Four coaches face last game in the Big Ten

Todd Zolecki

Four Big Ten football coaches will lead their players onto the field one last time Saturday before leaving their respective schools, after three weeks of dismissals and resignations.
Since Indiana fired coach Bill Mallory on Oct. 31, three other coaches have either resigned or been fired. Purdue coach Jim Colletto and Gophers coach Jim Wacker resigned and Illinois fired coach Lou Tepper.
Ironically, Mallory and Colletto face each other at Purdue for the annual Old Oaken Bucket game.
Mallory said he hasn’t taken the time to reflect on his last week at Indiana, where he has a 68-72-3 record during the past 13 years.
“It hasn’t hit me that this may be the last one,” he said. “Maybe it will after the game or next week and I pack my bags and get out of here. Right now, I don’t find it any different.”
Tepper said he hopes his team doesn’t play for the coaching staff, but for the seniors and for the love of the game.
“For us coaches it’s going to be like the seniors,” he said. “It’s going to be very nostalgic. Each practice is the last practice of its kind, and it’s the last time we’ll be in Memorial Stadium. We’ll savor those times. They’ll be very precious for us.”
Colletto said he hasn’t thought about his final game. He hopes to coach somewhere else in the future. He will stay at Purdue next year and hold some position with the football team.
“I don’t dwell on it,” he said. “We have a football banquet Monday. That’ll be the bigger hurdle more than anything.”
Wacker plans to return to Texas and spend time with his family. He said Saturday will be the last game he will coach.
But the conference’s coaching changes might not be finished. After Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz announced his resignation Tuesday, reports have Northwestern coach Gary Barnett as Holtz’s possible replacement.
“Notre Dame officials have asked me if I want to be considered as a candidate for their head coaching position,” Barnett told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “I am taking this under consideration. Once I have had time to fully consider my options, I will let them know of my decision as to whether I wish to be considered for the job.”
Sauter, Holcombe honored
The Big Ten named Minnesota quarterback Cory Sauter and Illinois running back Robert Holcombe the offensive players of the week for their efforts in the Gophers’ 23-21 victory Saturday at the Metrodome.
Sauter completed 23 of 37 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns against Illinois. He engineered a last-minute drive and took a one-yard sneak into the endzone for the game-winning score.
Holcombe is the second running back to have a career day against the Gophers’ defense in two weeks. He carried the ball 43 times for 315 yards (7.3 yards per carry) with three touchdowns.
Wisconsin tailback Ron Dayne rushed for 297 yards with three touchdowns against Minnesota two weeks ago.
The last time a Gopher was named player of the week was when Tyrone Carter and Adam Bailey were honored in September. Carter won defensive honors and Bailey won the special teams award for their performances against Syracuse.
Tough schedule
The Gophers’ problems on the field are well documented by now, but a report published Nov. 4 by NCAA News shows Minnesota has the seventh most difficult schedule in the country. The combined winning percentage of the Gophers’ competition is .608.
Top-ranked Florida’s schedule ranks ninth in the country.