NCF Nation: Brett Brackett
Team of the week: Michigan. The Wolverines are at least the Big Ten's "one-third of a team of the week" after a historic offensive performance against Illinois. Rich Rodriguez's crew racked up 67 points, 676 offensive yards and 33 first downs Saturday, and it needed all of it to outlast Illinois 67-65 in three overtimes. More amazing is the fact that Michigan overcame five turnovers and a minus-4 turnover ratio to snap its three-game losing streak. Penn State also deserves some love after rattling off 35 unanswered points to record the biggest home comeback under coach Joe Paterno and give the 83-year-old his 400th coaching victory.
Best game: Illinois at Michigan. This likely will be the game of the year in the Big Ten when all is said and done. The Big Ten doesn't see many offensive shootouts like this, and some folks say it was the most exciting Big Ten regular-season game since Northwestern and Michigan combined for 105 points in 2000 (a 54-51 Northwestern win in regulation). The 132 combined points were the most ever scored in a game involving Michigan. The teams also combined for 1,237 offensive yards. The game featured two 100-yard rushers, two 100-yard receivers and a 300-yard passer.
Specialist spotlight: Not a ton to choose from this week, but Iowa freshman Michael Meyer connected on four field-goal attempts in the win against Indiana. Meyer hit two 27-yarders and a 23-yarder in the first half before converting a career-long 42-yarder in the fourth quarter to cut Iowa's deficit to one. Illinois punter Anthony Santella continued his stellar season, averaging 47 yards on six attempts at Michigan. Punters Brad Nortman of Wisconsin and Cody Webster of Purdue both had nice games at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Most memorable moment: Easy one here. I'll never forget being on the field at Beaver Stadium when Paterno recorded his 400th career victory. Penn State players carried Paterno on their shoulders to midfield, a gesture he surprisingly enjoyed. The school then held a short ceremony that included a video montage of Paterno through the years and a crystal football presented to JoePa to commemorate No. 400. Paterno briefly addressed the crowd of 104,147, all of whom stayed to witness history. "People ask me why I've stayed here so long," the 83-year-old said. "Look around!" Just an amazing moment.
Game balls (given to players on winning or losing teams who didn't receive helmet stickers)
- Michigan QB Tate Forcier and WR Junior Hemingway: Remember all the buzz about Forcier transferring? Michigan is very fortunate he stuck around. Forcier once again relieved an injured Denard Robinson and led Michigan to a huge win, completing 12 of 19 passes for 114 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He got a ton of help from Hemingway, his favorite target in 2009, as the receiver caught six passes for 104 yards and two scores.
- Penn State RBs Evan Royster and Silas Redd: The senior and the freshman spurred Penn State's rushing attack against Northwestern, getting plenty of help from an improving offensive line. Royster and Redd combined for 265 rush yards and a touchdown on 36 carries. They became the first Penn State tandem to both eclipse 130 rush yards in a game since Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell did so against Iowa on Sept. 25, 1971.
- Wisconsin RB Montee Ball: I can't say enough about how much Ball has meant to Wisconsin the past two games. After coming up big late in the Iowa win, he relieved an injured John Clay against Purdue and rushed for a career-high 127 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
- Michigan State LB Greg Jones and S Marcus Hyde: Jones did his thing with a team-leading nine tackles, including 2.5 for loss, in the win against Minnesota. Hyde bounced back from a rough day at Iowa to record an interception, which he returned 41 yards, and two pass breakups. Jones now ranks second in team history in career tackles for loss with 44.5.
- Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase and RBs Mikel Leshoure and Jason Ford: These three certainly did their part to help Illinois' cause at the Big House. Scheelhaase recorded 211 pass yards and three touchdowns to go along with 101 rush yards and a score. Leshoure added 120 rush yards and three touchdowns, and he also recorded two touchdown receptions. His five total touchdowns are tied for fourth most in Big Ten history. Ford had 101 rush yards and a score on only 10 carries.
- Northwestern QB Dan Persa: His team melted down in the second half, but Persa earned a ton of respect from Penn State with his gutsy performance. A week after a concussion, Persa racked up 109 rush yards and two touchdowns to go along with 201 pass yards and a touchdown against Penn State. "If you give me 22 Dan Persas, I'll show you ... a national champion," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said.
- Penn State LB Michael Mauti: After a slow start, the sophomore is starting to hit his stride for the Nittany Lions' defense. Mauti set career highs in both tackles (11) and tackles for loss (3) and recorded a sack in the win against Northwestern. He has recorded career bests in tackles in each of the last two games.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Gene J. PuskarThe Big Ten named Michael Mauti the Co-Defensive player of the week for his performance against Northwestern.
- Iowa WR Marvin McNutt: McNutt once again showed why he's one of the Big Ten's best deep threats, hauling in a 52-yard touchdown with 2:50 left against Indiana. The junior finished with six catches for 126 yards in Iowa's win.
Deep breath. Now let's take a look ahead at Week 11.
No. 13 Iowa (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) at Northwestern (6-3, 2-3): The Hawkeyes' late-game fortunes turned in Bloomington, as Damarlo Belcher's drop in the end zone kept Iowa alive for the Big Ten title. Only one hurdle remains between Iowa and its Nov. 20 showdown against Ohio State, but this is always a tricky game. Northwestern has won four of the teams' past five meetings, although just one of those has come in Evanston.
Indiana (4-5, 0-5) at No. 7 Wisconsin (8-1, 4-1): After a mini scare at Purdue, Wisconsin returns to Camp Randall Stadium, where it is 41-4 since the start of the 2004 season. The Badgers should have running backs John Clay and James White healthy for an Indiana defense that allows 166.1 rush yards a game. Indiana still needs two wins to get bowl eligible but gave Wisconsin a tough game last year, mounting a late before falling 31-28.
Michigan (6-3, 2-3) at Purdue (4-5, 2-3): Rodriguez and the Wolverines finally are bowl eligible, and a win Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium likely ensures the coach will return for a fourth season in 2011. Robinson is expected to return after injuring his head against Illinois, while Purdue's quarterback situation remains fluid with Sean Robinson, Rob Henry and possibly Justin Siller, who led the Boilers to a win against Michigan in 2008.
