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    BLOG: Friday Quick-Hitters

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    The 'Cats, the last time out, faced Army's triple option, and on Saturday they'll bump up against the option again when they open their Big Ten season at Illinois. Yet that is where the similarity in those two offenses ends, right there with the word option. "But ironically," says Pat Fitzgerald, "we'll see a little bit of similarity in their (Army's and Illinois') front concepts based on what Illinois runs defensively with three downs."

    That's three down with up to three others filling gaps and presenting looks that are either false or legit, which means the young center Brandon Vitabile will again find himself in an elaborate chess match down in Champaign. The obvious story lines that afternoon will be the return of quarterback Dan Persa and a 'Cat defense looking to reassert itself after getting battered by the Illini rushing attack last November at Wrigley Field.

    Midnight Madness with Northwestern Volleyball

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    Head coach Keylor Chan and Northwestern's volleyball team would love to invite girls in grades one through eight and their parents to come out to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Saturday, October 29 for Midnight Madness, an all-night party with the 'Cats.

    Everyone is invited to come out to Welsh-Ryan Arena for a delicious dinner beginning at 5 p.m. Then at 7 p.m. you'll be able to cheer on the Wildcats as they play against a Big Ten foe, the Wisconsin Badgers. The night does not end when the match does, however and in fact the party is just getting started.

    After the match there will be a party with the Northwestern players where fans can partake in wacky games and hang out with the 'Cats late into the night. The fun will roll on until midnight when participants will leave with a t-shirt, a water bottle and a voucher redeemable for two tickets to any future Northwestern volleyball match.

    The cost for the evening that promises to be filled with fun is just $20. You can register now or find out more information by calling 847-467-6862 or by sending an e-mail to

    Two years ago, I was a freshman in the dorms and field hockey sensation Chelsea Armstrong was an Australian transfer student who just happened to live next door. Her roommate was my best friend and teammate so I frequented their room often, many times only catching little bits of conversation with Chelsea before she ran off to one of her legendary late-night study sessions in the library. Her accent garnered a slew of hall-wide fans; a number that vastly increased when everyone figured out just how tremendous she was on the field. It became normal for floor mates to cover Chelsea's door in newspaper clippings that heralded her performances.

    BLOG: Facing a Familiar Foe

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    He beat himself up the last time he spoke into tape recorders. That was after the 'Cats fell to Army and quarterback Kain Colter said blame him for the defeat. "We got together the Sunday after the game," Pat Fitzgerald said when asked about that. "I read his comments and I said, 'At the end of the day, the reason we're in a position to win every game is because of you. I don't mind you being hard on yourself, but there's also a point of being overly critical.'

    Eric Chun Seeks Return to Glory at Asian Amateur

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    Northwestern golfer Eric Chun knows what it's like to have success at the Asian Amateur Golf Championship.


    In November 2009, Chun was the runner-up at the tournament's inauguration, which earned him the right to qualify for the 2010 British Open at the International Final Qualifying Stage. There, the senior shot rounds of 67-71 and sank a 6-foot birdie putt on the final hole to land a spot in his first Major Championship at legendary St. Andrews.

    Wildcat Soccer Players Volunteer at NU-AYSO Soccer Jam

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    Photo Gallery

    Prior to the Northwestern men's soccer game against UMKC on Labor Day, the Wildcat men's and women's soccer teams lent a helping hand by assisting in the NU-American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) Soccer Jam.


    More than 300 AYSO players, aged 4-12, participated in the two-hour clinic at Lakeside Field where they learned different soccer skills from Northwestern players and enjoyed a visit from Willie the Wildcat. AYSO then held a pregame tailgate for nearly 800 Wildcat fans who later helped cheer the Wildcats to a 2-0 win over the Kangaroos.


    "The Evanston AYSO, with over 1,800 kids and 500 adult volunteers, could not be more thrilled to have such a fantastic partnership with the Northwestern soccer program," Regional Commissioner of the Evanston AYSO #735 Ryan Garton said. "Our NU-AYSO Soccer Jam on Labor Day weekend was a fun time for all--soccer skills and drills, a classic tailgate and AYSO helped to cheer the men's soccer team to a victory! It's fantastic to have kids, parents and students all together in soccer."


    The clinic also featured a number of giveaways and NU players signed autographs for the AYSO players. Be sure to check out the photo gallery at the top of the page from the NU-AYSO Soccer Jam.

    BLOG: Scattershots from a Monday Gathering

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    * It was time now for the player portion of the weekly Monday presser and, not insignificantly, into this conference room in the Nicolet Football Center walked quarterback Dan Persa. Earlier, on the depth chart for the 'Cats Saturday Big Ten opener at Illinois, we had read that either he or Kain Colter would start at quarterback, but his presence here gave lie to that notion. For back-ups are not trotted out on occasions like this one. That distinction falls only to the studs.

