Big Ten Recap - Week One

By poguemahone on September 5, 2010 at 6:00 am
EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 31: Dan Persa #7 of the Northwestern Wildcats throws a pass against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Ryan Field on October 31, 2009 in Evanston, Illinois. Penn State defeated Northwestern 34-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Like Ohio State, most Big Ten teams kept it safe on opening weekend by scheduling various jamokes for their annual beatdowns. Indiana, Iowa and Penn State smacked around helpless FCS milquetoasts, Michigan State played a team with a losing record in the MAC last year, and Minnesota played Middle Tennessee State without their best player. Still, if you don't have the free time necessary to watch every game a Big Ten team played in this weekend, here's a quick recap to catch you up:

Illinois 13, Missouri 23

Illinois led this game 13-3 to start the second half before surrendering 20 unanswered points, turtling in a fashion that must be all too familiar for Illini fans in the fifth year of the Ron Zook regime. Redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhase looked largely overwhelmed against a Missouri D few expect much out of, going 9/23 for 1 touchdown and 3 picks, and fumbling the ball twice. I suppose the biggest compliment that can be paid to Ron Zook's team is that they both covered the spread and held the Tigers to 23 points, but I doubt that will make his seat anything less than boiling hot over the next few weeks.

Indiana 51, Towson 17

A 38-point first half buoyed the Indiana offense against its chosen FCS cupcake on Thursday night. The Indiana offense, returning essentially every skill position player of note, was actually missing star wideout Tandon Doss, but didn't miss a beat. Ugly score aside, Towson experienced its fair share of offensive success, but couldn't stop turning the ball over: quarterback Chris Hart ran for 123 yards and passed for two scores, but also threw three interceptions, two of which led directly to Indiana touchdowns. Hoosier QB Ben Chappell completed 16 of 23 passes for two scores, while running back Darius Willis toted the rock 14 times for 102 yards and two scores.

Minnesota 24, Middle Tennessee State 17

At first, it looked like the Gophers were poised to dominate this game. After jumping out to a 14-0 lead, Tim Brewster's team let the Blue Raiders right back into the game, unsurprisingly, and would eventually need a late turnover to preserve a 24-17 team win. Senior quarterback Adam Weber was his typically unremarkable self, completing 10 of 17 passes for 150 yards, no touchdowns, and no picks. The real story of the game was running back Duane Bennett, who racked up 187 yards on 30 carries. If Minnesota's going to win any Big Ten games this year, it'll need production at or near this level; last season, the Gophers finished dead last in rushing offense in the conference.

Penn State 44, Youngstown State 14 

This was closer than the scoreboard indicates. For a half, anyway. As previously announced, true freshman Rob Bolden got the start for the Nittany Lions, and through the first quarter, many viewers found themselves wondering just how bad the PSU back-ups must be to get this guy on the field. He got off the hump late in the second quarter, completing a 20-yard touchdown pass to Brett Brackett that put PSU up 13-7 over the Penguins. Bolden was mostly solid from there on out, but he was really the sole offensive bright spot for the Nittany Lions: senior tailback Evan Royster was held to 40 yards on 11 carries by the Youngstown State defense. Defensively, the Nittany Lions somehow surrendered an 80-yard touchdown on a screen pass to the Penguins, during which each PSU linebacker on the field got erased by a YSU blocker. LINEBACKAH U, indeed! 

Michigan State 38, Western Michigan 14

This game was also interesting for about a quarter. In the end, Michigan State's rejuvenated rushing attack proved to be the separating factor, led by surprising true freshman (and Reynoldsburg, Ohio native) Le'Veon Bell, who became the first Michigan State true freshman to rush for more than 100 yards in his first game. He ended the day with 141 on the ground, each of which was needed, as Kirk Cousins seemed to be in a noticeable early-season funk, completing 13 of 21 passes for 186 yards, and one touchdown, to former Spartan QB Keith Nichol.

Iowa 37, Eastern Illinois 7

Sophomore tailback Adam Robinson rushed for three touchdowns in the first two quarters as the Hawkeyes opened a 28-7 lead over yet another FCS pushover. The only half-way dramatic moment of the game came in the second quarter, when Hawkeye QB Ricky Stanzi appeared to injure himself during a roll-out. The scare for Hawkeye fans was brief, however, as Stanzi took the field on the next series and even threw a touchdown pass in the second half in what was otherwise an entirely ho-hum affair. 

Purdue 12, Notre Dame 23

Brian Kelly, like Charlie Weis, Ty Willingham and Bob Davie before him, won his first game as Irish head coach on the back of a surprisingly strong effort by his defense, which forced two picks, held the Boilers to 3 YPC, and roughly 5 yards per pass attempt. Thus, it was far from a pretty day for the Boiler offense, with Robert Marve looking particularly rough in his first game as a Boilermaker. Key to the effort was how Notre Dame managed to keep Keith Smith under wraps, letting him catch the ball twelve times but surrendering just 80 yards to a guy who gave Ohio State fits last season. It appears Danny Hope has more work to do than I though if he wants to make the Boilers Big Ten championship-caliber.

Northwestern 23, Vanderbilt 21

Northwestern prevailed in The Nerd World, Nashville, thanks in large part to new quarterback Dan Persa and his 19/21 - 222 - 3 TD evening, but it wasn't easy. The Commodores missed an extra point and flubbed a two-point conversion on the way to outgaining the Wildcats 432-365.  The big story of the night was Persa, however, as the junior, getting his first career, also led Northwestern in rushing with 82 yards and came up clutch, time after time for Pat Firzgerald's squad.

Wisconsin 41, UNLV 21

Badger coach Bret Bielema got his Vegas weekend off to a raging start with his team thrashing the Running Rebels behind John Clay's 123 and two touchdowns on the ground. Wisconsin dominated the game, piling up 475 yards to UNLV's 215, but a couple of first half mistakes kept the game close. After taking a 14-0 lead on their first two possessions, quarterback Scott Tolzien was picked at his own 19 by Will Chandler, and the UNLV took it back for six, cutting the lead to seven. Wisconsin would answer with a field goal, but later in the second, Chandler was on the scene again, scooping up a Nick Toon fumble and taking it 82 yards to the Badger 16. UNLV would score on the next play, cutting the lead to three, but the Badgers piled on 24 third quarter points to put the game away.

Michigan 30, UConn 10

In a surprise to pretty much no one, Denard Robinson got the start over Tate Forcier and true freshman Devin Gardner, and ran with it, literally: Robinson nearly set a Michigan quarterback rushing record in the first half, then did so in the second half, finishing the day with 197 yards rushing. Robinson also got it done through the air, completing 19 of 22 passes for 186 yards. The Michigan defense, on the other hand, looked fairly impressive in limiting UConn to 10 points, but still gave up 294 yards of offense and needed a red-zone turnover to prevent UConn from raising its point total to 17 (and making it a seven-point game late). UConn was also strangely hesitant, outside of a play here or there, to challenge Michigan's highly-questionable secondary deep. In the end, RichRod's team looked far better than it did late in the year last season, but given last year's hot start, it's hard to know how much we can read into this win just yet.

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