Big Ten roundup: Nebraska tops Maryland, stays alive in West
Lincoln, Neb. — Ryker Fyfe’s second career start sure went a lot better than his first.
Fyfe passed for 220 yards and a touchdown while filling in for injured starter Tommy Armstrong Jr., leading No. 19 Nebraska to a 28-7 win over Maryland on Saturday.
The Cornhuskers (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) stayed alive in the West Division. They must win at Iowa on Friday and Wisconsin must lose to Minnesota on Saturday for Nebraska to go to the conference championship game.
Fyfe, who walked on in 2012 and earned a scholarship two years ago, created a lifetime memory on senior day in what will be his only start at Memorial Stadium. He said he was motivated by the opportunity to redeem himself for his five-turnover performance in his previous start, a 55-45 loss at Purdue last year.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself,” he said. “You want to come out and play well and get a win and not lose to teams like Purdue. That was a tough one last year. For sure I came out playing hard.”
Terrell Newby ran for a career-high three touchdowns and the Cornhuskers limited the Terrapins to 207 yards, including 11 rushing. Maryland (5-6, 2-6) lost for the sixth time in seven games and has been outscored 149-13 over three weeks.
Fyfe prevailed over Max Bortenschlager in a battle of backup quarterbacks.
Armstrong injured his hamstring against Minnesota and was not in uniform Saturday. Perry Hills was dressed but didn’t play for Maryland because of shoulder problems.
Fyfe was effective if not always pretty. He was 24-of-37, often dropping back deep and angling toward the sideline before throwing downfield, sometimes sidearm, sometimes off his back foot. He also hurt the Terps with a couple runs.
“I’ve always had a special spot for Ryker,” Nebraska coach Mike Riley said. “He’s a guy who could have gone to a smaller school and thrown for 3,000 yards one year. He stuck it out here with teammates and friends and won a big game for us to get our ninth win.”
Bortenschlager, a freshman who entered the game having thrown four passes in one previous appearance, was 14-of-29 for 191 yards. He was sacked five times.
“Throughout the year, we’ve been able to run the ball in just about every game,” Terps coach DJ Durkin said. “We weren’t able to do that today. That affected Max as well. If you can’t run the ball, that’s hard on any quarterback.”
Maryland ended an 11-quarter stretch with no touchdowns when D.J. Moore caught a screen pass and took it 92 yards to the end zone early in the fourth quarter.
“I would say that’s one of the best touchdowns I’ve had,” Moore said.
Iowa 28, (at) Illinois 0: The Hawkeyes struggled to a 7-0 halftime lead on a cold, windy day in Illinois before turning the game over to LeShun Daniels Jr., and the defense did the rest.
The shutout was the first for Iowa (7-4, 5-3 Big Ten) since a win over Ball State in 2010. Illinois had just 198 yards of offense, had as many first downs — 10 — as punts and never pushed inside the Iowa 30.
Watching the defense work motivated the offense to put points on the board on a day when they were tough to come by, Hawkeyes quarterback C.J. Beathard said.
“They’ve been flying around and hitting guys and getting to the ball the last couple of weeks,” said Beathard, who was 9-of-17 for just 80 yards and an interception. “They’ve stacked a couple of really good games together defensively.”
Daniels had 159 yards on 26 carries, including second-half touchdowns of 1 and 50 yards that put the game away.
Even with quarterback Wes Lunt back from an injured back and starting his first game since early October, Illinois (3-8, 2-6) struggled to deal with the conditions and the Hawkeyes defense.
“We dropped the balls when we got it to the receivers. It just wasn’t a good day for our offense as a whole — we couldn’t get the running game going,” Illinois coach Lovie Smith said.
(At) Minnesota 29, Northwestern 12: The Gophers defense delivered an overpowering performance and Mitch Leidner threw his first touchdown pass in seven weeks.
Emmit Carpenter made three field goals, Shannon Brooks totaled 110 yards from scrimmage and Blake Cashman and Steven Richardson each had two of Minnesota’s season-high seven sacks .
Leidner, playing at home for the final time, found Drew Wolitarsky from 9 yards out with 6:46 left and ran in a 12-yard score with 2:31 remaining to give the Gophers (8-3, 5-3) a cushion. The fifth-year senior, who was intercepted once, ended a five-game streak without a touchdown pass.
Austin Carr, the Big Ten’s leading receiver, had five catches for 68 yards for the Wildcats (5-6, 4-4) before leaving the field a bit woozy from a helmet-to-helmet hit by Minnesota safety Duke McGhee. The targeting penalty — the seventh time this season a Gophers player has received the automatic ejection — helped extend Northwestern’s first scoring drive that finished with a 4-yard touchdown run by Justin Jackson with 2:17 left in the third quarter. That cut the lead to 15-6. Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald elected a 2-point conversion that was stopped.
Clayton Thorson threw for 276 yards and a late score, but Northwestern was denied on fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 16 in the second quarter and fourth-and-1 at the Gophers 13 in the third quarter.
Minnesota can still tie for first place in the West Division by upsetting Wisconsin and having Iowa beat Nebraska.