Big Ten: spring games 12

Michigan State spring recap

April, 30, 2012
It's time to finish off our 2012 spring game recaps with a review of Michigan State's Green and White Game from Saturday.

You can find coverage of the scrimmage here, here, here and here

Stars of the game: Defensive ends Marcus Rush and William Gholston. Rush had 2.5 sacks and three tackles for loss, while Gholston had a safety and a pass break-up while spending much of the day in the offensive backfield.

How it went down: There was little doubt going into this game that defense would rule the day, as the Spartans return the bulk of a top 10 defense from last year and their offense, still finding its legs in the passing game, missed some key contributors. And so it was, as the White team -- featuring six returning defensive starters -- beat the Green team 14-2. The Green team's only score was that Gholston safety.

"I think we played pretty well, as you can tell by the score," linebacker Denicos Allen said. "We are still developing into a really great defense, and I think we can be better than last year's unit. We have more experience this year but are still young and have to continue to develop."

Connor Cook had to play quarterback for both teams because projected starter Andrew Maxwell is out with a knee injury. Cook completed 20-of-45 passes for 294 yards and threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Andre Sims Jr. with seven seconds left in the first half.

"He grew enormously, I think, in terms of playing in this type of environment, having to play every play also with the TV type situation," head coach Mark Dantonio said. "I think he was very calm in the huddle and did some good things."

The tailbacks were also limited, as Le'Veon Bell played just one series and Larry Caper came out quickly after suffering a minor injury. Nick Hill came through with 19 carries for 95 yards and a TD, but the running was tough going for the most part. Counting sacks, the Green team produced minus-10 yards rushing for the day, and both teams combined for just 59 yards on 38 carries.

You can thank a dominating defense for that. The Spartans got a scare when Gholston was slow to get up after Hill's touchdown and limped off the field, but he was reported to have only a bruised knee. The defensive line looked really impressive.

"I think we have four or five really good defensive ends," Dantonio said. "Shilique Calhoun was a factor today. Obviously, William Gholston and Marcus Rush are very good. I thought Joel Heath did some good things as well."

One of the offensive highlights was provided by a defensive player, as cornerback Johnny Adams switched sides and caught a 45-yard pass.

"He's got big-play ability," Dantonio said. "He's a guy maybe we can flip around a bit. We'll see how that transpires when we get everyone here."

Wisconsin spring game recap

April, 30, 2012
The final two Big Ten spring games of the year were held this weekend, and we're here to review both of them, starting with Wisconsin.

You can find coverage of the Badgers' Cardinal and White scrimmage here, here and here.

Star of the game: Redshirt freshman running back Melvin Gordon carried 30 times for 159 yards and a touchdown.

How it went down: The Cardinal team, which included the first-string offense and defense, defeated the White squad 21-10. Gordon had a big day in the absence of Montee Ball (precautionary reasons) and James White (bruised knee), showing that the Badgers have serious depth and talent at tailback.

But that wasn't really the question going in. The quarterback situation was. Redshirt freshman Joel Stave appears to be the No. 1 guy until Danny O'Brien shows up, as he spent most of the day with the Cardinal team. He was 14-for-25 for 135 yards and a touchdown and a late interception while putting the ball on the money throughout the game. By contrast, Joe Brennan went just 2-for-11 for 24 yards.

“Joel continues to impress me -- his maturity, the way he handles it,” head coach Bret Bielema said.

Receiver was also a big question mark. Chase Hammond had a nice day, catching four passes for 48 yards and the lone receiving touchdown.

"Chase is an interesting prospect just because he's so lanky," Bielema said. "He's a very athletic specimen. He had surgery on an ankle twice, I believe. Really, at one point they told me he wouldn't be able to play. He's battled back from that. ... I think he made some steps this spring in certain times in practice. I'm excited because I think it is there. He's only a sophomore, so he's got a lot of good football, hopefully, in front of him."

"I just showed that when it’s time to play, I can make plays," Hammond said. "I think that’s been big on me. I may not always have the best practices but that’s what practice is for, to get better."

The Badgers' defense limited the offense for the most part, outside of a few big plays. It's hard to get a true read on Wisconsin from the spring game, since so many stars and potential starters -- like Ball, White, O'Brien, Mike Taylor and Chris Borland -- didn't play in the spring game. Remember that there were no offensive touchdowns in last year's Cardinal and White scrimmage, and that team ended up being pretty good on offense.
We wrap up our 2012 spring game previews now with -- last but not least -- the defending Legends Division champion Michigan State Spartans. Here are your Green-White essentials.

