- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's time to recognize the best and the brightest from the first weekend of games in the Big Ten. There were 11 games and many more outstanding performances, so getting the list down to five (or six) wasn't easy. Honorable mentions certainly go to Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor and Wisconsin's John Clay, but those guys get enough love for their accomplishments.
Michigan QB Denard Robinson: "Shoelace" was amazing in his first career start, a 30-10 victory over Connecticut, predictably with his feet and surprisingly with his arm. Robinson broke Michigan's record for single-season quarterback rushing with 197 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries, eclipsing Steve Smith's mark in the third quarter. He was just as brilliant as a passer, completing 19 of 22 attempts for 186 yards and a touchdown with several big third-down conversions.
Penn State QB Rob Bolden: Bolden looked like he belonged Saturday in his first career start (and game), continuing his rapid rise at the college level. How many freshmen don't enroll early and still win a starting quarterback job, much less at a big-time program? After some early jitters, Bolden completed 20 of 29 passes for 239 yards with two touchdowns in a 44-14 win over Youngstown State. He also had an interception that wasn't really his fault. He'll have some ups and downs in the coming weeks, but Bolden appears to be the answer for the Lions.
Minnesota FB Jon Hoese: Hoese almost didn't make the trip to Middle Tennessee on Thursday after his father suffered a severe stroke six days earlier. He decided to play and ended up rushing for a career-high three touchdowns, including the game-winner, as Minnesota rallied for a 24-17 win. Hoese also recovered a Middle Tennessee fumble on a kickoff to seal the win. Just a tremendous performance amid adversity.
Michigan State RBs Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker: The Spartans rediscovered their run game in a big way during Saturday's 38-14 win over Western Michigan, as Bell and Baker combined for 258 rush yards and four touchdowns on 27 carries. As projected starter Larry Caper sat out with a hand injury, Baker set the tone and Bell sparkled in his first college game with a 75-yard run. Bell's 141 yards mark the most ever by a Michigan State freshman in his first college game.
Northwestern QB Dan Persa: Persa likely saved Northwestern from what would have been a crushing loss to SEC bottom-feeder Vanderbilt. Despite getting no help from an anemic rushing attack, Persa completed 19 of 21 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns, all to different targets in the 23-21 victory. He added 82 rushing yards in a performance that mirrored what Mike Kafka did for NU in 2009.