    BLOG: Bye Week Ruminations

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    "I'd be shocked if he doesn't play," 'Cat coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

    "Yeah. Me too. I'd be pretty shocked," quarterback Dan Persa said minutes later, and then there was laughter all around.

    This was late Thursday morning and the 'Cats, idle this Saturday, had just finished their first practice since their loss to Army. It had been a spirited session that had knocked off, as Fitzgerald would say, some of their accumulated rust, but that was hardly important now. This news, the news that Persa was near certain to make his long-awaited return against Illinois on Oct. 1, that is all that counted now.

    BLOG: Friday Quick-Hitters

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    We are walking with Mike Hankwitz, the 'Cat defensive coordinator, and we wonder what makes the triple-option offense his unit will face Saturday at Army such a pain for a guy like him. He smiles and then he is off...

    "It's just a unique offense that very few people run anymore and, in one week, it's very hard to simulate the timing and all the schemes that they do run," he begins.

    Kaylee's Corner: Maryland: Crab Feasts and Field Hockey

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    In my first season here at Northwestern in 2008, one of our first road trips was to the University of Maryland, not far from my hometown. That year, my parents hosted our team for dinner, which consisted of a wonderful spread of food highlighted by a crab feast. Four years later, our team returned to Maryland, and also to my house, on a weekend that coincided with my birthday. It is ironic that we happened to be playing in my hometown when I turned 18 and then again when I turned 21. My 21st birthday may have been celebrated much differently than most, but I will take our wins over American University and Ball State, a crab feast and spending time with my teammates, their families and my coaches at my house any day.

    BLOG: Wildcats Do Their Homework

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    The scene stood in stark contrast to the one normally viewed, which finds all the 'Cats working together. For here, at one end of the field, their offensive playmakers were refining their routes and their running game. And down there, at the other end, their offensive linemen were mastering their craft, And way yonder, on another field all together, their defense was doing its own special thing.

    This was one indication that this is not a normal game week and so was the pace at which those playmakers operated.

    Northwestern's women's swimmers volunteered as Swim Angels at the 2011 Big Shoulders Open Water Swim Classic 5K on Saturday, Sept. 10. The race featured a two-lap course in Lake Michigan beginning at the Ohio Street Beach; NU men's swimmer Charlie Rimkus won the men's portion of the 20th anniversary edition in 2010.

    The organizers of the race instituted a "Swim Angel" program beginning this year, and Northwestern quickly agreed to participate to take advantage of being visible at a National event in a sport getting a big push ahead of an Olympic year. Swim Angels buddy up with swimmers who need encouragement to help them complete the race.

    "The Big Shoulders race was a fantastic opportunity for our team to be a part of a larger swimming community and experience a different side of the sport we love," Northwestern team captain Meghan Cavanaugh said. "It was great for team bonding and wonderful exposure for the Northwestern Women's Swimming team!"

    In addition to the current Wildcats, Ellis herself and alums such as NU 100 fly record-holder Katie Braun served as Angels. Only a few participants elected to swim with an Angel, leading many of the Wildcats to enter the water en masse behind the pack and team up with any swimmers who needed help along the way.

    One particular participant requested a buddy and senior Jenny Wilson swam alongside her. The racer had never competed in an open water 5K swim before and had set a goal time for herself of 3.5 hours -- a long time to be in waters with temperatures of 64-65 degrees. Several Wildcats teamed up during the back half of the race to help her finish, which she did in 2.75 hours -- way under her goal time. The majority of the Northwestern team was on the beach waiting for her at the finish, cheering and high-fiving her as she left the water in a very emotional and triumphant scene.

    After the race, Northwestern's Angels turned into a clean-up crew, helping to break down the set-up and clear the beach of refuse.

    Also of note:
    Northwestern graduate, world open water champion and 10-time U.S. open water champion Erica Rose finished second overall in the race for the women -- while wearing a cast. Rose previously won the race three-straight years from 2007-09 before taking second a year ago. Earlier this year, she won the 28.5 mile Manhattan Island Swim, which is a circumnavigation of Manhattan Island in New York.

    BLOG: On Further Review

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    * 'Cat coach Pat Fitzgerald anticipated the moment and so, before entering his Monday presser, he gathered his various kickers and said, "It's going to be great. I'm going to sit at the press conference and they're going to ask me why you weren't perfect. 'Gosh. You've got to be perfect.' I said, 'That's the life you lead now. Welcome to being a celebrity.' It's a Brad Paisley song. 'When You're A Celebrity.'"

    * The name of the song, actually, is just "Celebrity" and among it's lyrics are the lines that go, "When you're a celebrity/It's adios reality."

