10 of the best moments and storylines from the 2019 B1G regular season
The 2019 regular season is officially in the books, meaning it’s time to reflect on what was a fun and entertaining season.
Sure, we still have a B1G Championship Game to play, bowl season will feature eight conference teams and the league may actually have a shot to win a national title again. But before all that gets started, I wanted to take a look back at some of the best moments and storylines from the B1G regular season.
It’s not always about the final score or what shows up in the stat columns or record books. While some of that is obviously important, the college football season always provides us with some of those moments that are full of raw emotion. Throughout the course of a season, we’re often reminded that football is more than a game.
So, without further explanation, let’s take a look back at some of those awesome B1G moments and storylines this year, highlighting everything from on-the-field action to off-the-field storylines.
Minnesota’s wild 3-0 start
Maybe I should coin the phrase “Minnesota Magic” to describe the Gophers’ first three games of the season. Even though Minnesota should’ve taken care of business rather easily against South Dakota State, Fresno State and Georgia Southern, but late-game heroics were needed in all three contests.
Christ Autman-Bell’s ridiculous touchdown grab against Fresno State and Tanner Morgan completing back-to-back passes to Demetrius Douglas to convert a 3rd-and-29 against Georgia Southern stand out most from those nail-biting finishes.
The entire season was special for Minnesota, but those first three games might’ve been some of the most fun of the year.
Keith Duncan’s comeback story
Who doesn’t love a good comeback story? Yes, I’m aware Keith Duncan is a kicker, but he still might have the best one of the B1G season.
In 2016, Duncan converted on 9-of-11 field goal attempts as a freshman, and knocked down a game-winning kick as time expired to hand undefeated Michigan its first loss of the year. But that would be the last of Iowa kicker we’d see for awhile, with Miguel Recinos taking over in 2017 and 2018.
But when Duncan won the job again, he certainly made a statement. The record-setting kicker drilled 29-of-34 attempts on the season and made all 25 extra points on the year. To close out the season, he hit a game-winner to beat rival Nebraska on the road.
Not a bad way to return to the field.
The three-headed Heisman monster in Columbus
As long as I’ve watched college football, I can’t remember a more dominant group of players wearing the same uniform that were more deserving of a trip to Indianapolis. Perhaps I’m overlooking something here.
Justin Fields threw 37 touchdown passes with just one interception. J.K. Dobbins was the nation’s fourth-leading rusher. Chase Young led the country in sacks and was the most impactful player on the field. There’s a legitimate case for all three to not only receive an invitation to the Heisman ceremony in New York, but to win the award.
It’s really unlike anything we’ve seen in the sport.
Lovie Ball stuns the college football world
Remember when Lovie Smith said he planned on celebrating a lot more wins in the second half of the season as the Illini sat 2-4 on the year and bowl eligibility was slipping through their fingers? Who would’ve expected that would come to fruition?
Illinois proceeded to knock off an unbeaten and sixth-ranked Wisconsin team, followed by three more wins, including a 25-point comeback victory over Michigan State on the road. After all the injuries, transfers, coaching changes and other turmoil the program suffered through over the last six years, you couldn’t help but feel good for the program.
Smith’s postgame celebrations didn’t hurt, either.
Tom Allen’s postgame interview after IU secured a bowl berth
When Indiana clinched bowl eligibility with a 38-31 road victory over Nebraska, you could see how much it meant to Tom Allen. The third-year head coach was overcome with emotion after the victory, and struggled to get through the postgame interview on BTN.
You don’t often see that kind of emotion from a coach, and you rarely see it from a guy coaching a program like Indiana. You get the sense from Allen that coaching the Hoosiers is a dream job for the Indiana native. It goes to show that college football isn’t always about national championships and blueblood programs.
— Charlie Clifford (@cliffWISH8) October 26, 2019
Josh Butler’s dogs accompany him on Senior Day
Michigan State defensive back Josh Butler lost both of his parents while he was in college, an incredibly tragic story. And, in the final game of the 2019 season, Butler celebrated his final game with the Spartans and participated in the Senior Day activities.
In one of the more heartwarming moments of the season, Michigan State allowed Butler to take the field with his two dogs Roxy and Remi. As you can imagine, seeing Butler run out onto the field with his dogs was one of the best moments of the final week of the season.
Both of Michigan State corner Josh Butler’s parents died while he was in college so they let him come out for senior day with his two dogs, Roxy and Remi 😭😭pic.twitter.com/5F6yGtECNR
— Luke Zimmermann (@lukezim) December 1, 2019
Aidan O’Connell leads game-winning drives in back-to-back games
A fourth-string walk-on quarterback who was at one time Division III bound, O’Connell lived the dream by leading Purdue to game-winning drives in back-to-back drives. He engineered a 12-play, 82-yard drive that set up the game-winning trick play against Nebraska, leading the Boilermakers to a 31-27 win.
The following week, O’Connell led an 11-play, 58-yard drive to allow kicker JD Dellinger to boot through a 39-yard field goal attempt to down Northwestern 24-22. After the game, O’Connell contain his emotion and was thrilled to be leading his team to two-straight wins for the only time all season.
Not too shabby for a DIII QB.
Jonathan Taylor’s incredible three-year run
OK, so this may not be exclusive to the 2019 season, but that’s just how rare a player like Jonathan Taylor comes along. It’s not just that he’s excelled on the field for a year, but that he’s done it so consistently for three seasons. That’s hard to find.
To bypass names like Archie Griffin, Herschel Walker and be on pace to pass the rushing total set by the great Ron Dayne is almost unbelievable. I’ll certainly miss watching this guy run the football — assuming he turns pro after the 2019 season ends.
Penn State exceeds expectations after tumultuous offseason
More than a dozen players entered the transfer portal. A handful of others declared for the NFL Draft. Projected starting quarterback Tommy Stevens decided to reunite with Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State. Despite all that, the Nittany Lions found a way to finish the season with 10 wins for the third time in four years.
Even though Penn State lost two big games this year (Minnesota and Ohio State), he really put an end to the notion that he can’t win without Moorhead running an offense and Trace McSorley under center. It’ll be interesting to see what the Nittany Lions can do moving forward after another double-digit win season.
Casey O’Brien and P.J. Fleck share an emotional moment
Casey O’Brien is a four-time cancer survivor and has now played multiple snaps in a B1G football games. That’s just incredible. Nothing will replace the moment he shared with his head coach after hitting the field for the first time. There really are no words, you just have to enjoy the video.
If you don’t think PJ Fleck is a genuine dude, that’s a you problem. pic.twitter.com/V7aqY7OrPq
— Dustin Schutte (@SchutteCFB) October 19, 2019