Monday's links: Spartans QB, Sam Ficken & tweets

Bob Flounders of PennLive.com has his report card on the Nittany Lions’ season-opening win over Syracuse. There was a lot to like. If this team can stay healthy… And the Nits received some key contributions from some unlikely sources.

Let’s hear it for kicker Sam Ficken! He was accurate and he was reliable from long range against the Orange, making all three attempts, including a career-long make of 46 yards. It would have been good from 55. Ficken has now made his last 13 kicks dating back to the middle of last year. In a six-point game, you could argue everyone one of his three kicks Saturday was a pressure kick. Ficken has come a long, long way from Week 2 against Virginia, when he missed a bushel of attempts in the Lions’ 17-16 loss.

Amazing.

***

Illinois was able to open the season with a victory. Sure, the Fighting Illini had to hang on for dear life vs. FCS Southern Illinois. But, it was a win. And this program needed that after it entered 2013 on a nine-game losing skid. The early returns: The offense looks good. The defense? Eh, not so good.

Long story short, this could be another long year in Champaign.

***

The great Mike Griffith of MLive.com has looked at the Michigan State film. And, upon further review, coaching staff adjustments in the passing game were lacking.

Bottom line: This offense looked a lot like last year’s, didn’t it?

***

How does the Heisman race stack up after one week? Here is how Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has it.

  1. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
  2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
  3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
  4. Braxton Miller, Ohio State

Looks good to me.

***

Yes, Iowa lost a heart-breaker to Northern Illinois. But don’t write off the Hawkeyes, says Pat Harty of HawkCentral.com.

Harty isn’t suggesting that Iowa will bounce back from Saturday’s loss to have a winning season. That would have been a monumental challenge even with a victory over Northern Illinois. But win the next three games, which would include a rare victory over Iowa State in Ames, and what is becoming a rare victory over a directional school from Michigan, and the wounds from Saturday would start to heal. Yes, this team still could get to .500. Maybe.

***

Purdue quarterback Rob Henry says he lost his poise in the Boilermakers’ loss at Cincinnati.

This, obviously, must change. Listen to the spin from Chris Emma of FOXSports.com: Henry was wild and sloppy. His throws were consistently off the mark. He struggled to receive the snaps. Twice on fourth-down attempts, his throw ended up in the stands. The entire offense faltered, but the blame game starts with the quarterback. Where was Henry’s disgust after the drubbing?

“Mainly myself,” said Henry.

There is so much to work on in West Lafayette. I don’t know where to begin. How about cutting down the penalties and turnovers?

***

Curt Phillips lost the quarterback job to Joel Stave. And he didn’t play in Wisconsin’s opener vs. UMass.

Oh, Phillips could have played. But he balked, telling Andersen young Bart Houston should get the reps. Gary Andersen is impressed with his selfishness. What a teammate.

***

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner had moments of rust and brilliance in the Wolverines’ emphatic season-opening victory.

The great Nick Baumgardner notes Gardner finished the 2013 opener 10 of 15 through the air for 162 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He ran seven times for 52 yards and two more scores. He wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t have to be. And, more importantly, he guided a Michigan offense that appears to have the potential to be the most versatile group Hoke has had in his three years on campus. This is gonna be a fun couple seasons with Gardner under center.

***

No doubt, Minnesota looked good in its opener, but there are things to correct. See what Sid Hartman has to say.

As for the offense and defense, Jerry Kill said: “Defensively, we did some good things, but we gave up four or five big plays. If we don’t give those up we really feel good, but you can’t do that.

“Offensively, we feel that we can play better up front than we did. But it’s early, and you have to have film to teach from.”

***

Speaking of having work to do … Nebraska has lots of it, Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald will tell you.

Shatel expected the young defense to take its lumps. But giving up 602 yards to Wyoming?

***

The quarterback soap opera continues at Michigan State. At least for another day, as Mark Dantonio hasn’t made any decision on who will be his guy this week.

“I think first of all, those decisions are made in-house and will be shared with the players involved as we move forward,” Dantonio said on a Sunday teleconference when asked if he will go with Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook again when MSU hosts South Florida on Saturday. “I’m not prepared to answer that question at this point in time.”

So, there is that.

Interesting take here from Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal, who thinks Dantonio’s loyalty to players may be costly to the Spartans.

TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: This is exactly what Michigan needed.

My take: Amen.

My take: Time is on the side of the Nebraska defense. And, that’s a good thing.

My take: But then, there is this…

My take: Attendance seems to be lagging in a lot of places.

My take: Of course not.

My take: Good summation.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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