Saturday's Big Ten: Purdue clinches West Division title, trip to Indy vs. Michigan
Bloomington, Ind. — Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell started his college career as an afterthought, buried on the depth chart.
On Saturday, he checked off yet another big box on his Bucket list.
The sixth-year quarterback threw for 290 yards and two scores, Devin Mockobee ran for 99 yards and another touchdown and the Boilermakers dominated rival Indiana, 30-16, to clinch their first Big Ten West Division title and a date in next week’s conference championship game.
“It’s a dream come true, and it took a lot of work from a lot of us,” O’Connell said on Purdue’s postgame radio broadcast. “I’ve been through some really tough years here. Hopefully, we can celebrate again next week.”
Sure, the title game looks like a mismatch between Purdue (8-4, 6-3) and No. 3 Michigan (12-0, 9-0, No. 3 CFP).
But the Boilermakers are hot. They’ve won three straight and six of eight, beaten Illinois and Indiana to keep both trophies, posted back-to-back eight-win seasons for the first time since 1997-98 and can win their first league crown since 2000.
“It’s a heck of a job by our football team,” coach Jeff Brohm said. “This is a goal and dream that you never really think is going to happen. We had some luck go against other teams in our division, but I couldn’t be prouder of our guys.”
For Indiana (4-8, 2-7), not much went right this season after a promising 3-0 start. The Hoosiers lost eight of their last nine — and starting quarterback Dexter Williams II with a serious right leg, non-contact injury late in the first quarter Saturday.
“It was a devastating loss,” coach Tom Allen said. “He did great job last week. Just a freaky, non-contact injury that I can’t put into words. You try to play to the strengths of our room and I thought we had a great plan. It’s tough, just tough. Hate it for him.”
With Williams, Indiana had Purdue on its heels and its title hopes in jeopardy. Without him, O’Connell and Mockobee eventually got the Boilermakers righted in the second half.
O’Connell opened the third quarter with a 15-yard TD pass to Payne Durham to take a 10-7 lead. Mockobee fooled Indiana’s defense on the next series, sprinting around the end on third-and-1 and going 27 yards to make it 17-7.
The Boilermakers sealed it on O’Connell’s 60-yard TD pass to Charlie Jones and Cory Trice’s 8-yard interception for a score in the closing minutes.
“I’m proud we could do it, proud of my teammates,” O’Connell said.
More Big Ten
▶ Illinois 41, (at) Northwestern 3: Safety Sydney Brown returned a touchdown and an interception for scores and Illinois snapped a three-game losing streak.
Brown raced 53 yards for a touchdown after Northwestern quarterback Cole Freeman fumbled, then sprinted in for a 39-yard score off an interception, both in the third quarter.
Illinois (8-4, 5-4) entered with a chance to win the Big Ten West and advance to the conference championship for the first time. However, Purdue defeated Indiana to win the division title and will play Michigan at Indianapolis next Saturday.
Brown’s twin brother, running back Chase Brown, punched in a 1-yard touchdown and finished with 61 yards on 19 carries. He entered leading the nation in yards rushing with 1,582 yards but fell short of Mikel Leshoure’s single-season school record of 1,697 in 2010.
Tommy DeVito threw for 136 yards on 12-for-18 passing and ran for a touchdown, and Reggie Love III scored on 2-yard touchdown run to get the Illinois offense rolling. Caleb Griffin kicked a pair of field goals as the Illini finished with eight or more wins for the first time since the 2007 Rose Bowl team finished 9-4.
The Illini handed Northwestern its 11th straight loss following a season-opening win over Nebraska in Dublin, Ireland. The Wildcats, 1-8 in the Big Ten, managed only Adam Stage’s field goal.
▶ (At) Maryland 37, Rutgers 0: Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 342 yards and a touchdown, Roman Hemby ran for three TDs, and the Maryland defense allowed just two first downs through the first 2½ quarters.
Jeshaun Jones had nine catches for 152 yards and a touchdown for the Terrapins, who snapped a three-game losing streak and completed their first seven-win regular season since 2014.
Rutgers (4-8, 1-8) finished its season on a five-game skid.
Tagovailoa, who has dealt with knee problems this year, missed a few plays during this one, but Maryland (7-5, 4-5) could have won this game even without a big offensive performance. The Terps lost two fumbles in Rutgers territory in the first quarter, but after stopping the Scarlet Knights on fourth down near midfield, Maryland drove for the game’s first touchdown, a 1-yard run by Hemby on the first play of the second.
Hemby added another 1-yard TD in the second and an 8-yarder in the third, and Chad Ryland kicked three field goals. Rutgers was shut out for the second time this season, having lost 31-0 to Minnesota in October.
This was Maryland’s first shutout against a conference opponent since beating Wake Forest 26-0 in 2008, six years before the Terps began playing in the Big Ten.
Tagovailoa threw a 27-yard touchdown to Jones in the fourth. It was his 50th TD pass, breaking a tie with Scott Milanovich for Maryland’s career lead.
▶ Minnesota 23, (at) Wisconsin 16: Athan Kaliakmanis connected with Le’Meke Brockington on a tiebreaking 45-yard touchdown with 3:40 remaining and Minnesota barely hung on in the final minute to beat Wisconsin.
After an injury knocked Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz out of the game on the Badgers’ final series, backup Chase Wolf drove the Badgers into position for a tying touchdown. A pass interference penalty in the end zone gave Wisconsin first-and-goal from the 5 with 26 seconds left.
But a holding penalty and a false start pushed Wisconsin back to the 20. After Wolf threw an incompletion, two more false starts created second-and-goal from the 30. The game ended with Wolf throwing an incompletion into a crowd of players in the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 25.
Minnesota (8-4, 5-4) retained possession of Paul Bunyan’s Axe, which goes to the winner of this annual matchup. The Gophers also tied the most-played Football Bowl Subdivision rivalry — these two Big Ten foes have been facing each other since 1890 — at 62-62-8.
Wisconsin (6-6, 4-5) fell to 4-3 under interim head coach Jim Leonhard, who was promoted from defensive coordinator after the firing of Paul Chryst. Minnesota, which defeated Wisconsin 23-13 last year, has beaten the Badgers in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1993-94.