When: 1 p.m. ET Saturday

Where: Spartan Stadium

Admission: Free. Parking is free around the stadium. Gates open at 11:30 a.m.

TV: The game will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network and streamed live BTN2Go.

Weather forecast: High of 48 degrees, Cloudy with a 50 percent chance of rain.

What to watch for: Michigan State makes this a real competition and held its player draft on Wednesday. Here are the rosters for the game. Running backs coach Brad Salem will coach the Green team, while receivers coach Terrence Samuel will coach the White.

Fans won't be able to see new starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who has a sprained knee. But they'll get a long look at redshirt freshman Connor Cook, who will take lots and lots of reps while quarterbacking both squads. One of the things Spartans supporters will want to see is how the wide receiving corps looks after the team lost its top three wideouts from a year ago and the only experienced receivers, Bennie Fowler and Tony Lippett, got hurt this spring. Andre Sims Jr. appears to be the leader of the group for now, but Jeremy Langford is an intriguing athlete. And there will be plenty of eyes on Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett, who may or may not be eligible this year.

Though the squad will be split, the spring game will offer a chance to see how good the Michigan State defense is. Defensive tackle is one of the few question marks, and it appears that James Kittredge has made a move this spring. Emerging defensive players like Joel Heath, Shilique Calhoun and Darien Harris will also get a chance to strut their stuff.

The offensive line and running game have improved this offseason. But given the inexperience at quarterback and receiver and the fact that top tailback Le'Veon Bell will be limited, don't expect an offensive showcase on Saturday.

Spring game preview: Wisconsin

April, 27, 2012
There are just two spring games left in the Big Ten, and both are this weekend. We're here to get you ready for both, starting with Wisconsin.

When: 5 p.m. ET Saturday

Where: Camp Randall Stadium

Admission: $5 (proceeds go to the UW Center for Nonprofits). Stadium gates 1, 8, 9 and 10 open at 3 p.m. CT. Parking is available in Lots 16, 17 and 18 as space allows for $10. Lot 60 is free, but there will be no shuttle buses.

TV: The game will be streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network and BTN2Go. The Big Ten Network will televise the game at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Weather forecast: High of 45 degrees. Cloudy, with a 60 percent chance of rain.

What to watch for: If you're hoping to see a completely accurate preview of the 2012 Badgers, you'll be disappointed. Star running back Montee Ball will be held out for precautionary reasons, and several other stars are either out this spring (linebacker Mike Taylor, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis) or figure to be limited at best on Saturday (linebacker Chris Borland, running back James White, tight end Jacob Pedersen). And, of course, Maryland transfer quarterback Danny O'Brien isn't with the team yet.

Still, there are some interesting things to watch. Will the rebuilt right side of the offensive line live up to the Badgers' high standards? Robert Burge has had a few struggles at right tackle this spring. Which receiver out of a group that includes Isaiah Williams, Marquis Mason and Chase Hammond might emerge as a complementary threat to Abbrederis? How good is the defense, especially playing without projected starting defensive end David Gilbert and Taylor? And will Joel Stave stay ahead of Joe Brennan for the starting quarterback (for now) job? Can redshirt freshman Melvin Gordon make some noise at running back?

It should be a fun day in Madison, as the Crazylegs 8K run will end inside Camp Randall Stadium and several finishers are expected to hang around and watch the game.

Minnesota spring game recap

April, 23, 2012
We're wrapping up the three Big Ten spring games from over the weekend. Let's review Minnesota's Maroon and Gold Game from Saturday.

You can find coverage of the game here, here and here.

Star of the game: Sophomore defensive end Michael Amaefula had four tackles and a pair of "sacks," helping keep the Gold team scoreless.

How it went down: Offensive fireworks? Not so much. The Maroon squad beat the Gold 3-0, with 21-yard field goal from Chris Hawthorne providing all of the scoring. Though that may sound rough, the Gophers were encouraged by improved play, especially on the defensive end.

Minnesota's defense had a difficult time stopping opposing passing attacks last season but did well against its own quarterbacks in the scrimmage. There were seven pass breakups on the day.