Minnesota (1-9, 0-6) at Illinois (5-4, 3-3): The Illini take a second stab at becoming bowl eligible against last-place Minnesota. Watch out for Scheelhaase, Leshoure, Ford and the Illinois rushing attack to have a big day against a Minnesota defense that has slipped to 106th nationally against the run. MarQueis Gray finally got a shot at quarterback for the Gophers on Saturday, and it'll be interesting to see how many snaps he takes against an angry Illinois defense.
Penn State (6-3, 3-2) at No. 9 Ohio State (8-1, 4-1): This year's matchup lacks the hype of the previous two meetings, but Penn State's recent surge has added some intrigue to the rivalry. The Nittany Lions come in on a three-game win streak and are getting better play from an offense led by quarterback Matt McGloin and Royster. Ohio State is rested after an open week and begins its quest for another Big Ten title in its signature month under coach Jim Tressel.
Bye: No. 11 Michigan State (9-1, 5-1)
Moments after Penn State beat Northwestern 35-21 to give coach Joe Paterno his 400th career win, Nittany Lions running back Stephfon Green darted through the crowd, holding a sign that read: "400 The Paterno Way."
The delirium extended to Green's fellow students, who chanted "We love Joe" and "Joe Pa" in the final moments of the Lions' historic come-from-behind win.
A different sort of joy enveloped Jay Paterno, the Penn State quarterbacks coach and Joe's second-oldest son, when asked to reflect on what his dad had accomplished.
"I told my mom last week after we beat Michigan, 'Is everyone coming in next week?'" Jay said. "She goes, 'No, why?' I said, 'Well, mom, I hate to tell you, but this is kind of a big deal.' Four hundred wins really hasn't been done at this level. It's only been done by two other guys."
Jay Paterno began to choke up.
"I'm a student of the game," he continued."I love the history."
The man who has been such a big part of that history also was moved by the moment. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Penn State players hoisted Joe Paterno on their shoulders and carried him to midfield.
Normally a no-no with Joe, Paterno didn't mind the escort. In fact, he enjoyed it. A little.
"They had me up there before I knew it," he said. "I was hoping they wouldn't. I'd be dishonest if I told you that it wasn't a moving night for me. It was. The crowd, the university making a presentation to me ... all of that was nice. The carrying me off the field, we've all got a ham in us.
"It felt pretty good."
Fittingly, Paterno's 400th win had several historical connections.
Penn State recorded its largest home comeback in Paterno's 45 seasons (it tied for the largest under Paterno home or away after a comeback from 21 points down against Illinois in 1994). The previous record at home was a rally from 18 points down against Ohio State in 2001. That win marked Paterno's 324th and moved him past Paul "Bear" Bryant for the top spot in all-time coaching victories at the FBS/Division I-A level.
Just like that day, when Zack Mills led a second-half rally, Penn State turned to a reserve quarterback for heroics. Sophomore Matt McGloin relieved Rob Bolden and led five consecutive touchdown drives, completing 18 of 29 passes for 225 yards and four touchdown tosses.
"We were down 21-0 and all I could think of was the Ohio State game," Jay Paterno said.
JayPa reminded the players of a different rally Saturday morning, a fourth-quarter comeback against Northwestern in 2005 that required a fourth-and-15 conversion. Penn State went on to win the Big Ten and the Orange Bowl.
Jay Paterno text-messaged Michael Robinson, Penn State's quarterback that day in Evanston, and wrote: "Without fourth-and-15, there may not have been a 400."
It was their moment in history.
"To see them come back the way they came back," Joe Paterno said, "it sounds corny, but that really was probably more important to me than whether it was 350 wins or whether it was 400 wins. Some of these kids now know what it takes to get it done."
Northwestern dominated the first 29 minutes, playing flawlessly in all three phases and getting gutsy play from quarterback Dan Persa (201 pass yards, touchdown; 109 rush yards, 2 touchdowns). The Wildcats went up 21-0 with just 56 seconds left in the first half, and a holding penalty on the ensuing kickoff backed up Penn State to its own 9-yard line.
McGloin's initial mind-set: sit on it, cut your losses and don't make this any worse.
Then Evan Royster had a nice run on first down. Four plays later, Penn State reached Northwestern territory on Green's 21-yard run.
McGloin's revised mind-set: get close enough for a field goal.
Then he connected on back-to-back 20-yard passes, setting up first-and-goal at the 7. Two plays later, McGloin found a leaping Brett Brackett in the back of the end zone for a touchdown with three ticks left, completing a nine-play, 91-yard drive in 47 seconds.
McGloin's re-revised mindset: we can win this thing.
His confidence grew even more when Penn State marched 84 yards in 14 plays to begin the second half.
"The fans were into it, the sideline was into it, I was feeling great, everyone was feeling great," he said. "We acted as if we were winning at that point."
Penn State racked up 358 yards on its five touchdown drives. McGloin was on point, the offensive line held its blocks and running backs Royster (134 rush yards) and Silas Redd (131 rush yards) wore down the Wildcats.
"Everybody felt once we got the momentum, it wasn't going to go away," Royster said on the field after the game. "And that was the case."
The defense did its part, holding Northwestern to one first down and 32 yards in the third quarter.
"We just knew," defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu said. "You kind of feel that mojo coming."
It came in a hurry as Penn State scored 35 points in 18:25.
Paterno's party continued after the game, as Penn State held an on-field ceremony that included a video tribute and a crystal football given to the coach to commemorate No. 400.
"People ask me why I've stayed here so long," Paterno told the crowd of 104,147, none of whom went home. "Look around!"
Then, in typical Paterno fashion, he looked ahead.
"Let's go beat Ohio State."
"[Bolden is] going to come in and he's going to be able to make his reads. He's a good quarterback, and he's further ahead than [I've] seen in a lot of high school quarterbacks," Clark told Zug.
"After that," Zug said, "I kind of knew this guy's for real."
More evidence arrived in camp, as Bolden immediately put himself in the mix to replace Clark as Penn State's starter. Although Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin were sophomores and freshman Paul Jones had gone through spring ball, Bolden, the last man to enter the race, quickly joined the lead pack.
