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    Football Set to Kick Off 2000

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Kevin Bentley and the 'Cats kick off Thursday night at Ryan Field
    Kevin Bentley and the 'Cats kick off Thursday night at Ryan Field

    Aug. 29, 2000

    NORTHWESTERN FOOTBALL vs. Northern Illinois
    DATE/TIME: Aug. 31, 2000/7:00 p.m. CT
    SITE: Ryan Field (47,130)
    RADIO: WGN (720 AM)

    Head coach Randy Walker begins his second season at the helm of the Wildcat program Thursday when his troops take on the Huskies of Northern Illinois. This is the sixth meeting between the two teams, with the `Cats holding a 4-0-1 series lead. NU last played NIU on September 29, 1990, prevailing 24-7.
    This is the second time that Northwestern head coach Randy Walker and NIU coach Joe Novak have faced off against each other. In 1998, Walker's Miami RedHawks beat the Huskies, 41-10. NIU is coming off a 5-6 record, a three-victory improvement (fifth best in NCAA) over its 2-9 1998 mark.

    RECORD: Northwestern leads, 4-0-1
    FIRST MEETING: Sept. 20, 1975 (Northwestern, 10-3)
    LAST NU WIN IN EVANSTON: Sept. 29, 1990 (24-7 -- last meeting)

    Randy Walker took over the reins of the Northwestern football program on January 20, 1999, and guided the Wildcats to a 3-8 record last year. Walker came to Evanston with an impressive coaching resume. The 46-year-old Walker, who had coached Miami (Ohio) University for nine seasons, departed Oxford as the winningest head coach in school history. His mark at Miami of 59-35-5 (.621) is even more impressive when you consider the coaching greats which Miami had produced: Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian, Bo Schembechler...and the list goes on. Walker graduated from Miami in 1976 with a B.A. in social studies education and earned a master's degree in educational administration from his alma mater in 1981. He starred for MU as a fullback, leading them to three-straight Tangerine Bowl victories. Upon graduation, Walker was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, but returned to Miami to help as a graduate assistant and the next year became a full-time assistant in charge of running backs under Dick Crum. When Coach Crum departed for North Carolina, Walker joined him and spent the next 10 seasons as a Tar Heel. He coached various positions, ending up as the offensive coordinator. From there, he spent two seasons as Northwestern's running backs coach (1988-89) and, in 1990, took over as the head coach at Miami.

    Northwestern is 66-40-5 (.617) all-time in season openers. Head coach Randy Walker, however, is 0-1 in openers at Northwestern -- last year the Wildcats fell, 28-3, to Walker's previous employer, Miami (Ohio) University.

    The following Wildcat players received preseason honors:
    Damien Anderson
    First-team All-Big Ten by Sporting News
    Second-team All-Big Ten by Lindy's
    (Lindy's ranked Anderson 22nd among the top running backs nationally)
    Kevin Bentley
    First-team All-American by Street & Smith
    First-team All-Big Ten by Street & Smith
    First-team All-Big Ten by Sporting News
    First-team All-Big Ten by College Football News
    Second-team All-Big Ten by Athlon Sports
    Harold Blackmon
    Second-team All-Big Ten by College Football News
    Napoleon Harris
    Second-team All-Big Ten by Sporting News
    Dwayne Missouri
    Second-team All-Big Ten by Athlon
    Second-team All-Big Ten by College Football News
    (Lindy's ranked Missouri #18 among the top defensive ends nationally)
    Rashad Morton
    Second-team All-Big Ten by Sporting News

    Kevin Bentley has been named to the Butkus Award Watch List, while Damien Anderson is on the Doak Walker Award Watch list.

    Five Wildcat players were accorded All-Big Ten honors in 1999, four of whom return for 2000. Defensive end Dwayne Missouri was named second-team selection by both the coaches and media. Running back Damien Anderson and linebacker Kevin Bentley both earned second-team accolades from the media and honorable mention status from the league's coaches. Cornerback Harold Blackmon was a consensus honorable mention pick. The only non-returnee is Jay Tant, who was named honorable mention tight end by both groups.

    Austin King, who as a freshman started in nine contests in 1999, snagged second-team All-American honors by Football News. King's best game came at Purdue when the `Cats nearly knocked off the No.19 Boilermakers. In that contest (his second start), King graded out at 86 percent, recorded seven pins and tallied 13 knockdowns. All were season bests.

    This season, Northwestern will face eight teams that had winning records in 1999, including seven who played in postseason bowl games. The Wildcats defeated TCU, which played in the Mobile Alabama Bowl, and narrowly lost to Purdue which secured a spot in the Outback Bowl. Only South Carolina (9) and Notre Dame (8) faced more bowl-bound teams than the `Cats in 1999. Sports Illustrated has the Wildcats' schedule ranked as the seventh toughest in the nation, while the Associated Press ranks six teams on NU's schedule in the top 25.

