Orton’s fumble blows game, hurts Heisman hopes

Zach Silka

Purdue’s national championship hopes and quarterback Kyle Orton’s Heisman aspirations were likely fumbled away Saturday night. Orton’s dive for a first down late in the game turned into disaster when he lost the ball and Wisconsin scored the go-ahead touchdown to win 20-17.

Orton rolled out of the pocket on the play and was hit simultaneously by Wisconsin defensive backs Scott Starks and Robert Brooks. He coughed up the football, and Starks picked it up for a 40-yard touchdown run. The fumble was the third turnover forced by the No. 6 Badgers (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten).

“If the ball would’ve been bouncing around, I probably would have just covered it,” Starks said. “But it was just sitting there. I saw the perfect opportunity there.”

The No. 12 Boilermakers (5-1, 2-1) drove to the Wisconsin 25-yard line on their ensuing drive, but kicker Ben Jones missed a 42-yard field goal that would have sent the game to overtime.

“We had a chance at the end,” Orton said. “We just blew it.”

The Heisman candidate finished 25 of 45 with one touchdown and one interception on 235 yards passing but accounted for all three Purdue turnovers.

For the Badgers it’s the second time since 1912 they have started the season 7-0.

Michigan 30, Illinois 19

The Wolverines endured a bit of a scare at Illinois, but used a powerful second half offensive to remain the only other undefeated team in the Big Ten.

The Illini (2-5, 0-4) scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter and led 17-10 at the half. But Michigan quarterback Chad Henne made up for two first half interceptions with two touchdowns in the third quarter, putting the No. 13 Wolverines (6-1, 4-0) on top.

Running back Mike Hart broke Michigan rushing records for a true freshman for the second week in a row. He ran for 234 yards on 40 carries and scored on a remarkable “crawl” to the end zone in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.

At first glance, Hart appeared to go down at the four-yard line, but on a second effort lunge toward the end zone, he reached the ball over the goal line. The play was reviewed, but the touchdown call stood.

Illinois has not won a conference game since its win at Northwestern in the last game of 2002.

Michigan State 51, Minnesota 17

Not too many people saw this rout coming, including Minnesota coach Glen Mason.

“The big question is why?” he said. “I’m really not sure. I don’t have the answers and really didn’t see it coming.”

The Golden Gophers (5-2, 2-2) never showed a glimmer of competitiveness after Michigan State jumped to a 21-3 lead with three minutes left in the first quarter. By halftime the Spartans (4-3, 3-1) led 31-10.

“They took it to us, and it kind of turned into an embarrassment,” Minnesota quarterback Bryan Cupito said.

Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton was the key to the team’s resurgent offense. He finished 20 of 31 with three touchdowns on 308-yards passing and broke the school record for total offense with 410 yards.

Iowa 33, Ohio State 7

It just keeps getting worse for the blundering Buckeyes, who now have complemented a poor running game with an inept passing attack and a porous defense.

No. 25 Iowa (4-2, 2-1) rolled up 448 yards of total offense on the Ohio State defense, while the Hawkeyes kept the Buckeyes scoreless until 2:49 left in the game. Until then, Ohio State (3-3, 0-3) was in danger of being shutout for the first time since 1993.

“I don’t know if they dominated, but they kicked our butts,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said.

While Iowa quarterback Drew Tate racked up impressive numbers for the second straight week — he finished 26 of 39 with three touchdowns on 331 yards passing –Tressel pulled starter Justin Zwick early in the third quarter. Zwick was 6 of 14 with two turnovers on 74 yards passing.

Replacement Troy Smith, who nearly won the starting job over Zwick before the season, finished 8 of 12 with one touchdown on 76-yards passing.

This is the first time since 1988 that Ohio State has started conference play 0-3.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Zach Silka at [email protected]<.