FB: Thoughts on Big Ten Football Championship

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1ST QUARTER
  • 10:04:  WIS 7, MSU 0 | Wisconsin gets on the board first, a 3-yard TD pass from Russell Wilson to Philip Welch.
  • 6:44:  WIS, 7, MSU 0 | Michigan State's Edwin Baker scores on an 8-yard run.  MSU puts up 244.7 of 383.7 yards through the air, yet 46 of the 59 yards earned on the first possession came on the ground.
  • Kickoffs:  Heading into the game Michigan State's Nick Hill ranked fifth in the Big Ten with an average of 25.6 yards per return, while Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis was eighth at 23.1.  First Wisconsin return,  Abbrederis went 24 yards.  First MSU return, Hill went 39 yards.
  • 3:44:  WIS 14, MSU 7 | Montee Ball scores on a 6-yard rush to the Badgers back on top.  Scoring drive was 7 plays, 60 yards, 3:00.
  • Montee Ball:  Ball has eclipsed the 100-yard mark tonight, but those aren't all rushing yards.  On the recent scoring drive, Ball threw a pass to QB Russell Wilson for 32 yards.  He has 11 carries for 81 yards on the ground.
  • 3:12:  WIS 21, MSU 7 | Ball is at it again.  Back-to-back 6-yard rushing touchdowns for Ball, who is now officially over 100 yards rushing.  (13 car, 105yds).  Scoring drive was just two plays, 24 yards, 28 seconds, and all Ball.
RECAP:  Wisconsin's rushing offense is flexing its muscle, posting 105 of the 165 total yards on the ground.  Montee Ball has 13 carries for 105 yards and a pair of 6-yard scores.  Ball has also passed for 32 yards to Russell Wilson to help set up his first score.  MSU's Kirk Cousins is 3-of-3 passing for 43 yards, while Le'Veon Bell (41) and Edwin Baker (22) have helped the Spartans total 66 yards on the ground, almost half of what they turn in each game and half of what Wisconsin allows each game.

2ND QUARTER
  • 14:55:  WIS 21, MSU 14 | Oh those Spartans and the gutsy 4th down calls.  Kirk Cousins hits BJ Cunningham for a 30-yard TD to pull MSU within a touchdown.  Scoring drive was 7 plays, 80 yards in 3:17.
  • First Punt:  13:03 remains in the 2nd quarter and we just had our first punt of the game.  Michigan State's defense earns its first stop against the Badger D, forcing a 36-yard punt from Brad Nortman.
  • Cousins Yet to Miss:  Following a 18-yard pass to Keshawn Martin with 11:14 left in the quarter, Cousins has yet to miss a receiver tonight.  6-for-6, 104 yards.
  • What Just Happened???:  Well, if the Spartans are going to take the lead, make it interesting, right?  Let's see...  Kirk Cousins completes a 3-yard pass to Keith Nichol, who then before falling out of bounds, laterals the ball to BJ Cunningham, who rushes it in 7 yards.  Then Michigan State fakes the PAT, and Brad Sonntag runs it in to give the Spartans the lead.  Wow.
  • Cousins INT:  With 8:37 remaining in the half, Kirk Cousins just threw an interception for his first miss of the game.  Prior to the pick, Cousins was 8-of-8 for 125 yards and 2 TDs.  That was just the 7th INT of the year for Cousins.
  • 3:26:  MSU 29, WIS 21:  Michigan  State is playing with a purpose.  A 6-yard TD run by Le'Veon Bell makes it 22 unanswered points for the Spartans.
RECAP:  What an impressive first half of the Big Ten Football Championship Game!  Perhaps the most eye-opening stat right now is the production of the MSU offense against the Badgers' defense, one of the best in the country.  Consider this:  Wisconsin entered the Big Ten Championship Game ranked third in the country in pass defense (144.5), fourth in scoring defense (15.2), seventh in total yards allowed (278.2), and 44th in rush defense (133.7).  In just one half tonight, MSU has racked up 29 points, 181 passing yards, 136 rushing yards and 317 total yards.  With exception of one INT, Kirk Cousins has been unstoppable for MSU, throwing for 181 yards and 2 scores on 15-of-17 passing.  Keshawn Martin has five catches for 80 yards, while BJ Cunningham has three receptions for 61 yards and two TDs.  Wisconsin's Montee Ball has 16 carries for 107 yards rushing and two scores, while Russell Wilson is just 5-of-9 passing for 30 yards and a score.  Of those 30 yards, 22 came on a pass early on to Nick Toon.  Wilson has been sacked twice, both by Denicos Allen, who has four tackles at the half, one behind DB Trenton Robinson.  The Badgers' defense is led by Shelton Johnson with four stops.

