Brent Yarina, BTN.com Senior Editor, September 17, 2011
Every week during the fall, BTN.com web editor and blogger Brent Yarina recaps the week that was in Big Ten football. Each recap includes Brent?s superlative winners and the best stats, quotes and tweets, among other things, from around the Big Ten that particular week. Have a worthy stat, quote or tweet that you think should make the recap? Tweet it to @BTNBrentYarina. Watch BTN's interview with Purdue basketball standout Robbie Hummel now.
Game of the Week: Iowa 31, Pittsburgh 27 – Entering the final 15 minutes, it looked as though the Hawkeyes were going to fall to 1-2, which would have marked their worst start in 11 years. But the fourth quarter was all Iowa, as it scored 21 points, all on James Vandenberg touchdown passes, to finish off its biggest comeback in school history. The victory looked so improbable during the third quarter, in fact, that many Iowa fans left Kinnick Stadium before the historic comeback even started.
Player of the Week: James Vandenberg, Iowa – For the second consecutive week, the winner here started rather slow and finished on fire. Like Denard Robinson a week ago, Vandenberg dazzled when it mattered most, throwing for 162 of his 399 passing yards and all three of his touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. Thanks to Vandenberg's career day, the Hawkeyes were able to erase a 27-10 fourth-quarter deficit en route to stunning Pittsburgh, 31-27. Oh, and for good measure, the junior also ran for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Team of the Week: Illinois – For the first time since its upset of then-No. 1 Ohio State in 2007, Illinois beat a ranked opponent. Saturday night's victory over No. 18 Arizona State, you could argue, marked Illinois' biggest game since the 2008 Rose Bowl. This was a signature win, one the Illini needed to jump into the polls and to extend their perfect start another week. Remember, this is a team that lost its season opener each of the last four years, so it isn't used to having this much momentum at this point in the season. Who knows what Arizona State will end up being this year, but get ready for people to start talking very highly about Illinois.
Impression of the Week: The Big Ten has work to do. The end result was OK, I guess, with a 9-3 record in Week 3. But it wasn't an impressive day for the Big Ten. Aside from Wisconsin, the conference lacks a second dominant/proven team, something Illinois or Nebraska could change in the coming weeks. It just seems as though the Big Ten is Wisconsin and then a lot of question marks. Michigan State and Ohio State did themselves no favors Saturday, while Penn State continues to underperform. Those three teams were supposed to challenge for the Big Ten crown. Iowa won, but it didn't look good at all in the first three quarters against an unranked team at home. Also, the bottom-tier Big Ten teams might be worse than expected. I mean, who expected Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue to be a combined 4-5, considering the weak competition?
Impression of the Week II: Iowa needs to let James Vandenberg wing it. Vandenberg ran a pass-happy offense in high school, and we saw Saturday what he can do when given the opportunity to throw the ball all over the field. Yes, the 399-yard performance came against a weak Pittsburgh pass defense, but it also came with Iowa trailing and the Panthers knowing what was coming: the pass. Considering Iowa's lack of depth at running back, it wouldn't be such a bad idea to let Vandenberg throw it around a lot more.
Impression of the Week III: Wisconsin is really, really good. We already knew this, of course, but take away the Rose Bowl loss to TCU, and you can make the argument that no team has been more dominant than the Badgers the past year. Russell Wilson and company have yet to play a good team, admittedly, however not every team would be able to make things look as easy as the Badgers have the first three weeks. Great teams win the games they're supposed to win, and Wisconsin is crushing everyone in its way. As long as Montee Ball and James White stay healthy, this team is the clear-cut Big Ten favorite.
Impression of the Week IV: We have quarterback problems. Kain Colter had been very solid in the first two games, but it's clear he isn't the same quarterback when playing from behind. He's at his best when he can run the ball and not have to rely on his arm, which he wasn't able to do in the loss at Army. A couple days ago, people wondered if Dan Persa would get the job back when he returns from injury. Now, that seems like a silly question. Then there's Penn State. The duo of Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin was more accurate (61 percent) against Temple, but neither guy continues to do any damage through the air. The Nittany Lions need to decided on one guy and stick with it, because this rotation thing is not working. Oh, and at Ohio State, Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller combined to complete 4 of 18 passes (22 percent). Those guys aren't as bad as the numbers, but one thing's for sure: Akron must be really bad, because it made both Buckeye quarterbacks look terrific.