    Football Players Participate in 'Cats in the Classroom

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    In conjunction with last week's Paint Evanston Purple festivities, as well as Evanston Day at Ryan Field last Saturday, Northwestern football players took to three local elementary schools--St. Athanasius, Lincolnwood, and Kingley--to participate in the 'Cats in the Classroom initiative.

    Sophomore punter Brandon Williams took time out to detail the Wildcats' visit to St. A's which is located just one block away from Ryan Field.

    Photo Gallery

    Watch Video of the 'Cats at Lincolnwood Elementary

    After being told about an opportunity to share with grade school age students at St. Athanasius, five of my teammates and I were eager to sign up. To be honest, we expected to be sharing to a smaller group of maybe 30 or 50 students so you can imagine our surprise when finding out that we were to be a large part of the school's first yearly assembly. At first, no one was sure about talking to more like 350 students, but once we arrived at St. A's, we realized we were in good hands.

    Mrs. Castagna, the principal, invited us into her office when we arrived at the school after a short walk down Ashland Avenue from Ryan Field. None of us had been called to the principal's office in years, but after some jokes about us being in trouble, we were introduced to what would be happening in the assembly.

    Mrs. Castagna shared with us the school's theme this year of, "Called to Learn, Love and Lead," something that resounded with each one of us as members not only of the Northwestern football team, but also as students at a prestigious academic institution. We have understood this idea from the moment we stepped foot in Evanston knowing that learning takes priority over our athletic careers, but also that learning is not limited to merely academic knowledge, but also includes our social lives. Learning to love over 100 teammates as a family and learning to lead, not only on the field but also in the community. It's safe to say we have learned a lot.

    Jeff Budzien, Jake Gregus, Pat Hickey, Chris Gradone, Steve Flaherty and I took our seats in the front of the gymnasium as the students poured in. Ranging from kindergarteners to eighth graders and arranged by age, they slowly filled the basketball court from front to back. Mrs. Castagna kicked off the assembly by introducing the year's theme and welcomed the students. The student council then asked us questions about aspects of being part of a team. We were able to share with them everything from how we balance school and athletics, to how we deal with issues within our team. The students listened attentively and, after the student council finished with their list of questions, eagerly asked us about our positions on the team and about how much we could bench press. Since two of us are punters, two more kickers and a long snapper, we allowed Jake Gregus (a defensive end) to answer and his response of 350 pounds, resulted in the loudest applause of the day.

    After we shared with the students, we were able to spend time autographing posters for them and talking to some of the faculty. We were excited to learn about the football game being played on Ryan Field directly following our game against Eastern Illinois this upcoming Saturday between St. A's and Wilmette Catholic. The game was all part of Evanston Day, Saturday, Sept. 10, which is all part of the larger Paint Evanston Purple campaign that included a pep rally on Thursday and participation from numerous Evanston businesses.

    The support from the city of Evanston towards Northwestern Athletics is something that not only is appreciated, but something that is needed. We are so lucky to be in a city like Evanston where we are supported and being able to step out of the bubble of college football to share with grade school children about something bigger than athletics is something that we all were excited to be able to do. We realize the importance of our being actively involved in the community and that our participation could never come close the support we've felt from the community towards us. The 'Cats in the Classroom program, which is in conjunction with the Paint Evanston Purple campaign, is just one way that we are able to give back to the community that we have been blessed to receive so much from. We appreciate every opportunity to be a part of this amazing town and look forward to seeing everyone at Ryan Field.

    Go 'Cats and Go Redhawks!

    BLOG: Skip Myslenski's Eastern Illinois Game Recap

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    * The 'Cats did what a good team should do in their Saturday home opener against Eastern Illinois. They took an overmatched opponent and ground it down and finally pounded it into submission. This was Pat Fitzgerald channeling his inner Woody Hayes. This was black-and-white TV, Ozzie-and-Harriet, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-natural-grass. This was, not unimportantly, just as it should have been.

    BLOG: Friday Quick-Hitters

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    His team had opened its season with a victory, but 'Cat coach Pat Fitzgerald picked numerous nits after viewing the tape and talking with his staff. One of them, you might recall, was its lack of passion, which days later led to him offering this. "I'd be lying to you if I didn't say that it's happened every year where we get to that first game, the guys are sick-and-tired of practicing. It's just hard to keep that energy level up," he said. "I don't know. I'll look at some things maybe for next year. We had the same kind of game against Vanderbilt (in last year's season opener) that we had against Boston College (last Saturday in this season's). It kind of took us the first half to get our emotion to the level it needs to be at to start the game. So it's nice to be in normal game week."

    Capocci Heads to England to Play Professionally

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    Recent Northwestern graduate Mike Capocci (Lombard, Ill./Glenbard East) is joining his former Wildcat classmate Michael Thompson in heading overseas to play professionally as Capocci will compete for the Durham Wildcats of the British Basketball League in Durham, England.

    A three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, Capocci is pursing a master's degree in finance and international banking from Durham University.

