Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Mick Miller
Big Ten Insider

That bang you hear this past weekend was the kickoff of the Big Ten college football season, the launching of the Big Ten Network and the sound of a National Championship going down the tubes. The formerly fifth ranked Michigan Wolverines helped introduce Appalachian State to the world, and in rousing fashion. Fans in the “Big House” were left asking a big “how?” Let’s look at the “how”. The rest of the conference faired much better, giving them a combined 7-3 record.

MICHIGAN: The Wolverines, ranked fifth coming in, played without heart, literally. The mysterious disappearance of Heisman hopeful, tailback Mike Hart, throughout the middle portions of Saturday’s epic loss remain a mystery. A reported thigh injury that Coach Lloyd Carr claimed “stiffened up” certainly did not appear to hinder his performance as he rushed for 188 yards on 23 carries and three touchdowns, including a clutch 54-yard scamper that gave Michigan the lead with just over four minutes to play. Quarterback Chad Henne (19-37, 233 yards, a touchdown pass and interception) played awful, locking in on receivers and accumulating inaccurate throws, stifling the offense throughout the afternoon. Until a desperation 46-yard completion to set up the ill-fated field goal attempt at the end of the game, Mario Manningham had mustered a mere two receptions for 20 yards. The defense simply could not solve the multiple-receiver sets of Appalachian State and quarterback Armanti Edwards, who after a momentary lull in the second half, pulled it back together with a clutch drive in the final 1:11 (no timeouts) to kick a field goal, before the defense blocked a kick to seal the deal. Senior tri-captain Shawn Crable was the lone bright spot on defense for Michigan, recording 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and 12 tackles (two for loss). The loss has shaken the foundation of the Big House and the fan’s confidence in Coach Carr as they prepare for Oregon in week two.

MICHIGAN STATE: Gang Green faired much better than Big Blue this weekend with a 55-18 dismantling of Alabama-Birmingham in East Lansing, giving new Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio a win in his debut. Dantonio is the fourth consecutive coach to win his MSU debut, with the last loss going to Nick Saban in 1995, losing to Nebraska (50-10). Michigan State unveiled a ball-control running attack that allowed tailback Jehuu Caulcrick to score four touchdowns on 10 carries (for 93 yards), helping the Spartans build a 45-3 lead in the first half. The defense held a woefully undermanned UAB team (67 scholarship players) to 226 yards of total offense. Starting quarterback Brian Hoyer was solid, going 14-of-17 for 201 yards and a 44-yard touchdown to Devin Thomas (5 receptions, 106 yards, one rush, 23 yards). The Spartans played three quarterbacks in the blowout and collectively they went 22-of-32 for 295 yards and two touchdowns without turning the ball over, and were better than 50 percent on third down conversions (8 for 13). The Spartans ride the wave into their next game against Bowling Green, with a green grin on their faces from the Michigan loss.

IOWA:The Hawkeyes had to lean on their running game in an uninspired road win over Northern Illinois in Chicago (16-3). Senior running back Albert Young rushed for 144 yards and a touchdown and back-up Damian Sims chewed up another 110 yards on 16 carries, both averaging well over six yards per attempt. Iowa was without their top receiver Dominique Douglas, who led all freshmen in the country last season with 49 receptions. Douglas was suspended by the team due to a felony charge of making $2,000 worth of purchases on credit cards that did not belong to him. The incident appeared to distract the team, evident by their 173 penalty yards (four times that of N. Illinois). They also missed him on third downs, they were just two of 14 on third down conversions. Without NFL draftee, running back Garrett Wolfe, the Huskies turned to quarterback Dan Nicholson, who despite completing 26-of-42, threw three interceptions, one from the Iowa three-yard line, killing a golden scoring opportunity with his team down 10. In his second career start (both against Northern Illinois); Hawkeye quarterback Jake Christensen threw for 133 yards (12-of-29), for a mere 4.6 yards per attempt. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, coming off his first losing campaign last season at 6-7; will have to work harder to get his team ready, as Syracuse will be in for the Hawkeye home opener.

PENN STATE: All is happy in the valley once again as head coach Joe Paterno is back pacing the sidelines and the 17th ranked Nittany Lions opened at home with a 59-0 drubbing of Florida International. A blowout in every category, the Lions rolled up 549 yards in total offense and held Florida International to a miniscule 114 yards, seven first downs all day and a minus three yards rushing on 31 attempts. Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli set a personal best with 295 yards passing on 23 of 38 throws, including a school record 231 yards in the first half and three touchdown passes. Linebacker Dan Connor forced a Golden Panther fumble at their 20, and Morelli hit Mickey Shuler with a touchdown pass making it 14-0 and the rout was on. The Nittany Lions forced six fumbles, recovering five, had seven quarterback sacks for a loss of 50 yards and kept Florida International pinned deep in their own end most of the game. Although the team did the job on the field, the day was about their legendary coach. A resounding victory at home and the return of “Joe Pa” is just what the doctor ordered as the team gets ready to host the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame on September 8.

PURDUE: The Boilermakers won a game that may resemble many of their wins this season. With a potent offense and a defense that’s a work in progress, they may have to put 30 points a game. Purdue’s record-setting quarterback Curtis Painter threw for 244 yards and four touchdowns (including an 80-yarder to tight end Dustin Keller) in a shootout with Toledo, 52-24. Five Purdue running backs averaged eight-plus yards per carry, led by Kory Sheets (11 carries for 90 yards), as the Boilermaker running game was in mid-season form. The Big Ten’s season record holder for passing yards (last year’s 3,985), Painter and his offense had their way throughout as he hit four different Purdue receivers for touchdowns. A see-saw battle in the first half led to a 28-14 halftime Boilermaker lead, but a Painter touchdown pass and a Dorien Bryant 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, shot down the Rockets at their Ohio launching pad. The Boilermakers host Eastern Illinois in their home opener this Saturday.

INDIANA: The Hoosiers pounded Indiana State in an emotion-filled game on Saturday (55-7), in their first contest without Terry Hoeppner, the Indiana head coach who was tragically lost last June to a brain tumor. A pre-game tribute, which included his family, charged the team with all the inspiration it would need to get the win for interim head coach, Bill Lynch, who lead them to their largest opening day victory in more than 60 years. Quarterback Kellen Lewis threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns and led the team with 59 yards on nine carries adding another score on the ground. With Lewis hitting his three touchdown passes in his first four passes, the Hoosiers jumped out to 21-7 lead and never looked back. While the offense was outgunning the Sycamores 516-176, the Hoosier defense held up their end with 176 yards allowed (130 passing, 46 rushing), fives sacks and two interceptions. Indiana hopes to continue to play this inspired as they travel Western Michigan to face the Broncos for a Saturday night game on the road.