Big Ten: Arizona Cardinals

 
  AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
  For the second year in a row, a Big Ten receiver made the game-winning touchdown grab in the Super Bowl. This year it was former Ohio State standout Santonio Holmes.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

For the second straight year, a former Big Ten wide receiver made the winning touchdown catch in the Super Bowl with exactly 35 seconds left in regulation.

And this time, he took home MVP honors.

Former Ohio State star Santonio Holmes made an electrifying grab in the back of the end zone to lift Pittsburgh past Arizona 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII on Sunday night. Holmes, who made news earlier in the week with an admission that he sold drugs as a kid, had nine receptions for 131 yards to win the game's MVP award.

He's the first Big Ten player to win the award since former Michigan quarterback Tom Brady claimed the second of his two trophies in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Five former Big Ten players -- Brady, Holmes, Len Dawson (Purdue), Desmond Howard (Michigan) and Franco Harris (Penn State) -- have been named Super Bowl MVP.

Holmes' performance came a year after former Michigan State wide receiver Plaxico Burress caught a 13-yard touchdown to complete the Giants' comeback against Brady and the Patriots.

The Super Bowl was an impressive showcase for the Big Ten, which certainly needed a boost. The Big Ten will continue to take flak for its bowl performances, but arguably no league better prepares its players for the NFL.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Former Michigan linebacker LaMarr Woodley had the Steelers' only two sacks and forced a Kurt Warner fumble that sealed the victory with five seconds remaining.
  • Former Minnesota running back Gary Russell scored the game's first touchdown, a 1-yard run for the Steelers early in the second quarter.
  • Former Michigan wide receiver Steve Breaston had six catches for 71 yards to go along with 43 yards on kickoff and punt returns for the Cardinals.
  • Former Purdue linebacker Chike Okeafor finished second on the Cardinals in tackles with six tackles (all solo).
  • Former Minnesota tight end Matt Spaeth and former Illinois fullback Carey Davis both had a reception for six yards with the Steelers.
  • Former Illinois kicker Neil Rackers connected on all three of his extra-point attempts for the Cardinals. He did not attempt a field goal.
  • Former Penn State tackle Levi Brown started for the Cardinals and gave Warner time to rack up 377 pass yards and three touchdowns against the vaunted Steelers defense.

Big Ten's Super Bowl connections

January, 22, 2009
1/22/09
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

As we inch closer toward Super Bowl XLIII, it's time to look at the Big Ten connections for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals.

Michigan has the most connections with seven players on the active roster for the matchup, including Steelers starting linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Larry Foote and Cardinals reserve wideout and punt returner Steve Breaston. Penn State and Minnesota also are well represented.

STEELERS

  • Safety Tyrone Carter -- attended Minnesota
  • Fullback Carey Davis* -- attended Illinois
  • Guard Trai Essex -- attended Northwestern
  • Linebacker Larry Foote* -- attended Michigan
  • Wide receiver Santonio Holmes* -- attended Ohio State
  • Tight end Sean McHugh -- attended Penn State
  • Nose tackle Scott Paxson -- attended Penn State
  • Running back Gary Russell -- attended Minnesota
  • Tight end Matt Spaeth -- attended Minnesota
  • Linebacker Lamarr Woodley* -- attended Michigan
  • Linebacker Mike Humpal (injured reserve) -- attended Iowa
  • Running back Rashard Mendenhall (injured reserve) -- attended Illinois
  • Update: Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau -- attended Ohio State and played cornerback
  • Wide receivers coach Randy Fichtner -- attended Purdue and served as a graduate assistant for both the Boilermakers and Michigan
  • Running backs coach Kirby Wilson -- Played his final two seasons at Illinois

ARIZONA CARDINALS

  • Defensive tackle Alan Branch -- attended Michigan
  • Wide receiver Steve Breaston -- attended Michigan
  • Tackle Levi Brown* -- attended Penn State
  • Linebacker Victor Hobson -- attended Michigan
  • Long snapper Nathan Hodel -- attended Illinois
  • Defensive end Kenny Iwebema -- attended Iowa
  • Defensive end Chike Okeafor* -- attended Purdue
  • Kicker Neil Rackers* -- attended Illinois
  • Tight end Jerame Tuman -- attended Michigan
  • Defensive tackle Gabe Watson -- attended Michigan
  • Defensive line coach Ron Aiken -- coached Iowa's defensive line from 1999-2006, earned AFCA Division I Assistant Coach of the Year honors in 2002
  • Defensive backs coach Teryl Austin -- coached defensive backs at Michigan from 1999-2002 and served as a graduate assistant at Penn State from 1991-92
  • Linebackers coach Bill Davis -- Served as a graduate assistant at Michigan State

* -- starter

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