Chicago Sun-Times
with Tina Akouris

October 2011 Archives

Drake Dunsmore gets career record

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Wildcat superback Drake Dunsmore broke the team's record for career yardage by a tight end, when he caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dan Persa at 8:25 in the second quarter at Indiana. The score put Northwestern up 31-14 and it was Dunsmore's second touchdown of the game. Dunsmore broke John Harvey's (1982-83) record of 1,356 yards. Dunsmore entered the game needing only seven yards for the career best.

Indiana's Belcher out for Northwestern game

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Indiana coach Kevin Wilson announced that he has suspended wide receiver Damarlo Belcher and the senior will not play against Northwestern. Belcher is the Big Ten's active leader in career catches and is ranked fourth in career yardage. He leads the Hoosiers with 25 receptions and is tied for the team lead with 286 yards, and has one touchdown.

Defensive changes for Northwestern at Indiana

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Defensive changes for the Wildcats Saturday before their game at Indiana:

Defensive end Tyler Scott is a scratch with a shoulder injury will be replaced by Kevin Watt.

Quentin Williams is starting in place of Vince Browne at the other defensive end, but Browne will play later in the game.

Bryce McNaul is out at the middle linebacker spot with a back injury and is replaced by David Nwabuisi.

In the secondary, safety David Arnold is dinged up and is replaced by Ibraheim Campbell.

Cornerback Demetrius Dugar is out with a possible concussion and is replaced by Jeravin Matthews.

The Northwestern albatross

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Bill Carmody was hoping to get through a quick, 10-minute press conference Thursday at the Big Ten's men's basketball media day without being asked about the Wildcats chances to make the NCAA tournament this season.

It didn't happen.

Carmody was asked if the Wildcats' albatross of never having made the tournament weighed heavily on his mind.

"It doesn't, but it's every team's goal to get in," Carmody said. "The spotlight is on us, because we've never been there and we have a really good shot. The players feel that this is it. I think we have a good shot."

In other Wildcat hoops nuggets:

* Carmody said Alex Marcotullio tried out for Great Britain's national team over the summer, but was cut and the junior will most likely try out again next year. If he makes the team, Marcotullio has the chance of being an Olympian since London is hosting next year's games.

* There are two freshmen whom everyone has been talking about in Benet product Dave Sobolewski and Texas native Tre Demps. But there's also 6-8 Chicagoan Mike Turner, who played at U-High. Carmody said Turner has surprised some people.

"He's gained 15 pounds, but he doesn't know what he's doing right now and I mean that in a friendly way," Carmody said. "But he's not afraid and now he has to refine the way he's playing."

Big Ten preseason basketball honors

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At the start of the Big Ten men's basketball media day at the O'Hare Crowne Plaza Thursday, the conference announced (in no real surprise) that Ohio State and its sophomore forward Jared Sullinger were named preseason favorites as chosen by the media.

Ohio State, the defending Big Ten champions, earned the preseason nod after finishing 34-3 last season. The Buckeyes return two starters. Sullinger, whom the media tabbed as the Big Ten's Preseason Player of the Year, is expected to repeat his successful freshman season where he averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.

The media also selected Wisconsin and Michigan State as preseason favorites, respectively.

The Big Ten also announced the preseason all-Big Ten team (as voted on by the media). Sullinger, Michigan State's Draymond Green, Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe, Purdue's Robbie Hummel and Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor earned the honor.

Ohio State hoops picked atop Big Ten, NU eighth

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Thursday is the Big Ten men's basketball media day at the Crowne Plaza O'Hare. The conference is going to put out their official preseason poll, but among us beat writers in the Big Ten, we put out our own unofficial poll. Check it out. Northwestern checks in at No. 8.

