Team of the Week – Northwestern
Wisconsin made a strong case for this honor, but beating Boston College without starting quarterback Dan Persa is enough for Northwestern to earn the nod for Week 1. Persa is still recovering from a torn Achilles suffered late last season, which forced Kain Colter into the lineup. The sophomore responded well in his first start, completing 17 of 24 passes for 197 yards and one score. The Wildcats gave up 479 yards on defense, but made a few key plays late in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory. After struggling to win without Persa last year, the Wildcats found a way to get it done in the opener.
Disappointment of the Week – Indiana
New coach Kevin Wilson seemed to spark the Indiana program during the offseason, but that momentum didn’t carry over into the season opener. The Hoosiers dropped a 27-20 decision to Ball State, which was no doubt a disappointment for Wilson and the Indiana fanbase. Even though the Hoosiers were only 5-7 last year, Ball State was projected to finish fifth in the MAC West. Defense has been an issue for years in Bloomington and will be an area of concern once again, especially after allowing 210 rushing yards and 27 points to the Cardinals.
Player of the Week – Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin
Wilson’s debut in Madison couldn’t have gone any better. The NC State transfer led a 51-17 blowout win over UNLV, completing 10 of 13 passes for 255 yards and two scores. He also added 62 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The Rebels weren’t the most difficult opener, but this should give Wilson and the Wisconsin offense a lot of confidence when Nebraska visits Madison on Oct. 1.
Freshman of the Week – Max Shortell, QB, Minnesota
It was a relatively quiet weekend in the Big Ten for freshmen performers, with Shortell, Illinois linebacker Houston Bates and Nebraska tackle Tyler Moore making key contributions in Week 1. Shortell was instrumental in Minnesota’s second-half rally against USC. The true freshman completed 7 of 13 passes for 98 yards and one score. Even though the Gophers fell short, Shortell’s performance was promising for coach Jerry Kill. MarQueis Gray will remain the starter in Week 2, but the Minnesota coaching staff should has confidence in Shortell should he be needed off the bench this year.
Around the Big Ten
• Purdue’s Caleb TerBush made his first start at quarterback against MTSU. TerBush completed 19 of 33 passes for 220 yards and two scores. TerBush was Purdue’s fourth different starting quarterback for a season opener over the last four years.
• Minnesota struggled to establish its rushing attack in the opener against USC, as starting running back Duane Bennett managed only 53 yards on 15 attempts. The Golden Gophers’ last 100-yard rusher came on Oct. 23, 2010 against Penn State, when DeLeon Eskridge earned 111 yards on 26 attempts.
• Nathan Scheelhaase completed 16 of 23 throws in Saturday’s win over Arkansas State, yet only three receivers caught passes. A.J. Jenkins was the primary weapon, catching 11 balls for 148 yards and one score.
• With DeVier Posey sidelined, Ohio State will have a young group of receivers for the first couple of weeks of 2011. Of the 20 completed passes, 12 went to receivers with at least three or four years of eligibility remaining. No wide receiver with junior or senior eligibility caught a pass against the Zips.
• Iowa held Tennessee Tech to seven points in Saturday’s opener. From 2002-2010, the Hawkeyes allowed only more than seven points once in a season opener (2009 to Northern Iowa).
• Nebraska’s debut as a Big Ten member was a success, defeating Chattanooga 40-7. Penn State was the last team to join the Big Ten in 1993, posting a 38-20 win over Minnesota.
• Only three players rushed for more than 100 yards in Week 1. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez leads the Big Ten in rushing with 135 yards, while Purdue running back Ralph Bolden is second with 120 yards. Penn State’s Silas Redd ranks third with 104 yards.