"We've got some guys in the secondary that can run, and we're getting a little bigger in the secondary, which we needed to continue to do," head coach Jerry Kill told reporters. "I can tell you just physically watching that, that was better."

On offense, starting quarterback MarQueis Gray completed 4 of 8 passes for 62 yards, and backup Max Shortell went 4-of-10 for 68 yards and rushed for 30 yards, showing off much improved mobility. Gray sat out the second half.

"I felt like I did a lot better than last year, taking control of the huddle and being a leader," Gray said. "That's one of the positive things I look forward to [this season]."

It was a tough day for prized recruit Philip Nelson, who went 0-for-6 and was sacked three times.

Brandon Green led all the receivers with three catches for 59 yards, including a 35-yard grab that was the game's longest play. Freshman JoJuan Harper finished with a game-high 44 yards on nine carries.

Overall, the Gophers showed off more depth and better competitiveness than they had early in Kill's first season. The victorious Maroon team got a postgame steak dinner, while the losing Gold team members were served beans.

Ohio State spring game recap

April, 23, 2012
We're reviewing all three Big Ten spring games from the weekend. It's time now to look back on Urban Meyer's first spring game at Ohio State.

You can find coverage of the Buckeyes' game here, here and here.

Star of the game: Quarterback Braxton Miller completed 24 of 31 passes for 258 yards. The surprise star was Michael Thomas, who caught 12 balls for 131 yards to lead all receivers.

How it went down: Meyer signaled a change in direction right away, having players line up for 1-on-1 circle drills to start the spring game, as teammates and coaches raucously cheered them on.

And then the Buckeyes took the field and looked like a much different team, one that could actually throw the ball around. The two squads combined for 443 passing yards and attempted 55 throws in the Scarlet's 20-14 victory over the Gray.

“We’re going to be a very balanced offense; that was very imbalanced,” Meyer said. “However, that was done for a reason. We’re taking one of the worst passing teams in America a year ago, and we’ve got to find out if we can do that. People can stop the run. We know that.

“We know we can run at quarterback. We didn’t run it one time today. What we don’t know -- and, unfortunately, even after the spring game I still don’t know -- is if we can throw the ball. That was the objective today. I have a better opinion of some guys now.”

The Buckeyes used only about 30 percent of Meyer's playbook and were without running back Jordan Hall, who was held out for precautionary reasons. After a spring-long search for a playmaker in the passing game, they may have unearthed one in the freshman Thomas, whom Miller continually looked toward. The two played together at a high school all-star game in Florida before Thomas went off to prep school.

Meyer also gave some high marks to Miller.

“He had a very good spring, a very productive spring, but once again we grade our guys real hard," Meyer said. "First-rounders, that’s how I evaluate [quarterbacks] because I’ve had some first-rounders. He has a lot of talent.”

Linebacker Ryan Shazier led the defense with eight tackles and a sack. Adam Griffin, son of two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, had an interception against Miller. Several potential defensive contributors sat out with injuries, while defensive lineman John Simon played sparingly.

A crowd of 81,112, the largest spring game attendance so far this year, was on hand for Meyer's Horseshoe debut. And in case anyone was wondering, Meyer continued the tradition of singing "Carmen Ohio" with the players after the game.

"I'm a big fan of tradition, and this is a school where we don't have to create a whole lot of tradition," Meyer said.

Penn State spring game recap

April, 23, 2012
There were three spring games in the Big Ten over the weekend, and we're going to break down all of them over the course of the day. First up is Penn State.

You can find coverage of the Nittany Lions' spring game here, here, here and here.

Star of the game: Freshman defensive end Brad Bars had four tackles for loss, including two sacks. Bill Belton rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown for the offense.

How it went down: Fans got their first glimpse of the new era of Penn State football as the defense beat the offense 77-65 in the Beaver Stadium debut of head coach Bill O'Brien. A crowd estimated at 60,000 turned out for the game, which used a modified scoring system.

No doubt most people were curious to see how the quarterback competition was going and how those guys looked in the new offense. The results were, predictably, mixed. Matt McGloin completed 6 of 13 passes for 105 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Rob Bolden went 7-of-14 but had three interceptions. Paul Jones was 6-of-15 for 113 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.

