Aug. 28, 2006
NU FB Game Notes (vs. Miami)
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After enduring a difficult summer and a challenging preseason, Northwestern is ready to play football. The Wildcats open their 12-game regular-season schedule at 6:30 p.m. CT this Thursday, Aug. 31 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. ESPNU is televising the game nationally.
Just two months removed from losing its head mentor to a sudden heart attack, Northwestern has regrouped under Pat Fitzgerald, who is making his debut as a collegiate head coach. The the ironic backdrop for this game is implausible -- Northwestern, coached by Miami alum and former Miami coach Randy Walker, makes its first visit to Oxford, Ohio, to play the RedHawks. Walker, who starred for Miami in the early 1970s, coached the RedHawks from 1990-98 before Northwestern hired him in January of 1999. Walker is Miami's all-time winningest coach.
Prior to the game, a series of ceremonies will be held to honor Walker (see info below for a complete list of activities).
On the field, the matchup between the Wildcats and RedHawks is intriguing. Both schools will debut new quarterbacks -- Mike Kafka (Chicago, Ill./St. Rita) for Northwestern and Mike Kokal for Miami. Kafka, a redshirt freshman, succeeds Brett Basanez, a four-year starter and the 2005 Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Year.
Kafka will be surrounded by several experienced players on offense: wide receiver Shaun Herbert (Oxon Hill, Md./Bishop McNamara), who caught a team-most 79 passes last year for 862 yards and six TD's; tailback Tyrell Sutton (Akron, Ohio/Archbishop Hoban), who averaged 5.9 ypc and ran for 1,474 yards and 16 TD's; veteran linemen Trevor Rees (Pearland, Texas/Pearland), Ryan Keenan (Westlake, Ohio/Westlake), Dylan Thiry (Louisville, Ky./Trinity) and Joe Tripodi (Chelsea, Mich./Chelsea); and tight end Erryn Cobb (Woodridge, Ill./Downers Grove North).
Defensively, the Wildcats return nine starters, led by defensive end Kevin Mims (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands), linebackers Nick Roach (Milwaukee, Wis./Milwaukee Lutheran) and Adam Kadela (Dublin, Ohio/Coffman), and defensive backs Marquice Cole (Hazel Crest, Ill./Hillcrest), Deante Battle (Fayetteville, Ga./Starr's Mill) and Bryan Heinz (Lone Tree, Colo./Highlands Ranch).
Radio -- WGN (720 AM) will carry the game live with its pregame show starting at 6 p.m. The radio broadcast can also be heard via the internet at wgnradio.com. Dave Eanet (play-by-play) and Ted Albrecht (analyst) call the action. WNUR (89.3), NU's student radio station, also will carry the game live. The contest is also available on the XM Satellite Radio network. (Channel 198).
Television -- ESPNU (Direct TV, channel 609) is televising the game to a national cable audience. Mike Gleason (play-by-play), former NU football player and alum Chris Martin (analyst) and Quint Kessenich (sideline) call the action.
Walker Tribute Set For Miami Game
Miami University will honor former football head coach, player and alumnus Randy Walker prior to the kickoff of Thursday's nationally televised game versus the Wildcats. "On Thursday, Aug. 31, we will honor the life and legacy of Randy Walker prior to our football game with Northwestern," Miami Director of Athletics Brad Bates said. "Coach Walker's contributions will forever be felt throughout Oxford, Miami, Northwestern, the NCAA and within the many lives impacted by his magnificent energy, creativity, intelligence, competitiveness and sincerity. We have worked closely with Northwestern A.D. Mark Murphy in planning what we feel is a fitting tribute to the man and the coach."
Prior to the game, a ceremony will be hosted at 5 p.m. CT in the Cradle of Coaches Plaza, located beyond the south end zone. Two former Miami head coaches, Bill Mallory and Dick Crum, are scheduled to speak. Mallory, who coached at Miami from 1969-73 and went on to direct the programs at Indiana and Colorado, recruited Walker to Miami and coached him for two seasons. Crum, who served as head coach at Miami from 1974-77 coached Walker at Miami during his junior and senior season and hired him as an assistant coach at both Miami and North Carolina.
Also speaking are Cradle of Coaches author Bob Kurz, the authority on Miami's Cradle of Coaches tradition and a close friend of Walker's, and Murphy. A plaque will be dedicated in the Cradle of Coaches Plaza to commemorate Walker's contributions to both Miami University and the game of college football. It will be the first plaque to adorn the plaza, which was constructed to honor the many great football coaches who have passed through Miami. During the game, the players from both teams will wear a sticker on their helmets that denotes Walker's Miami playing number 41 in red and nickname `Walk,' in purple. A video board presentation at halftime will further commemorate Walker's impressive life.
Walker came to Miami as a standout tailback, where he excelled from 1973-75 in a program that compiled a remarkable three-year record of 32-1-1 while winning three straight Mid-American Conference and Tangerine Bowl titles. Walker would go on to serve assistant coaching stints at North Carolina and Northwestern before returning to Miami as head coach in 1990. Behind a crushing ground attack that would create two of the MAC's all-time leading rushers and a stingy defense that traditionally ranked among the best nationally, Walker would compile a record of 59-35-5 over the next nine seasons. In 1998, he led the RedHawks to an upset of No. 12 North Carolina in the season opener, as Miami went on to compile an impressive 10-1 mark. Walker was hired as Northwestern's head coach in January of 1999 and led the Wildcats to a record of 37-46 over seven years, while becoming the first head coach in program history to lead the program to three bowl games. He coached the Wildcats to a share of the 2000 Big Ten title and earned the league's Big Ten coach-of-the-year honors. Walker, the second winningest coach at NU, became the first coach in over a century to lead NU to six or more wins four different times. He also is the only coach in Wildcat history to record at least one win over all 10 Big Ten opponents.
Northwestern will honor Walker at its home opener on Sept. 9 vs. New Hampshire. Details will be announced soon.
(For a complete set of notes, download the PDF file above.)