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Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Big Ten notes: Boilers secondary steps up

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Some unfinished business from today's Big Ten coaches' teleconference, which thankfully had no prank callers.

SECONDARY IMPRESSES TILLER

The result wasn't what he wanted, but Purdue coach Joe Tiller had few complaints about a Boilermakers secondary that flustered Oregon for much of last Saturday's 32-26 loss in two overtimes. Purdue recorded two interceptions and five pass breakups in the game, as Oregon wasted three red-zone scoring chances.

"They played their best game they've played in maybe two or three years," Tiller said of the defensive backs.

Starting strong safety Frank Duong, who had a team-high 11 tackles in the game, will be back for Saturday's game with Central Michigan after rolling his right ankle against the Ducks. Duong, who was wearing a walking boot after the game, has led the Boilers in tackles in each of the first two contests.

"Our red-zone defense is something we want to focus on because in the past, we haven't been very good," Duong said. "It's just another stepping stone for us to become a better defense. [Oregon is] one of the best teams in the country, and we hung with them for four quarters into overtime. We'll be able to say we can hang with anybody. I think we'll be OK the rest of the way."

Tiller expects to get senior guard/center Jared Zwilling (ankle) back this week and tackle Sean Sester (back) should be able to play about 40 snaps against Central Michigan. Starting linebacker Jason Werner (back) and tight end Kyle Adams (knee) will miss Saturday's game.

OTHER INJURY UPDATES

Illinois wide receiver Jeff Cumberland returned to action against Louisiana-Lafayette but will benefit from the bye week to heal his injured foot, Illini coach Ron Zook said. Zook expects promising safety Donsay Hardeman (knee) to return next week at Penn State, and reserve offensive lineman Randall Hunt was 100 percent in Monday's practice after sitting out a week with an injury.

The bye week also should benefit Michigan's work-in-progress offensive line. Redshirt freshman guard Mark Huyge -- great name for a lineman -- will be back from an ankle injury and starting left tackle Mark Ortmann (elbow) could have a chance to play next week against No. 8 Wisconsin. Coach Rich Rodriguez praised Perry Dorrestein's play in his first start but added, "We need to have those guys healthy to have a viable competition next week."

PRAISE FOR YOUNG RUNNING BACKS

Last Saturday was a bit odd for Rodriguez. His team made a multitude of mistakes, many unforced, in a 35-17 loss to Notre Dame. But the game also provided some bright spots at quarterback and running back. Freshman Sam McGuffie had 131 rushing yards to go along with four catches for 47 yards and a touchdown.

Several coaches around the league took notice, including Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, whose team faces McGuffie and Michigan next week.

"He's a tremendous football player," Bielema said. "I've YouTubed him as well, as everybody else in the country has. He's got a lot of raw talent. ... It seems like he's a great effort guy and a very hard guy to defend."

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio doesn't face Michigan until Oct. 25, but he saw McGuffie while preparing for Saturday's contest against Notre Dame (ABC, 3:30 p.m.).

"If you're watching the film and don't notice him, you're not watching the film," Dantonio said.

Another freshman runner stepped up as Minnesota's DeLeon Eskridge had 114 rushing yards and three touchdowns against Montana State. Eskridge moved several steps closer to claiming the starting spot that opened after Duane Bennett's season-ending knee injury.

"DeLeon has done a great job with his preparation," coach Tim Brewster said. "As harsh as this is, one man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. DeLeon did a great job."

TEMPLE WILL TEST LIONS

Not sure what this says about Oregon State and Syracuse, but Penn State coach Joe Paterno called Temple the best team the 16th-ranked Nittany Lions will face to this point in the season. Paterno is impressed by the job his former player, Al Golden, has done with the Owls, who come off two hard-luck losses to Connecticut and Buffalo.

"This is the best Temple team we've seen in a long time," Paterno said. "I have to go back to Wayne Hardin, when Wayne almost beat us in Philadelphia [in the late 1970s]. They're well coached. They line up properly. They hustle."

Paterno also declined to comment about suspended defensive linemen Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma, who aren't listed on this week's depth chart. "We'll let that situation develop and if there's something to say, we'll say it," Paterno said.