"We've asked them to learn a system that's totally different than anything they've ever learned, and that takes time," O'Brien said. "And different guys learn at different rates. Some guys get it right away, other guys get it the next day, other guys get it two days from now. So we have to let it soak a little bit, let it soak for ourselves as a staff, and then we'll make a decision headed into training camp on who we're going with or who the top two are."

O'Brien said that fans saw 10 percent of his offensive playbook on Saturday.

"I understand the offense they've given us so far," McGloin said. "[O'Brien] has thrown the whole playbook at us, and we've run a million things in practice and we understand it very well. It's an exciting offense and it's going to take the whole summer to learn, but once we get it down it's going to be very fun to watch us play."

Not surprisingly, the Nittany Lions' defense looked ahead of the offense. It forced five total interceptions and had eight sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Defensive end C.J. Olaniyan had three of those sacks, while Ben Kline, Adrian Amos, Devin Pryor, Jordan Hill and Jesse Della Valle each grabbed interceptions.

Allen Robinson led the team with 87 receiving yards, while Matt Lehman and Christian Kuntz each caught touchdown passes. Star tailback Silas Redd did not play.

Cornerback Stephon Morris and center Matt Stankiewitch were named the team's most improved defensive and offensive players of the spring.

"I felt it was pretty good, and I think it was exciting for the fans at times," O'Brien said of the spring game. "I'm not saying it was the most exciting game in the world, but I said it wasn't going to be the most exciting game in the world. But again, it was great to see all the fans out there, and I think it was a good day for Penn State football."
Three spring games are on tap Saturday around the Big Ten, and we're taking a look at each one.

Let's finish today's roundup by examining the LiFE Sports Spring Game at Ohio State.

When: 1:30 p.m. ET, Saturday

Where: Ohio Stadium

Admission: Tickets are $7 in advance and $15 on game day (cash only). Ohio State students and children under 6 are admitted free. Stadium gates open at 10 a.m. ET. Parking is free at lots around stadium except West Stadium and East Stadium lots.

TV: The Big Ten Network will televise the game live. It will also stream live online at BTN2Go.

Weather forecast: Partly cloudy, temperatures between 49-54 degrees, 10-20 percent chance of rain, winds at 13-14 mph.

What to watch for: The Buckeyes will pit the Scarlet team (coached by offensive coordinator Tom Herman) against the Gray team (coached by defensive coordinator Luke Fickell). The coaches held a draft Thursday morning, and here are the rosters. Herman's squad definitely looks stronger on offense with starting quarterback Braxton Miller and four of five projected starters along the offensive line. Fickell's team is stronger in the defensive back seven. The coaches have been talking trash to one another on Twitter (@CoachTomHerman, @CoachFick, @CoachVrabel50, @CoachZachSmith). Good times.

It's the first spring game under new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who, along with Herman, has spent the spring installing his up-tempo, spread offense. Don't expect the Buckeyes to show too much Saturday, but the fact they'll be running a no-huddle, spread-based offense with unique personnel groupings and triple-option elements will be a sight to behold for Ohio State fans. It will be interesting to watch the flow of the offense and how many breakdowns occur. Miller won't be live, but he'll be in the spotlight as he runs a system suited to his skill set, but still complex and new.

Meyer has been candid about the need for Ohio State to develop more weapons around Miller. Will a perimeter player or two emerge Saturday? It's possible. Running backs Jordan Hall (Gray) and Carlos Hyde (Scarlet) and tight end Jake Stoneburner, who should see his receptions total skyrocket in this offense, also will be worth watching.

The defense went through some offseason changes, but the scheme will remain mostly the same as Luke Fickell takes over as coordinator. It will be interesting to watch young defenders who played a lot in 2011 but will be counted on even more this season, players like defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, cornerback Bradley Roby and linebacker Ryan Shazier.

Spring game preview: Minnesota

April, 20, 2012
Three more Big Ten spring games are on tap Saturday, and we're here to get you ready for each one. Let's take a look at what to expect from Minnesota:

When: Noon ET, Saturday

Where: TCF Bank Stadium

Admission: Free. Maroon, Gold and Ski-U-Mah lots will be open for tailgating at 9 a.m local time. Cost will be $10. Gopher lot opens at same time at the same price but will not allow tailgating.

TV: The game will be streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network and BTN2Go. The Big Ten Network will broadcast the game at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Weather forecast: A 50 percent chance of showers, with a high of 57 degrees.