When the dust settled last Thursday, coach Joe Paterno and his staff made a historic decision and named Bolden as the team's starter. Two days later, Bolden became the first freshman quarterback to start a season opener for Penn State in 100 years.
He more than held his own against Youngstown State, completing 20 of 29 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns with an interception that wasn't all his fault (receiver Derek Moye tripped). The 6-4, 208-pound Bolden looked like a freshman for a quarter and a half before settling into a nice rhythm.
"He wasn't nervous at all, didn't have those jitters or anything," Zug said. "He was comfortable, cool and calm."
Paterno adhered to his long-standing policy with true freshmen and didn't make Bolden available to reporters after the game or this week. But other than the media blackout, Paterno isn't treating Bolden like a newbie.
The 83-year-old typically puts true freshmen one rung above the water boys, but Bolden is different.
"He's very poised, he's all business, he's a very likable kid, he's coachable, he's a hard worker," Paterno said. "He's everything you're looking for."
Bolden's rapid rise has been one of the Big Ten's surprise story lines so far in 2010. Now the freshman has the chance to shock the college football world.
He makes his first career road start Saturday against No. 1 Alabama, the defending national champion (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET). Few freshmen in college football history have had tougher assignments in their first away games than Bolden will have at a sold-out Bryant-Denny Stadium.
"We kind of had to put the Rosetta Stone program together to help him learn the language," Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno told reporters after the Youngstown State game. "He learned Spanish. Next week he's got to know Mandarin Chinese -- on the road, be fluent in it, under pressure. So we'll see."
Bolden's teammates have realistic expectations for Saturday night.
"There's probably going to be some bumps along the way," said receiver Brett Brackett, who caught two touchdown passes from Bolden against Youngstown. "How he reacts to those bumps will tell how he does as a whole. ... He hasn’t played in that type of environment. There aren't many like it. But I'd like to think the way he handles himself and the way he handles the huddle will help him down there."
Penn State's offensive players already are noticing changes in Bolden this week. His voice is stronger in the huddle -- not quite up to Clark's timbre, but getting there. He's also grasping the importance of leading with a swagger.
"He’s taking control, making sure everybody knows it’s his huddle," Zug said. "I expected him to be nervous in the last game, but he wasn't nervous at all. I think he'll be the same way this game."
The odds are against Bolden to beat 'Bama.
But as he has proven in the last month, the odds don't mean much to him.
Let's get started ...
1. Ohio State (1-0): The Big Ten's most complete team delivered a complete performance in dismantling Marshall 45-7 on Thursday night. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor looked more comfortable as he led a surprisingly dynamic offense that got a lot of its weapons involved. The defense continued its opportunistic ways. Aside from a few special-teams miscues, not much to complain about.
2. Iowa (1-0): After living on the edge throughout the 2009 season, the Hawkeyes dominated Eastern Illinois to open a year filled with high expectations. Aside from a leg injury to quarterback Ricky Stanzi that looked scarier than it actually was, Iowa fans could breathe easy Saturday. Stanzi and running back Adam Robinson both stood out, and the defense allowed only one significant drive. Things get tougher the next two weeks with Iowa State and Arizona.
3. Wisconsin (1-0): The Badgers made a few big mistakes early against UNLV, but they pulled away in the second half behind their three-headed running back monster of John Clay, Montee Ball and dynamic freshman James White. Defensive end J.J. Watt made a game-changing forced fumble early in the third quarter, and Wisconsin's power game took over from there. A good performance overall on the road, although the Badgers need to clean up a few things.
4. Penn State (1-0): Joe Paterno has found his quarterback, and (gasp!), he's a true freshman. Rob Bolden answered the call in his first career start, showing good poise in the final three quarters against Youngstown State. Receivers Brett Brackett and Derek Moye stepped up, and Chaz Powell returned a kickoff 100 yards to the end zone. Penn State's offensive line still needs to pick up its play after Evan Royster recorded only 40 rush yards against Youngstown.
5. Michigan State (1-0): After leaning on Kirk Cousins and the pass game too often last season, Michigan State re-established the run in a big way Saturday. Playing without projected starter Larry Caper (hand), the Spartans received big performances from freshman Le'Veon Bell (141 rush yards, 2 TDs) and sophomore Edwin Baker (117 rush yards 2 TDs). Linebacker Greg Jones had a forced fumble and nearly secured his first career interception.
6. Michigan (1-0): Thanks to Denard Robinson and an improved offensive line, Michigan recorded the most impressive victory of Week 1, considering the competition. Robinson has to be careful with all the hits he takes, but if he continues to complement his ridiculous speed with an accurate arm, the Wolverines will win a lot of games this fall. Michigan's defense still concerns me a bit, although I liked the aggressiveness from Craig Roh.
7. Northwestern (1-0): The Wildcats never trailed against Vanderbilt but seemed fortunate to escape Nashville with a victory. New starting quarterback Dan Persa carried the offense, much like predecessor Mike Kafka did in 2009, and showed incredible accuracy (19-for-21 passing, 222 yards, 3 TDs). The run game once again was absent, a concern for Pat Fitzgerald going forward, and Northwestern endured several special-teams miscues.
T-8. Minnesota (1-0): For the first time in a while, you can say Minnesota has an offensive identity. The Gophers held the ball for 45:34 in their come-from-behind win against Middle Tennessee, as Duane Bennett (187 rush yards) led the power rushing attack. Fullback Jon Hoese (3 rush TDs) provided the best story of Week 1, and a new-look defense did enough to hold off a Dwight Dasher-less Blue Raiders team. The Gophers really needed this one.
T-8. Purdue (0-1): A young Purdue team played predictably inconsistent football at Notre Dame. New quarterback Robert Marve looked good at times but made too many mistakes. The secondary did a decent job against Irish star receiver Michael Floyd, but Purdue allowed scores on four consecutive possessions midway through the game. Still, the Boilers had a chance at the end, and they'll get better in the coming weeks.
