Gopher shines after layoff
After each victory, Minnesota coach Tim Brewster announces a series of team award winners. Rarely does the scout team defensive player of the week get much attention.
Until this week.
Brewster gave the award to linebacker Sam Maresh, who was the prize recreuit of Brewster’s 2008 class and missed all of last season after undergoing open-heart surgery.
And Brewster could not be prouder of how far he has come.
“He’s really playing well. He’s flying around. He’s 100 percent healthy,” Brewster said. “It’s just really great to see the way he’s loving the game of football and the way he’s helping us prepare every week.”
The surgery and subsequent recovery have done nothing to diminish the expectations for Maresh, whom Brewster compared to Bears standout Brian Urlacher on the day he signed.
“He makes it hard on our offense,” Brewster said. “He is running to the football and is extremely physical. He’s going to be a heck of a player for us.”
Big Ten tackles leader Greg Jones has taken a circuitous path to Michigan State.
Spartans coach Mark Dantonio recruited Jones, a native of Cincinnati, when Dantonio was coaching the hometown Bearcats. Jones committed to Minnesota, and Dantonio and most of his staff moved north to Michigan State. When former Gophers coach Glen Mason got fired, Dantonio decided to go after Jones again.
Dantonio picks up the narrative.
“We couldn’t understand why we couldn’t get him. Finally, he said, ‘Coach! … The Mall of America!’ We said, ‘Hey, we’ve got malls in East Lansing, too!’ That got him over the top.”
Three months ago, Illinois running back Mikel LeShoure was sitting out the Illini’s home opener against Illinois State, forced to the bench for a violation of team rules the coach has refused to elaborate on.
Last season, he missed time with a broken jaw—reportedly the work of an angry teammate.
Now, LeShoure is looking like the answer at tailback for Illinois.
The sophomore, who played his high school ball just a couple of miles west of Memorial Stadium at Champaign Central, has 272 yards on 33 carries the past two games, a loss at Purdue and last Saturday’s 38-13 upset of Michigan.
LeShoure says that, after sitting out the Illinois State game, he realized he needed to regain his teammates’ trust.
“I came back out with a whole different mindset,” he said. “I just wanted them to be able to trust me and know that I’d be there for them.”
LeShoure had 150 yards against the Wolverines, his best college performance. It included a 70-yard touchdown run.
“That was impressive,” quarterback Juice Williams said. “You know, you could see little flashes of Mikel being a great player.”
Glad to be a Lion
With Stephfon Green injured, Brandon Beachum has stepped up to fill the void as tailback Evan Royster’s understudy at No. 11 Penn State.
While not a speedster like Green, the 6-foot Beachum has shown the power and burst to fight through tackles and dig for extra yards.
He scored the go-ahead touchdown last week in a win at Northwestern.
Now, the Youngstown, Ohio, native is getting ready to face No. 15 Ohio State. While most of his friends back home support the Buckeyes, Beachum said they’ll root for him to do well.
“You can’t ask for much more than that,” the sophomore said.
As for recruiting, Beachum didn’t give serious thought to wearing scarlet and gray, though he was a big fan of Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and the game day atmosphere.
“But the city atmosphere never really interested me,” Beachum said. “Columbus never was a setting I wanted to be in when I chose my college.”
616 and counting
The Ohio State-Penn State matchup will be the first regular-season game involving two head coaches with more than 600 wins combined.
Joe Paterno is 391-128-3 in 44 seasons, all at Penn State. Jim Tressel is 225-78-2 in 24 years as a head coach. He’s 90-21 in nine years at Ohio State, and was 135-57-2 in 15 years at Division I-AA (now FCS) Youngstown State.
When Florida State’s Bobby Bowden (377 wins at that time) and Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer (214) met last Oct. 25, they combined for 591 career wins between the coaches.
Celebrate the state
Michigan State got burned earlier this year against a so-called in-state directional school, dropping a 29-27 decision to Central Michigan at Spartan Stadium.
Now, Western Michigan will make its way to East Lansing on Saturday.
The games offer a preview of the “Celebrate the State” series in which the Spartans have agreed to play Eastern, Central and Western Michigan four times each between 2011 and 2020.
Michigan State will play away games against each team once during that time.
“I would much prefer to do that than go play at Florida Atlantic,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.
After a 4-0 start, Michigan has fallen on dismal times.
The Wolverines have lost four of their last five and two in a row, the latest a painful 38-13 beating administered by Illinois last week.
The Illini’s only win coming into that game was over a FCS opponent, Illinois State, way back on Sept. 12. Then again, Michigan’s only win since edging Indiana on Sept. 26 to get to No. 22 in the Top 25 was against an FCS team, Delaware State.
It could get ugly around Ann Arbor if the Wolverines (5-4, 1-4) and coach Rich Rodriguez don’t finish strong. They host Purdue, play at Wisconsin and then entertain rival Ohio State, needing one more win to make a bowl trip.
Former players like Heisman winner Charles Woodson have said it’s “hard to watch” Michigan games right now. Rodriguez was asked if he’s more concerned about his offense or defense.
“Really, everything,” he said.
Saturday’s other games include Northwestern at No. 8 Iowa, Illinois at Minnesota and No. 24 Wisconsin at Indiana. … Players of the week: Minnesota QB Adam Weber and DT Garrett Brown, Wisconsin LB Chris Borland and Michigan State KR Keshawn Martin. … Illinois has beaten Michigan in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1958.