    He appeared in 98 career games for the Wildcats, including making 11 starts. Capocci's finest game of his senior season came in a narrow one-point loss to top-ranked Ohio State, posting 11 points.

    For more on Capocci, including quotes, please visit:

    BLOG: On Physicality, Fitting and Fitz

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    He had just two catches against Boston College and neither truly dazzled or resulted in a touchdown. But wide receiver Demetrius Fields was selected as one of the 'Cats offensive Big Play Makers of that game. He also had just two catches against the Eagles and together they gained only 10 yards. But superback Drake Dunsmore was the other 'Cat selected as that game's offensive Big Play Maker. "Both those guys," Pat Fitzgerald would say in explanation, "played the most physical game of their careers. It was encouraging to see that."

    Kontos Earns First Major League Promotion to the Yankees

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    Former Northwestern right-hander pitcher George Kontos (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) has earned his first promotion to the Major Leagues as he has been announced as a September call-up for the New York Yankees.

    A fifth-round draft pick of the Yankees in 2006 following his junior year with the Wildcats, Kontos posted a 4-4 record with a stellar 2.62 ERA in 40 appearances primarily out of the bullpen for the Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees this season. He struck out 91 batters in 89 1/3 innings pitched while limiting opposing batters to a .221 average.

    Kontos joins left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ (Houston Astros) as former Northwestern players currently at the Major League level. Kontos will be managed by another Wildcat, Joe Girardi, during his time with the Major League squad. The Yankees currently lead the American League East by 2.5 games over the second-place Boston Red Sox.

    Kontos was a Rule 5 Draft pick of the San Diego Padres following the 2010 season but he was returned to the Yankees' organization during Spring Training.

    Chris Kontos, George's younger brother, is currently a senior outfielder on the Northwestern baseball team.

    BLOG: On Further Review

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    * Pat Fitzgerald, at his Monday presser, got to that part of his opening comments where he gives the injury report. Defensive tackle Jack DiNardo, he said here, will miss the 'Cats' Saturday home opener with Eastern Illinois with a leg injury. Then, he went on, "Everybody else that played (last Saturday at Boston College) we expect to play. Those that did not play I guess I would list as day-to-day. That's all I'll talk about on injuries."

    * So, in case you were wondering, quarterback Dan Persa is day-to-day.

    Kaylee's Corner: Preseason Secrets

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    Kaylee Pohlmeyer web.JPGWith the Wildcats off to a 3-1 start to the 2011 campaign, senior Kaylee Pohlmeyer takes time out to reflect on what was an eventful stretch of preseason training, on and off the field hockey field.

    BLOG: Friday Quick-Hitters

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    He has been anticipating his team's Saturday season opener at Boston College from that moment the clock ran out in the Cotton Bowl and its TicketCity Bowl loss to Texas Tech was official. That is no exaggeration, not when we're talking about hyperactive 'Cat safety Brian Peters.

    Amy Jaeschke Makes Big Professional Move

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    All-America center Amy Jaeschke stopped by our offices this morning to say goodbye before she leaves Saturday to take the next step in her basketball career. "I have to go pack," she said. "I don't think I have enough time." Given her destination, that may not be an understatement.

    Jaeschke has signed a four-month contract with professional club Chevakata in the northwest Russian city of Vologda. She leaves this week for a training camp in Lithuania before the Russian Women's PBL schedule kicks off in October. The season runs into next spring, but Jaeschke's initial contract expires around Christmas.

    "It is pretty common to sign a four-month contract when you are an unproven rookie in their league," Jaeschke said. "After it's over, they can choose to re-sign you for the rest of the season or you have the option to negotiate for more money or sign with a different team if you want."

    Jaeschke found out she made the squad halfway through a three-week training camp in Lithuania that ended last week. She flew home to Chicago on Monday, Aug. 29, but will be wheels up again on Sept. 3 for the final preseason training camp next week. She already has met "85 percent" of her teammates -- all Russian -- and said the squad hopes to sign another American or European player in the coming weeks.

    "(The language barrier) is very difficult," Jaeschke said. "Only two of my teammates speak English and the coaches do not at all. Luckily they are really patient and will translate things for me."

    Despite the distance from home and the fact Vologda located in the northern part of a region known for its long winters ("I'm from Chicago, I'll be fine," she said), Jaeschke is excited to continue her career in one of the best professional women's leagues in the world.

    "I was kind of hesitant at first with it being Russia," she said. "But this is a great move for my career with a great team in a great league.

    "I can't believe I'm getting paid to play basketball. I've been doing this the last 20 years of my life and now I'm getting paid to do it? I went over to training camp and was thinking 'this is just like what preseason was like at Northwestern,' except I was getting paid. I know I got a free education (at NU), but getting an actual paycheck for playing basketball is so crazy!"