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    Offense Comes to Life in 2009 Spring Scrimmage

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Jeravin Matthews was the game's leading rusher with 90 yards.
    Jeravin Matthews was the game's leading rusher with 90 yards.

    April 25, 2009

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    EVANSTON, Ill. -- After losing running backs Tyrell Sutton and Omar Conteh from its 2008 football team, there were a lot of question marks about the Northwestern running game heading into the 2009 spring season.

    While not all the questions have been answered about the Wildcats' ground attack for this fall, NU fans are probably resting a little easier after watching Northwestern's annual spring game on Saturday at Ryan Field.

    NU's three healthy running backs -- Jeravin Matthews (Canonsburg, Pa./Canon-McMillan), Alex Daniel (Roswell, Ga./Roswell) and Stephen Simmons (St. Louis, Mo./SLUH) -- combined for 207 rushing yards and 4 TD's to lead a solid offensive effort against Northwestern's defense, which had been dominating the 'Cats' previous two Saturday scrimmages.

    Matthews led all rushers with 90 yards (6.0 ypc) and one TD. Daniel, a redshirt freshman, had 70 yards (7.0 ypc) and a pair of TD's, while Simmons finished with just seven carries for 47 yards (6.7 ypc) and 1 TD.

    "After losing Tyrell and Omar, I'm really pleased with the way our running backs stepped up this spring," said NU coach Pat Fitzgerald. "All three guys really made some good progress the past four weeks and I'm encouraged where we're headed with that group this fall."

    Northwestern's two quarterbacks, Mike Kafka (Chicago, Ill./St. Rita) and Dan Persa (Bethlehem, Pa./Liberty) also had a few opportunities to run the ball as well, with Kafka finishing with 18 yards, which included a 22-yard run, and Persa totaling 15 yards.

    In the air, Kafka completed 12-of-21 passes for 134 yards and a TD -- a 55-yard connection to senior Andrew Brewer (Tulsa, Okla./Jenks) -- while Persa was 8-of-9 for 65 yards. The Wildcat offense did not suffer any turnovers in the game.

    The Wildcats showed their depth on offense as 14 different players caught at least one pass. Sophomore Charles Brown (Chicago, Ill./Robeson) led the offense with three receptions (for 17 yards), while Brewer (55 yards) and redshirt freshman Martin Bayless (Fresno, Texas/Hightower) (33 yards) were the leaders in yardage.

    Junior kicker Stefan Demos (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon) hit five-of-six field goal attempts with his long attempt, 46 yards, being his only miss.

    The Wildcats' defense, which was without four starters and had several other key players see limited action, was led by redshirt freshman safety Jared Carpenter (Bowling Green, Ky./Bowling Green), who totaled eight tackles (1 TFL).

    "I'm very pleased with our competitive depth," said Fitzgerald. "I think back to three years ago when we had some depth issues, but I believe we solidified those through recruiting. Our coaching staff has done a great job, and our players have done a great job fitting in. And if you look at where we're at, we're still missing about 18 freshmen that we signed and the guys that are going to walk on to the program. I'm telling you, I couldn't be more excited about this year's team."

    The Wildcats came away from the game, which was played in front of 3,250 fans, without suffering a major injury.