Coaches discuss tough looming Big Ten games

first_imgJEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoThe Big Ten head football coaches are still exhaling from an exhausting weekend of conference matchups.No. 3 Penn State, the lone BCS-title hopeful from the Big Ten, marched into Ohio Stadium Saturday night and reasserted its claim as the top team in the conference by beating the Buckeyes 13-6. It was the first victory for Penn State head coach Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions in Ohio Stadium in the last 30 years.Minnesota continued its storybook season by beating Purdue 17-6. In beating the Boilermakers, the Golden Gophers seized four turnovers, improving on a defense that leads the country in turnover margin.The Indiana Hoosiers brought the previously ranked No. 22 Northwestern Wildcats back down to earth by forcing five turnovers in their 22-19 victory. It was the Hoosiers’ first victory in the conference.Finally, the Spartans dethroned their big brother, Ann Anbor, in a resounding 35-21 win that marked the first victory for Michigan State in the Big House since 1990.After this past weekend’s marquee matchup between Penn State and Ohio State, both teams have upcoming bye weeks, leaving time for rest and evaluation.“Whenever you put your heart and soul into something and you come up a little short, it’s tough,” Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. “You probably learn less in victory, I think, than in defeats.”Paterno certainly isn’t dwelling on the victory; the legendary coach said it’s too soon for him to reflect on the season. “[The players] can appreciate the season when it’s over,” Paterno said. “I’m not even thinking about retiring — I’m thinking about Iowa.”Surprising Northwestern will undoubtedly have its hands full once the Buckeyes resume play the week of Nov. 8.Northwestern itself will need to regroup after this weekend’s upset loss to Indiana (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten). This weekend Northwestern travels north to face No. 17 Minnesota. Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald was adamant about the Wildcats’ necessity to play at the top of their game.“We’re going to have to play our best football game of the year to compete,” Fitzgerald said. “[If you win] the turnover ratio, you win the game; it’s a pretty simple equation around here in Evanston.”Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster said he was “relentlessly optimistic” coming into this season despite a 1-11 record last year.One reason for Minnesota’s quick turnaround has been the outstanding play of its defense. The Golden Gophers’ “Takeaway Tuesday” practices, as they have been deemed, revolve around creating turnovers.“It’s a tremendous testimony to the investment and commitment our players have made to this team,” he said.Wisconsin faces a tough test at East Lansing this weekend, especially without the availability of senior tight end Travis Beckum, who was lost for the year when he suffered a broken fibula in the Badgers’ recent victory over Illinois.“Travis’s senior year hasn’t panned out anything close to what I’m sure he envisioned or what we envisioned as coaches,” Bielema said. “You know he really only got about four or five practices into fall camp before he hurt his hamstring.”Despite the injuries, the team remains positive after its first Big Ten victory.“We’re excited about the opportunity this week to go to East Lansing and play a ranked opponent,” Bielema said.Seemingly the only common ground that many coaches spoke upon was the stellar play of Big Ten running backs.Bielema thinks that because the traditional bruising style of the conference is conducive to a strong running game, many of the top backs in the country choose to attend Big Ten schools.“It’s a position because of this league; that helps us get some of the best running backs in the country,” Bielema said.Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio feels strongly about the supremacy of the Big Ten backs — with good reason too — as his own Javon Ringer leads the nation in rushing yards with 1,373.“The running backs in this conference are excellent. They can break tackles, they catch the ball effectively, and they are certainly some of the premier running backs in the country,” Dantonio said. “The one thing that you can see is that they all have a great work ethic and toughness, and they are all extremely competitive.”With another hectic schedule of conference games, watch for these halfbacks to lead another wild weekend in the Big Ten.last_img

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