Big Ten Conference News and Notes

10:12 AM, Sep 30, 2013   |    comments
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ILLINOIS: The Fighting Illini scored early and often in crushing visiting Miami-Ohio over the weekend, 50-14. It was the third straight home game in which Illinois has scored at least 40 points, and the 161 points the team has scored in its first four games is a new school record. Nathan Scheelhaase completed 19-of-24 passes for 278 yards and a career-high five TDs against the RedHawks, including a school-record four TDs in the second quarter. Tight end Matt LaCosse caught a pair of scoring strikes, and Josh Ferguson was high man among the receivers with five grabs for 77 yards and a TD. Illinois also rushed for 289 yards, with Donovonn Young and Ferguson combining for 151 yards on 19 attempts. As for the UI defense, it allowed just 250 total yards, and got a team-high nine tackles from Jonathan Brown, who entered the contest ranked third in the FBS in total stops. The Illini kick off Big Ten action this Saturday when they play their first true road game at Nebraska.

INDIANA: The Hoosiers were idle over the weekend, affording them some extra time to prepare for this week's conference opener versus Penn State. Indiana, which has split its first four games, is putting the wraps on a five-game, season-opening homestand against the Nittany Lions.

IOWA: As a result of the Hawkeyes' 23-7 win at Minnesota on Saturday, Floyd of Rosedale is staying in Iowa City for another year. After opening the season with a narrow loss to Northern Illinois, Iowa has reeled off four straight victories to inch closer to bowl eligibility and keep pace in the race for a potential bid in the Big Ten Championship Game. Against the Golden Gophers, the Hawkeyes were led on offense by Mark Weisman (24 carries, 147 yards), Jake Rudock (15-of-25, 218 yards, TD) and Kevonte Martin-Manley (six receptions, 56 yards), while Anthony Hitchens (10 tackles) paced the defense. Minnesota entered the game averaging 282 rushing yards per game, but finished with just 30 yards on 27 carries. The Hawkeyes, who also logged four sacks against the Gophers, have not allowed a rushing TD this season. Hoping to keep the train moving ahead, Iowa returns home this Saturday to play host to the Michigan State Spartans.

MICHIGAN: The undefeated Wolverines were idle over the weekend, giving coach Brady Hoke, his staff and players some extra time to game plan for this Saturday's Big Ten lid lifter against visiting Minnesota.

MICHIGAN STATE: The 3-1 Spartans got some well-deserved time off following their 17-13 win at Notre Dame on Sept. 21, and they return to action this Saturday when they open conference play at Iowa.

MINNESOTA: The Golden Gophers suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday, dropping a 23-7 decision at home to Big Ten rival Iowa. The normally potent Minnesota rushing attack was limited to a mere 30 yards -- about 250 fewer than it averaged coming in. The Gophers had also averaged nearly 42 ppg entering the fray. Philip Nelson was just 12-of-24 for 135 yards with a TD, two INTs and he was sacked four times. Derrick Engel turned his five catches into 67 yards and a score. The Hawkeyes rolled up 464 yards to just 165 for the home team, and they dominated the time of possession battle, 36:01 to 23:59. Both Cedric Thompson and Damien Wilson logged 10 tackles in the game, and the Gophers came up with a pair of turnovers but did not record a sack. Minnesota plays only its second road game of the season this Saturday when it takes on the Michigan Wolverines at the Big House in Ann Arbor.

NEBRASKA: The Cornhuskers used their first bye week to relish the fact that they are 3-1 as they prepare for the rigors of Big Ten play, which gets underway this Saturday against visiting Illinois. The game also marks the end of Nebraska's five-game, season-opening homestand.

NORTHWESTERN: The Wildcats were idle over the weekend, giving them some additional time to prepare for this week's Big Ten opener against Ohio State. Northwestern is 4-0 and is bringing down the curtain on a four-game homestand against the Buckeyes.

OHIO STATE: Braxton Miller's return to the field against visiting Wisconsin on Saturday night was a triumphant one, as he matched his career-high with four TD passes in leading the Buckeyes to a 31-24 victory. Miller, who had missed the previous two games due to injury, went 17-of-25 for 198 yards, and while he was sacked twice, he also finished with 83 rushing yards on a team-high 22 carries. Miller is now Ohio State's all-time leading ground gainer among quarterbacks (2,151 yards). Carlos Hyde turned his 17 totes into 85 yards. Corey Brown was Miller's favorite target in the game, tallying eight catches for 85 yards and a pair of scores. Despite owning a powerful rushing attack, the Badgers were held to 104 yards and only one TD on the ground. Ryan Shazier spearheaded the OSU defense with nine tackles, and while the unit only forced one turnover, it logged a couple of sacks while allowing Wisconsin just a 3- of-12 success rate on third-down conversion attempts. The Buckeyes take aim at their nation-leading 18th straight win this Saturday when they play at undefeated Northwestern.

PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions were another team to have this past weekend off, and while getting some extra time to rest for this Saturday's conference opener at Indiana was key, Penn State also got some good news from the NCAA. The Lions (3-1) will have the previous scholarship restrictions placed upon them as a result of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal modified in time for the 2014-15 academic year.

PURDUE: The Boilermakers were taken to task at home by Northern Illinois over the weekend, falling to the Huskies in a 55-24 final. Purdue actually won the yardage battle (524-402), but committed five turnovers, allowed three sacks and made good on only a third of its third-down conversion attempts (6-of-18). Danny Etling, who made his first appearance for the Boilermakers, and Rob Henry combined to go 24-of-55 for 371 yards, three TDs and four INTs. DeAngelo Yancey caught seven passes for 117 yards to lead the PU receiving corps, while the ground attack accounted for 153 yards and was paced by B.J. Knauf's 41 yards on only two carries. Will Lucas paced the defense with 10 tackles, nine of which were solo efforts, but the Boilermakers failed to come up with a turnover, had just one sack, and allowed the Huskies to score on all six of their trips to the red zone. Purdue is idle this coming weekend, next returning to action on Oct. 12 at home against Nebraska.

WISCONSIN: The Badgers found themselves trailing for the bulk of Saturday's showdown with No. 4 Ohio State and despite a late rally, came up short in what turned out to be a 31-24 setback. The typically potent Wisconsin rushing attack was held well below its season average, tallying just 104 yards and a single TD. Melvin Gordon led the way with 74 yards on 15 carries. Instead it was Joel Stave (20-of-34, career-high 295 yards, two TDs, one INT) and Jared Abbrederis (10 receptions, career-high 207 yards, one TD) who did their best to keep the Badgers in contention. As for the UW defense, it allowed Ohio State QB Braxton Miller to throw four TDs passes, but got a monster effort from Chris Borland, who posted a career-high tying 16 tackles. The Badgers are idle this week, giving them sufficient time to prepare for a visit from the Northwestern Wildcats on Oct. 12.

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