April 11, 2009
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern wrapped up its second week of spring practice Saturday morning with an 82-play scrimmage on its FieldTurf Practice Field.
Despite the absence of four defensive starters (Corey Wootton, Adam Hahn, Corbin Bryant and Brad Phillips are out due to injury), the Wildcats' starting defensive unit dominated the day, keeping the Wildcats' first-string offense out of the end zone on 11 drives. The Wildcats did get a field goal on one possession, but that came on a red-zone drive that started on the defense's 24-yard line. The defense held and forced a 33-yard field goal from Stefan Demos (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon).
Was the defense that good or the offense that bad?
"Defense is about controlled passion and aggression, and offense is about timing and execution," said head coach Pat Fitzgerald. "Offenses are usually always a scrimmage or two behind, but I thought our guys just kept working to get better as the day went on. I'll have a better idea of how we did after I watch the tape."
The Wildcats' No. 2 offense, directed by sophomore quarterback Dan Persa (Bethlehem, Pa./Liberty), scored a pair of touchdowns on the No. 2 defense. One of the TD's came on a 45-yard reception to senior Zeke Markshausen (Capron, Ill./North Boone) after Persa retrieved a high snap from center to just keep the play alive.
Sophomore Jeravin Matthews (Canonsburg, Pa./Canon-McMillan), who was moved from wide receiver to running back in the offseason, ran with the one's and two's all day and finished with a team-high 113 rushing yards on 15 carries (7.5 ypc). A 49-yard run (versus the No. 2 defense) on his second carry of the game highlighted Matthews' day.
"Jeravin has a hunger to grow and learn our offense," said Fitzgerald. "In the offseason, we wanted to figure out a way to get him the ball and find the best spot for him. So we decided to try him at running back. His attitude is infectious. I'm excited for him and his future."
Redshirt freshman Alex Daniel, who played a majority of his snaps with the No. 2 offense, finished with 64 yards on 14 carries (4.6 ypc). Junior Stephen Simmons (St. Louis, Mo./SLUH), who ran exclusively against the No. 1 defense, finished with 31 yards on 14 carries.
Some other highlights/notes from the scrimmage:
Northwestern's defense forced three turnovers on the day, highlighted by Jordan Mabin's "pick-six" -- a 30-yard interception return for TD on the scrimmage's second play of the day. Safety Brian Peters also snared a tipped pass for the defense's second INT of the day. Safety Jared Carpenter forced a fumble that linebacker Stone Pinckney recovered.
Zeke Markshausen's 45-yard TD reception highlighted the Wildcats' passing attack. That was his only catch of the scrimmage. Fifty one of the Wildcats' 82 plays from scrimmage were running plays, however.
Andrew Brewer had two receptions for 28 yards, while Charles Brown (10 yards) and Martin Bayless (21 yards) had three receptions each.
Dan Persa completed 10-of-14 passes for 104 yards and a TD. He completed his first eight passes, which included the 45-yard TD strike to Markshausen.
The Wildcats' first-string offense was without tackle Desmond Taylor, wide receiver Jeremy Ebert and superback Drake Dunsmore, who are all sidelined due to injuries.