10. Indiana (1-0): Look out for the Hoosiers' offense this season. IU didn't miss a beat without All-Big Ten wide receiver Tandon Doss, as quarterback Ben Chappell found a rhythm against Towson and Darius Willis (102 rush yards, 2 TDs) led the ground game. The outlook on defense remains much cloudier after the Hoosiers allowed 392 yards to Towson. If the defense doesn't get better by Big Ten play, Indiana will have a tough time winning games.
11. Illinois (0-1): For a moment, it looked like Illinois would stun Missouri and finally win a game at the Edward Jones Dome. But the second half showed that the team remains a work in progress on both sides of the ball. There were some encouraging signs, particularly running back Mikel Leshoure and defenders Corey Liuget and Ian Thomas, but Illinois needs to put a complete game together. This week's home matchup against Southern Illinois will be huge.
Best game: Minnesota-Middle Tennessee. Considering nine of the 11 games were decided by more than one score, there were not many choices here. At least the Gophers brought some drama in Murfreesboro, rallying from a 17-14 second-half deficit to win 24-17. Minnesota also provided the most touching story of the weekend, as fullback Jon Hoese rushed for three touchdowns and recovered a fumble just days after his father suffered a severe stroke. Hoese nearly didn't make the trip.
Biggest play: After a somewhat sloppy first 30 minutes by Penn State, Chaz Powell created some distance on the scoreboard with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the third quarter. Powell, back at wide receiver after being moved to cornerback this spring, had Penn State's longest kick return since Rich Mauti's 100-yard runback in 1975. Honorable mention goes to Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt, whose forced fumble led to a touchdown early in the third quarter against UNLV after the Badgers led by only three points at halftime.
Best call: Joe Paterno and his staff made a historic call by starting true freshman quarterback Rob Bolden in the opener, and it paid off. Bolden showed impressive skills and poise, completing 20 of 29 passes for 239 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Rich Rodriguez's decision to go with Robinson at quarterback for Michigan also looked good.
Game balls (given to players not selected for helmet stickers)
- Ohio State S/LB Tyler Moeller: Moeller's return to the field following a year away was memorable enough, but he also played an outstanding game for the Buckeyes' defense. The senior recorded a team-high six tackles, including two for loss with a sack and a forced fumble against Marshall.
- Iowa RB Adam Robinson: A-Rob made a good case to be Iowa's starting running back, rushing for 109 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries. He'll need to hold off Jewel Hampton, who plays his first game since 2008 on Saturday against Iowa State.
- Penn State WR Brett Brackett: People seemed to forget about Brackett during the preseason, but he clearly formed a bond with his new starting quarterback. Bolden and Brackett connected eight times for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
- Indiana RB Darius Willis: Willis made the most of his limited action against Towson, rushing 14 times for 102 yards and two touchdowns. If he stays healthy, Indiana should finally have a consistent run game.
- Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan and Illinois DT Corey Liuget: Their teams both lost Saturday, but Kerrigan and Liuget did all they could to prevent it. Kerrigan recorded 2.5 tackles for loss, assisting on a safety, and had a sack and a forced fumble. Liuget recorded 2.5 tackles for loss, assisted on a sack, broke up a pass and recorded a quarterback hurry.
- Minnesota RB Duane Bennett: The Gophers dominated possession time against Middle Tennessee, and Bennett was the reason why. He did everything but score touchdowns, racking up 187 rush yards on 30 carries.
Now, let's take a quick look at the Week 2 slate ...
Penn State (1-0) at Alabama (1-0): Joe Paterno heads to the home of the Bear, although this time he'll face Nick Saban and the defending national champs (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET). Bolden surprised a lot of folks with his play in the opener. Now he'll try to shock the world against the Tide.
Michigan (1-0) at Notre Dame (1-0): Who ever thought this matchup of tradition-rich powerhouses would feature two spread offenses? If Michigan's Robinson pulls off a repeat performance against Manti Te'o and the Irish defense, the Wolverines should be 2-0.
Iowa State (1-0) at Iowa (1-0): Adrian Clayborn didn't mean to tick off Iowa State with his "only team in the state" comment, but you can bet the Cyclones will use it as motivation Saturday (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). Iowa's Hampton plays his first game since 2008.
Michigan State (1-0) vs. Florida Atlantic (1-0) at Detroit: How weird will it be to see the Spartans wearing their road unis for a game in nearby Detroit? Florida Atlantic is the home team Saturday (ESPNU, noon ET).
San Jose State (0-1) at Wisconsin (1-0): After a few hiccups in the opener, Wisconsin aims for a cleaner performance at home (ESPN, noon ET) against a San Jose State team that lost by 45 to Alabama in Week 1.
Illinois State (1-0) at Northwestern (1-0): The Wildcats try to revive their anemic run game against an Illinois State team filled with Big Ten connections, from head coach Brock Spack, the former Purdue defensive coordinator, to former Michigan State running back Ashton Leggett.
Southern Illinois (1-0) at Illinois (0-1): Can you say must-win? SIU is typically one of the nation's top FCS programs, and the Salukis would love to score an upset against the state's top public school. Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase tries to bounce back from a rough opener in front of the home crowd.
Western Illinois (1-0) at Purdue (0-1): Something tells me Robert Marve and the Boilers offense figure things out in a big way this week, although Western Illinois blanked Valpo 45-0 in its opener.
South Dakota (0-1) at Minnesota (1-0): The Gophers barely escaped last year against South Dakota State, winning 16-13. They'll shoot for a more convincing win against South Dakota, which got pummeled by Central Florida in its opener.
2. Bolden continues rapid rise: Rob Bolden has been playing college football for less than a month, but he's already making a big impression in Happy Valley. Bolden had an impressive debut Saturday against Youngstown State, completing 20 of 29 passes for 239 yards with two touchdown passes and an interception that wasn't his fault. After some freshman mistakes early on, Bolden settled down nicely and threw two touchdown passes to Brett Brackett on intermediate routes. He'll likely have a rough time next week at defending national champ Alabama, but this kid looks like he'll only get better for the Lions.
