Sunday, October 28, 2012
Big Ten helmet stickers: Week 9
By Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg
Recognizing the best and brightest from Saturday's action in the Big Ten:
Northwestern QB Kain Colter: A few days after saying his team lacked an identity on offense, Colter provided one himself. Taking almost all of the reps at quarterback, Colter ran 26 times for 166 yards and three touchdowns and threw for another 80 yards and a touchdown to account for all the scoring in Northwestern's 28-17 win over Iowa. Give credit to Colter's backfield running mate, Venric Mark, who went over 1,000 yards for the season with 162 yards on 16 carries. He is the Wildcats' first 1,000-yard back since 2006.
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller: After a one-week hiatus, Miller returns to the helmet stickers after lifting Ohio State past Penn State at raucous Beaver Stadium. Miller made some mistakes, especially early in the game, but once again he was the best player on the field and the biggest reason why Ohio State won 35-23 in Happy Valley. A week after leaving Ohio Stadium in an ambulance following a scary neck injury, Miller had 25 rushes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. He struggled with his passing early but found Jake Stoneburner for a 72-yard touchdown to seal the win midway through the fourth quarter. Miller became the first quarterback in Ohio State history to eclipse 1,000 rush yards in a season -- and he still has three games left.
Nebraska's defense: After a solid performance against Northwestern, the Huskers completely shut down Michigan in Saturday night's 23-9 victory. They contained Denard Robinson before his injury and allowed just 44 yards in the final two-plus quarters after Robinson left the field. Nebraska recorded three interceptions, nine tackles for loss, two sacks and three quarterback hurries, surrendering just 188 yards in the win. Individual standouts included Ciante Evans, Sean Fisher, David Santos and P.J. Smith.
Michigan State DE William Gholston and LB Max Bullough: We could have given the sticker to the entire Spartans' defense, which once again kept the game close until an anemic offense came alive. But Gholston and Bullough stood out in a big way, combining for seven tackles for loss, three sacks and a pass breakup. Gholston knocked Wisconsin starting quarterback Joel Stave from the game early in the second half, in what proved to be the pivotal play in deciding the outcome. The pair helped Michigan State limit Wisconsin to 19 net rush yards on 37 carries in a potential season-turning win in overtime.
Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld: The true freshman came off the bench to relieve Cameron Coffman after Coffman threw a first-half interception, and Sudfeld led the Hoosiers to their first Big Ten win since 2010 with a 31-17 victory at Illinois. Sudfeld completed 10-of-15 passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns, with no turnovers. Props also go to running back Stephen Houston, who ran for two scores and caught another, and the IU defense, which held Illinois without a touchdown for the final 42 minutes of the game.
Minnesota QB Philip Nelson: The Gophers' true freshman looks like a future star -- or maybe a current one. He played beyond his years in his first home start -- and just his second-ever college game -- in Minnesota's much-needed 44-28 win over Purdue. Nelson completed 15 of 22 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns, two to A.J. Barker, who merits a mention here after recording five catches for 135 yards. He led Minnesota on four consecutive touchdown drives during one stretch and added 37 rush yards. Cornerback Michael Carter also deserves some love with an interception return for a touchdown and six pass breakups.