The first month of the college football season certainly was not lacking for drama around the country. The Big Ten had its share of drama in Week 4 as well with Big Ten West teams having some struggles, an overtime matchup in primetime, and a player apparently quitting on his team in the middle of a game.
Penn State remained undefeated with a 38-17 victory at home against Villanova. Quarterback Sean Clifford became the second Penn State player in history to throw for 400 yards in a game while he and Jahan Dotson continued to move up the school’s all-time passing and receiving lists, respectively. But the Nittany Lions certainly have to address their shortcomings on the ground.
But let’s see what else happened around the Big Ten in Week 4.
Notre Dame 41, Wisconsin 13
Dan Powers-USA TODAY Sports
This is a game you really had to see blow up in Wisconsin’s face to believe. The Badgers owned a 13-10 advantage in the fourth quarter in a game where neither offense was having much success. But the Fighting Irish went on a jaw-dropping 31-0 run to close out the game and blow out Wisconsin in Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Notre Dame’s run began with a special teams kickoff return for a touchdown after Wisconsin broke a 10-10 tie with a field goal near the start of the fourth quarter. Chris Tyree’s 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown gave Notre Dame the lead and they never looked back. Notre Dame added a touchdown and a field goal before the defense returned two of the four interceptions thrown by Mertz for a touchdown, one from 66 yards and another from 45.
Wisconsin is heading back to the drawing board after this one, but ultimately knows the Big Ten championship hopes are still fully alive. But Paul Chryst has to figure out how to get more out of his quarterback, who struggled mightily against Notre Dame and was coming up short against Penn State in the opener.
Indiana 33, Western Kentucky 31
Next up on the schedule for Penn State is a home revenge game against the Indiana Hoosiers. And things have not been going Indiana’s way too much this season. But at least they found a way to escape a close call on the road against Western Kentucky on Saturday night.
Stephen Carr gave Indiana a 33-24 lead with under five minutes to play in the game but the Hoosiers had to recover an onside kick attempt by the Hilltoppers to help secure a wild win. Indiana never trailed in the game but struggled to slam the door shut on Western Kentucky.
And if the Hoosiers thought life was tough at Western Kentucky, then they’ll be pleased to know Villanova’s quarterback just gave Penn State fans a challenge for next weekend’s primetime kickoff in Beaver Stadium.
Things Indiana didn’t want a Penn State opponent to say before a primetime game next weekend… https://t.co/XlFmjSRhbc
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) September 25, 2021
Iowa 24, Colorado State 14
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
It took a while for Iowa to establish control against a struggling Colorado State program in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday. The Hawkeyes didn’t get nearly the kind of production on the ground and Iowa actually trailed 14-7 at halftime. But a fumble by Colorado State deep in their end gave Iowa a chance for a quick six-yard touchdown on one play to tie the game.
Penn State heads to Iowa in two weeks for a mid-afternoon contest.
Bowling Green 14, Minnesota 10
BOWLING GREEN PUTTING ON FOR THE MAC 🙌
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) September 25, 2021
What the heck happened here?
Minnesota’s defense gave up just 192 yards and 14 points to the Bowling Green Falcons but Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan was picked off twice in the final minutes of the game, ending any chance of a comeback victory in front of a very unhappy homecoming crowd.
After the game, Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck was asked about the possibility of a change at quarterback. Naturally, Fleck rejected the notion he has even thought about such a change.
There are MAC teams that on any given Saturday, could beat LOTS of P5 teams if they play very well. And then there are MAC teams that would be in a dogfight to finish .500 in MVC play. I'll let you guess where bowling green was supposed to be this season
— Matt Brown (@MattBrownEP) September 25, 2021
The MAC streak over the B1G extends one more season. Now 15 straight years (not counting 2020) a B1G team has lost to a MAC squad.
14-10 Bowling Green beats Minnesota.
— Dustin Schutte (@SchutteCFB) September 25, 2021
Northwestern 35, Ohio 6
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Northwestern, on the other hand, had no problem playing at home against a MAC program. Northwestern quarterback Ryan Hillinski made his debut as the starting quarterback for the Wildcats. Fortunately for Northwestern, they didn’t need a big day through the air to dismantle the visiting Bobcats.
