Big Ten Wrap Week 4: Ohio State’s Sideline Scrum

The Big Ten had the best matchup on paper heading into Saturday. Notre Dame clashed with Wisconsin at Soldier Field in a game that pitted Irish QB Jack Coan against his former Badgers teammates. The game met the lofty expectations for about 3 ½ quarters before turning into a route late. Michigan controlled Rutgers in Ann Arbor and while it wasn’t a blowout, it was much more comfortable than the triple overtime matchup last year. Ohio State comfortably handled Akron behind true freshman QB Kyle McCord, who made his first start, but there is much more to the story of that game than simply the score. Michigan State managed to hold off Nebraska. It wasn’t pretty, but Mel Tucker has the Spartans undefeated and proving they can win, even when their offense isn’t humming. Somehow, Minnesota lost to Bowling Green after manhandling Colorado a week ago.

Notre Dame 41 Wisconsin 13

The Irish got the win, but QB Coan was hardly the hero in his revenge game. After getting rolled up on a pass rush, Coan appeared to injure his knee and gingerly limped off the field. He was then checked out by the doctor, and did not return to action. That’s when reserve QB Drew Pyne took the helm. While not spectacular, Pyne was just the boost the Irish needed. He tossed a couple of gems for big gains that eventually led to a score. Notre Dame was able to slow down the Wisconsin running attack and hold RB Chez Mellusi to only 54 yards on 18 attempts. With this victory, Brian Kelly became the all-time winningest coach in Notre Dame history, passing Knute Rockne.

Wisconsin has some issues. They gave up a kickoff return for touchdown after taking the lead for the first time, and it’s the second big game this season that they have struggled in the red zone. Running the football is their identity, so that should never be an issue. Wisconsin has historically bullied their opponents in short yardage situations, but they have failed to do that thus far this year. QB Graham Mertz continues to underperform relative to his lofty expectations. It’s not a stretch to say Coan outperformed him prior to the injury. Over the last several seasons, the Badgers have driven the conversation for the Big Ten West crown, but with two losses and a strong Iowa team, those talks will have to wait.

Michigan 20 Rutgers 13

We knew that Greg Schiano would have the Scarlet Knights primed and ready to finish what they started last year. Despite starting slow, a late missed field goal by the Wolverine gave the Scarlet Knights a final attempt to pull the upset, but they ultimately fell short. The real story for Michigan is this is the first game in which QB Cade McNamara outpaced their rushing attack. He didn’t have a touchdown pass, but he did have a couple of big throws for chunk yardage to back off an aggressive defense. As the season rolls on, McNamara must continue to develop to give the Wolverines a counter punch to its running attack. He doesn’t need to be Trevor Lawrence, but a Jack Coan impersonation would suffice.

Ohio State 59 Rutgers 7

While it wasn’t pretty for the Zips Saturday night, Ohio State did cover the 50 point spread. Much of the talk leading into the game was surrounding true freshman QB Kyle McCord, who was getting his first career start in place of the injured CJ Stroud. McCord played well. He threw for over 300 yards, one ill-advised interception, and looked the part of a 5 star prospect. He led his team to a 52-point victory, so it’s tough to pick apart the performance, but there are always areas to work on. 

The real issue Saturday night didn’t even occur on the field -- it happened on the sideline. Fourth year LB K’Vaughan Pope attempted to substitute for LB Teradja Mitchell, who wasn’t interested in coming off. Mitchell waived Pole off and stayed on the field. After running off the field, Pope headed to the locker room, took off his gloves and subsequently threw them into the stands. He was then escorted back to the bench area, where he had several intense conversations with various members of the OSU staff, including head coach Ryan Day. Pope continued to attempt to take his jersey off, and after a while, he was finally escorted to the locker room.

The situation didn't end there, it only worsened. Pope then did what many people his age do: he went to Twitter to voice his frustrations. That’s never a good thing. His tweet, which was later deleted, used profanity to express some very negative feelings about OSU. Pope’s emotions got the best of him on Saturday night, which happens in sports, but he broke the No. 1 rule of the brotherhood: Problems stay in house. Now that he has aired grievances publicly, he can't take them back.

On an individual level, Pope’s outburst may just have been the culmination of frustration due to lack of playing time, but the situation itself points to a far deeper issue regarding player mentality. Since the creation of the internet, recruiting has coronated top prospects as elite players, even though they haven't yet produced at the college level. Mix that with social media (which provides an immediate outlet for self-expression), the one time transfer rule and NCAA 4-game redshirt policy, and situations like this are inevitable.