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Monday, November 2, 2009
Big Ten thumbs up-thumbs down for Week 9


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Kudos and criticisms from around the league. Remember, players or coaches acknowledged in helmet tickers or Players of the Week don't appear here.

 
 Andrew Weber/US Presswire
 Illinois' Jason Ford rushed for 128 yards and one touchdown in Saturday's victory.
Thumbs up, Illinois RBs Mikel LeShoure and Jason Ford: LeShoure has quietly had a solid season and continued to produce Saturday against Michigan, while Ford joined in the act as well. The two sophomore running backs combined for 278 rush yards and two touchdowns as the Fighting Illini notched their first Big Ten win and ran all over the Wolverines.

Thumbs down, Purdue's offense: The unit had a complete meltdown at Wisconsin after several solid performances. It wasn't just the turnovers that held Purdue back this time. Quarterbacks Joey Elliott and Caleb TerBush combined to complete only 27 percent of their passes, a statistic impacted by a ton of drops by their wide receivers.

Thumbs up, Chris Borland: The Wisconsin linebacker deserves consideration for Big Ten freshman of the year. He has meant that much to the Badgers' turnaround this fall. Borland continued to produce in his first career start at outside linebacker, forcing a fumble and recovering two fumbles against Purdue to earn Big Ten co-defensive player of the week honors.

Thumbs down, Greg Robinson: After an impressive performance in the season opener against Western Michigan, Robinson's unit has declined sharply. I heard a lot about improved communication and better cohesion before the season, but the defense endures multiple major breakdowns in every game. Whether it's pass defense against Notre Dame and Penn State or run defense against Illinois, the defense has been a disaster and it falls in his lap.

Thumbs up, Jedd Fisch: The Minnesota offensive coordinator produced his best game plan in his first game without his best player, wide receiver Eric Decker. Fisch was extremely creative and aggressive, and he received big plays from Duane Bennett, Nick Tow-Arnett, Da'Jon McKnight, Brandon Green and Troy Stoudermire.

Thumbs down, Minnesota's discipline: The Gophers notched a big win against Michigan State, but their 17 penalties tied a Big Ten single-game record set by Michigan State way back in 1957. It seemed like flags were flying on almost every play, and Minnesota won't win many more games if it doesn't improve its discipline.

Thumbs up, Penn State QB Daryll Clark: He should be the frontrunner for Big Ten offensive player of the year, with Wisconsin's John Clay as his only legitimate challenger. Clark turned in another strong performance against Northwestern, passing for 274 yards and a touchdown and scoring a rushing touchdown as well.

Thumbs down, Big Ten replay officials: Replay is supposed to ensure that the officiating crews get it right in these games, but the folks in the booth had a rough Saturday. The term "indisputable video evidence" definitely seemed a bit hazy in the Indiana-Iowa and Michigan State-Minnesota games.

Thumbs up, Terry Hawthorne: The Illinois freshman cornerback made arguably the play of the game against Michigan when he chased down wide receiver Roy Roundtree at the Illini 1-yard line. Illinois stopped Michigan on four straight plays and kept the Wolverines' lead at only six points, setting the stage for a second-half surge.

Thumbs down, Northwestern's fourth-quarter performance: The Wildcats have owned the fourth quarter in past seasons, but they are struggling in crunch time in 2009. After allowing 21 fourth-quarter points to Penn State in Saturday's loss, the Wildcats have been outscored 72-44 in the final 15 minutes.

And, for the first time ever ...

Thumbs up and thumbs down, Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi: Just having a little fun with this one, as Stanzi showed both his best and his worst on Saturday against Indiana. He threw a career high five interceptions, four in the third quarter, but once again responded in the fourth with two huge touchdown passes to notch his first career 300-yard passing performance and lift Iowa to another huge win.