Published Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 8:12 pm / Updated at 12:04 am
Notes: NCAA lessens penalties against Penn State

The NCAA Executive Committee on Tuesday substantially lessened the scholarship sanctions placed on Penn State in conjunction with the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal involving underage boys.

The NCAA had limited the Nittany Lions to 15 initial scholarships for 2013 (10 fewer than normal) and an overall limit of 65 (20 fewer than normal) starting in 2014. Those penalties were to run for four years.

The changes revealed Tuesday increase initial scholarships from 15 to 20 in 2014, then to 25 the next three years. The overall scholarship number also will change from 65 in 2013 to 75 in 2014 to 80 in 2015 and to 85 in 2016.

The added margin for error in recruiting and a closer-to-equal chance to compete made second-year Penn State coach Bill O'Brien a happy man Tuesday.

“This is tremendous news,” he said. “We are especially pleased for our players, who have proven themselves to be a resilient group.”

Penn State's four-year postseason and championship ban remains in place, but at least the NCAA got this part right. The scholarship limits were too severe as first imposed, especially in a case in which the NCAA had questionable jurisdiction. The folks who should be penalized are in prison or in court trying to avoid it.

Gardner in a funk

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner became the Heisman Trophy flavor-of-the-week with his 376 yards of total offense and five touchdowns in a win over Notre Dame.

Since then, the junior has wobbled badly against modest competition in Akron and Connecticut. In those two games, he completed just 50.9 percent of his passes for two touchdowns with five interceptions.

So is Gardner simply in a funk?

“I would think so,” UM coach Brady Hoke said. “He's pretty confident, as you know. Fundamentally, there's some footwork issues we need to do a good job on. At the same time, it's him getting back in the saddle a little and stepping up in the pocket more.”

Players of the week

Offense: Ohio State quarterback Kenny Guiton and Wisconsin tailback Melvin Gordon. Guiton, a senior from Houston, threw a school-record six touchdown passes in a win over Florida A&M. Gordon, a sophomore from Kenosha, Wis., ran for 147 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Purdue.

Defense: Iowa defensive back B.J. Lowery. The senior from Cincinnati set a school record with two pass interception returns for touchdowns in a win over Western Michigan.

Special teams: Iowa split end Kevonte Martin-Manley. The junior from Pontiac, Mich., became just the third player in Big Ten history to return two punts for a touchdown in a game during a win over Western Michigan.

Freshman: Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner. The Lakeville, Minn., product rushed for 151 yards and four touchdowns in his first career start, a win over San Jose State.

Quote of the week

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer on Wisconsin running backs Gordon and James White, who rank No. 1 and No. 24 nationally in rushing:

“I haven't seen everybody nationally, but I can't imagine having two better backs on the same team.”

Bits and pieces

Ľ Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said “we're comfortable” going forward with sophomore Connor Cook as the starting quarterback — even though Dantonio benched Cook in the final two minutes at Notre Dame for senior Andrew Maxwell.

Ľ Spartans linebacker Jairus Jones, a regular in passing situations, will miss six weeks with a knee injury.

Ľ Northwestern running back Venric Mark (out three games with a lower body injury) is practicing, but coach Pat Fitzgerald still isn't saying when the All-America kick returner will play again.

Ľ Six of the league's 12 teams are idle this week.

Ľ Purdue has played 16 freshmen through four games, and coach Darrell Hazell said more are likely to because of recent injuries.

Contact the writer: Lee Barfknecht    |   402-444-1024    |  

Lee Barfknecht has won nine national writing awards from four separate organizations, and is a 12-time winner of the Nebraska sportswriter of the year award. He covers Big Ten football and basketball, Nebraska basketball and other college financial issues for The World-Herald.

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