Stats of the Week
Purdue's 38 points in the first half tied the most points it had scored in an entire game since the 2009 opener. Purdue notched its first shutout since a 51-0 win over Syracuse on Sept. 5, 2004, and allowed under 200 yards for the first time since playing Ball State on Sept. 11, 2004. – AP
Iowa's 21-point comeback in Saturday's 31-27 victory over Pittsburgh marked the program's largest comeback since rallying from a 24-6 deficit against Oregon in 1949. – AP
The announced crowd of 52,323 at Lincoln Financial Field for the Penn State-Temple game marked the largest crowd in Temple history. – AP
It wasn't pretty at all, but Penn State ran its winning streak over instate foe Temple to 29 games with its 14-10 win. – AP
Brady Hoke earned his 50th career win over the same team he beat for his 10th and 30th wins, Eastern Michigan. (via @mikerothstein)
Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead scored two touchdowns in nine seconds against Washington.
In hanging 51 points on Washington, Nebraska has scored at least 40 points in its first three games for the first time since 1995. (via @BTNStatsGuy)
Three Purdue running backs ran for two touchdowns Saturday. Those same three guys entered the game with a combined 10 rushing TDs, nine of which belonged to Ralph Bolden.
Ohio State's loss at Miami marked the Buckeyes' first regular-season defeat at an unranked opponent since it lost to Pittsburgh in 1988. (via @BTNStatsGuy)
The usually stout Ohio State run defense allowed Miami's Lamar Miller to run for 188 yards, the most of any one running back since 1999. (via @BTNStatsGuy)
Quotes of the Week
"All of us are able to make plays when the ball comes to us. When we play clean, we're hard to beat." – Nick Toon, on Wisconsin's offense that is averaging 45 points in the first three games.
"They have 85 scholarships and we have 63. This is a money game." – Southeast coach Tony Samuel, on his team's 59-0 loss at Purdue.
"I've been given a second chance and I'm not taking any shortcuts. I'm not going to have somebody tell me I can't do something." – Jerry Kill, on his return from last week's seizure.
"Field goal at the end of the half, my call, didn't work. Three points. But I don't think that's why we lost the game. But I'll take the blame for that." – Mark Dantonio, on Michigan State's fake field goal attempt deep in Notre Dame territory.
"It's a present in your hands. It's a great feeling." – Rex Burkhead, on scoring a touchdown and then having Washington turn it over on the ensuing kickoff, setting up his second TD in nine seconds.
"They brought a lot of pressure. Shoot, it seemed like every snap." – Arizona State QB Brock Osweiler, on Illinois' defensive effort.
"We pride ourselves on not giving up big plays. But the big plays hurt us." – Luke Fickell, on Ohio State's 24-6 loss at Miami.
That's more like it, Boilermakers. The Purdue offense and defense woke from its early slumber in its 59-0 victory over Southeast Missouri State, going for 627 yards and allowing just 153. The latter number is most impressive, though, after surrendering an average of 406 yards per game in the first two weeks.
Get to know Kevonte Martin-Manley. The Iowa freshman wide receiver, who had his first career touchdown last week, scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns in the Hawkeyes' comeback win. All four of his catches came in the fourth quarter, and Iowa needed each and every one of them.
Welcome back, Robert Marve. In his first action since last year's season-ending injury, the Purdue quarterback completed 7 of 8 passes for 91 yards and a score.
Well done, Jerel Worthy and Michigan State. The Michigan State defensive end wore No. 95 – he usually wears No. 99, – against Notre Dame in honor of the late Bubba Smith, who played his final game against the Irish. The Spartans also wore No. 95 decals on the back of their helmets.
Give Jeremy Ebert some respect. For all the talk out there about the best receiver in the Big Ten, Ebert's name rarely enters the discussion. If you saw his touchdown reception against Army, or watched him at all last year, you know he's a very good receiver.
Kudos to Vincent Smith. Before Saturday, it was pretty much Denard Robinson or nothing for Michigan on the ground. Smith changed that, with 118 yards on just nine carries.
It was only a matter of time, Russell Wilson. The first-year Badger quarterback threw his first interception in a remarkable 150 pass attempts, dating back to last season, in Wisconsin's 49-7 win over Northern Illinois. For the season, Wilson has eight touchdowns and only 16 incompletions.
Congrats to Jerry Kill and Kevin Wilson. It took longer than both had hoped, but the two first-year Big Ten coaches tallied their first win Saturday. It was extra special for Kill, though, as it came one week after he suffered a seizure in the closing seconds of last week's loss to New Mexico State.
So that's what MarQueis Gray can do. The highly touted Gray showed what he's capable behind center, throwing for 168 yards and running for a Minnesota-record 175 more yards.
Props to the Illinois defense, in particular Whitney Mercilus (2 sacks) and Jonathan Brown (sack and interception) on making Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler see blue and orange all night long. The Illini sacked the 6-8 quarterback six times.