What to watch for: Jerry Kill says the spring game will be "some good old-fashioned competition," with the team and coaches split up. The winning side will eat pork and the loser gets beans.

That Kill feels he can have a true, competitive spring game speaks volumes to how far this team has come since a year ago and how much more comfortable he is with the roster. The Gophers have more depth and understanding of the system, and that could show on Saturday.

MarQueis Gray continues to develop as a passer; keep an eye on a deeper receiving corps that has been coming on at the end of spring practice. Coaches have also been high on junior college transfer James Gillum, who'll get a chance to show off his running skills in a game day setting.

It's always about the lines in the Big Ten, though, and the defensive line has been suspect at Minnesota for some time. That position seems to be improving, and while it's hard to judge a pass-rush during a spring game, it would be encouraging to see that group play well.
Three spring games are on tap Saturday around the Big Ten, and we're taking a look at each one.

Let's examine the Blue-White Game presented by AAA at Penn State, the team's first under new head coach Bill O'Brien.

When: 2 p.m. ET, Saturday

Where: Beaver Stadium

Admission: Free. Game day parking is free in lots around the stadium, and lots open at 8 a.m. ET. Stadium gates A and B open at 11:30 a.m. for pregame autograph session.

TV: The game will be streamed live on both BTN2Go and the Big Ten Digital Network. The Big Ten Network will broadcast the game on tape-delay at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

Weather forecast: Cloudy with showers likely, temperatures between 53-59 degrees, 50 percent chance of rain, winds at 9-12 mph.

What to watch for: Penn State will send its offense against its defense and use a modified scoring system detailed here. The defense will wear blue jerseys, while the offense, aside from the quarterbacks, will wear white.

Saturday marks the first chance for Penn State fans to see their team since O'Brien and his staff arrived on campus. It's one of many historic firsts for O'Brien, who takes over for the late Joe Paterno. O'Brien has made it clear he won't show too much, telling last week, "I wouldn't say it's going to be a dazzling show." Still, it's a chance for Nittany Nation to get a glimpse of the new offense, which will operate at a much faster pace and mix formations and personnel in new ways. O'Brien's philosophy this spring has been to throw everything at his players and see what sticks. The game should provide some clues about what the players can handle.

All eyes will be on the three quarterbacks -- Rob Bolden, Matthew McGloin and Paul Jones -- competing for the starting job. O'Brien wants to reduce the candidate pool from three to two at the end of spring ball, but has repeatedly said there's no separation right now. After watching Bolden and McGloin struggle the past few seasons, most fans seem to be partial to Jones, a gifted sophomore who has yet to play a game because of academic problems. The offensive line is another interesting position to watch, as O'Brien has been pleasantly surprised by the group this spring. O'Brien also will feature the tight ends in bigger roles, so it will be worth tracking Garry Gilliam.

The changes on defense shouldn't be overlooked, as new coordinator Ted Roof installs a new system. The front seven could be very strong, particularly defensive tackle Jordan Hill and linebacker Gerald Hodges, but there are some question marks in the secondary as Penn State needs to build depth there.

Iowa spring game recap

April, 16, 2012
Our first set of spring game recaps finishes up with the Iowa Hawkeyes, who held a controlled scrimmage at the end of Saturday's practice at Kinnick Stadium.

Recaps can be found here and here and here. Here are some unofficial statistics.

Star of the game: Cornerback B.J. Lowery had a forced fumble, and he would have added an interception if not for a pass interference penalty on safety Nico Law.

How it went down: As is its custom, Iowa didn't hold a true spring game but rather a controlled scrimmage that featured some situational portions.

The big attraction for fans was the new offense, which predictably had some ups and downs. James Vandenberg completed only 12 of 30 passes, making an excellent throw to Don Shumpert for a 38-yard gain but not establishing much of a rhythm without his top receiver (Keenan Davis) on the field for the scrimmage portion. He had an interception nullified by penalty, while reserve quarterbacks Jake Rudock and Cody Sokol both were picked off once.

Running backs Damon Bullock and De'Andre Johnson both had big gains, including a 84-yard touchdown dash by Bullock that highlighted the scrimmage. Johnson had a fumble in the scrimmage, but both men eclipsed 100 rush yards.

