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Saturday, September 11, 2010
Thoughts on UW, MSU, NU, Purdue games

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

The good stuff is about to get started around the Big Ten, but five games are already in the books.

I'll weigh in on Minnesota-South Dakota in a bit, but here's what happened in the other four contests.

Wisconsin 27, San Jose State 14: For the second consecutive week, Wisconsin walks off the field with a win but knowing it has a lot to clean up. Up 17-0 at halftime, the Badgers struggled to put away a San Jose State team that got crushed by No. 1 Alabama seven days earlier. Wisconsin's offense achieved tremendous balance and running back John Clay had another big game (23 carries, 137 rush yards, 2 TDs), rumbling for a first down that allowed the Badgers to run out the clock. Scott Tolzien threw an interception for the second consecutive game but still had decent numbers and hooked up with tight end Lance Kendricks three times for 60 yards and a touchdown. The defense played decently until late in the third quarter, when San Jose State's Chandler Jones broke several tackles on a 37-yard touchdown. All in all, not bad, but I'm a little concerned about the Badgers heading into the Arizona State game.

Michigan State 30, Florida Atlantic 17: The Spartans improve to 2-0 thanks to another impressive effort from the run game and specifically sophomore Edwin Baker, who piled up 183 yards on 15 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run. As Larry Caper sits out with a hand injury, Baker has certainly made a good case that he should be Michigan State's starting running back. Florida Atlantic dominated possession time, but Michigan State cashed in on its opportunities. There were some negatives, namely two turnovers and some shaky pass defense against Florida Atlantic quarterback Jeff Van Camp. But overall, a solid "road" win. The Spartans also have to be extremely pleased with kicker Dan Conroy, who converted attempts from 50, 44 and 41 yards. The performance establishes Conroy as the starter as Michigan State tries to replace standout kicker Brett Swenson.

Northwestern 37, Illinois State 3: Sure, it's Illinois State, but Northwestern looked much better on both sides of the ball in a rare blowout victory. Quarterback Dan Persa continued his very impressive start, completing 19 of 23 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns with a rushing touchdown. Wideout Sidney Stewart had a big day, and Northwestern got talented superback Drake Dunsmore (2 TD receptions) more involved. Northwestern had its second-team offense in the game midway through the third quarter. The defense also looked very good, recording three interceptions, two by senior linebacker Quentin Davie. Northwestern also ran the ball a bit better, as sophomore Arby Fields had 96 rushing yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. The ground game remains a work in progress, but with the way Persa is throwing the ball, it doesn't matter.

Purdue 31, Western Illinois 21: Kind of an odd game in West Lafayette. A Robert Marve interception spotted Western Illinois an early lead before the Boilers gradually came back and took control. The defense did a nice job until struggling in the fourth quarter, allowing two touchdowns. Purdue appeared to find its running back as senior Dan Dierking racked up 103 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Dierking has been somewhat overlooked in the running back race, but he's a big, tough runner with experience. Al-Terek McBurse also had a nice touchdown run that seemingly put away the game in the fourth quarter. Marve had a similar performance to Week 1, completing a lot of passes (23) but struggling to stretch the field (only 5 yards per pass). Purdue needs to find ways to get Keith Smith, Cortez Smith and Justin Siller in space. The Boilers are a work in progress right now, but their schedule sets up well the next month.