1. Ohio State
2. Wisconsin
3. Michigan
4. Michigan State
5. Purdue
6. Illinois
7. Minnesota
8. Northwestern
9. Indiana
10. Iowa
11. Nebraska
12. Penn State

Another reason for Fitz to admire Joe Paterno

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Pat Fitzgerald has never shied away from his admiration of Penn State coach Joe Paterno. If Paterno couldn't get in Fitzgerald's good graces any more, what Paterno did Saturday night during the Penn State-Northwestern game may have put Fitzgerald's admiration over the top.

During halftime with Paterno coaching from the press box, Paterno asked to meet Fitzgerald's three sons. It was a significant moment that the boys may not have really understood, but it meant the world to their father.

"I haven't even had a chance to talk to them about it," Fitzgerald laughed. "They will as things go along. I get it. When I was a kid growing up you were a fan of Joe Pa and they'll understand it. Joe is so gracious. For him to go ask someone to go get the kids, just tells you what kind of guy Joe is."

QB Dan Persa improving from turf toe

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Some nuggets after practice on a Tuesday afternoon:

* Quarterback Dan Persa is doing better Tuesday, coach Pat Fitzgerald said after the Wildcats' practice, but the senior did not practice and did not wear a walking boot. Persa suffered a turf toe injury Saturday night against Penn State.

* Defensively, the Wildcats may still shake things up for Saturday's game at Indiana. On the depth chart, released Monday, David Arnold is listed at one safety with Ibraheim Campbell and jared Carpenter listed as and "or." And at middle linebacker, sophomore Damien Proby is listed as the starter over David Nwabuisi, the team leader in tackles with 54.

* The Wildcats' Nov. 5 game at Nebraska will start at 2:30.

Penn State leads Northwestern at halftime

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          Penn State scored on three consecutive possessions to start the game and took a 17-14 lead early in the second quarter.

            And despite the Wildcats striking early -- Mike Jensen's forced fumble on the opening kickoff led to Persa's one-yard touchdown run -- it seemed the Wildcats didn't have a chance to do what has plagued them all season: blow a lead in the second half.

            Leading 24-20 in the closing seconds of the first half, Penn State running back Stephfon Green scored on a one-yard run to give the Nittany Lions a 27-24 lead going into the break.

            Defensively, the Wildcats are one of the worst in the Big Ten, ranking last in pass defense and 10th in total defense. That could explain how many points the Wildcats gave up in the first half and it could also explain a defensive shakeup prior to game time.

            It seemed like coach Pat Fitzgerald and defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz had to do something. So hoping to shake things up after several poor defensive performances in a row, Fitzgerald and his staff shook up the linebacker corps, defensive line and secondary against the Nittany Lions.

            Injuries to defensive lineman Tyler Scott (neck stinger) and linebacker Bryce McNaul (back spasms) had Kevin Watt starting at defensive end and Chi Chi Ariguzo at outside linebacker. McNaul, despite his injury, was able to see some action.

            But in the shaking things up department, Quentin Williams started in place of Vince Browne at one defensive end, Damien Proby started at middle linebacker instead of David Nwabuisi and David Arnold started at safety instead of redshirt freshman Ibraheim Campbell.

Northwestern's defensive shakeup

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It's all about changes.

Before Northwestern kicked off against Penn State Saturday night at Ryan Field, a few defensive changes were announced.

Injuries to defensive lineman Tyler Scott (neck stinger) and Bryce McNaul (back spasms) have the Wildcats looking to Kevin Watt at defensive end and Chi Chi Ariguzo at outside linebacker.

But in the shaking things up department: Quentin Williams is starting in place of Vince Browne at one defensive end, Damien Proby at middle linebacker in lieu of David Nwabuisi and David Arnold at safety instead of redshirt freshman Ibraheim Campbell.

Despite losing streak, Fitzgerald optimistic

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            "It's been a long month," coach Pat Fitzgerald said after Tuesday's practice.

            He's not kidding.

            The Wildcats want to snap a four-game losing streak against Penn State Saturday night. And after watching Tuesday's practice, it seems like the Wildcats are going into the game with a full head of steam.