3. Ohio State's offense will be fun to watch: Defense and special teams remain hallmarks of Tresselball, but Ohio State's offense gives you another reason to tune in this season. The Buckeyes displayed good balance in their opener but got more players involved, particularly in the passing game. Terrelle Pryor had an impressive debut (17-25 passing, 247 yards, 3 TDs), and he got help from running back Brandon Saine (9 carries, 103 rush yards, 2 TDs) and wide receivers Dane Sanzenbacher (3 receptions, 113 yards, 1 TD) and DeVier Posey (4 catches, 41 yards, 2 TDs). Ohio State displayed perfect balance in the first half -- 16 rushes, 16 passes -- but it just felt the reins had been loosened a bit. Ohio State had nine different players record a reception.
4. Purdue, Illinois still works in progress: The only Big Ten squads to lose Saturday showed why they're still figuring things out. Purdue started slow, made mistakes at the wrong times and couldn't generate much of a run game at Notre Dame. Illinois' offense disappeared after halftime, and a shorthanded defense couldn't hold Missouri's Blaine Gabbert in check. But there were some positives for both squads, as Purdue controlled the clock and received a big performance from defensive end Ryan Kerrigan. Illinois' defense performed better than expected, and freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase showed some promise despite an ugly stat line. Not the ideal start for either squad, but don't be surprised if things turn around soon.
5. Run games revealed: We learned quite a bit about the rushing attacks in the Big Ten in Week 1. Teams like Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan State and Indiana that struggled at times on the ground in 2009 received strong opening performances from Duane Bennett, Adam Robinson, Darius Willis, Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker. Ohio State, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan continued to do their thing on the ground. On the flip side, Northwestern continued to struggle to generate a rushing attack, and Penn State's offensive line couldn't spark Evan Royster against FCS Youngstown State. Purdue missed Ralph Bolden in its loss to Notre Dame and needs to find an answer in the backfield.
Here are my thoughts on the wins by Iowa, Penn State and Michigan State.
Iowa 37, Eastern Illinois 7: Aside from the few plays Ricky Stanzi missed because of a leg injury, Iowa had a pretty ideal opener. Stanzi, who returned for the next series after the injury, delivered a near spotless performance, completing 19 of 24 passes for 243 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. Sure, it was Eastern Illinois, but any pick-free game for Stanzi is a good sign, especially with two more challenging contests coming up against Iowa State (looked great against Northern Illinois) and Arizona (looked great against Toledo). Stanzi did a great job of spreading the ball around, getting his tight ends involved and finding fullback Brett Morse for a touchdown. Adam Robinson made a strong case to be the starting running back with 109 rush yards and three touchdowns. Paki O'Meara came up with a big play on special teams, and Iowa's defense shut down EIU aside from one drive. Iowa needs to secure the ball better after twice fumbling.
Penn State 44, Youngstown State 14: It's only one game, but Rob Bolden (he prefers Rob to Robert) looks like the real deal. After some freshman mistakes early, Bolden settled down nicely and put up some good numbers (20-for-29 passing, 239 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) in a rout of Youngstown State. His lone interception wasn't his fault, as receiver Derek Moye slipped, and he formed good chemistry with both Moye and Brett Brackett (8 catches, 99 yards, 2 TDs). Bolden's rapid rise is really something, considering he didn't enroll early and was considered a likely redshirt candidate when camp opened. Things get much, much tougher next week at Alabama, and you can't expect Bolden to avoid mistakes. But poise shouldn't be a problem for this guy. Penn State's inability to get Evan Royster going in the run game concerns me, and the defense struggled early before shutting down Youngstown after halftime.
Michigan State 38, Western Michigan 14: The Spartans ranked second in the Big Ten in passing a year ago, but they returned to their running roots in a big way today. Freshman Le'Veon Bell carried over his practice performance to the game field, rushing for 141 yards and two scores. Sophomore Edwin Baker started in place of the injured Larry Caper (hand) and racked up 117 rush yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Add Caper to the mix at running back, and Michigan State should be excited about the group. Michigan State's offensive line looked like a question mark entering the fall, and today's 297-yard rushing performance is a good sign. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was decent and his receivers weren't great, but it didn't matter. Greg Jones and the Spartans' defense looked good overall.
The true freshman quarterback has done some nice things in his first career start, completing 13 of 19 passes for 133 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Bolden's interception wasn't his fault, as Derek Moye slipped on the play, and he bounced back nicely to fire a 20-yard touchdown pass to Brett Brackett. He looks like a freshman at times, but that's to be expected.
Penn State closed the half on a good note and leads 16-7, but both the offense and defense struggled for the first 20 minutes or so. Youngstown State's Dominique Barnes outran several Penn State defenders on an 80-yard score and true freshman Kurt Hess has completed 7 of 9 passes. Tom Bradley's unit needs to pick it up before a huge Week 2 test at Alabama. Penn State also has struggled to get the run game going with Evan Royster.
The Lions' MVP so far has been kicker Collin Wagner, who is 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts, splitting the uprights from 44, 48 and 49 yards. After Penn State's struggles on special teams last season, Wagner's start is a promising sign.
As expected, the quarterback competition took center stage at Beaver Stadium, and the early returns weren't too promising. Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin both struggled, while true freshman Paul Jones, seemingly an afterthought in the race before Saturday, had the best performance. Jones twice found classmate Shawney Kersey for 18-yard touchdown passes and finished 5-of-8 passing for 67 yards.
Although the quarterbacks didn't get much help from the offensive line (concerning) or the wide receivers (less concerning), Penn State's offense remains a major question mark entering the summer. To be fair, star running back Evan Royster didn't play Saturday.
"I would rate my performance as we've got a lot of work to do," Newsome said afterward. "We've got a lot of work to do. We've got a lot of work to do. We're just going to keep working."
"A lot of eyes were on us today," McGloin said. "We didn't perform maybe up to par, maybe up to what people expected to see."
Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said after the game that it's wrong to eliminate Jones from the race, and then added, "I checked my e-mail afterwards, and people are telling me Paul should be the starter. So it doesn't take long for people to make the decisions."
Paterno and the other coaches have more time to make the ultimate decision, and they'll look for improvement from all three signal callers by the time preseason camp rolls around.
