OSU's Smith, Illinois' Leman and NU's Howells Named Big Ten Football Players of the Week

Nov. 20, 2006

Troy Smith, Ohio State 
SR, QB, Cleveland, Ohio/Glenville
In a battle between the nation's top two teams, Smith boosted the top-ranked Buckeyes to a 42-39 victory over second-ranked Michigan by completing 70.7 percent of his passes for a season-high 316 yards while equaling a career high with four touchdown strikes. Smith set career highs with 29 completions and 41 attempts to become the first Ohio State quarterback to start and win three games in 103 all-time meetings between the storied programs. After the Wolverines jumped out to an early 7-0 advantage, Smith led the Buckeyes right back on their first drive to knot the score with a one-yard toss to Roy Hall. He also connected on a 39-yard touchdown to Ted Ginn Jr. to push the lead to 21-7 in the second quarter. After the visitors pulled within 21-14, he responded with a nine-play, 80-yard drive in just over two minutes before hitting Anthony Gonzalez from eight yards out with 20 seconds on the clock to give OSU a 28-14 halftime lead. Michigan battled back to pull within 35-31 at the start of the fourth quarter before Smith hit his fourth different receiver for a touchdown, connecting with Brian Robiskie from 13 yards out to give the Buckeyes a 42-31 cushion with 5:38 remaining before the team held on for the three-point victory. The four touchdown passes by the Preseason Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year boosted his season total to 30 scoring strikes, breaking the previous school record of 29 touchdowns set by Bobby Hoying in 1995. Smith's 30 passing scores ranks third in Big Ten annals behind only Purdue's Drew Brees (39 in 1998) and Kyle Orton (31 in 2004). Smith earns Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors for the fifth time this season, breaking the conference record of four weekly accolades in a single year set by Indiana's Anthony Thompson (1989), Michigan's Desmond Howard (1991), Wisconsin's Ron Dayne (1999), Purdue's Drew Brees (2000) and Kyle Orton (2004) and Penn State's Larry Johnson (2002).

J Leman, Illinois 
JR, LB, Champaign, Ill./Central

Leman ended his season as the Big Ten's leading tackler after racking up a career-high 22 defensive stops while adding 2.5 tackles for loss at Northwestern. His 22 tackles are the most by a conference player this year and equal the highest total by any NCAA Division I-A football player this season. The junior linebacker totaled 11 solo tackles on the day while adding an eight-yard sack. He concludes his year ranked first in the Big Ten and second nationally with 12.7 tackles per outing in all games, while also leading the way with 13.4 defensive stops per contest in conference games only. The Champaign native finished the year with 152 tackles, the sixth-highest single-season total in Illinois history and the most since Darrick Brownlow collected 161 defensive stops in 1990. Leman earns weekly Big Ten accolades for the second time this season and in his career after being honored on Nov. 6.

Joel Howells, Northwestern 
SR, PK, Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore

Howells wrapped up his career by converting both field goal attempts while successfully executing an onside kick in a victory against Illinois. The senior placekicker connected on a 36-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the first half to give Northwestern a 17-16 lead. He then opened the second half with an onside kick that led to a touchdown to give the hosts a 24-16 advantage. Howells added another field goal from 22 yards out with 2:17 remaining in the game to give the Wildcats a 27-16 lead and seal Northwestern's fourth straight victory over the Illini, the program's longest winning streak in the series since 1950. Howells collects weekly laurels for the first time this season and third time in his career after being honored on Sept. 26 and Nov. 7 of 2005.