Big Ten: Joel Monroe

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MINNEAPOLIS -- Both of these teams have credited their strong seasons to major improvements on the defensive side. It showed in a scoreless third quarter.

Minnesota safety Traye Simmons intercepted his second pass of the game to snuff out a Northwestern drive into Gophers territory. Moments earlier, the Gophers mounted a 92-yard drive but got nothing out of it as Northwestern held near the goal line and kicker Joel Monroe missed a chip-shot field goal attempt.

So here we are, one quarter to play. Northwestern's conservative scheme hasn't prevented turnovers, but the Wildcats remain in the game and have a good track record in close contests. They'll need to force a turnover to win.

Minnesota holds the momentum, and quarterback Adam Weber has been fabulous today, both with his arm and his feet. Unlike Northwestern's quarterbacks, who run virtually the same offense, Weber avoids turnovers and finds the holes in opposing defenses. Weber has done an excellent job utilizing all of his weapons.

Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka threw the two picks, but he also has set a school record for quarterback rushing with 15 carries for 149 yards. He has read the field well and found lanes to run, but his interceptions are proving costly.

Injuries have hit both teams, especially Northwestern. The Wildcats lost guard Desmond Taylor to an injury and star defensive end Corey Wootton went to the locker room with what looked like a right leg cramp. Minnesota standout wide receiver Eric Decker appeared to injure his left ankle on a 24-yard gain. Decker is receiving treatment on the Gophers sideline.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

And here they are ...

From the release:

OFFENSE

Illinois QB Juice Williams

Williams racked up 431 yards of total offense to set a new Michigan Stadium record and lead Illinois to a 45-20 victory over Michigan. The junior quarterback completed 13 of 26 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns, while registering 121 yards on 19 carries with two more scores. He surpassed 400 yards of total offense for the second time this season, after racking up a career-high 461 yards in the season opener against Missouri. Both performances rank among the top-10,single-game efforts in school history. Williams led his offense to 45 points, the most ever for the Illini against the Wolverines and the most allowed by Michigan since 1991.

DEFENSE

Illinois LB Brit Miller

Miller filled up the stat sheet with nine defensive stops, four tackles for loss, two sacks and two pass break-ups to lead Illinois to its first win at Michigan since 1999. The senior linebacker set career highs in both tackles for loss and sacks, pushing the Wolverines' offense back a combined 26 yards.

CO-SPECIAL TEAMS

Michigan State K Brett Swenson

Swenson was perfect on three field goal attempts and an extra point in a narrow 16-13 victory over Iowa. The junior kicker connected on boots of 29 and 32 yards in the second quarter and added a 25-yarder in the third period to give the Spartans a 16-3 advantage. Since missing his first field goal attempt of the season, Swenson has made his last 12 field goals, just one short of tying the school record of 13 consecutive field goals set by Paul Edinger in 1998.

Minnesota K Joel Monroe

Monroe's three field goals were the difference in a 16-7 triumph over Indiana. After missing his first attempt due to a bad snap and hold, the senior kicker connected on a career-high three field goals to provide all of the second-half scoring. With the score knotted at seven, Monroe hit field goals of 29 and 42 yards in the third quarter, the latter marking a season long. He sealed the victory with a 38-yarder with less than a minute left in the game.

Big Ten Players of the Week

October, 5, 2008
10/05/08
4:45
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

In the interest of full disclosure, I did cross paths with the Big Ten powers that be on Saturday night at the Wisconsin-Ohio State game, so there could be some similarities between my list and the official rundown announced Monday.

OFFENSE

Illinois QB Juice Williams -- The junior set a Michigan Stadium record with 431 yards of total offense as Illinois steamrolled a talented Wolverines defense. Williams threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more in another dominant road performance. He ranks eighth nationally in total offense and 55th in rushing average.

DEFENSE

Penn State LB Josh Hull -- After being criticized during the week for his play in previous victories, Hull came up big in Penn State's latest triumph. He racked up a team-high 11 tackles -- all solo -- and had two stops for losses. The Lions held Purdue to six points and 241 yards, 163 yards below its average.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Minnesota PK Joel Monroe -- Monroe bounced back from a rough start to convert several pressure-packed kicks for Minnesota in what turned out to be a surprising defensive struggle against Indiana. The senior kicked second-half field goals of 29, 42 and 38 yards, the last of which clinched the victory with 22 seconds left. It marked the first time Minnesota made three field goals in a game since 2003.

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