Other nuggets from the Blue-White Game:
- The offensive line's struggles can be attributed in part to the shuffling that went on this spring. It takes time to build chemistry, and Penn State has moved around several linemen, including first-team All-Big Ten selection Stefen Wisniewski. "Obviously, there's that chemistry we need to have,'' right tackle Lou Eliades said. "I think we're only going to get better in time. Chemistry will develop. I think, by September, we'll be ready to go.''
- Nate Stupar sometimes gets overlooked when folks size up Penn State's linebacking corps for 2010, but he had a very nice performance Saturday. Stupar recorded seven tackles (six solo) and an interception.
- Defensive ends Eric Latimore and Kevion Latham both found their way into the offensive backfield, and Latimore recorded two sacks in the game. Penn State's defensive line once again should be the team's strength, as end Jack Crawford and tackle Devon Still should have big seasons.
- While backup running back Stephfon Green (4 carries, 10 rush yards) didn't do much, I liked what I saw from freshman Silas Redd, who recorded a 16-yard run and a 10-yard reception. Redd brings a nice combination of size and shiftiness.
- Penn State brings back several proven veteran receivers, but Kersey and sophomore Justin Brown, who recorded a game-high four receptions for 35 yards, could work their way into the mix. Freshman Brandon Moseby-Felder led the White team with three receptions for 31 yards.
- Wide receiver Brett Brackett, linebacker Bani Gbadyu and offensive tackle Quinn Barham received awards from the coaching staff for their performances this spring.
Penn State's Blue-White Game (ESPN2, 2 p.m. ET) marks the first public look at the Nittany Lions' quarterback competition, a race that players say remains very tight. A decision on Daryll Clark's successor won't be made until sometime in preseason camp, but Saturday's stadium scrimmage serves as an important platform for both Newsome and McGloin.
"They’re still young," wide receiver Graham Zug said. "They’ve hardly taken any snaps in a game, so it’s going to take a little time for them to get that experience. That’s why this Blue-White game will be important for them to get used to the crowd and everything."
Newsome backed up Clark last year, appearing in 10 games and completing 8 of 11 passes for 66 yards. McGloin, a former walk-on, played in two contests and went 0-for-2 on pass attempts.
Translation: both quarterbacks are totally unproven. But their teammates are seeing positive signs this spring, whether it's McGloin trusting his strong arm and making tough throws through small windows, or Newsome improving his timing with receivers and remaining a constant threat to take off and run.
"Kevin and Matt are kind of tied right now for the starting role," senior guard Stefen Wisniewski said. "Matt is really calm and confident in the pocket, he'll sit back there and deliver the ball. Newsome's been developing as well with his footwork and he can really make things happen with his feet."
Wisniewski acknowledged that it's different not hearing Clark's voice in the huddle. Clark not only set passing records at Penn State but served as a co-captain and commanded respect.
For Newsome and McGloin, owning the huddle has been a process. But they know they're not going it alone.
"That’s one thing we as receivers are working on with them," Zug said, "making them be leaders in the huddle even though they’re new quarterbacks. When they’re in the huddle, all the attention is on them. ... So if somebody is talking in the huddle when the quarterback is calling the play, we stop the play and command they pay attention to the quarterback. And we tell [the quarterbacks], 'Hey this is your huddle. You have to be the leader.'"
It has been a process, but the new quarterbacks aren't slowing down the pace this spring. Neither Newsome nor McGloin has been made available to reporters, but Zug said both quarterbacks are running the same plays and making the same reads that Clark did the last two seasons.
"Both of them are working on things a starting quarterback has to do," wideout Brett Brackett said. "To be honest, we haven’t really needed to show too much patience."
Although true freshman Paul Jones is also practicing this spring, Newsome and McGloin appear to be in a two-man race. The candidates differ in style, background and personality.
Newsome was a U.S. Army All-American who enrolled early last spring and served as Clark's protégé. He brings tremendous athleticism to the table but has worked on his passing and his mental approach this spring.
"This spring, he's done a great job shaking that young, silly attitude that he had and has done a good job commanding the huddle," Brackett said. "He's still a very silly guy, likes to joke around a little bit, but he's done a good job with getting that on-the-field seriousness."
McGloin, meanwhile, is all business, which Brackett attributes in part to McGloin's hometown of Scranton, Pa. Unlike Newsome, McGloin came to Penn State with little fanfare and only earned a scholarship before the 2009 season.
Some outsiders didn't consider McGloin a serious candidate for the top job, but he has made a good case this spring.
"He absolutely is right in there," Wisniewski said. "Our coaches don't care if he was a walk-on or scholarship [player] or whatever. If the kid can play, we'll put him in there."
Asked to identify areas for improvement, Zug said McGloin must continue to be smart but aggressive with his throws, trusting his arm to thread the needle. Newsome, meanwhile, needs to maintain his confidence through inevitable mistakes.
But even though there's youth at quarterback, Penn State hasn't adjusted its expectations on offense.
"This offense can be up there with how our offense has been the last few years, if not better," Brackett said. "We have a lot of talent. We have a lot of potential. Right now, we’re making strides."
Then, in classic Paterno fashion, he muttered, "I'm here. Unfortunately, so are you."
Yes, we missed you, JoePa.
- There's no timetable on a decision to name a starting quarterback. Paterno is open to modifying the offense so it fits the players' strengths. "We want to get them comfortable, see what they can do, and not do more than what they can handle," he said.
- Paterno reiterated that former walk-on Matt McGloin is very much in the mix at quarterback, while wide receiver Brett Brackett hasn't been working with the signal callers this spring. Paterno is making the rounds in spring ball and hasn't seen much of early enrollee Paul Jones. JoePa is happy with the way Kevin Newsome handles himself in the huddle, saying Newsome "has made a lot of progress."
- Wide receiver Chaz Powell is getting a look at cornerback this spring. Powell ranked fourth on the team in receptions with 28 last fall. He also served as the team's primary kickoff return man and finished second in all-purpose yards (67.8 ypg). Powell played both defensive back and wide receiver in high school and was a standout on special teams. "I'm not sure Powell's going to be a corner," Paterno said. "Obviously, Powell's a good athlete. He could play offense or defense."
