Chicago Sun-Times
with Tina Akouris

November 2010 Archives

Venric Mark earns Big Ten honors

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On Monday there was some good news to spread around Evanston after Venric Mark was named the Big Ten Special Teams and Freshman Player of the Week.

Mark had 273 kickoff return yards against Wisconsin on Saturday -- including a 94-yard return for a touchdown -- for an NU single-game record, and he also finished 10 yards short of the Big Ten's single-game record. Mark's touchdown was NU's first kickoff return for a touchdown since Stephen Simmons ran 99 yards against Ohio State in 2007.

Mark also finished with 281 all-purpose yards, breaking the team's freshman record of 253 set by Tyrell Sutton against Wisconsin in 2005.

The Houston native is NU's first Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week since kicker Stefan Demos picked up the honor three times last year. He shares both awards with Indiana kicker Mitch Ewald.

Wisconsin defeats Northwestern 70-23

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With a Big Ten championship and a bid to the Rose Bowl on the line, it was no wonder that No. 5 Wisconsin didn't want to risk not running up the score on Northwestern with Saturday's 70-23 victory at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. 

Wisconsin earned a share of the Big Ten title with Ohio State and Michigan State, both of whom won on Saturday. The Badgers now have to wait to see if their high BCS ranking holds up. Whomever is the highest ranked Big Ten team in the BCS standings goes to the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.


In sad news for the Wildcats, junior linebacker Bryce McNaul suffered an injury to his left knee late in the first half. And it was learned that freshman running back Mike Trumpy's right wrist injury is a non-surgical fracture. He might be ready to play in the Wildcats bowl game next month, a team spokesperson said.

Persa in the house

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Correction on that last blog item. NU's injured quarterback Dan Persa IS at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison supporting his teammates.

Northwestern's Mike Trumpy has a fracture

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Northwestern running back Mike Trumpy has a non-surgical fracture in his right wrist, sustained during the first quarter of NU's loss to Illinois at Wrigley Field last Saturday. Trumpy did not travel to Wisconsin with the team, neither did quarterback Dan Persa, but an NU spokesperson did say there is a chance Trumpy could play in the Wildcats bowl game.

Mike Trumpy out vs. Wisconsin

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Northwestern's running game took a huge hit Thursday when the team announced that running back Mike Trumpy would sit out Saturday's game at Wisconsin with a wrist injury.
Trumpy had rushed for a career-high 129 yards and an 80-yard touchdown against Illinois last week. After the game, Trumpy had his right wrist wrapped.

Also, running back Jacob Schmidt is still out with an ankle injury and linebacker Ben Johnson has to sit out with a head injury.

Northwestern's Kain Colter up to the challenge

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It's not a surprise that Northwestern is a double-digit underdog going into Saturday's game at Wisconsin. But as coach Pat Fitzgerald said at his Monday news conference, everyone is going to be watching Wisconsin -- no pressure, at least not that much.

Someone who doesn't seem to be under that much stress is freshman quarterback Kain Colter. The 6-0, 205-pounder from Denver knows he is going to see some reps up at Camp Randall and he's readying himself for the challenge.

"Depending on how the game goes, you always have to expect to go in," Colter said. "They're not one of those defenses that are going to throw a whole bunch of things at you. They stick to their fundamentals."

Illinois defeats Northwestern

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Behind the record setting ground work of Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure, the visiting Illini beat Northwestern 48-27 Saturday at Wrigley Field.

Leshoure had rushed for 319 yards with about seven minutes to play in the game, setting a new school record. He also scored two touchdowns.

NU running back Mike Trumpy had a career day, rushing for over 100 yards and scoring two touchdowns, including an 80-yard run in the first quarter that was the eighth longest TD rush in school history.

Illinois leads Northwestern at halftime 27-24

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After a first quarter that saw Illinois and NU combine for 35 points, the tempo in the second quarter seemed to slow down considerably. Illinois took a 27-24 lead into the break after Derek Dimke kicked a 39-yard field goal as time expired.

Interestlingly, freshman Kain Colter, who had been the Wildcats' third-string backup and moved to No. 2 on the depth chart when Dan Persa got hurt last week, saw some snaps.

NU safety Brian Peters snagged his second interception of the day at the 6:02 mark of the second quarter and running back Mike Trumpy scored his second touchdown of the afternoon on a two-yard run, tying the score at 24.

Illinois leading Northwestern 21-14 in second quarter

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It wasn't even halftime, heck it wasn't even the second quarter when Illinois went up 21-14 on Northwestern at Wrigley Field.