"There's a little bit of mental gymnastics going on with guys on calls and formations and you saw us not line up correctly a couple of times," head coach Kirk Ferentz told reporters. "But that's part of the process. ... My sense is the guys knew there was a lot to learn coming in and I think they’ve been tuned in as a result of that."

Like the offense, Iowa's defense has a new coordinator in Phil Parker, but the scheme changes are less dramatic, and the unit showed some bright spots Saturday. The secondary should be better than it was in 2011, particularly at cornerback with Lowery and All-Big Ten candidate Micah Hyde. Corners Gavin Smith and Jordan Lomax also contributed big plays during the scrimmage.

The back seven will lead Iowa's defense entering the season, while the line looks to get healthy and build more depth during the summer months. Vandenberg should be fine by September, but Iowa needs to add more weapons around him, making running back, receiver and tight end interesting positions to watch. The offense remains a work in progress, but it could be a dynamic unit this fall.

The scrimmage produced some good news for the future as defensive back recruit Delano Hill, who was in attendance, verbally committed for the 2013 class.

Northwestern spring game recap

April, 16, 2012
Our Big Ten spring game recaps roll on with Northwestern's spring exhibition, which took place Saturday at Ryan Field.

Check out recaps here and here and here. Here's the full stat sheet from the scrimmage.

Star of the game: Redshirt freshman defensive end Deonte Gibson capped a strong spring with 2.5 tackles for loss, including two "sacks."

How it went down: Rather than split into teams, Northwestern's offense went against the defense and the defense prevailed 47-43, thanks to a modified scoring system.

Northwestern's defense has struggled for the past season and a half, but the unit stepped up Saturday, recording six sacks and eight tackles for loss. The line had a big performance as four players contributed sacks, and defensive tackle Chance Carter returned an interception 19 yards for a touchdown, which earned the defense 17 points.

"It should be a pick-17 every time -- especially for a defensive tackle," Carter joked.

The defense recorded two takeaways and limited third-down conversions (6 of 18) -- a major problem last season.

"That side of the ball ... was very grateful for the negative comments about them," head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "They've used that as fuel. As they said at the start of the spring, 'We deserve it. We didn't play very well last year at times.' What are you going to do about it? How are you going to respond? That's something we value here and they've taken that external motivation a little bit to really band together."

While the defensive line surged, the offensive line struggled to protect the pocket or generate a rushing attack. Top quarterback Kain Colter completed 7 of 12 passes for only 56 yards and took five sacks, and the unit finished with just 47 net rush yards on 36 carries. The running back spot looks wide open entering the summer, as Mike Trumpy returns from knee surgery and two freshmen enter the mix.

Fitzgerald didn't seem too concerned with Colter's performance, saying, "Maybe today's snapshot might not be his best practice of the spring, but he's done a really good job throughout." Backup Trevor Siemian appeared to help his cause, completing 8 of 14 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Redshirt freshman receiver Cam Dickerson ended a nice spring with three receptions for 61 yards.

Fitzgerald had the position coaches, rather than the coordinators, call plays during the scrimmage, calling it a professional growth opportunity. The team got some good news off the field as decorated quarterback recruit Matt Alviti verbally committed after the scrimmage.

Northwestern had several young defenders emerge this spring and should feel better about the defense entering the summer. Running back and offensive line are areas that need improvement, and Colter still has some strides to make as he becomes a full-time starting quarterback in the Big Ten.

Illinois spring game recap

April, 16, 2012
We're recapping all of the Big Ten spring games that took place Saturday. Let's check out how the Orange and Blue Game went down in Champaign.

You can read coverage of Illinois' spring game here and here and here. Here's the full stat sheet.

Star of the game: Redshirt freshman running back Josh Ferguson rushed for 130 yards -- including scampers of 20, 18 and 68 yards -- on 20 carries, and added a game-high six receptions for the victorious Blue squad. Defensive end Michael Buchanan earns a mention after racking up 12 tackles, including 4.5 "sacks."

How it went down: The run game and defense lifted the Blue squad to a 13-12 victory against the Orange team. Nick Immekus kicked a 47-yard field goal with 1:22 left in the game, and Justin Staples sealed the win with a sack of Nathan Scheelhaase.

"Come Monday, they'll be having steaks and we'll be having beans and weenies," Scheelhaase, who suffered his first spring game loss, told reporters. "Which means Chipotle can probably expect a lot of business from the Orange squad."

