BY MICK MILLER
BIG TEN INSIDER
This was a big weekend for the Big Ten conference as collectively they went 10-1 -- are you listening MICHIGAN?) From blowouts to nail-biters, there was something for everyone -- except MICHIGAN fans…right Lloyd Carr? It will be a very interesting story unfolding once the conference games start, and the preview being painted is pretty exciting as well -- but not for the Wolverine faithful…right Chad Henne?
Michigan: Ugh. Is this thing getting ugly or what? Sorry Appalachian State, the Wolverines are doing their best to make your landmark win look like a skid-mark on the road to the bowl season. This team is highlighting for the country exactly how to beat them -- spread the defense out and move your quarterback. I don’t see them being much more than a .500 club the rest of the way.
“Second verse, same as the first.”
Quarterback Chad Henne played terrible, threw a momentum and drive killing interception early in the game after halfback Mike Hart started the engine running (finishing 127 yards). The defense is woeful and cannot stop a mobile quarterback in a spread offense. Oregon’s Dennis Dixon rang up 368 yards of offense, accounting for four touchdowns, exposing the Wolverine defense for the world to see in the worst Michigan defeat at home since Bo was on the beat, and first 0-2 start since 1959 and four consecutive losses for the first time in 40 years. Hart has guaranteed a win at the Big Top….oops, House, next week against Notre Dame (also 0-2). Play, don’t predict. Spartans anyone?
Michigan State: The Spartans are making Big Blue green with envy, defeating Bowling Green 28-17, as they go to 2-0 for new head coach Mark Dantonio. The Spartans allowed Bowling Green to take a 14-7 lead on a six-yard touchdown run by Falcon quarterback Tyler Sheehan after an interception by Spartan quarterback Brian Hoyer (17-29, 250 yards). A Hoyer touchdown pass to tight end Kellen Davis before the half and a five-yard touchdown run by halfback Jehuu Caulcrick gave them a 21-14 lead and they sealed the deal with a 17-yard touchdown reception by Devin Thomas (156 yards receiving). Thomas is becoming the Spartan go-to receiver in the clutch as he had a nice 42-yard reception in traffic that led to the MSU lead. The Spartan running game made the difference as both teams moved the ball through the air. The Spartans welcome the Pitt Panthers next week to East Lansing, a team they beat in ’06 (38-23).
Iowa: The Hawkeyes rebounded from a lackluster effort last week and mauled the Orange into black and blue (35-0). Defensive end Kenny Iwebema literally helped keep Syracuse off the board by blocking two field goal attempts and added a sack to bookend teammate Bryan Mattison’s three sacks from the other end spot. Iowa has not allowed a touchdown in its first two games and finally got their offense on track. Junior tight end Tony Moeaki introduced himself to the ‘Cuse (and the rest of the world) with eight receptions for 112 yards and three touchdowns, including a 52-yarder to get the rout going. Hawkeye quarterback Jake Christensen squeezed the Orange for 72 percent passing, 278 yards and four touchdowns. The Iowa defense held Syracuse to 103 yards of total offense (one yard in the first half). Iowa takes its 2-0 record into next week against in-state rival Iowa State (0-2).
Penn State: The Nittany Lions welcomed the Irish and freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen into Happy Valley and sent them home sad after a 31-10 spanking. Penn State harassed the youngster all day long with six sacks and held him to 144 yards passing with an interception. On the flipside, Anthony Morelli crashed back to Earth with a less than stellar performance (12-of-22). The Lion running game was led by Austin Scott’s 116 yards and two touchdowns. The story of the day was the Penn State defense, which held Notre Dame to zero yards rushing on the day, as most of Clausen’s connections were of the swing and short pass variety. All-Everything linebacker Dan Connor had a sack and 12 tackles for a Lion defense that carried the day. The Buffalo Bulls of the Mid-American Conference travel to Happy Valley next week.
Purdue: The artistry of Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter continues to canvas the Boilermaker record book with new standards in passing. Painter lit up Eastern Illinois for 38-of-49 passing, 348 yards and six touchdown passes (to five different receivers). The only thing to stop Purdue’s offense this day was the hour weather delay due to lightning at the half, but that didn’t prevent Painter striking throughout the second half. Eleven Boilermaker receivers caught passes, including a big rebound game for Dorien Bryant (12 receptions, 111 yards, and touchdown), the conference’s leader in receptions and yards in 2006, after he was held to two catches for 12 yards last week. The Purdue ground game kept the Eastern Illinois defense honest with 178 yards rushing and 4.7 yards per carry average and the defense held court by allowing the Panthers four yards per play on the day. Painter and the Boilermakers continue their air assault next week when Central Michigan touches down in West Lafayette.
Indiana: The Hoosiers displayed a nice balance of offense and defense in jumping out to a 31-7 halftime lead over the Broncos of Western Michigan, before holding on for a 37-27 win in Western’s first game ever hosting a Big Ten opponent. While the Indiana defense was racking up five takeaways (three fumbles, and two interceptions, both by freshman Mitchell Evans) and seven sacks, quarterback Kellen Lewis was throwing for 221 yards and three touchdowns. Hoosier defensive end Greg Middleton scooped up one of those fumbles and he returned it 44 yards for his first career score. The Broncos outscored the Hoosiers 20-6 in the second half on the strength of a 98-yard kickoff return by Brandon West and two Tim Hiller touchdown passes, as he finished with 343 yards and three touchdown passes, while West also registered 51 yards rushing and 83 receiving yards for a big all-purpose day. Indiana moves to 2-0 on the year with Akron visiting Bloomington next week.