hawkeyes had a great day on Saturday, not only losing, but giving the world this gem of Tyler Goodson getting the ball stripped by his very own offensive lineman. Whoops.

In Which the Anticipated Moment of Glory Turns Out to Be a Vicious, and Obvious, Trap

Oh boy. This was a doozy. Big as Rutgers getting off the schneid was, the weekend’s crowning glory was Indiana FINALLY achieving what they have so often threatened before: a great big, giant, upset win. The victims were #5 Penn State, and PSU even wound up lending the Hoosiers a helpful hand in the form of a Devyn Ford touchdown. It doesn’t get more 2020 than having a player score a touchdown that ends up leading to his own team’s defeat, but here we are.

With 1:47 left, Penn State had a one-point lead, and a 1st-and-10. Devyn Ford took the ball and scampered 14 yards into the end zone, a scamper which he quickly realized had been just a bit too easy...

... because Indiana definitely wanted him to score. Penn State could have run out the clock, a realization you can clearly see Ford make, mere inches into the end zone. My favorite part of this, in addition to watching Ford’s wheels turn in real time, is Indiana’s Bryant Fitzgerald, who charges after Ford not to tackle him, but presumably to carry his ass into the endzone himself if Ford realizes the magnitude of the situation. Fitzgerald then signals for the touchdown for the opposing team, which is just not something you see every day.

I feel bad for Ford, personally. Yes, he “should have” known the situation. But I can also easily see how instinct and adrenaline took over for him here as that mile-wide path opened between him and the end zone. AND, while Ford did the wrong thing here, he’s also not responsible for letting Indiana march 75 yards in order to score the tying touchdown.

The next thing that happened, as you might have heard, was that Michael Penix extended with all his might and got that ball into the end zone. Probably. Maybe. Hard to tell.

But it be that way sometimes, Penn State. Congrats to Candy and to all the Hoosier fans who have had their hearts ripped from their chests an insane number of times.

In Which it is Obvious the Big Ten Refs Did Not Spend Quarantine Honing Their Craft

Yeah, yeah. REFS!!!! But there really were a number of not-great calls over the weekend, and it’s been awhile since any of us got to screech about refs, so let us have this. As Thump put it, it’s “a familiar problem with illini games, as one is always aware of “if these refs didn’t suck, we’d only have lost by 3 scores” sounding rather silly, BUT YOU STILL NEED TO SAY SOMETHING because the officiating’s just been bad!” A few moments of rage and controversy:

  • Nebraska lost two defensive players for targeting (not just for this game, remember, but for the first half against Wisconsin next week as well.) While the first ejection was understandable based on the footage, the second one was pure shit. Am I biased? Maybe. But there was a pretty broad coalition of support for that conclusion in our Slack channel, so I’m going to just assume I’m right.
  • In the Iowa-Purdue game, it seemed that the refs just wanted to go home (no great surprise, as this was kind of a dumb game) and so they just stopped calling things at the end. You typically only see Wisconsin benefit from calls this egregious, but this was definitely a giant F-U to Iowa from the officials. I support that, of course, but it is a pretty bad no-call.
  • Of course, the stand-out moment was the controversy surrounding the Great Penix Extension of 2020. After Indiana found itself in overtime with PSU (see above), they decided to go for two and the win. QB Michael Penix gave it everything he had:

and spurted into Hoosier immortality. Truth be told, most of us were ok with this call, since PSU tends to get more than their share of friendly calls (source: everyone) but if you’re a Penn State fan, this is very definitely a REFS!!!!!!!! moment for the ages.

In Which Peej Lacks His Usual Enthusiasm and Zest for Life

Creighton: Michigan broke Peejus. Not very elite, imo.

While last year brought us post-game press conference greats such as the Great Hoodie Hypocrisy and the Boomerfication of Pat Fitzgerald, PJ Fleck hasn’t made a name for himself in this arena, namely because he’s got the enthusiasm dialed to 11 at all times, and it’s just not noteworthy week in and week out. But this time, the Gopher mauling at the hands of Michigan seems to have brought out another side of him. I present: Peevish Peej.

