Penn State adjusts after epic win over Michigan

Nittany Lions idle before facing Ohio State

An exhausting win beats a grueling loss, so coach Bill O'Brien is not about to complain about the effects of Penn State's four-overtime, 4-hour-11 minute, 43-40 victory over Michigan.

But he has adjusted practice this week. His younger players scrimmaged Monday while his aching veterans went through conditioning and, in all likelihood, the hot tub.

"The biggest goal for us," O'Brien said, "is to get healthy."

Penn State is idle before facing Ohio State, a gap that gives Nittany Lions fans more time to relish and relive what they witnessed Saturday at Beaver Stadium.


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Trailing by a touchdown with 50 seconds left and no timeouts, true freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg took the field. All it took him was three passes and a QB sneak to go 80 yards to tie the score.

But, oh, those completions. The throws were perfect, and the catches even better.

Allen Robinson dragged his left foot to stay inbounds on a 14-yard grab; Brandon Felder snatched it between two defenders on a cross-field 29-yarder; and Robinson played Superman to make a leaping 36-yard reception to the 1.

O'Brien, who said Penn State practices the two-minute drill "every single day," lauded the receivers for making the plays.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke said of Hackenberg: "He's pretty doggone poised and moves in the pocket pretty well. He has a big arm and can place the ball well. He will be a quarterback that people will have to contend with. The system is perfect for him; they're not putting it all on his shoulders."

Round, not flat: Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald called his team's play at Wisconsin "totally unacceptable" after Tuesday's practice but took exception to comments from players that the team was flat.

"They weren't flat in the locker room, they weren't flat in warmups, they weren't flat as I addressed them, so I don't know," he said. "I couldn't answer that. That's probably why we played like crap."

Fitzgerald is tight with Minnesota's Jerry Kill, who likely won't attend Saturday's game between the teams. Kill is taking an open-ended leave of absence to treat his epilepsy.

"He's tough," Fitzgerald said. "He has overcome cancer and the challenges that come with epilepsy. I hope he feels all of our support. There is no one more respected or loved in our coaching fraternity in the Big Ten than Jerry. His staff has been with him for a number of years. You see how they have stepped up for him."

Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, the Gophers' acting head coach, said his team has spent very little time watching film of NU's performance at Wisconsin because "that is not the true Northwestern team."

My left foot: Nebraska hasn't had the services of starting quarterback Taylor Martinez since Sept. 14, but the Cornhuskers keeps cruising. They've enjoyed three straight blowout victories, which speaks to the quality of their running game, perhaps the improvement of their defense and certainly the weakness of the competition (South Dakota State, Illinois, Purdue).

Nebraska gets a second off week before traveling to Minnesota. The extra days could give Martinez time to recover from the turf toe afflicting his left foot.

"That's an injury that takes time," coach Bo Pelini said. "The pain is going away and he can run straight ahead, but he knows his body. When he can push off and go and be the Taylor he can be, that's when you will see him."

If Martinez remains sidelined, Pelini plans to continue to start Tommy Armstrong Jr. But with Armstrong struggling (6-for-18 passing) Saturday at Purdue, Pelini summoned Ron Kellogg III as a "calming influence." The senior from Omaha completed 10 of 13 passes.

Extra points: Ohio State is third in the USA Today coaches poll, behind Alabama and Oregon. Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer has watched both teams play and said it's "human nature" to wonder how his team would stack up, but "I have mechanisms in place to refocus on getting first downs and stopping people." … Wisconsin's Gary Andersen said star receiver Jared Abbrederis, who suffered a concussion against Northwestern, took part in Monday's team conditioning. Andersen anticipated Abbrederis participating in the Badgers' "grinder Tuesday practice" and playing Saturday at Illinois. … All-Big Ten Nebraska guard Spencer Long needs knee surgery and will miss the rest of the season. … Neither Kain Colter nor Venric Mark participated in Northwestern's practice Tuesday because of ankle injuries. … Purdue is 1-5 with a six-point victory over Indiana State. "We're a little fragile as a football team right now," coach Darrell Hazell said. … The Boilermakers face a suddenly sizzling Michigan State offense led by redshirt sophomore Connor Cook, who completed 22 of 31 against Indiana. "He's growing," Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. "He's getting more at ease in the pocket. It's exciting to see." … Iowa's Kirk Ferentz on brainy quarterback Jake Rudock, who is majoring in microbiology and pre-med: "Test scores and practical football knowledge don't always mesh; I've coached engineers who couldn't make a block assignment work. But Jake is a very sharp young guy and serious about his academic work." … Tim Beckman on Illinois' 15-game Big Ten losing streak: "We really haven't talked a whole bunch about it. Of course it's probably in everybody's mind, but we have been stressing the positives." … Indiana takes on Michigan, which got minimal production Saturday from tailback Fitz Toussaint, who rushed for 27 yards on 27 carries. Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson said Big Ten football is a "line of scrimmage game," so he knows that the Wolverines will look to improve.

tgreenstein@tribune.com

Twitter @TeddyGreenstein

 

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