Saturday, September 10, 2011
Halftime updates from around Big Ten
By Adam Rittenberg
We've reached the halfway point of the early games around the conference.
Let's check in.
Toledo-Ohio State: The dominance Ohio State displayed in its opener hasn't been there today, although the Buckeyes rallied to take a 21-15 lead at halftime. Tim Beckman has his Toledo squad geared up against his former team, and the Rockets are attacking Ohio State decently through the air. Buckeyes quarterback Joe Bauserman hasn't been nearly as sharp today (10-for-19 passing), but the coaches clearly want to get him comfortable before next week's trip to Miami. Unless the score widens, don't expect to see much of Braxton Miller. Tight end Jake Stoneburner and running back Carlos Hyde continue to be bright spots for Ohio State's offense, while breakdowns in the kicking game are also continuing to surface.
Oregon State-Wisconsin: Unlike the opener, where everything worked, Wisconsin has had to be creative to spark its offense today. That's where Russell Wilson comes in handy. Oregon State sold out against the run early on and had success stuffing the Badgers' backs. Wilson has responded by dissecting the Beavers' secondary. He has completed 12 of 14 passes for 124 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Jacob Pedersen. His accuracy continues to impress me, as I thought Wisconsin would have a drop-off after losing Scott Tolzien. The defense also has responded against a limited Oregon State team, which can't get anything going on the ground. Wisconsin appears to be in total control.
Iowa-Iowa State: After a strong start, Iowa finds itself deadlocked at 10-10 in a place (Jack Trice Stadium) where it has struggled under coach Kirk Ferentz. Marcus Coker's fumbling issues continued following a good first-quarter surge, and his turnover set up Iowa State's only touchdown. Coker can be one of the Big Ten's better backs, but he has to hold onto the football. Iowa's new-look defense seems to be struggling a bit against quarterback Steele Jantz (great name) and running back Shontrelle Johnson, who averaged 8.4 yards a carry in the first half. Stay tuned as this one should be very interesting.
South Dakota State-Illinois: Everything is clicking for the Illini, who look like they'll once again have one of the nation's top rushing attacks. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has been a greater threat on the ground, and he's getting help from Jason Ford, Troy Pollard and dynamic freshman Donovonn Young. An experienced offensive line deserves credit, too, as Illinois already has 227 rushing yards. The defense has held South Dakota State to two first downs and only 54 total yards.
Florida Atlantic-Michigan State: After a sloppy opener, the Spartans have cleaned up their act in a big way. What a half for Pat Narduzzi's defense, which held FAU to one first down and just 26 total yards. The defensive line has been stellar, and Michigan State is capitalizing on excellent field position and converting for touchdowns. It's already a big day for receivers B.J. Cunningham (5 catches, 73 yards) and Keshawn Martin (6 catches, 68 yards), and the run game has provided a spark. Up 27-0, Michigan State can get its reserves plenty of time in the second half.