            But Fitzgerald did acknowledge that the Wildcats have found new ways to lose.

            The last time the Wildcats lost more than three consecutive games under Fitzgerald was in 2006 -- Fitzgerald's first year as head coach -- when NU lost six in a row and finished 4-8, 2-6. Since then, the longest losing streak the Wildcats have had -- besides this one -- was three in 2007 and 2010.

            "We've invented new ways to end up on the short end and we've got to flip it back over," Fitzgerald said. "If we were playing like warm garbage, I'd be struggling right now but we're not. We're just not making the plays that winners make down the stretch in games and that's what we have to coach the guys better to do. I watch a lot of teams as I get my chances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays that are playing like garbage. We're not."

            Other Wildcat nuggets:

            * Fitzgerald said former NU quarterback and current Eagle Mike Kafka is coming back Friday for Homecoming and will talk to the team.

            * Dan Persa shaved his head Sunday. "I had head lice," he said.

            No, he didn't. He was just kidding.

Iowa leads Northwestern 10-0

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          Was this possibly the worst way for Northwestern and quarterback Dan Persa to start a game? Maybe.

            With Northwestern driving at the Iowa eight-yard line in the first quarter, Persa dropped back to pass and was looking for a receiver in the end zone. He alluded a tackle, but couldn't wiggle free from a second one and ended up throwing an interception to Hawkeye free safety Tanner Miller -- who promptly ran it down the home sideline for a 98-yard touchdown. Miller's touchdown ties the longest interception return in Iowa history.

            So not only did the Hawkeyes go up 10-0 with 4:08 to play in the first quarter, but Persa limped off the field. He did return on the Wildcats' next series, but continued to platoon with backup Kain Colter.

            Colter has been on the field constantly during the Wildcats' offensive series, where he has split time between receiver and quarterback.

Northwestern's Dugar to start at corner

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          Demetrius Dugar is starting in place of Jeravin Matthews at right cornerback, NU team officials said before the Wildcats' game at Iowa's Kinnick Stadium.

            Team officials also said that left defensive end Tyler Scott has rejoined the team after attending his grandfather's funeral, and running back Mike Trumpy's knee surgery Thursday to repair a torn left anterior cruciate ligament was a success.

Northwestern men's golf defeats No. 1 UCLA

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In an impromptu matchup at the Evanston Golf Club Thursday, Northwestern's men's golf team beat No. 1 ranked UCLA 3.5 - 1.5 in head to head match play.
Both teams were without their No. 1 players. The Wildcats' No. 1 golfer, Eric Chun, did not play since he just returned form the Asian Amateur Championships. And UCLA was without Patrick Cantlay, who is the Bruins' No. 1 golfer and is the top-ranked amateur golfer in the world.

Northwestern RB Mike Trumpy has surgery

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Northwestern running back Mike Trumpy tweeted Thursday morning that he was on his way to Northwestern Memorial Hospital to have surgery on his torn left anterior cruciate ligament. Trumpy suffered the season ending injury Oct. 1 in the Wildcats' 38-35 loss at Illinois.
It is the second consecutive year that Trumpy has suffered a serious injury against the Illini. In last year's Wrigley Field game, Trumpy broke his right wrist.

Northwestern shocking Michigan at halftime

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            Northwestern so far is shocking No. 12 Michigan with a 24-14 advantage at halftime.

            The Wildcats would have gone into the break with a 21-14 lead, but Wildcat receiver Rashad Lawrence dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone with the clock ticking down. The play was then under review.

            Game officials ruled that two seconds should be added to the game clock, which gave kicker Jeff Budzien enough time to nail a 20-yard field goal.


Dan Persa admits he had a setback

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            Quarterback Dan Persa took himself out of the Wildcats' 38-35 loss at Illinois Saturday when his right Achilles stiffened up in the second half. Persa worked out Monday and practiced Tuesday, later admitting that he had an issue with the right foot in June during his rehabilitation. The issue set his recovery back about a month, and that's most likely why he sat out the Wildcats' first three games.

