Big Ten notebook: Wisconsin pitches shutout

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Wisconsin's second-string defense had to preserve a much-coveted shutout against Massachusetts, with the starters looking on intently from the sideline.
The Minutemen drove to the Wisconsin 33-yard line in the fourth quarter, but the reserves bowed up, forcing an incompletion by backup quarterback A.J. Doyle on fourth-and-8.
"Things got a little dicey and the number two's had to step up and hold up the goose egg, but they did," senior linebacker Brendan Kelly said. "We were happy about that."
--For the last decade, Nebraska has counted on instate walk-on players -- Sam Koch, Kyle Larson, Alex Henery, Brett Maher -- to fulfill kicking and punting duties, and each player has thrived in his role.
Now it looks like Grand Island native Sam Foltz, a redshirted freshman, will continue the tradition. Folz averaged 45.6 yards on five punts, including a high, spiraling 56-yard punt on his first attempt.
"There's a lot of room for improvement, to get more hang time," Foltz said. "But I was pleased with how the first day went."
--The talk in fall camp was that Michigan State's receivers were ready to atone for last season's failures in catching passes.
Yet in the Spartan's 26-14 victory over Western Michigan, receivers dropped six passes, something coach Mark Dantonio said hadn't been a problem in fall camp.
"Quite frankly, there were a number of them that hit them right square in the numbers, so let's just call it like it is," he said.
Three drops came from senior starter Bennie Fowler, and starter Aaron Burbridge dropped a pass on what could've been a big play. Another starter, Keith Mumphery could've caught a touchdown but the ball bounced off his chest.
--Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald took offense to a suggestion that his players were faking injuries in order to slow down California's fast-paced offense.
At one point, Northwestern had players go down on three consecutive players. Cal coach Sonny Dykes said that "was unusual" and greatly affected Cal's offense.
"If anybody were to question the integrity of myself, our program or our players, I question theirs," Fitzgerald said. "When our guys get dinged up, they are instructed to go down, not hobble off to the sideline."

1. Ohio State has some warts, just like everybody else in the Big Ten. Yes, the Buckeyes were undefeated last season, thanks to some close victories, and return some offensive firepower. But the defense remains suspect, and the Buckeyes, after looking brilliant in the first quarter, weren't able to put away a MAC team at home.
2. Score one for the Big Ten versus the Pac-12. Northwestern's 44-30 victory at California -- the Wildcats' first game in the state of California since playing in the 1996 Rose Bowl -- was just the Big Ten's sixth on the road against a Pac-12 team since 2000. Before Saturday, the Big Ten was 5-17 in true road games against Pac-12 teams in that span.
3. It's the same old at Michigan State. The Spartans have a dominating defense that produced two touchdowns in season-opening victory over Western Michigan, but a putrid offense that lacks big-play capability. The fact coaches have listed four quarterbacks atop the depth chart should be a concern. But if the Spartans find some offensive rhythm, its defense can carry this team far.
4. It's the also same old at Nebraska. The Huskers surrendered 603 yards to a Wyoming team than ranked among the bottom half of FBS teams in total offense last season. Of most concern, the Huskers were vulnerable up the middle. Nebraska's offense still has big-play capability, but continues to be error prone, just like last season. The Huskers had two fourth-quarter turnovers, and as a team committed 10 penalties.
5. While the season is only a game old, it appears Purdue could be in for a long fall. The Boilermakers, under new coach Darrel Hazel, looked discombobulated on offense, and surrendered 35 straight points to Cincinnati. After a home game against FCS foe Indiana State, the Boilermakers have Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois and Michigan State for its next five games. Yikes.

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