Notes from the Big Ten from the past week.
By Tuesday afternoon, Lloyd Carr must have felt like a load of dirty laundry in a washing machine. Michigan’s head coach had to address the media — again — and spend about 10 minutes answering variations of the following questions: - How in the name of Rudy Ruettiger could the No. 5 team in the country lose to Appalachian State? - How long will it take your coaching staff to solve the mystery inside the riddle of the spread offense with a mobile quarterback? The Wolverines have struggled with mobile quarterbacks since Troy Smith wrote the book on beating Michigan in 2005. In Carr’s last three games — all losses — his defense has faced spread offenses with mobile QBs. Guess what. Oregon comes to the Big House on Saturday with a spread offense and Dennis Dixon at quarterback. Oregon is a bigger, faster version of Appalachian State. Oh yeah, the Ducks have running backs, too. “I think every team in the country has problems with scrambling quarterbacks and, certainly, we’re no exception,” Carr said. What is becoming more and more obvious is the game is passing Carr by. He was asked how Michigan could solve the mobile quarterback issue. “We have to try to tackle better. We have to get off our blocks better,” Carr said. “We have to try to stay in our lanes of pass rush and converge on the ball.” Well, it isn’t working. The Wolverines dropped from No. 5 in last week’s Associated Press poll to the mid-major status of “others receiving votes.” It’s the largest drop in the history of the AP poll. And it was deserved. Now, Carr has to somehow rebuild the morale of his team. Several players returned for their senior seasons with the hope of winning a national title, beat Ohio State and win a bowl game. The national title is gone. Beating the Buckeyes and finishing with a bowl win are foreign concepts in Ann Arbor. “I think the test of any team is how they handle disappointment,” said Carr, who had his contract tweaked in the offseason to make it easier for him — and the university — to part ways after this season. “I know the guys we have on this football team. I know they’re good people. They want to win, and they want to be successful. ... I think the mood is one that is dedicated to being a better football team this week.” Thanks for Nothing It must feel like everyone in the country is looking down their noses at the Wolverines. The one guy who isn’t is Charlie Weis. Notre Dame’s head coach ought to be sending a catered buffet to the Michigan coaching staff. If not for the Wolverines, the topic of discussion this week would be the Irish’s demise under Weis. Georgia Tech hammered Notre Dame, 33-3. The Irish will start freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen this week at Penn State. Nothing like putting a young kid in a position to succeed, huh? Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno said the only in-depth tape he has of Clausen is a high school recruiting video. Clausen was a highly sought high school quarterback from California. “His talent stuck out,” Paterno said. “He had a great release and a great presence. He’s the real thing. Then I saw him a little bit against Georgia Tech, and it was tough for him. I respect Coach Weis, and he knows how to handle a quarterback.” Just ask Weis. He’ll be more than willing to tell you. Tressel Rooting for Michigan? While Ohio State fans didn’t hide their joy in Michigan’s miseries over the weekend, the Buckeyes’ head coach did not rejoice. Jim Tressel said he roots for Michigan all season, except in the final game. “Am I glad? No, I’m never glad when a conference opponent loses,” Tressel said. “You always — outside of your game with them — you’re always rooting for your brethren in the Big Ten.” Down Year? On the heals of a 2-5 bowl record, Ohio State’s embarrassing national title loss and the I-AA debacle last weekend, the Big Ten isn’t the conference of choice nationally. Yes, the Big Ten has a black eye. “That was Sept. 1,” Tressel said. “Black eyes heal well before November, and the Big Ten’s going to be a good conference.” Henne Starts Slow As much as the Appalachian State loss is being blamed on Michigan linebacker Shawn Crable (Massillon) for blowing his assignment that allowed the potential game-winning kick to be blocked, QB Chad Henne didn’t do himself any favor. Henne has more experience than any Top 25 quarterback in the country, but he didn’t play like it. He threw for 233 yards but completed just 19-of-37 and had a boneheaded interception that was costly. “He made some mistakes,” Carr said. “He did some good things. I think everybody else on our football team would like to play better this week.” Henne’s pick came on a bootleg as he threw the ball across his body — a no, no, at this level. “He made a decision he normally does not make,” Carr said. Best of the Big Ten Michigan State running back Jehuu Caulcrick and Wisconsin quarterback Tyler Donovan shared Big Ten offensive player of the week honors. Caulcrick scored four touchdowns and had 93 yards rushing on 10 carries — in the first half — against UAB. The Spartans won, 55-18. Caulcrick didn’t play in the second half. Donovan completed 19-of-29 passes, threw three touchdowns and ran for another as the Badgers beat Washington State, 42-21. Penn State linebacker Sean Lee was the defensive player of the week for terrorizing Florida International, and Purdue’s Dorien Bryant is special teamer of the week. He returned a kick 91 yards for a touchdown. Squib Kicks Michigan State led the Big Ten with 56 yards of penalties per game last year and was flagged 81 times. In the season-opening win against UAB, the Spartans were flagged just times for four times for 35 yards. “That’s something we’ve talked about an awful lot,” Head Coach Mark Dantonio said. “There’s consequences for every penalty, and everybody suffers, not just the person who committed it. “We pay the price for those after practice.” ... Dantonio has brought back the MSU tradition of flicking pennies during the team’s pregame walk to the stadium. ... The Big Ten went 8-3 in the opening week. ... Illinois QB Juice Williams (concussion) is expected to play this week against Western Illinois. ... Brian Gamble (Massillon) played in the Fighting Illini’s opener, one of two freshman receivers getting significant playing time. ... The big winner from Michigan’s loss? The Big Ten Network, since the game couldn’t be seen anywhere else. Reach Canton Repository sports writer Todd Porter at (330) 580-8340 or email@example.com.