- Asked about the situation at offensive tackle, Paterno jokingly asked reporters if they had a big sheet of paper with them. Penn State is auditioning several players at the tackle spot, including DeOn'tae Pannell and redshirt freshman Eric Shrive. "We argue every morning, can so-and-so handle the pass protection?" Paterno said. "For me to make any kind of statement on where guys will play is ridiculous right now."
- Starting safety Drew Astorino (shoulder) and linebacker Michael Mauti (knee), who many project as a starter in 2010, are out for the spring with injuries. Reserve running back Brandon Beachum (knee) will only do some light running this spring. Paterno didn't sound too concerned about the linebacker position and likes what he has with Bani Gbadyu, Nate Stupar and Chris Colasanti.
- Paterno doesn't expect starting running back Evan Royster to do too much this spring, as he has little to prove to the coaches. Backup Stephfon Green and Shaine Thompson, a former walk-on who recently received a scholarship, will be in the spotlight there.
- The jury is still very much out on defensive tackle Brandon Ware, who has struggled with academic issues and weight problems. "I think he's still a little too heavy," Paterno said. "But he's got a long road to go academically before I'm going to think about him playing."
- Doug Klopacz is back for a fifth year and will back up Stefen Wisniewksi at center. Running back Brent Carter and defensive tackle Tom McEowen are no longer with the team.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Penn State wide receivers Derek Moye and Chaz Powell were relaxing in their room Tuesday night when the subject came up again.
The feeling of disrespect tends to fester, and despite three victories this season, both Moye and Powell still sense it.
"Last year, the year before, we were just sitting on the sideline watching these games," Moye said. "Now we're going to be in the spotlight. All eyes are going to be on us and we're happy to be in this position. We're going to go out and show everybody what we can do."
|AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster|
|Penn State wide receiver Derek Moye intends to prove the doubters wrong.|
Penn State had turnover at several positions following its Rose Bowl run in 2008, and no spot lost more production than wide receiver. Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood all started for most of their careers and combined for 132 receptions, 1,932 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns last year.
Throw in Williams' production as a rusher and a return man, and it was obvious that Penn State had a major void to fill. Receivers like Moye, Powell, Graham Zug and Brett Brackett had appeared in plenty of games, but their numbers paled in comparison to the big three.
So how have the Rodney Dangerfields of Happy Valley fared so far? Pretty well. Penn State has been forced to throw the ball a lot in its first three games, and Moye, Powell and Zug all have reached double-digits in receptions. They have combined for 37 catches, 474 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
But doubts still linger. Penn State hasn't played anyone so far, and the wideouts are still unproven on the big stage, which arrives Saturday night against Iowa (ABC, 8 p.m. ET).
"There's always people who say the competition wasn't there," Moye said. "But this week and in weeks to come, we'll prove what we did the first few weeks wasn't a fluke."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Listening to Joe Paterno, you'd think Penn State would be lucky to go .500 this season.
The defending Big Ten co-champs lose a sizable senior class, including the entire starting secondary and entire starting wide receiving corps. Penn State brings back national award candidates such as linebacker Navorro Bowman, defensive tackle Jared Odrick and running back Evan Royster, but all the turnover has taken a toll this spring.
"I don't think we've had a very great spring," Paterno said Wednesday. "We had a great winter program. The kids started out well. We've had a problem with the weather. ... And we've got some areas that we're not even adequate. That's the offensive line right now, the secondary has got a long way to go, and we've got to improve.
"Some of the good things are we've got kids that are working hard."
Paterno is feeling 100 percent physically following hip-replacement surgery in November, but his team's health hasn't been as promising. The Lions have had "more injuries this spring than I can remember in a long time," Paterno said, and they've been spread across the board.
The injured include linebacker/defensive end Jerome Hayes (knee), cornerback A.J. Wallace (hamstring), center Doug Klopacz (knee) and tackle Nerraw McCormack (knee).
There have been several bright spots, namely the play of Royster, quarterback Daryll Clark, a new-look wide receiving corps and the defensive line, led by Odrick. But for a team that still lists national titles and Big Ten championships as its goals, there's a ton to do in the final six spring workouts and the summer.
"Our running back situation's good, our tight end situation's good, our quarterback situation's good, we've got a chance to have a couple pretty good wideouts," Paterno said. "We're very, very shallow at the offensive line, not even close to being good enough. Same way with our secondary. The linebacker's are good, I think our kicking game will be good.
"That should cover everything."
I didn't sit down with Paterno in person today -- some obligations kept him at home until practice, which was closed -- but we discussed several other topics over the phone.
Here are a few notes:
- Clark has thrown the ball extremely well this spring, and a new-look group of receivers are making plays. Paterno likes the fact that Penn State has some bigger wideouts -- Brett Brackett (6-foot-6), Derek Moye (6-5), A.J. Price (6-4) and Graham Zug (6-2) are bigger targets -- who allow for some different things in the offensive scheme.
The only concern for Paterno is that the wideouts aren't facing the best competition this spring.
"People are going to bang 'em around, and they're going to need some experienced game time," Paterno said. "We're trying to give them as tough situations as we can, but the secondary is not as aggressive as I would like. So I'm not so sure just how good the receivers are. They've worked hard, they catch the ball well and they have ability, but they haven't really been challenged yet."
- Night games at Beaver Stadium are a Penn State trademark, but the Lions will kick off only one contest under the lights this fall -- the Big Ten opener against Iowa. Last year, Penn State played three prime-time games. In 2007, Penn State had night games at home against Notre Dame and Ohio State.
"It doesn't make a difference, we've got to show up," Paterno said. "But the fans have a lot of fun at night. I don't know why we don't have one more. I guess it's all television."
- Paterno is a bit worried about the depth on the defensive line, but for the most part, he shares the same opinion as most of his fans -- that assistant Larry Johnson will find a way to succeed with the front four. Odrick anchors the middle of the line, and Jack Crawford, Eric Latimore and Kevion Latham are emerging at defensive end.
"We've got some talent there," Paterno said. "They're all right."
