BY MICK MILLER
BIG TEN INSIDER
Fall is officially here, and we all know, that the Big Ten season is upon us, time to start the show. While not all played their opener – that’s just how it goes – there were eight teams that battled conference foes. Teams fire out of the gate as the autumn wind blows, so they are in good position by December snows. Each team relies on their stars to glow, some of which will shine as pros. So from Mike Hart’s power runs to Curtis Painter’s touchdown throws, let’s look back at Saturday’s game day highs and lows.
Purdue 45 Minnesota 31
A first half implosion by the Golden Gophers spelled doom for them in their conference opener against the Boilermakers. Five dropped passes, four turnovers, and four penalties dug the hole, and Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter buried them there. Painter threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns, mostly to his favorite receiver Dorien Bryant, who finished with 12 receptions for 150 yards and two scores. Minnesota’s redshirt freshman quarterback Adam Weber rebounded nicely from a disastrous first half to lead the Gophers to 28 second half points, but it was too little, too late.
Up Next: Purdue hosts Notre Dame; Minnesota welcomes Ohio State
Illinois 27 Indiana 14
The Illini won their first Big Ten opener in 14 years with their win in Bloomington. Tailback Rashard Mendenhall had a career day against the Hoosiers with 214 yards rushing on 27 carries, scoring one rushing touchdown and adding a receiving touchdown as well. Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis (26 for 51, 263 yards, two touchdown passes) was erratic most of the day, missing on throws that would have resulted in scores. Illinois signal caller Juice Williams did not play well either, going 13 for 28 for 98 yards, but he also threw for two scores, as Mendenhall had to carry the day.
Up Next: Illinois invites Penn State; Indiana travels to Iowa
Michigan 14 Penn State 9
Michigan is gaining a second wind after a dismal start to this season by winning their Big Ten opener against the 10th-ranked Nittany Lions. Mike Hart has picked up this team and carried it the last two weeks -- his career high 44 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown are proof of that. In winning their ninth straight over head coach Joe Paterno and Penn State, freshman quarterback Ryan Mallett (16 of 29, 170 yards, interception, and touchdown run) ran his record to 2-0 as a starter. Timely turnovers by the running game and a poor performance by Lion quarterback Anthony Morelli (15 for 31, 169 yards) hastened Penn State’s demise.
Next Up: Michigan visits Northwestern; Penn State goes to fight in Illinois
Ohio State 58 Northwestern 7
Did the Wildcats even show up for this game? The Buckeyes crushed Northwestern in all phases and got out to a 45-0 at the half at the Horseshoe’s 500th game. Northwestern simply went belly-up on offense, netting 20 yards on 35 plays in the first half while falling into a 28-0 hole less than ten minutes into the game. Buckeye quarterback Todd Boeckman hit wide receiver Brian Robiskie for three touchdowns (his only three receptions on the day) in the first half and finished with 11 of 14 for 179 yards and four touchdowns. Outside of a 99-yard kickoff return to open the second half, Northwestern simply supplied the doormat for Ohio State to walk on. Chris Wells went for 100 yards on 12 carries and a 36-yard touchdown while the Wildcats mustered 120 yards of offense all day.
Next Up: Ohio State motors to Minnesota; Northwestern hosts Michigan
Wisconsin 17 Iowa 13
The ninth-ranked Badgers continue to play close games as they held off the upset-minded Iowa Hawkeyes at home. P.J. Hill scored the go ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter to put Wisconsin up for good at 14-10. While Iowa’s run game sputtered, Hill finished with 113 yards on 29 carries in a workman-like effort as the rest of the Badger offense struggled against a stingy Iowa defense. The difference in the game was Hill, as Wisconsin could run the ball, and the Hawkeyes could not. The usually efficient quarterback Tyler Donovan completed a mere 12 of 23 for 138 yards and a three-yard touchdown to tight end Travis Beckham. Iowa gave a gallant effort after losing two more receivers (tight end Tony Moeaki and wide receiver Andy Brodell) to injury in the first quarter in this battle of defenses.
Up Next: Wisconsin hosts Michigan State; Iowa welcomes Indiana
Michigan State 31 Notre Dame 14
Although the Fighting Irish scored their first two offensive touchdowns of the year, the defense continues to struggle as they lose to the visiting Spartans. Quarterback Brian Hoyer got off to a slow start, but came on with four touchdown passes, set up by a staunch running game that totaled 219 yards on 49 attempts. Both Spartan tailbacks, Javon Ringer (26 rushes, 144 yards) and Jehuu Caulcrick (20 carries for 83 yards) bruised the Irish repeatedly and set up easy touchdown tosses for Hoyer. Having a breakout season is Spartan two-way player Kellen Davis (tight end/defensive end). He caught two touchdown passes on his only two receptions and helped pressure Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen into a woeful 7 of 13 for 53 yards. The lone bright spot for Notre Dame was halfback James Aldridge, who finished with 104 yards on 18 carries. Notre Dame is setting all-time lows each and every week as they are now 0-4 for the first time in 119 years of Irish football.
Up Next: Michigan State wings over to Wisconsin; Notre Dame plays Purdue