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    November 2011 Archives

    BLOG: Instant Interpretation

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    * He was now sitting on a stage behind a table in some meeting room, but his emotions were still roiling and his feeling were on full display and his voice's timbre recalled the resonance that is surely there when he is exhorting his team in a locker room. "As the season's gone through and you look at the six times we've been on the positive side and won football game, we've done the little things that winners do. . .," Pat Fitzgerald was saying here. "The little details today [are] what hurt us. If it's getting a punt closer to the boundary. If it's taking care of the football in the red zone. If it's protection communication. If it's a post player staying in the post. All those little things add up to success and unfortunately momentary failure.

    BLOG: Northwestern Friday Quick Hitters

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    The schedule says that the 'Cats' Saturday meeting with Michigan State is the last game of their regular season, is the last Big Ten game for their 25 seniors, is also the last time those 25 will be playing at Ryan Field. But early in their preparation for the Spartans, recalled Pat Fitzgerald, he told them, "Instead of looking at it as the end, take the opportunity for what it is."

    And what is it?

    BLOG: Thanksgiving Week Ruminations

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    * His team had won, his offense had put up 28 points and he himself had posted above-average numbers, completing 22 of his 31 pass attempts for 216 yards and a pair of touchdowns. A less-driven performer would have been content with that package, but here is what makes 'Cat quarterback Dan Persa special. Not only was he not content with his work last Saturday against Minnesota. He was unhappy. "I don't think I played very well and I think some of the other guys (on his offense) were upset the way they played," he explained Wednesday morning. "We're just looking forward to changing that on Saturday (against eleventh-ranked Michigan State.)"

    What in particular displeased him?

    Contribute to Northwestern SAAC Food Drive

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    In this season of giving, the Northwestern Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is encouraging fans to donate to its annual food drive. Individuals attending this Friday's men's basketball game against Stony Brook and the women's women's basketball game against North Carolina State on Nov. 30 are asked to bring non-perishable canned food items for donation.

    Those who donate are eligible to enter to win a raffle for gift cards. The beneficiary of the food drive is Family Focus.

    In addition to the two basketball games, donations can also be dropped off at SPAC on the Northwestern campus, the Globe Cafe and Bar in the Hilton Orrington Hotel, the Northwestern University Police Station as well as Evanston Fire Departments. The last day to drop off items at the Evanston locations is Thursday, Dec. 1.

    BLOG: Upon Further Review

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    * There is no exaggerating the split personality the 'Cat offense exhibited last Saturday against Minnesota. It looked as crisp as a heavily starched shirt while rolling to touchdowns on its first three possessions. Then, on its next five, it had a seven-play drive that ended in an interception; two five-and-punt drives; a three-and-punt drive; and a six-play drive that ended in a fumble lost. But, to close out its afternoon, it now unfurled a 15-play drive that ate up 80 yards and 4:38 and resulted in a touchdown, and a 13-play drive that ate up 71 yards and 6:18 and turned the ball over on downs to the Gophs on their own 11 with just 1:10 remaining in the game. It was no wonder, then, that Pat Fitzgerald reported on Monday, "A very hungry group in our offensive room, no question about that. Especially (quarterback) Danny (Persa). I really liked his attitude today. I promise you. Nobody's satisfied by winning just six games."

    BLOG: Instant Interpretation

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    * The 'Cats continued their Lazarus act Saturday at Ryan Field and stamped themselves as bowl eligible with their 28-13 win over Minnesota. But here is what most intrigued. There was, later, no celebrating, no gloating, no back-slapping and certainly no sense of satisfaction. "It's great to get number six and get to bowl eligible," Pat Fitzgerald would allow afterward.

    But mere seconds, not minutes, but mere seconds later he would also say, "But our focus now will move quickly, as in right-now-tonight-when-I-go-home, to our coming opponent."

