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Saturday, October 24, 2009
Recapping the early Big Ten games

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Quick thoughts on the three Big Ten games that just wrapped up.

Ohio State 38, Minnesota 7: Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes really needed a performance like this one. After a sluggish first half, Ohio State took control when Minnesota fumbled the opening kickoff to the second half. Pryor seemed more assertive as a runner today, racking up 104 yards and a touchdown, and Jermil Martin, a fullback-tailback hybrid, provided a major lift in the final 30 minutes with 75 rush yards and a touchdown. Ohio State's defense had another huge day, forcing four Minnesota turnovers and nearly posting its third shutout of the season. The Gophers once again looked lost on offense and nearly went scoreless for the second straight game. I don't know what's up with quarterback Adam Weber, one of the league's most experienced signal callers, but he needs to pick up his play in a hurry. It was terrible to see star wideout Eric Decker go down with a leg injury, and Minnesota once again failed to find a second option. Backup quarterback MarQueis Gray should see more action in the coming weeks.

Northwestern 29, Indiana 28: There's usually some drama when these two teams get together, and today's game provided plenty. It sure didn't seem that way as the Hoosiers streaked out to a 28-3 lead behind tremendous special teams play and running back Darius Willis. But Northwestern once again showed incredible resiliency and never gave up. You rarely see a team rally for a win when it trails 28-3 and loses the turnover battle 3-0, but the "Cardiac Cats" lived up to their reputation. Pat Fitzgerald's defense turned in a dominant second half, highlighted by a goal-line stand after an interception. The Wildcats' special teams rebounded with a punt block, and Stefan Demos hit his second game-winning field goal of the year. The game reminded me a lot of Michigan State's historic comeback against Northwestern in 2006. But this time, the Wildcats were on the winning end. Indiana head coach Bill Lynch made several questionable decisions down the stretch, and the Hoosiers had no timeouts in the final moments.

Purdue 24, Illinois 14: The Boilers continued their momentum from last week's huge upset of Ohio State, while Illinois suffered its sixth double-digit loss despite competing in the second half. Purdue's two-headed running attack of Ralph Bolden and Jaycen Taylor combined for 149 rush yards and two scores, and the offense committed no turnovers, which certainly is a change from earlier in the season. Once again, the Boilers defense secured the win by keeping Illinois out of the end zone. Ron Zook rotated quarterbacks Juice Williams and Jacob Charest, with Williams leading two scoring drives. Despite a big game from running back Mikel LeShoure, Illinois couldn't capitalize on opportunities in Purdue territory. The heat rose a bit higher on Zook, who desperately needs wins.