This is really turning into a shootout in a little band box of a "football stadium."

What's happened so far has been eventful and somewhat sloppy for NU.

NU turned the ball over twice on fumbles, one resulting in an Illinois touchdown.

Safety Brian Peters returned an interception 59 yards after the Illini's Eddie McGee pitched it to Peters on accident during a reverse.

Watkins tossed an interception late in the quarter and then Mike Trumpy scored on an 80-yard rush for NU, which was the longest rushing touchdown from scrimmage for the Wildcats since 1982 and eighth longest in the program's history.

Major rule change for Wrigley Classic

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The Big Ten announced on Friday that all offense (including extra point attempts and overtime possessions) for both Illinois and Northwestern will move toward the west end zone during Saturday's game at Wrigley Field. That eliminates any worry about the east end zone, which is nearly flush against the brick wall in the right field corner.

The Big Ten also decided that only kickoffs will be toward the east end zone and after every change of possession, the ball will be repositioned for the offense to head back toward the west end zone.

There was a coin toss in the Big Ten's offices Friday at Park Ridge to determine which team would be on what sideline. Illinois will be on the west side for the first half and NU will be on the west side in the second half and for any potential overtime.

 

Dan Persa update

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Coach Pat Fitzgerald said injured quarterback Dan Persa is in good spirits following surgery Saturday night to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon in his right foot.

"Dan's mood is great right now," Fitzgerald said. "After surgery the pain medication wore off and he is sore, which is to be expected."

 

Pat Fitzgerald to chat with Dan Patrick

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As if Pat Fitzgerald's schedule wasn't hectic enough this week, he's scheduled to appear on "The Dan Patrick Show" airing on Comcast SportsNet this Friday morning, Nov. 19 at 9:20 AM.  

There will be no purple express for the Wildcats this week.

Northwestern has cancelled plans to take the El to Wrigley Field this week for practice on Thursday and the Illinois game on Saturday because of liability issues, an NU release said Tuesday. The craziness that is Wrigley Week at NU continues with this latest development. Also, ESPN's "College Gameday" crew is going to set up shop near the park.


In hoops news, John Schurna has been named the Big Ten Player of the Week for the third time in his NU career. Schurna tied a career high 31 points in the Wildcats' season opening win at Northern Illinois Friday night.

Dan Persa's surgery successful

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Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa had successful surgery Saturday night to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon in his right foot. An NU spokesperson said Persa was released from the hospital and resting comfortably at home on Sunday.

Dan Persa earns an honor

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The day after NU quarterback Dan Persa ruptured the Achilles tendon in his right foot, shutting him down for the rest of the season, the junior learned some bittersweet news. On Sunday Persa was named the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week for his showing in the Wildcats' 21-17 upset over No. 13 Iowa Saturday at Ryan Field.

And next week's game at Wrigley just got another shot in the arm. Sunday ESPN announced that "College Gameday" is going to broadcast from the Friendly Confines.

Dan Persa out for season with ruptured tendon

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Dan Persa is out for the season after rupturing the Achillies tendon in his right foot in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 21-17 Northwestern victory over Iowa at Ryan Field. Persa had just thrown the winning touchdown pass to Demetrius Fields when he fell to the ground in pain. Coach Pat Fitzgerald said Persa ruptured the tendon while he was jumping to celebrate the catch. Fitzgerald also said Persa will have surgery Saturday night at an undisclosed hospital.

Dan Persa injured in fourth quarter

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After Dan Persa threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Fields the junior quarterback crumpled to the ground and grabbed his right calf. Replays appeared to show that Persa wasn't touched, but he had to be helped off the field. The injury occurred with 1:29 to go in the game.

Second-half blues for Northwestern?

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The second half has been the deathknell for Northwestern when they are ahead. Ending the first half against Iowa Saturday, the Wildcats led 7-3. But to open the second half, Iowa scored when quarterback Ricky Stanzi tossed a five-yard touchdown pass to Marvin McNutt. NU's drive after the touchdown ended in a punt. Iowa now leads 10-7.

Early morning at Northwestern

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The calm before the storm.

Ryan Field is empty at just before 9 a.m. on Saturday, except for a few television crews and stadium workers. But the parking lots outside the stadium are already nearly full as the Wildcats get ready to take on Iowa, a smashmouth kind of team that is ready to exact some revenge for last year's NU win in Iowa City.

But I'm sure Wildcat fans are hoping freshman running back Adonis Smith didn't douse lighter fluid on the Hawkeyes with his comment earlier in the week that coach Pat Fitzgerald "hates Iowa."

It's going to be interesting, to say the least.

