Big Ten

After Playoff no-show, Ohio State's offensive makeover begins with new QBs coach


After Playoff no-show, Ohio State's offensive makeover begins with new QBs coach

For the first time ever, an Urban Meyer team was shut out. And Meyer promised it wasn't going to happen again.

Meyer's post-Fiesta Bowl vows of getting back to work and specifically improving the Buckeyes' passing attack are already ringing true, with the offensive makeover already underway.

Ohio State announced Tuesday — three days after a 31-0 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal — the addition of new quarterbacks coach Ryan Day.

Day replaces Tim Beck, the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach who will reportedly become the new offensive coordinator at Texas under former Ohio State assistant Tom Herman.

Day spent the past two seasons working as an assistant in the NFL under Chip Kelly, with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015 and with the San Francisco 49ers this past season. Day also worked as a college assistant at Boston College and Temple.

While the Buckeyes were good enough to win 11 games this season and reach the Playoff, they struggled to find consistent success throwing the ball behind quarterback J.T. Barrett, who still took home Big Ten Quarterback of the Year honors.

Had the Fiesta Bowl not happened or gone differently, there might not have been such a dire need for change. But on the biggest stage the sport has to offer, Ohio State was shockingly inept on offense, mustering just 215 total yards — and only 88 on the ground — in the program's first shutout loss since 1993.

Play-calling got a lot of attention, with freshman running back Mike Weber getting just three carries. But the Clemson defense was a nightmare for Ohio State, pressuring Barrett on every play and getting into the backfield with ease, recording 11 tackles for loss.

Though offensive coordinator Ed Warinner is still on the job, a Tuesday report indicated his role could change. That and Day taking on just one of Beck's former titles has sparked speculation that there's another big hire to come, someone to fully take over the Buckeyes' offense.

And of course that speculation has grown to typically lofty levels, with Kelly's name being thrown around as a preferred choice of many on social media. Kelly is newly jobless after getting fired by the 49ers, and Meyer has brought on former big-name coaches in the very recent past. Former NFL head coach Greg Schiano is the Ohio State defensive coordinator.

Whether or not a huge splash comes, Meyer has already begun the work of retooling his offense in the aftermath of the worst loss of his career.

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota


Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

While Saturday's trip to the Twin Cities featured some more of the same for the Fighting Illini, it marked important step in Lovie Smith's rebuilding project.

Freshman quarterback Cam Thomas, a Marian Catholic product, saw action for the first time in his collegiate career, Smith busting out a new option at the game's most important position. Thomas threw a nasty pick six, but he did lead Illinois in rushing in a 24-17 loss at Minnesota.

Thomas only made four throws, completing two of them and landing a third in the hands of a Minnesota defender, but his play injected a bit of excitement into what's looking like another dreadful season of Illinois football, with Smith's team falling to 2-5 through the first seven games of his second season at the helm of the program. Thomas mostly starred with his feet Saturday, rushing for a team-high 79 yards in the defeat.

His first appearance came following the first of the Illinois' defense's three takeaways. Thomas ran for a nine-yard gain on his first carry, and the Illini tied the game with a touchdown on the next play. Thomas was interchanged with starting quarterback Jeff George Jr. from there on out.

While the Illini defense kept the Gophers at bay for much of the day thanks to those three takeaways, P.J. Fleck's team had no trouble racking up rushing yardage, finishing with a whopping 292 rushing yards. Minnesota engineered a 12-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter exclusively running the ball to break a 10-all tie and go up 17-10.

Thomas threw a pick six on the very next play from scrimmage, sending the Gophers up 24-10 to effectively seal the deal. George led an Illinois touchdown drive on the next possession, but the Illini couldn't make up the suddenly big gap in the limited amount of time.

Illinois finished with only 282 yards of offense. George was 18-for-23 for 128 yards and a touchdown. Ra'Von Bonner carried the ball 18 times for 57 yards and a touchdown.

The defeat dropped the Illini to 2-5 on the season and 0-4 in conference play. One of just two teams without a Big Ten win (Indiana is the other), Illinois faces off against a top-10 Wisconsin team next weekend.

Big play from Justin Jackson sets up Northwestern's overtime win over Iowa


Big play from Justin Jackson sets up Northwestern's overtime win over Iowa

Justin Jackson is one of the top 10 rushers in Big Ten history for a reason: He's very, very good at this football thing.

But it was a big play Jackson made not as a ball-carrier but as a pass-catcher Saturday that set up Northwestern's second straight win, a 17-10 takedown of Iowa in Evanston.

Jackson took a pass from quarterback Clayton Thorson and went all the way down to the 1-yard line, picking up 23 yards and shedding multiple tacklers on the game's biggest play.

Two plays later, Thorson plunged in for the go-ahead score. Iowa failed on a fourth-down conversion attempt on its ensuing overtime possession, ending it with a dropped pass that finished the game.

The game's result rapidly altered the social-media conversation, which moments prior had been mighty critical of Pat Fitzgerald, who made a controversial decision at the end of regulation.

Iowa tied the game at 10 on a field goal inside of two minutes to play, forced to kick after a false start was committed on fourth and 1. Fitzgerald had a minute and a half and two timeouts to try to get his own team into field-goal range for a shot at a win but instead ran the clock out and headed to overtime.

Fitzgerald explained after the game that the blustery wind at Ryan Field played a big role in that decision, plus his team had a long way to go against an Iowa defense that played well throughout the game.

Northwestern's defense was very strong, too, holding Iowa to 312 total yards, only 89 of which came on the ground. Hawkeyes quarterback Nathan Stanley was also picked off in the second half for the game's only turnover.

Jackson finished with 93 rushing yards and 38 receiving yards. Thorson was 21-for-36 passing the ball for 192 yards. Backup running back Jeremy Larkin scored the Wildcats' lone regulation touchdown.

The win improved Northwestern to 4-3 on the season and 2-2 in Big Ten play. After a 2-3 start, the Cats have won back-to-back games and take on a ranked Michigan State team next weekend.