BY MICK MILLER
BIG TEN INSIDER
Ohio State bounced back from a scare last week versus Michigan State with a monster performance in Happy Valley. Every perceived trap or bump in the road the Buckeyes have faced has been met head on and defeated or flattened. The goal of conference champion is turning into playing for bowl eligibility as the race is narrowing down to its contenders and pretenders. It is the season for tricks and treats, wins and defeats for the rest of the conference as teams are hoping for sweet rewards in their bowl-season bags.
(1) Ohio State 37 (24) Penn State 17
The Buckeyes remain number one in the nation and undefeated in the conference with a convincing win in Happy Valley. Quarterback Todd Boeckman continues to evolve and threw for 253 yards and three touchdowns while Chris “Beanie” Wells put 133 yards up on the ground against a usually stout Nittany Lion defense. While defeating only their second ranked opponent this season, the Buckeyes were playing with the “respect” chip on their shoulder and came into the game upset with the a perceived slight on their standing as the number team in the conference and country. Penn State running back Rodney Kinlaw gave his team a brief 7-3 lead in the first quarter with a touchdown run and led the team with 81 rushing yards in the only offensive performance worth noting.
Next up: Ohio State welcomes Wisconsin; Penn State hosts Purdue
(19) Michigan 34 Minnesota 10
The Golden Gophers jumped out to a 10-0 lead at the Big House as the Wolverines were slow getting started. But with the oldest trophy in college football at stake (the Little Brown Jug), Michigan, playing without starters Chad Henne and Mike Hart, scored the final 34 points of the game as their running game took over. Running backs Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor rushed for 289 yards combined on 34 attempts (8.5 avg.) and three rushing touchdowns while the defense stifled the Minnesota offense, holding them to 231 (99 passing) total yards and only 2-13 conversions on third down. The lone bright spot for the Gophers was halfback Duane Bennett, whose 106 rushing yards was the first time a freshman ran over the century mark since Lawrence Maroney in 2003.
Next Up: Michigan goes to Michigan State; Minnesota invites Illinois
Purdue 35 Northwestern 17
A couple things not normally discussed in a Purdue victory carried the team to just that: a win. Running back Jaycen Taylor rushed for a career high 157 yards and two touchdowns in his second game back from injury and the Boilermaker defense shutdown a Northwestern offense that had been averaging 41 points per game in its last three contests. Instead of a pass-happy attack this week, record-setting Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter played a complimentary role with six completions to three different receivers, gaining 182 yards and two touchdown passes. Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher came back down to earth with a dismal three-interception performance.
Next Up: Purdue at Penn State; Northwestern hosts Iowa
Wisconsin 33 Indiana 3
The Badgers’ big win may have come at a big price as running back P.J. Hill left the game with a lower-leg injury in the first quarter. While back-up Lance Smith picked-up the slack with 79 yards and two touchdowns, the Wisconsin defense smothered a Hoosier offense that had been averaging 35 points per game this season and dealt them their third consecutive loss. The usually explosive Indiana quarterback, Kellen Lewis, threw for only 113 yards and 3.4 yards per attempt and was sacked three times. Record-setting wide receiver James Hardy mustered a mere four receptions for 17 yards and a costly holding penalty, nullifying an 84-yard touchdown run by Hoosier halfback Marcus Thigpen (whom got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty celebrating the non-score). The Badgers needed little else than their running game, piling up 279 rush yards at five yards a pop.
Next Up: Wisconsin is at Ohio State; Indiana brings in Ball State
Iowa 34 Michigan State 27
Iowa got something this past week that had been horrifically absent all season long: offense. Hawkeye halfback Albert Young unleashed a flurry of rushing yards (finishing with 179 for the game) in the second half, scoring twice to erase a 17-3 deficit. While being out-gained 468-283 in total yards with a 6-to-1 ratio in passing yards, Iowa scored when it was most important. Quarterback Jake Christensen, who threw for only 53 yards in the game, hit freshman receiver Paul Chaney with a 23 yard touchdown in overtime to force an extra stanza which allowed another freshman, halfback Jevon Pugh to score on a three-yard run to win it. Spartan running back Jehuu Caulcrick scored three rushing touchdowns, giving him 16 for the season.
Next Up: Michigan State hosts Michigan; Iowa goes to Northwestern
Illinois 28 Ball State 17
Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Juice Williams contributed another 99 on the ground and two more scores as the Illini got it rolling in the second half and locked up their first bowl trip since 2002, their last winning season. Ball State returned an interception 36 yards for a touchdown and Cardinal quarterback Nate Davis threw a 24-yard touchdown to pull them within four 21-17 entering the fourth quarter, but Williams’ four-yard touchdown sealed the deal at home for Illinois.
Next Up: Illinois travels to Minnesota