    Injuries plagued the Wildcat wide receivers, tight ends and fullbacks the entire 1999 season. The corps became so depleted that many times a walk-on or third or fourth string player lined up for NU. At wide receiver, Sam Simmons (fractured clavicle) and Jon Schweighardt (fractured elbow) were both lost for the season in the Iowa game. Teddy Johnson, who had a stress fracture in his shin and missed the first two games, played with a viral infection in the Wisconsin game and saw action in only two quarters, then suffered a concussion in the second quarter at Michigan and subsequently missed the Michigan State game. Rob Johnson fractured his left wrist in the Minnesota contest and missed the next four games. Derrick Thompson fractured his rib in the Minnesota contest, but continued to play the remainder of the season. At tight end, John Cerasani played with a chronic ankle sprain for six weeks, Corbett Elsen had a nerve root irritation and missed four games, and Jay Tant played with a hamstring strain all season and suffered a concussion versus Indiana. At fullback, Ian Miller suffered a concussion in the TCU game and missed the next three games. At Michigan, Miller again suffered a concussion, and missed the remainder of the season.

    Damien Anderson ranks eighth among NCAA Division I-A returning rushing leaders entering 2000. He averaged 102.5 yards per game in 1999. The leading returning rusher is Ladainian Tomlinson of TCU, whom NU plays in Fort Worth on Sept. 16.
    1. Tomlinson, TCU -- 268 rushes for 1,850 yards (168.18 average)
    2. Jordon, Maryland -- 266 for 1,632 (148.36)
    3. Simonton, Oreg. St. -- 276 for 1,329 (120.82)
    4. Thomas, Michigan -- 283 for 1,257 (114.27)
    5. Cobourne, WVU -- 224 for 1,139 (113.90)
    6. Taylor, Toledo -- 182 for 1,176 (106.91)
    7. Mitchell, Texas -- 255 for 1,346 (103.54)
    8. ANDERSON, NU -- 306 for 1,128 (102.55)
    9. Washington, BC -- 222 for 1,133 (102.00)

    Did you know that of the 44 players on Northwestern's two deep in 1999, an amazing 35 return in 2000? More remarkable, 17 of the 24 true starters will suit up for the Wildcats next season.

    Northwestern holds the distinction of being the only school in the Big Ten during the last five seasons to have three different running backs rush for 1,000 yards. In 1995 and 1996, Darnell Autry rushed for 1,785 and 1,452 yards, respectively, while in 1997, Adrian Autry amassed 1,049 yards on the ground. This past season, Damien Anderson accumulated 1,128 rushing yards. In that same span, only one other Big Ten school has had four seasons with a player rushing for 1,000 yards -- Ron Dayne of Wisconsin did it each of the last four years.

    Damien Anderson rushed for a career-high 1,128 yards in 1999 and, in doing so, became the fourth Wildcat running back in the last five years to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. Darnell Autry did it in 1995 and 1996, while Adrian Autry broke the barrier in 1997. In all, the redshirt sophomore became the seventh Wildcat to gain entrance into the elite club. Anderson ranked fourth in the Big Ten and 25th in the country with a 102.5 yards per game average. In addition, he finished fifth in the conference and 44th nationally in all-purpose yards at 119.3 per game. The media tabbed Anderson second-team All-Big Ten, while the coaches chose him as an honorable mention running back. In the Iowa win, Anderson set career highs for rushing yards (162) and rushing attempts (42). He ran for more than 100 yards in a game five times in 1999 (Miami/129, Purdue/150, Iowa/162, Wisconsin/102 and Illinois/123). Anderson came close on two other occasions (TCU/98 and Indiana/91). After gaining 537 yards in 1998, his career rushing mark of 1,665 yards already ranks seventh on NU's all-time list, while his 1,128 yards in 1999 ranks fifth best on the Wildcat all-time single season chart. If Anderson, who has two years of eligibility remaining, rushes for 1,000 yards in 2000, he would move into second on Northwestern's all-time rushing list. Darnell Autry holds down the top spot with 3,793 yards. Also of note, only two players in Northwestern history had more yards after two seasons than Anderson. Darnell Autry had 2,341 yards and Byron Sanders accumulated 1,840.

    Defensive end Dwayne Missouri finished the 1999 season at Illinois with a career-high four TFLs, and upped his season-best total to 20. That mark is the second highest in school history, while his 29 career TFLs tie him for fifth-best all-time with Mike Guendling (1980-83). If Missouri duplicates his 1999 TFL tally, he would finish second on NU's all-time TFL chart behind Casey Dailey, who racked up 53 from 1994-97. Missouri was a second-team All-Big Ten selection by both the coaches and the media.

    Last year, for the fourth time in five years, a Wildcat linebacker led the conference in tackles per game. Kevin Bentley, a second-team All-Big Ten selection, led the conference in 1999 with a 13.5 tpg average. That followed in the footsteps of Pat Fitzgerald and Barry Gardner. Fitzgerald, twice the nation's defensive player of the year, led the Big Ten in 1995 with 13.0 tpg. Gardner, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, topped the conference in 1997 (14.5 tpg) and 1998 (14.6 tpg).