Northwestern moves on

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It's time to take coach Pat Fitzgerald's advice and adopt his 24-hour rule after a loss.

At Monday's press conference, talk centered around the upcoming Iowa game at Ryan Field on Saturday. It's sold out and is the last home game of the season. 

The Wildcats have beaten Iowa three of the last four times (2006, '08, 09) all at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. Fitzgerald points to a successful turnover ratio against the Hawkeyes as a reason why NU has had Iowa's number.

But defensive end Vince Browne downplays NU's luck with Iowa and insists that what happened in the past -- including last year's 17-10 win that gave the Hawkeyes their first loss of the season -- doesn't mean anything.

"It's all about who shows up Saturday and executes the best and plays the best," Browne said. "These are completely different teams and [the past] doesn't make much of a difference."

Also at Monday's press conference, the American Football Coaches Foundation donated $10,000 to the Randy Walker Memorial Fund Monday. Representatives of the AFCF presented a check to Fitzgerald and Walker's widow, Tammy. It is the fourth consecutive year the AFCF has donated to the fund.


Joe Paterno gets 400th career win over Northwestern

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Penn State coach Joe Paterno earned his place in college football history Saturday when he got his 400th career win in a 35-21 victory over Northwestern in State College, Pa. Paterno is the winningest college football coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) and is third winningest overall.

Northwestern flew out to a 21-7 halftime lead before the Wildcat defense allowed three touchdowns in the third quarter.

Halftime report from Penn State

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Drake Dunsmore's one-handed grab in the end zone was the firecracker that NU needed going into halftime. Dunsmore's right-handed nine-yard catch that left him barely in bounds put the Wildcats ahead 21-0 with 56 seconds to play in the first half.

But Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin moved the Lions 91 yards in nine plays over just 47 seconds to avoid the first half shutout, tossing a seven-yard pass with three seconds to go to Brett Brackett in the end zone.

At halftime, the Wildcats had no penalties.

Northwestern out ahead early at Penn State

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Pennsylvania native Dan Persa put NU ahead 7-0 on the Wildcats' first possession at Penn State Saturday with a six-yard run. Persa engineered the seven-play, 74-yard drive over two minutes, 53 seconds on the 'Cats first possession from scrimmage. During the drive, Persa rushed for 31 yards, his longest carry of his career.

Could Pat Fitzgerald ever replace Joe Paterno?

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After leaving Chicago at the crack of dawn and travelling all day and part of the afternoon, I got to State College, Pa. around mid-afternoon. While I was here, I received a call from the folks over at a State College radio station. They wanted me on the air for an interview to preview the Penn State game so I said sure. The interview was a pretty typical pregame kind of  thing -- until the hosts asked me about Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald leaving NU to coach at Penn State when Joe Paterno leaves.

I've never heard any kind of talk out of Evanston about Fitz leaving, but apparently his name has come up a lot here in Happy Valley. In fact, earlier this week a newspaper columnist in Altoona (which is about 30 miles away from PSU) speculated that if Paterno ever left PSU Fitz would be the perfect candidate, and if the money was right Fitz could possibly leave his alma mater for a much bigger stage.

With quarterback Dan Persa coming home and Paterno going for win No. 400 and this speculation coming out of central Pennsylvania about Fitz's future, Saturday's game is going to be rife with subplots.

Northwestern's injury report for Penn State

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Northwestern running back Jacob Schmidt is doubtful for Saturday's game at Penn State and fellow running back Scott Concannon is still out with a hip injury. Offensive lineman Doug Bartels will also miss the game with a shoulder injury.


Dan Persa back to normal

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Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa returned to practice Tuesday after suffering a concussion in Saturday's 20-17 victory at Indiana. Persa looked like his old self, no ill effects from the concussion and coach Pat Fitzgerald said Persa was good.

As is the case with NU's practices before road games, Fitzgerald and his staff cranked up the noise at the Cats practice Tuesday morning. A speaker blasted Penn State marching band music and crowd noise during offensive drills involving Persa and backup QB Evan Watkins. It was loud, and it got even louder around 10 a.m. when tornado sirens went off for their monthly test.

Dan Persa looks good for Saturday at Penn State

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Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa is close to being given the all clear to play Saturday at Penn State after the junior suffered a concussion during the Wildcats' 20-17 win at Indiana last week.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald said Persa has been symptom free since Sunday but still has to undergo some concussion tests that the university mandates. Persa said Monday that he feels good and  should be able to play in his home state of Pennsylvania.

About the blogger

Tina Akouris covers the Northwestern Wildcats for the Sun-Times.

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