Northwestern racked up 373 rushing yards as a team, led by an impressive 216 yards on the ground by Evan Hull. Hull also scored twice in the win.
Michigan 20, Rutgers 13
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Michigan had been steamrolling opponents this season but they hit a few speedbumps at home against Rutgers. Rutgers limited the Wolverines to just 112 rushing yards and out-gained Michigan by a margin of 352-275.
Credit Rutgers for not giving up after being down 20-3 at halftime. The Scarlet Knights forced Michigan to go three-and-out on their first four possessions of the second half, which allowed Rutgers chances to chip away at the deficit. But a missed short field goal and a turnover on downs ultimately led to Rutgers suffering its first loss of the year.
Rutgers at Michigan, two years apart. pic.twitter.com/cvDTkUhd02
— Garrett Stepien (@GarrettStepien) September 25, 2021
Rutgers 4-0 ATS. Probably should’ve won. pic.twitter.com/zPdBdePKXq
— Tone Digs (@ToneDigz) September 25, 2021
We’ll certainly have to keep an eye on Rutgers, as they are clearly playing better this season. Meanwhile, Michigan may have realized it will have to do more than just run the football if it is going to make a push in the Big Ten.
Purdue 13, Illinois 9
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
Purdue and Illinois also played a football game on Saturday. It was even on TV and everything!
Purdue rallied in the fourth quarter behind backup quarterback Aidan O’Connell after Jake Plummer was pulled from the game. He engineered the game’s only touchdown of the day with a 94-yard drive in the fourth quarter to deliver Purdue a win and steer them clear of an embarrassing loss. It should be noted Purdue was without wide receiver David Bell, who sat out while recovering from a concussion suffered last week against Notre Dame. Purdue was also short on running backs in the game as well.
Illinois head coach Bret Bielema deserved to lose this one. His decision to punt on 4th-and-2 from the Purdue 34-yard line. The decision was eerily similar to a costly decision made last week in a loss.
Maryland 37, Kent State 16
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Maryland is off to a 4-0 start, putting them just two wins away from bowl eligibility heading into October. Taulia Tagovailoa completed 31-of-41 pass attempts for 384 yards and three touchdowns in the win. This is the first 4-0 start to a season for Maryland since 2016.
Maryland will play host to Iowa next week. Given the results in Week 4, it may not be unfair to suggest the Hawkeyes should be placed on upset alert in week 5 when they head to College Park.
Michigan State 23, Nebraska 20 (OT)
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Michigan State kept its perfect record intact while Nebraska’s bowl hopes took another critical blow before October begins. A Spartans interception of Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez in overtime allowed the Spartans to avoid an upset at home with a Matt Coghlin field goal for an overtime win in East Lansing.
Nebraska put up a valiant effort, out-gaining the Spartans 440-254 in the game. Michigan State’s running game was limited to just 71 yards and Nebraska racked up 26 first downs while allowing just 12. Michigan State was just 1-for-10 on third-down conversions, but a punt return for a game-tying touchdown by Michigan State’s Jayden Reed late in the fourth quarter helped the Spartans avoid taking a loss.
Ohio State 59, Akron 7
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Laugh if you wish, but Ohio State had to come from behind to beat Akron. But they did so with 59 unanswered points after trailing 7-0 to the Zips in the first quarter on Saturday night.
The Buckeyes started Kyle McCord in place of the injured C.J. Stroud, and it paid off in a big way. McCord completed 13-of-18 passes for 319 yards with a pair of touchdowns. The Buckeyes combined for a total of 237 rushing yards, with breakout star TreVeyon Henderson leading the charge with 93 yards and a pair of touchdowns (Master Teague III also had two rushing touchdowns).
Kyle McCord 34-yard TD pass to Jaxon Smith-Njigba pic.twitter.com/CjiDGox9wr
— The Buckeye Nut (@TheBuckeyeNut) September 26, 2021
This was the perfect tuneup game for an Ohio State team that clearly needed it. It’s unwise to get carried away with a blowout win over Akron, but Ohio State needed a relatively stress-free game and they got it.
The story of the night, however, was the bizarre sequence of events that saw Buckeyes linebacker K’Vaughan Pope apparently quit the team during the game and fire off a string of unpleasant tweets in frustration.