Krenzel shines in Buckeyes win over Spartans (Big Ten Roundup)

Mark Schneider

Ohio State’s Craig Krenzel isn’t the most talented or exciting quarterback in college football. But he might very well be the timeliest.

Krenzel couldn’t have picked a better time to deliver one of his best performances of the year than last Saturday, throwing three touchdowns in the No. 4 Buckeyes’ 33-23 win over Michigan State (7-3, 4-2 Big Ten).

The victory moved Ohio State (9-1, 5-1) into a tie with Michigan and Purdue for first place in the Big Ten and possibly saved Krenzel’s starting job.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel had said earlier in the week that he wanted to get backup Scott McMullen into the game early because of his strong performance the week before.

“I wasn’t motivated by being replaced; I was motivated by offensively we haven’t done as well as we should have all year long,” Krenzel said. “Coming down the stretch of this season we’re going to need to put some points on the board to help our defense.”

The Buckeyes’ offense — which is third-worst in the Big Ten with an average of 324.7 yards per game — gave Ohio State much more help than one would have expected against a punishing Michigan State defense, a squad that leads the conference in sacks recorded with 257.

Krenzel completed 12-of-23 passes for 213 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown throw to senior Ben Hartsock that gave the Buckeyes a 10-7 lead several minutes into the second quarter. Running back Lydell Ross made substantial contributions on the day as well, rushing for 125 yards on 24 carries.

Spartans’ quarterback Jeff Smoker threw for 351 yards, but 265 of them came in the first half.

The senior completed 35-of-55 passes, setting school records for both completions and attempts, and threw two touchdowns. But he was also intercepted twice. The Buckeyes’ defense never relinquished Ohio State’s second-quarter lead.

The loss was Michigan State’s second straight, dropping the Spartans to fourth place in the Big Ten.

The crowd of 105,194 was the second largest ever at Ohio Stadium.

Minnesota 37, Wisconsin 34: Rhys Lloyd’s last-second, 35-yard field goal lifted the No. 19 Golden Gophers over Wisconsin (6-4, 3-3) transferring Paul Bunyan’s axe — the symbol of college football’s longest rivalry series — from Wisconsin to Minnesota (9-2, 5-2).

After his field goal sailed through the uprights, Lloyd led a surge of Gopher players to the Wisconsin sideline, grabbed the axe and flaunted it before a crowd of 59,543 at the Metrodome.

“I’m just glad he didn’t go for the Axe before he kicked the ball,” Minnesota coach Glen Mason said jokingly.

The Gophers achieved victory behind their usual one-two running back punch: Sophomore Marion Barber III rushed for 139 yards and one touchdown and true freshman Laurence Maroney added 135 yards and one touchdown.

Every bit of it was needed for Minnesota, as Wisconsin quarterback Jim Sorgi had a career day, completing 23-of-34 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns.

The Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry series dates back to 1890, when the Gophers won the first contest between the two programs 63-0.

Purdue 27, Iowa 14: No. 11 Purdue (8-2, 5-1) abandoned its usual pass-heavy, spread offense and attacked the No. 20 Hawkeyes’ premiere rush defense head-on, as Boilermakers running back Jerod Void ran for a career-high 120 yards and two touchdowns.

Prior to the game, Iowa’s defense averaged 72.0 rushing yards per game (fourth best in the nation) and had not given up more than 77 yards in any one contest. Purdue ran for 77 yards in each half.

Purdue jumped out to a 27-0 lead by the midpoint of the third quarter and handed Iowa (7-3, 3-3) its worst defeat since a 28-point loss to Ohio State in 2000.

Hawkeyes’ star running back Fred Russell could muster only 35 yards on 18 carries against the Boilermakers.

With the win, Purdue moved into a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten along with Michigan and Ohio State. The Boilermakers will play the Buckeyes this Saturday.

Indiana 17, Illinois 14: Indiana (2-8, 1-5) quarterback Matt LoVecchio scored on an 8-yard run with 24 seconds left, ending the Hoosiers’ 11-game Big Ten losing streak and denying Illinois (1-10, 0-7) its first victory of the season against a Division I-A opponent.

LoVecchio completed 5-of-7 passes for 46 yards and rushed for two first downs on the 66-yard game-winning drive. Overall, LoVecchio finished 17-of-24 for 161 yards and ran 14 times for 36 yards.

The Associated Press contributed to this story