In Peej’s defense, it’s 2020, and this is pretty much all of our moods now, all of the time. Some things not even a boat oar can fix, and Covid is one of them.

In Which Grown Men Refuse to Cover Their Damn Mouths with a Bit of Cloth

Look, I’m really over the crowd who just won’t wear a mask. If you’re in public and you’re not wearing one, yes, I am judging you, and not kindly. It’s so silly, stupid, inconsiderate, selfish, dangerous... do I need to go on? Just grow the f*ck up and wear the thing. I am in education and teach all day long in one, and if I can do that, I guarantee these ding dongs on the sidelines can also wear one.

All of that said, we knew that some coaches would be better at this than others. As per commenter LL Sota, here’s how they handled themselves:

1a. Lovie

1b. Tucker

2. Franklin

3. Fleck

4. Allen

5. Schiano

6. Harbaugh

7. Ferentz

8. Day

9. Chryst

10. Frost

11. All of the defensive coordinators

LL Sota, like everyone else, did not watch Northwestern-Maryland, so it’s anyone’s guess what happened there. This looks pretty good to me, although what would REALLY look good to me is if these guys, who are being paid millions of dollars a year, could mildly inconvenience themselves for the sake of public health. Now that players are testing positive, maybe we’ll see better compliance from football staff—but honestly, it shouldn’t have had to come to that.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Wisconsin
YES. We all miss the glory of the beard, but Lovie Smith demonstrates that it’s actually not that hard to cover your mouth and your nose like a responsible human adult.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
NCAA Football: Nebraska at Ohio State
NO. This isn’t the same as a hoodie Scottie, you don’t get toughness points for not wearing your mask. On your face.
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

We will also file under this category general fan stupidity, such as this massive party held by Penn State fans. I just cannot with this level of idiocy and inconsideration. I know it’s happening all over, but at least in this instance, perhaps the ending to PSU-Indiana game can be viewed as cosmic justice?

If you like having football, do what you can to keep it around, which means staying away from people and wearing a mask in public. If you like not killing people inadvertently or prolonging the damage to your local economy, you should also do these things.

In Which the Strategery is Not as Great as it Might Have Been

Having spent time in the Big Ten, Baylor HC Dave Aranda knows that punting is winning. But now Dave Aranda knows that there are a few caveats to that philosophy.

In Which there is a QUADRUPLE DOINK

I’m no physicist or whoever it is that studies angles and shit like this, but if I were, I’d be breaking this one down for awhile. Rice kicker Collin Riccitelli (fun name alert) had the chance to win the game with a 45-yard kick, after Middle Tennessee had come up empty in the first overtime. Instead, this happened:

This takes the phrase “funny shaped ball takes funny bounces” to a new level.

Riccitelli’s day didn’t improve from there, by the way. In the next OT, his FG attempt was blocked, and Middle Tennessee scored a touchdown, winning the game. Presumably, Riccitelli didn’t bother to pick up any lottery tickets on the way home.

In Which Another Kick Does Not Go as Planned

And finally, because we all love a good kicking snafu when it’s not negatively affecting our team, here’s a gem from the great state of Idaho:

All of this is a delightful watch, but I especially love watching #85 react to the wholly unexpected feeling of getting drilled in the back of his head with a kick from his own kicker.

Alright, it was a fully silly, ridiculous, and improbable first week of Big Ten football! Whose tart reigned supreme?


Who Tarted Hardest?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    MSU Losing to Rutgers
    (156 votes)
  • 12%
    Iowa Strips the Ball from Iowa
    (54 votes)
  • 20%
    PSU player recognizes just a moment too late that he has fallen into a dangerous trap
    (91 votes)
  • 4%
    (21 votes)
  • 2%
    Peevish Peej
    (10 votes)
  • 8%
    Basic Covid Safety Non-Compliance
    (36 votes)
  • 1%
    Baylor’s Punting is Not Winning
    (7 votes)
  • 10%
    Quadruple Doink
    (47 votes)
  • 3%
    Boise State’s Kick in the Head
    (15 votes)
437 votes total Vote Now