- Paterno also sees talent along the offensive line, though that group typically takes longer to develop. Stefen Wisniewski has shifted from right guard to center, and right tackle Dennis Landolt is the only other returning starter up front.
"We've just got to get a couple more kids to come forward," Paterno said. "There's some talent there. They're not comfortable, they're not confident, they're not aggressive, they're not sure of themselves. And obviously, that's why you practice. But I think they'll come along."
- The 82-year-old coach joked that maybe Penn State was better off when his assistants ran most of the practice, but he's clearly feeling a lot better than he did last fall, when he coached the final eight games from the press box and could barely walk. When the Lions take the field Sept. 5 against Akron, Paterno expects to be running out of the tunnel.
"Right now, I'm concerned about this football team," he said. "We're not very good right now, we've got a lot of work ahead of us and we're running out of time. But I'm sure when it's a day or two before [the game], and I start thinking about going back out on the field, I'll be excited."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
A year ago, Daryll Clark was an unproven commodity competing for Penn State's starting quarterback spot alongside Pat Devlin. Clark now finds himself at the helm of the Nittany Lions as arguably the best quarterback in the Big Ten.
|Paul Spinelli/Getty Images|
|Already entrenched as the starter, Daryll Clark hopes to build on what he accomplished in 2008.|
He beat out Devlin for the top job and went on to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors, tallying 2,592 passing yards and 19 touchdowns with only six interceptions. Clark added 282 rush yards and 10 touchdowns for the nation's 14th-rated offense. After helping guide Penn State to an 11-2 mark and a Rose Bowl appearance, the 6-foot-2, 233-pound senior steps into a primary leadership position this spring on an offense that returns only five starters.
Here are Clark's thoughts on spring practice, his emergence last fall and the coming challenges for Penn State.
How different has this spring been for you as opposed to last year?
Daryll Clark: Last spring, it was a big decision on who was going to be the quarterback. It was competition. Whereas now, it's a little bit different. With Kevin Newsome being here, he's a freshman, he has a lot to learn. So this is a time for me to critique the mistakes I made from the past season and fine-tune everything I have to, to become a better quarterback and a better asset to this football team. Just become a bigger and better leader. There was a lot of help with all of the seniors we had last year. We have some this year, and our coaches have been calling upon a lot of our young guys to step to the forefront because we're going to need a lot of leadership to step up this year and fill some gaps. There are a lot of positions up in the air this spring. It's been real interesting. The first practice was pretty weird going out there and not seeing those three wideouts that I'm used to seeing [Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood].
Have you spent a lot of time watching those position battles at O-line and wide receiver?
DC: It's kind of tough to watch because I'm practicing in the thick of things throughout the entire practice. My reps are not limited. My main thing is just trying to get the timing down with all the wide receivers we have now. And it's going very well. With Derrick, Deon and Jordan, after the  Alamo Bowl game, we started working on timing two weeks after. The same thing happened after the Rose Bowl this year with the younger guys. We have everyone on the same page to what we're trying to get accomplished this year, both offensively and defensively. Things have been pretty much going back and forth each practice, so that's a pretty good thing. Our wideouts are doing a great job of catching the ball, downfield blocking and making runs after the catch. Everything is on the up and up right now.
Who has stood out to you among the young guys?
DC: No one's really stood out. I think everyone is working at an even rate -- at a high rate, actually. To name a few, Chaz Powell, Derek Moye, Brett Brackett, Graham Zug, James McDonald, those guys really know that they're going to play this year, so it's important that they get everything down, get the whole terminology of the offense down and get used to the positions that they're going to play. I really haven't seen any nerves or anything like that because a lot of the guys have been playing, but just didn't get as many reps as our senior receivers from last year. They've played in a couple games already. Now they're going to be moving into a starting role, so I think they'll be ready.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
It was a good day for Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark and Michigan running back Kevin Grady, both of whom received good news about their future playing days. Ohio State's Beanie Wells missed another day of practice, so his small window of playing Saturday is shrinking fast.
Here's a look around the league:
- Ron Zook wants Illinois' defense to think less and tackle more, Herb Gould writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
- The "seven blocks of limestone" former Indiana coach Terry Hoeppner envisioned are finally coming together, Chris Korman writes in the Bloomington Herald Times. Hoosiers coach Bill Lynch wants the no-huddle offense to slow down a bit.
- Iowa's team-building trip to Louisiana in May prepared players for the problems that hit their own state this summer, Scott Dochterman writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.
- Signs points to Steven Threet starting at quarterback for Michigan on Saturday, Angelique Chengelis writes in The Detroit News. Grady is no longer suspended and adds another body to Michigan's struggling rushing attack, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Heralded Cincinnati transfer Trevor Anderson tries to rebound for a subpar debut at Michigan State, Andrew Mouranie writes in the Lansing State Journal.
- Minnesota's secondary is clearly faster, but its needs to limit big plays, Kent Youngblood writes in the Star Tribune.
- Northwestern defensive tackle John Gill called his one-game suspension "fair" and took lessons from sitting out last week, Jim O'Donnell writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Dick Tressel is no doctor, but the Ohio State running backs coach gives the clearest description to date of Beanie's foot/toe injury, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. If Beanie sits Saturday, get ready for plenty of Boom, as in Dan Herron. Buckeyes wideout Ray Small is putting offseason problems -- and opposing players -- in his rearview mirror, Ken Gordon writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
- Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley has some extra help on the sidelines -- from injured linebacker Sean Lee, Travis Johnson writes in The Daily Collegian. As if the Lions didn't have enough weapons, Brett Brackett provides a big target at wide receiver, Jeff Rice writes in the Centre Daily Times.
- Known as Purdue's best blocking wide receiver, fifth-year senior Brandon Whittington is anxious to do more this fall, Stacy Clardie writes in The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
- Wisconsin linebacker Jonathan Casillas likely will miss another game with a knee injury, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Defensive end O'Brien Schofield still gets his first name (Alaace) frequently butchered, but to opposing quarterbacks, he's just the guy throwing them to the ground, Jim Polzin writes in The Capital Times.