Big Ten QB carousel keeps spin­ning changes

Rut­gers’ move is lat­est; nearly half the teams have changed starters so far

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Michael Marot

Half­way through the sea­son, the Big Ten’s quar­ter­back carousel is still spin­ning.

Nearly half the teams in the con­fer­ence have al­ready made quar­ter­back changes for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons — in­juries, poor play or a coach just look­ing to shake things up. So far, the re­sults have been mixed.

Just days af­ter four coaches went with first-time starters, Rut­gers coach Chris Ash joined the band­wagon by nam­ing Gio Rescigno as his new quar­ter­back Satur­day against Minnesota.

“I thought he went out and led the of­fense, ex­e­cuted the calls, made good de­ci­sions. He still needs to be more con­sis­tent,” Ash said Tues­day. “I like his per­son­al­ity, his en­ergy and the lead­er­ship he brings to the of­fense.”

Per­haps Rut­gers’ move should have been ex­pected af­ter los­ing four straight and be­ing outscored 174-14.

Other coaches, with fewer prob­lems, have made sim­i­lar de­ci­sions.

Wis­con­sin coach Paul Chryst benched fifth-year se­nior Bart Hous­ton in fa­vor of red­shirt fresh­man Alex Horni­brook less than a month ago. Horni­brook has lost two straight — to No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michi­gan — since win­ning at Michi­gan State and the Badgers are still ranked No. 10.

Minnesota got its first con­fer­ence win be­hind for­mer walk-on Conor Rhoda, who was 7-of-15 for 82 yards against Mary­land fill­ing in for in­jured starter Mitch Lei­d­ner (con­cus­sion). Lei­d­ner could miss Satur­day’s game against Rut­gers, too. The Terps lost with Tyrrell Pi­grome, who re­placed Perry Hills (shoul­der). It’s not clear whether Hills will re­turn this week­end.

At Illi­nois, first-time starter Chayce Crouch re­placed Wes Lunt (back) and helped new coach Lovie Smith cel­e­brate his first con­fer­ence win by beat­ing Rut­gers.

The most shock­ing de­ci­sion might have come from Michi­gan State coach Mark Dan­to­nio, who started Brian Lew­erke over Tyler O’Con­nor on Satur­day, then brought O’Con­nor back in the third quar­ter of a 54-40 loss to North­west­ern.

That change didn’t help much as the de­fend­ing Big Ten cham­pi­ons head to Mary­land with a four-game skid and a start­ing quar­ter­back still to be named.

“We’ll see how the prac­tices work out Wis­con­sin’s Alex Horni­brook drops back to pass against Ohio State. The red­shirt fresh­man has lost two straight. this week. We’ll make some de­ter­mi­na­tions as we go, sort of go from there,” Dan­to­nio said. “It will prob­a­bly be more of a game-time de­ci­sion.” Just to keep ev­ery­one on their toes. Here are some other no­table items around the Big Ten: More changes: Pur­due in­terim coach Gerad Parker got thrown right into his new role Tues­day. First, he took ques­tions from lo­cal re­porters be­fore par­tic­i­pat­ing in the con­fer­ence’s weekly coaches’ call. This is go­ing to take the 35-year-old first-time head coach a lit­tle get­ting used to.

“I know our ad­min­is­tra­tion didn’t see some things they wanted to from our staff,” he said, ex­plain­ing the fir­ing of Dar­rell Hazell. “It’s been a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion for our staff and our play­ers and a weird sit­u­a­tion for me.” Fill­ing in the lines: The Big Ten has 10 bowl tie-ins and the lines are al­ready start­ing to fill up. The Buck­eyes, Wolver­ines and No. 8 Ne­braska all be­came bowl-el­i­gi­ble last week­end. If Iowa pro­tects its home field against the Badgers this week­end, the Hawkeyes would join the list. Four other teams — Mary­land, Minnesota, Penn State and Wis­con­sin — can all move within one win of be­com­ing bowlel­i­gi­ble with vic­to­ries Satur­day. Road magic: The Hawkeyes broke the school record for con­sec­u­tive road wins (nine) last week­end. In fact, all six con­fer­ence games were won by the vis­it­ing team — the first time that has hap­pened since Nov. 7, 2009. And this week­end at Penn State, Ohio State can break the Big Ten record for most con­sec­u­tive road wins in con­fer­ence play. With the win at Wis­con­sin, Ohio State tied the mark set by Michi­gan (17) from 1988 to 1992.

DY­LAN BUELL/GETTY IM­AGES

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