3RD QUARTER
  • 9:13:  MSU 29, WIS 28:  Welcome back Wisconsin!  After 22 unanswered points by Michigan State, the Badgers storm out of halftime, force a punt, and march 8 plays and 62 yards in 3:30.  TD was a 42-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Jared Abbrederis.
  • A Stat That Stands Out:  With 3:22 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Michigan State has 19 first downs to Wisconsin's 9.  In the regular-season matchup, the Badgers finished the game with a 23-18 edge over the Spartans.
  • 1:41, MSU 36, WIS 28:  The combo continues...  Kirk Cousins has once again found B.J. Cunningham, this time on a 44-yard TD pass to give the Spartans a 36-28 advantage.  Scoring drive was 3 plays, 48 yards, in 1:41. 
RECAP:  This could be another one for the ages.  Michigan State continues to impress both on offense and defense, but Wisconsin is  fighting back hard.  Cousins is now 21-of-25 passing for 270 yards and 3 TDs, all of which have gone to Cunningham, who has 5 receptions for 115 yards.  Cunningham currently shares the receiving lead with teammate Keshawn Martin, who has 115 yards on 9 catches. 

4TH QUARTER

  • 13:25:  MSU 36, WIS 34:  We have a ballgame!  Russell Wilson has found Montee Ball for a 5-yard TD pass to put Wisconsin within two points since the 2-point conversions failed.  Scoring drive was 7 plays, 52 yards in 3:07.
  • What Defense?:  In the previous nine games between Michigan State and Wisconsin, the two squads combined to score 65.6 points per game, with the winning team scoring at least 34 points in eight of those contests.  Tonight?  With 10:34 remaining in the final quarter, the teams have combined for 70 points.
  • 8:28: MSU 39, WIS 34:  We have our first field goal of the game.  Michigan State's Dan Conroy has connected from 25 yards out to give the Spartans a 5-point advantage.  Scoring drive was 10 plays, 52 yards in 4:52.
  • Attendance:  Announced attendance is 64,152.
  • Kept the Drive Alive:  Give all the credit to Russell Wilson.  Faced with a 4th-and-6 with 4:08 remaining, Wilson scrambles to find Jeff Duckworth for a 36-yard completion down to the 7-yard line.  Next play, Montee Ball runs it in for his third score of the night.  The 2-point conversion was good, Wilson to Jacob Pedersen, and the Badgers lead!  Scoring drive was 8 plays, 64 yard in 4:35.
  • Who is the MVP?  Only one person gets the Grange-Griffin Championship Game MVP award.  But who gets it???  WIS-Wilson, 17-24, 187y-3TD, Ball, 24att, 130yds, 3 TD. MSU-Cousins 22-28, 281y-3TD, Cunningham, 5rec, 115yds, 3 TDs.
  • The Answer:  Congratulations to Russell Wilson on earning the Grange-Griffin Championship Game MVP award!  Wilson was 17-of-24 passing for 187 yards and 3 TDs, while rallying his Badgers late in the game for the Big Ten title.
RECAP:  Congratulations to the Wisconsin Badgers, the winners of the 2011 Big Ten Football Championship Game. In a hard-fought Big Ten battle, the Badgers defeated Michigan State 42-39 at Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday night.  Some wondered if these two teams could repeat the performance they gave Big Ten Country back in October.  Without question, these teams delivered tonight.  Similar to the October meeting, it was back-and-forth all night, with Wisconsin dominant to start and end the game, while Michigan State was the team to beat in the second and third quarters.

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