Daniels wins Player of the Week

Tyler Rushmeyer

The Big Ten announced Tuesday that Minnesota running back Alex Daniels has been named Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week, alongside Ohio State senior quarterback Troy Smith.

Daniels was recognized for his performance in Minnesota’s 44-0 season-opening victory over Kent State on Thursday, when he rushed for 155 yards on 24 carries. Daniels also scored three touchdowns in the game.

It was the first career 100-yard rushing performance for Daniels, a true sophomore played 12 games at linebacker last season, before being converted to running back during fall practice.

“We’re still in the experimental process with Daniels, but what I like so far is his physical prowess,” coach Glen Mason said. “He doesn’t run like a 6-foot, 3-inch, 265-pound guy, but more like a 6-foot, 1-inch, 220-(pound) guy. So if we can do a good job up front and he can get a full head of steam, he’ll wear you out pretty quickly.”

Daniels was the fifth Gophers player to earn Offensive Player of the Week in the past three seasons

For Smith, the Preseason Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year,

it was the second time he has received the Offensive Player of Week award. The first time was on Nov. 21, 2005.

On Saturday, Smith converted 72 percent of his passes, going 18-for-25 for 297 yards and three touchdowns. This was the seventh time in his past eight starts that the senior has surpassed 200 yards passing.

“In any game, big or small, my team knows I’m going to be there,” Smith said. “I show up day in and day out and just be consistent in every which way I can.”

“From the day he got here, he’s progressed,” coach Jim Tressel said. “He wants to be more of a passer this season, but that doesn’t mean he wants to be less of a runner than he has been. He just wants more out of his arm and mind.”

Players of the Week
Dan Connor, a junior linebacker at Penn State, was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after collecting a career-high two sacks and a game-high 13 tackles, including 3.5 for losses, in Penn State’s 34-16 victory over Akron.

Senior Erryn Cobb of Northwestern and sophomore Jonathan Casillas of Wisconsin earned Co-Special Teams Player of the Week.

Cobb blocked a punt and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown to give the Wildcats the early 7-0 third-quarter lead against Miami of Ohio.

Casillas blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone to give Wisconsin its first lead over Bowling Green, 14-7, in the second quarter. Casillas now has three block punts in 13 career games.

Perfect week for Big Ten
The Big Ten was a perfect 11-0 in its first week, earning victories on Thursday and Saturday by an average margin of 23.6 points per game. Seven teams – Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin won by 20 or more.

It is the first time in conference history that all 11 teams won their opener. However, this is the second straight season the Big Ten has begun with a perfect first week. Last season, the conference opened 10-0, with Purdue not playing in the opening weekend.

Ferentz gets 50th win
Kirk Ferentz became just the third coach in Iowa history to record 50 wins when his team defeated Montana on Saturday. Now in his eighth season, Ferentz’s record sits at 50-36. He joins Hayden Fry (143-89-6 from 1979-98) and Forest Evashevski (52-34-4 from 1952-1960) on the 50-victory list.

Paterno reaches another milestone
Penn State’s Joe Paterno began his 41st season as coach of the Nittany Lions against Akron on Saturday. He becomes the second coach in NCAA history to coach at one institution for that length of time. Paterno matched the record set by Amos Alonzo Stagg, who coached the University of Chicago for 41 seasons from 1892-1932.

Successful debut
The Big Ten’s newest coaching arrivals both had successful debuts this past week.

Bret Bielema of Wisconsin, the nation’s second-youngest coach at 35, coached his team to a 35-14 victory over Bowling Green.

The youngest coach in NCAA Division I football – 31-year-old Pat Fiztgerald – coached Northwestern to a 21-3 win at Miami of Ohio on Thursday.

“As new coaches will tell you, you really don’t know what to expect until you go through it,” Fitzgerald said. “I gotta give a lot of credit to the staff and players. Everything went as smooth as it could. I just tried to not screw things up and not get in the way, to be honest with you.”