            Persa said he felt that "it was a done deal" during spring football that he would be the starting quarterback at Boston College -- until he reinjured the Achilles during a workout in June.

            "I just planted my foot wrong and it just kind of happened," Persa said. "That hit and set me back about a month. I was pretty upset."

Northwestern RB Mike Trumpy out for season

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            Northwestern running back Mike Trumpy is out for the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against Illinois Saturday, coach Pat Fitzgerald said Monday.

            "It was a non-contact injury and he stuck his foot [incorrectly] on the ground," Fitzgerald said. "I thought we ran the ball pretty well without him. Treyvon Green and Jacob Schmidt and Adonis [Smith] are coming on. So we have guys there that have been involved."

            Trumpy was the Wildcats' second leading rusher behind quarterback Kain Colter with 182 yards on 35 carries and a touchdown.

            With Trumpy out, Fitzgerald said there are four backs he can use. Fitzgerald listed Schmidt as the starting tailback for Saturday night's game against No. 12 Michigan at Ryan Field, with true freshman Treyvon Green also on the two-deep. But Smith is making progress after suffering a leg injury against Eastern Illinois and Tryris Jones is another good option.

            "Trumpy is a little bit down," Schmidt said. "It hurts our team, but as a group we have to pick up the flag and embrace our role and play that much better. We have to have the young guys like Trevyon and Adonis step up."

            Trumpy has had bad luck against the Illini, fracturing his right wrist in last season's game at Wrigley Field. This is the second injury this season for Trumpy, after he suffered a concussion in the season opener at Boston College on Sept. 3 and had to sit out the Eastern Illinois game Sept. 10.

            But there was good news in terms of injuries on Monday. Quarterback Dan Persa tweaked his right Achilles against Illinois, but Fitzgerald said Persa worked out Monday and was fine. Persa is listed as the starter against Michigan.

            Superback Drake Dunsmore said Persa had a couple of setbacks during the preseason, and based on those issues the senior took himself out of the game as a precaution.

Northwestern leads Illinois 14-10 at the half

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            Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa made his first start in six games Saturday at No. 24 Illinois, and was able to quiet a loud Homecoming crowd in Champaign with a three-yard touchdown toss to receiver Jeremy Ebert late in the second quarter. Persa's pass to Ebert put the Wildcats ahead 14-7 with 2:08 to play in the first half. An Illinois 49-yard field goal by kicker Derek Dimke cut NU's lead to 14-10 at the half.

            The pass was a glimpse of the 2010 edition of Persa, who routinely connected with Ebert before Persa ruptured his right Achilles Nov. 13, 2010 against Iowa at Ryan Field.

            Persa showed some rust early on when the Wildcats went three-and-out on their first two drives. Persa was sacked once and also had to contend with a couple of low snaps from freshman center Brandon Vitabile.

            But Persa regrouped and connected with superback Drake Dunsmore on a six-yard pass early in the second quarter. Persa engineered a 12 play, 69-yard drive that took 4:57 off the clock and tied the score at seven.

            Tailbacks Treyvon Green and Mike Trumpy have been handling much of the load in the backfield during the first half, trying to help limit Persa's carries as much as possible. Persa had said during training camp that he wanted the backs to carry the ball more, especially coming off such a catastrophic injury.

Collin Ellis to start at linebacker

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            Northwestern redshirt freshman linebacker Collin Ellis will start at outside linebacker in place of Ben Johnson. Ellis is making his first start after missing the Wildcats' first three games with a hand injury.

Dan Persa gets the call

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            It's official: Dan Persa will start for Northwestern Saturday at Illinois, team officials said about 90 minutes before kickoff.

            It should come as no surprise, since coach Pat Fitzgerald and Persa said they'd be surprised if the senior didn't play against the No. 24 Illini.

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