    BLOG: Northwestern Friday Quick Hitters

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    * The possibility seemed improbable 27 days ago. The 'Cats had just lost at home to Penn State; their unexpected losing streak had swelled to five; their quarterback Dan Persa had turf toe; their defense had given up an average of 38.7 points in the previous four games; and their post-season hopes were now officially on life support. But, history informs us, the most-miraculous fact about miracles is that they do occur, and so here they pulled a Lazarus; Persa eschewed a hospital bed and shined; that defense refashioned itself into a vital force; and, after three straight victories, they can stamp themselves as bowl eligible with a Saturday win over Minnesota at Ryan Field.

    "Yeah. You better believe it's out there," their coach Pat Fitzgerald will say when asked if his team recognizes and discusses that possibility.

    BLOG: Another Day at the Office for Ebert

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    Jeremy Ebert had a memorable Saturday afternoon against Rice, whom he eviscerated with seven receptions for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns. One of them came on a 90-yard burst off a short post pattern, but the true highlight of his day was the improbable one-handed grab between two Owl defenders that 'Cat head coach Pat Fitzgerald would admiringly describe as "ridiculous." He, in fact, thought so much of this catch that he included it in a package of plays that exemplifies the meaning of Playing Northwestern Football. "Typically," he will say, "they're examples of effort, extra effort, great swarm, whatever."

    BLOG: No Jedi Mind Trick

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    * On Saturday, after the 'Cats had defeated Rice and their defense had put on its best performance of the fall, linebacker David Nwabuisi said, "We used to have a lot more in our game plan early on in the season. But we had a sit down, said everyone needs to loosen up, have fun. . . We just need to do our jobs and go out there and have fun and play hard. That was the message we tried to get through to everybody and it's paid off."

    Now he was asked if that game plan has fewer adjustments in it.

    BLOG: Upon Further Review

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    * There was no high drama. There were no apparent injuries. There was no seminal moment that turned the proverbial tide. There were no grand stratagems that keyed the success. The 'Cats' 28-6 win over Rice Saturday was simply a workman-like job, and we do not say that derogatorily. We, in fact, imply just the opposite. For they did what the better team should do when confronted with a lesser foe. They went about their business like a bunch of true professionals and waltzed away with a win.

    BLOG: Northwestern Friday Quick Hitters

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    It has now gone on long enough to be considered a routine and so quarterback Dan Persa laughed as we approached. He knew, once again, we were there to check on his health and so, even before the question was asked, he assured, "I'm all right. I'm all right."

    And what happened last Saturday when Nebraska's Eric Martin pile drove him into the ground?

    "I strained some ligaments in my neck, kind of strained my trap(ezius muscle) and kind of bruised my upper ribs."

    Which left him feeling how?

    Click to View a Photo Gallery of the Celebration

    Click to View a Video of the Celebration

    Just like he has been doing since the day he arrived at Northwestern, senior offensive tackle Al Netter volunteered for some community service work Wednesday afternoon. Netter traveled to Lincolnwood Elementary School in Evanston for what he thought would be a reading and Q&A session with a fourth grade class, but instead the afternoon turned into a party in his honor.

    In September, Netter was chosen as one of 11 Football Bowl Subdivision members of the Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works TeamĀ® in recognition of his dedication to community service and off-the-field accomplishments. This marks the sixth consecutive year a Wildcat has been among the 11 Football Bowl Subdivision players chosen, the longest streak for any school in the program's 20-year history.

    A Northwestern captain and member of NU's Leadership Council for the last two years, Netter has started 42 consecutive games at left tackle for the Wildcats and is a two-time honorable mention All-Big Ten performer.

    Off the field, the Rohnert Park, Calif., native has gone to great lengths to help those less fortunate at home and abroad. In 2010, Netter traveled to Guatemala an alternative spring break trip during which he helped cultivate farmland for local residents as well as teach English and prepare meals at an orphanage. More recently, Netter was a founding member of the Northwestern chapter of Uplifting Athletes which raises money for individuals with Niemann-Pick Type C, a rare genetic cholesterol storage disorder that deteriorates the nervous system.

