Taylor beats out competition for Boilermakers’ feature back

Purdue running back Kory Sheets runs past Northwestern defenders John Gill, left, and Deante Battle (22) during the first quarter of a football game in this Oct. 14, 2006 file photo in Evanston, Ill. Sheets, who ran for 780 yards and 11 touchdowns and cau THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, JEFF ROBERSON

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Purdue running back Kory Sheets runs past Northwestern defenders John Gill, left, and Deante Battle (22) during the first quarter of a football game in this Oct. 14, 2006 file photo in Evanston, Ill. Sheets, who ran for 780 yards and 11 touchdowns and cau THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, JEFF ROBERSON

By The Associated Press

Taylor holds off Sheets in position battle to become next Purdue starting back

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Jaycen Taylor has held off Kory Sheets in the race for the starting running back job at Purdue.

Sheets ran for 780 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 28 passes for 213 yards and two scores last season. Taylor, a junior college transfer, ran for 677 yards and four touchdowns and caught 26 passes for 261 yards.

Sheets was the starter last season, but Tiller promoted Taylor this spring, saying Sheets needed to mature. Sheets obliged, but Taylor still held onto his spot and is scheduled to make his first career start Saturday at Toledo.

Quarterback Curtis Painter said the two speedsters have helped each other.

“It’s a great competition,” Painter said. “They’re good friends off the field, they’re not guys that are butting heads or anything, but they’re great competitors. I’m confident that whichever one goes in there, I know they’re going to do what they’re supposed to do, and they’re going to make big plays for us.”

Tiller said Tuesday that their workloads would depend on the flow of the game. He is watching how the two players handle the competition.

“I think Taylor is a natural positive guy, more so than Sheets. As Kory begins to mature, now I see more camaraderie at the position than I’ve seen in the past.”

Penn State players ready to start cleaning after games as punishment for fight

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – There’s no escaping cleanup duty for No. 17 Penn State.

Several Nittany Lions were involved in an off-campus fight over the summer that left coach Joe Paterno so steamed he ordered his entire squad to clean up Beaver Stadium after home games this fall, among other punishments.

“We haven’t covered any of the details yet,” linebacker Dan Connor said. “Just go out there and clean.”

The season opener is Saturday against Florida International, meaning the first cleanup day of the 107,000-seat stadium is Sunday.

Bielema tabs fifth-year senior Donovan as starter barring early season meltdown

MADISON, Wis. – Coach Bret Bielema has chosen fifth-year senior Tyler Donovan to open the season as the starting QB for No. 7 Wisconsin, but he won’t rule out bringing in junior Allan Evridge if Donovan struggles on Saturday against Washington State.

“Our quarterbacks fully understand that Tyler is our starter, and he’s not just there to be yanked if he throws an incomplete pass or if he throws an interception,” Bielema said. “But by the same account, everybody in our program realizes every snap counts.”

Both can scramble. Evridge, a Kansas State transfer, might be a better passer but Donovan’s experience gives him an edge. He started two games after John Stocco was injured late last season, leading the Badgers to victories at Iowa and at home against Buffalo.

Bielema noted that when he left his office around 10:15 p.m. earlier this week, Donovan was still in the office of offensive coordinator Paul Chryst.

Boilermakers’ defense stays healthy, alleviates middle linebacker concerns

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.- Tiller’s top concern about his defense in the weeks leading up to the Toledo game have been answered.

“Coming into camp, we said we were concerned about the middle linebacker position,” he said. “We’re not anymore. Josh Ferguson’s had a good training camp, he’s stayed healthy. Dan Bick’s had a good training camp. He’s stayed healthy.”

Ferguson is listed as the starter. The fifth-year senior was a reserve who played in seven games last year before suffering a season-ending hip fracture.

Bick, who started all 14 games last season, slides to No. 2 on the depth chart. He had 95 tackles and five sacks last season.

Ferguson’s emergence eliminated Tiller’s possible experiment of moving Anthony Heygood to the middle. Heygood, who entered last season as a running back, is slated to start this season at strong-side linebacker.

Hoosiers looking for more consistency when at ‘The Rock’ against lesser foes

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Bill Lynch expects Indiana to take care of its homework this season, and he’s not talking about study tables.

What Lynch wants from these Hoosiers is consistency, especially in front of fans who have watched a roller-coaster ride the past decade.

Just last year, the Hoosiers were upset by Division I-AA Southern Illinois 35-28 at Memorial Stadium, then turned around a month later and shocked No. 15 Iowa 31-28. If the Hoosiers intend to end their bowl drought, Lynch knows they cannot afford those lapses.

“We’ve not played very consistently at home,” Lynch said Tuesday. “We’ve played very well at times, but we’ve got to get that consistency at home.”

It’s a mantra players have heard the last three years.

The rallying call of late coach Terry Hoeppner was: Defend The Rock, a nickname he gave to the stadium after moving a three-ton limestone boulder into the north end zone.

Before Hoeppner’s death June 19, he was active in ginning up fan support for games. Besides the usual golf outings and alumni functions attended by football coaches, Hoeppner made personal pleas to students, inviting them to attend games.

While attendance increased slightly, Lynch believes it’s up to the players to do their part in drawing more fans to the games – by winning.

“Coach always believed that the crowd helped win football games,” Lynch said. “To me, the college atmosphere begins with the students and their enthusiasm and what they create in the stadium. I think that’s true anywhere you go in the country.”

This year’s schedule looks promising. Instead of facing Ohio State or Michigan at home, the Hoosiers open against Division I-AA Indiana State on Saturday and eventually face Mid-American Conference foes Akron and Ball State, along with Illinois, Minnesota, Penn State and Purdue in Bloomington.

But Indiana has not posted a winning home record since going 3-2 in 1998 and hasn’t won four home games since 1993. The Hoosiers were 3-2 at Memorial Stadium in 2000, but lost a home game to Penn State, which was moved at the RCA Dome.

Lynch is hoping the fans and players can change that trend this year.

“We want students to get in the habit of coming to games, and I think Hep did a phenomenal job with that,” he said. “We’ve got to carry that on.”