For Big Ten teams this season, the challenge has been keeping quarterbacks upright and healthy.
Seven of the 14 teams in the conference have been forced to play backup or third-string quarterbacks due to injuries.
Five of those quarterbacks played across the league Saturday, with varying results.
Purdue redshirt freshman Jack Plummer, making his third career start for injured Elijah Sindelar, earned Big Ten offensive player of the week honors after passing for 420 yards and three touchdowns as the Boilermakers routed Maryland 40-14. Plummer completed 33 of 41 passes (80.5 percent), breaking a Purdue record for completion percentage for a quarterback making a minimum of 40 pass attempts.
It wasn’t as successful an afternoon for Maryland redshirt junior Tyrrell Pigrome, who was up and down in replacing injured Josh Jackson against Purdue. Pigrome did have a nifty 61-yard touchdown on an option run but also threw two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown by Purdue cornerback Cody Trice. For the game, Pigrome finished with 218 yards passing and 107 yards rushing.
Illinois redshirt freshman Matt Robinson, in place of injured Brandon Peters, nearly rallied the Illini back from an early deficit in a 42-25 loss against No. 16 Michigan. Robinson completed 16 of 25 passes for 192 yards with one touchdown and added another TD rushing.
Noah Verdal and Andrew Bunch both struggled replacing injured Adrian Martinez in Nebraska’s 34-7 loss at Minnesota. Verdal, a sophomore, was 14-of-23 passing for 135 yards in his first career start while Bunch was 1-of-6 for 13 yards.
No backup, though, had a rougher day than Rutgers third-stringer Johnny Langan, who was held to just 1 yard passing on 5-of-13 completions in a 35-0 loss at Indiana. Langan also was sacked six times. He’s been pressed into duty due to opening game starter McLane Carter choosing to retire from football following a head injury and freshman Artur Sitkowski sitting out the rest of the season on a redshirt to preserve his eligibility.
What do Michigan State and Iowa have in common? Both have only scored one touchdown in their last two weeks on the field. After losing 34-10 at No. 4 Ohio State, Michigan State was shut out 38-0 at No. 6 Wisconsin on Saturday.
Iowa followed up a 10-3 loss at Michigan with its offense not being ready for prime time in 17-12 home loss to No. 7 Penn State under the lights at Kinnick Stadium.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio was testy when asked following the Wisconsin loss if he should have in retrospect added new offensive coaches during the offseason. Rather than fire any offensive coaches after Michigan State finished 13th in the league in scoring offense at 18.7 points per game last season, Dantonio shifted around roles within his staff, promoting Brad Salem from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator while demoting Dave Werner and Jim Bollman from co-coordinators to position coaches.
“Well, I don’t think we ask those questions right now,” Dantonio said. “We’re seven games into the schedule. I think that’s sort of a dumb(expletive) question, to be quite honest with you.”
Unbeaten Minnesota finally broke into the AP Top 25 at No. 20 on Sunday following a 34-7 home win over Nebraska.
The Golden Gophers (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) have benefitted from a soft early schedule. But after winning its first four games by a touchdown or less, Minnesota has won its last two games against Illinois and Nebraska by a combined score of 74-24.
Minnesota earned its first AP ranking since being ranked No. 22 for one week in 2014 and is off to its best start since starting 6-0 in 2003.