Mmmm, Chipotle.

Not surprisingly, there was a mix of good and bad as the Illini wrapped up their first spring session under new head coach Tim Beckman. Buchanan had a huge day and looks like the clear successor to All-America defensive end Whitney Mercilus, who led the nation in sacks in 2011 (16). Staples also had a nice performance, and the defense made plenty of big plays. Ferguson's performance also bodes well as Illinois lacks depth at running back and wants multiple options.

On the flip side, the offensive line struggled to keep pass-rushers out of the backfield. Quarterback play also was spotty -- Scheelhaase completed just 11 of 26 passes; Reilly O'Toole completed 19 of 31 attempts, but took four sacks -- although lousy weather made it a tough day to throw.

The Illini could get some contributions from players they're auditioning in multiple roles. Starting cornerback Terry Hawthorne caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from O'Toole, and cornerback Justin Green had a 15-yard run. Reserve quarterback Miles Osei caught four passes, although he fared well as a signal caller, completing 8 of 12 pass attempts.

Illinois' defense looks strong coming out of the spring, and its front seven should be one of the Big Ten's best. Offense clearly is the priority entering the summer months as players continue to learn a new system.

"We got to get better, but not just at quarterback," Beckman said. "That's the one that's always looked at. That's the one that’s always critiqued. [But it's] every position. If we want to be a champion, and we have the capabilities of doing that, we need to step our game up this summer and in two-a-days."

Indiana spring game recap

April, 16, 2012
We're reviewing all six spring games from the weekend in the Big Ten (Nebraska's was canceled). Let's move on to Indiana.

You can find coverage of the Hoosiers' game here, here and here.

Star of the game: Running back Isaiah Roundtree, who ran for two touchdowns, including a 63-yarder.

How it went down: The Cream squad beat the Crimson 19-16, but no official stats were kept and the scrimmage was moved from Memorial Stadium to indoors at Mellencamp Pavilion after one quarter, wreaking havoc on the media's ability to keep numbers.

Yet Roundtree, who transferred to Indiana from Morehead State, easily stood out. Head coach Kevin Wilson likes Roundtree but said the running back didn't have a great spring before Saturday, in part because of a sprained ankle. A healthy, engaged Roundtree could push last year's leading rusher, Stephen Houston, for the starting tailback spot.

Quarterback Tre Roberson ran for a touchdown, but neither team threw for a passing score. The defense played well around the goal line, forcing the offense to settle for repeated field goal tries.

"We’re playing better team defense,” Wilson told reporters. “We’re getting lined up cleaner, not missing assignments, getting more guys to the ball.”

Tight end Ted Bolser, who looked good in the spring practice I watched in Bloomington earlier this month, had six catches on the day. There's no reason why he can't become a big weapon for this team.

Michigan spring game recap

April, 16, 2012
We're recapping all of the Big Ten spring games from over the weekend. Let's check in on how the Michigan Wolverines fared.

You can read coverage of Michigan's spring game here, here, here and here.

Star of the game: Linebacker Brandin Hawthorne, who had five tackles and an interception.

How it went down: This wasn't a full fledged spring game because of depth issues, and instead Michigan held a 60-play controlled scrimmage. The offense technically won 17-0, but the defense still claimed victory.

The first- and second-team offenses scored a total of only two touchdowns, both on runs by backup tailback Thomas Rawls. In addition to Hawthorne's interception, Blake Countess picked off backup quarterback Devin Gardner.

Of course, all defensive praise must be tempered with the realization that quarterback Denard Robinson played only the first series Saturday, as the staff wanted to get a look at his backups. There wasn't much need to see Robinson in a spring game setting, but we all know he can put a ton of pressure on a defense all by himself.

Third-string quarterback Russell Bellomy was 6-for-9 for 40 yards. Fitz Toussaint had 39 yards on five carries, while Rawls added 42 yards on 10 attempts. Defensive tackle Jibreel Black had the game's lone sack.

Hard to read much into this very basic scrimmage, but it was nice to see the defense have a good day considering some of the issues the team has up front in replacing three starters.

"In the body of work, there were some awfully good things in the course of the spring," head coach Brady Hoke told reporters. "We're tougher as a team than we were a year ago."



Monday, 12/22
Saturday, 12/20
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12