Backup QBs take spotlight in Big Ten

Published 1:33 am Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Associated Press

The Big Ten’s big-name quarterbacks did their jobs well the opening week of the season and so did the lesser-known signal callers who were pressed into duty.

Backups Kain Colter of Northwestern and Caleb TerBush of Purdue led their teams to wins and Max Shortell quarterbacked Minnesota in the fourth quarter of a two-point loss at Southern California.

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Ohio State divided snaps between Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller, and Penn State did the same with Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin.

Their coaches say all of them are in line for more playing time this week.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said he’s not surprised when a backup quarterback excels.

“When you recruit a quarterback, you’re recruiting a young man who has leadership skills and the ability to give good chemistry to a football team,” Dantonio said Tuesday during the league’s weekly coaches call. “You’re recruiting a person at this level who has been extremely successful at the high school level. They’re used to performance.”

There were no surprises among the established quarterbacks. Russell Wilson, the first-year starter at Wisconsin but an old hand in college football, was sharp in his debut against UNLV. Established QBs like Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins, Michigan’s Denard Robinson, Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase and Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez also led their teams to wins.

Colter got the call from Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald last week after it was determined Dan Persa still hadn’t adequately recovered from an Achilles tendon tear. Colter, who played in three games as a freshman last season after Persa got hurt, passed for 197 yards and ran for 71 in a 24-17 win at Boston College.

“I know how we try to build our program here, and that’s to recruit the best talent we possibly can and stack talent on top of talent,” Fitzgerald said.

Persa is running better than he did a week ago, Fitzgerald said, and he’s close to being ready to play. Fitzgerald said he hopes to know by Thursday whether Persa or Colter will start against Eastern Illinois.

TerBush, a junior, figured to be Purdue’s No. 3 quarterback this season, behind Robert Marve and Rob Henry. But Marve is still coming back from right knee surgery 11 months ago, and Henry tore a major ligament in his right knee Aug. 23. That left TerBush to make his first appearance in two years.

He led the Boilermakers to scores on their last three series in a 27-24 come-from-behind victory over Middle Tennessee State.

“I thought as the game went on he got better and better,” Purdue coach Danny Hope said. “I thought Caleb really came of age in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line. He didn’t waver and looked confident and sure.”

Hope said Marve should be available for this week’s game at Rice.

Minnesota’s Shortell relieved Marqueis Gray in the fourth quarter against USC after Gray began battling cramps. The freshman threw a touchdown pass but also had an interception in the final minute as he tried to rally the Gophers.

Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said Gray would start against New Mexico State.

Ohio State is mixing the old with the new as it tries to firm up the position now that Terrelle Pryor has gone to the NFL.

Bauserman, a fifth-year senior, did nothing to change his status as the starter after passing for three touchdowns and running for another in a 42-0 rout of Akron. Miller, the star of the 2011 recruiting class, got most of his snaps in the second half. He threw for 130 yards and a TD and ran for 30 yards.

Buckeyes coach Luke Fickell said he planned to continue to play both quarterbacks.

Penn State’s Bolden and McGloin are expected to share playing time again this week as the 23rd-ranked Nittany Lions face No. 3 Alabama. Bolden started and played six series in a 41-7 win over Indiana State, and McGloin got in for four.

Dantonio said quarterbacks develop faster these days because of the high level of coaching they receive.

“Whatever program, whether it’s option based, spread based, I-formation based, they’re going to have those guys ready to play as they transition to a starting quarterback at some point,” he said. “I just think maybe they come in a little more prepared.”

Some of that coaching starts at a young age at specialized camps, Fitzgerald noted.

“There are all these quarterback gurus all over the country telling mom and dad if you send your kid to me as an eighth-grader or fourth-grader he’s going to be the next John Elway, Mike Kafka, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady,” Fitzgerald said.