    On Wednesday, the Lincolnwood students created a life-size Al Netter drawing in anticipation of his visit. In addition, they made a banner congratulating him on his award -- a banner which remained hidden until the appropriate moment. After Netter read the book, he took questions from the students for a few minutes before Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald opened the door and walked into the room, much to the surprise of Netter and to the delight of the students.

    Television cameras and representatives from Allstate and the AFCA Good Works TeamĀ® also entered the room, and the award presentation and party was on. Students posed with Netter and Coach Fitz, displaying their banner and some football schedule posters brought along by NU Athletic Department staffers.

    Wednesday's ceremony is not the end of the celebration. As part of the honor, Netter is invited to attend the Allstate Sugar Bowl for a ceremony and associated service projects in the New Orleans area.

    BLOG: Learning the Ropes

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    The surprise for the 'Cats last Saturday, of course, was the intrepid work of their defense. It limited Nebraska to a mere 122 net rushing yards, just over half of the Huskers' season average; it held Nebraska to a mere 25 points, nearly 10 less than the Huskers' season average; it contained powerful Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead, who is averaging 105.7 yards on the season but here was thrown for losses five times on his way to netting just 69; and it benefited from a bit of skullduggery that would have made Ian Fleming's slick spy very proud. That, anyway, is the belief of Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, who earlier this week said, "They were looking at our sidelines to see what plays we were running (and) they maybe kind of caught onto what we were doing. . . It's Northwestern. Smart school."

    BLOG: Upon Further Review

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    * He knew the question would come and so, even before appearing for his weekly Monday presser, Pat Fitzgerald asked quarterback Dan Persa how he was feeling after sitting out last Saturday's second half with a shoulder injury. "He told me he was going to play," the coach reported after the question did indeed come.

    * Persa, in fact, did run around Monday morning. "What his status will be tomorrow (for practice), I don't know. I'd list him day-to-day for tomorrow," Fitzgerald also said.

    * Kain Colter, as he has been all season, was a dynamo during the 'Cats' upset of Nebraska, rushing for 57 yards and catching three passes for 57 more and going 4-of-6 as a quarterback for yet 115 more.

    BLOG: Northwestern Friday Quick Hitters

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    Back on October 15, in one of those exhibitions that manifested a willful man's capabilities, 'Cat defensive end Tyler Scott attended his grandfather's funeral in Ohio in the morning, hopped a private plane for a flight to Iowa City and played against the Hawkeyes that evening.Three days later, in one of those twists that manifested the blithe fickleness of fate, he pinched a nerve in his neck during a simple tackling drill and found himself destined for two-weeks of inactivity. "Stuff happens," he will say laconically when asked if he appreciated the irony of it all.

    Wildcats Welcome Friends from Misericordia to Practice

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    Photo Gallery

    Northwestern's men's basketball program has a long history of being involved in community service efforts in Evanston and the surrounding communities and that tradition continued Thursday as it welcomed a group from Misericordia to practice.

    Located just south of Evanston along Ridge Avenue in Chicago, Misericordia offers a community of care that maximizes potential for persons with mild to profound developmental disabilities, many of whom are also physically challenged. Misericordia serves and houses more than 600 children and adults on its 31-acre campus. The organization is operated by the Sisters of Mercy under the auspices of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.


    Many of the members who attended Wednesday's practice participate in a Special Olympics basketball team. They had the opportunity to watch some of the Wildcats' practice as well as shoot baskets with the team afterward and get autographs from the squad.


    Northwestern's men's basketball program has also been heavily involved with a wide variety of events such as the University's annual Relay For Life as well as the athletic department's annual Field Day. Last season, the team welcomed a group from Children's Heart Foundation which was NU's primary beneficiary of the popular Dance Marathon.

    BLOG: Rally Around the Battle Cry

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    Defensive tackle Tyler Scott, who has missed the last two games with a neck stinger, is back practicing and, said 'Cat coach Pat Fitzgerald, "Good to go."

    And what will his return bring to the team?

    "I think he's been our most consistent (defensive) player," Fitzgerald replied. "That consistency, a guy who loves football, plays with passion, he's made a lot of plays for us. We could use some playmakers up front."