    Unofficially, Kevin Bentley ranked fifth in tackles in Division I-A in 1999. His 148 stops were behind Keith Adams of Clemson (176), Jeff Ulbrich of Hawaii (169), Brian Urlacher of New Mexico (154) and Donald McCall of Eastern Michigan (154). Not surprisingly, his 148 total tackles -- 91 of which were solo efforts -- was a Big Ten high. His 13.5 tpg average was also tops in the Big Ten. For his efforts, the media voted Bentley to their second team, while the coaches thought he deserved honorable mention status. Making tackles was not all that Bentley did. He intercepted a Drew Brees pass for a 40-yard touchdown, collected another INT versus Iowa (which eventually led to a TD) and forced a fumble from Ron Dayne which led to a field goal. Bentley had three PBUs, two sacks for 20 yards, 10 TFLs and two fumble recoveries. His best game of the season came against Indiana when he registered a career-high 25 stops, 21 of which were solo efforts.

    Linebacker Napoleon Harris and free safety Rashad Morton also went over the century mark in tackles last season. "Napo" tallied 110 total tackles, while Morton registered 103. Harris was third in the Big Ten Conference in tackles per game (11.0) and sixth in total tackles. Morton finished tied for eighth in total tackles.

    The 2000 edition of Northwestern football will remain largely intact when the 2001 season rolls around. Only nine players (5 defense, three offense, 1 special teams) on the current roster of 88 are slated to depart Evanston at the end of the season. The seniors set to depart are: Harold Blackmon (CB), Javair Collins (DL), Conrad Emmerich (DL), Jack Harnedy (OL), Teddy Johnson (WR), Tim Long (PK), Dwayne Missouri (DL), Rashad Morton (FS) and Derrick Thompson (WR).

    During the 1999 season, Northwestern's defensive backs played a major role in shattering the team record for pass breakups in a season. The Wildcats amassed 60 total PBUs, 16 more than the old record of 44 which was set in 1996. In addition, Harold Blackmon set the single and career marks for PBUs at 17 and 26, respectively.

    Senior Harold Blackmon assaulted the pass breakup portion of the Northwestern record book in 1999. He had 17 PBUs to his credit in 1999 and, in the process, broke the single-season record of 13 set by Rodney Ray in 1994. Meanwhile, Blackmon's 26 career PBUs broke Ray's career mark of 23. He finished tied for second in the conference in PBUs and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten accolades from the media and coaches. Blackmon has one year of eligibility remaining. Teammate Shegun Cummings-John also had a banner year in the PBU department. He had 14 in 1999, which was sixth in the Big Ten. Cummings-John, who had one PBU in 1998, has two years of eligibility remaining.

    Northwestern was one of only three schools to win back-to-back Big Ten Championships in the 1990s. Michigan and Wisconsin were the other member institutions to do so. In addition, Northwestern, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin were the only teams to win Big Ten championships outright and only NU, Michigan and Penn State earned rings with perfect 8-0 slates.

    Northwestern was one of 27 schools to receive honorable mention status from the American Football Coaches Association for having a graduation rate of 70 percent or better. Syracuse University won the Academic Achievement Award with a graduation rate of 100 percent of its 1994-95 freshman class. Northwestern won the prestigious award in 1998 with a 100 percent graduating percentage.

    Northwestern has 23 players on its 2000 roster from the Chicagoland area. They are: Dan Pohlman (Barrington), Harold Blackmon, Jack Harnedy, J.J. Standring (Chicago), Tom Fluegge (Crystal Lake), Doug Szymul (Des Plaines), Napoleon Harris (Dixmoor), Teddy Johnson (Elgin), Derrick Thompson (Harvey), Bob Barz (Lisle), Pete Konopka (Marengo), Don Baskin, Brian Dugal, Ben Kennedy (Naperville), Zak Kustok, Jeff Roehl (Orland Park), Steve Natali (Park Ridge), Torri Stuckey (Robbins), Pat Durr, Gabe Nyenhuis (St. Charles), Brian Huffman (Schaumburg), Matt Ulrich (Streamwood) and Jon Schweighardt (Wheaton).

    Look for The Randy Walker Show Tuesday, Aug. 29 at 3:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Chicago. The show will be repeated at 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 30 and at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1. Dave Eanet, the voice of Wildcat Football on WGN Radio, serves as the host. Once again, the show will feature an "Ameritech Ask the Coach" segment. Fans can send in their questions to Coach Walker at and if their question is read on the show, they'll receive a Gift Pack courtesy of Ameritech.

    Coach Walker, selected players and Wildcat fans meet at Harry Caray's Restaurant the Thursday (note change in day) before home football games. The festivities begin with a reception at 11:30 a.m. and the luncheon starts at noon. Harry Caray's is located at 33 West Kinzie in downtown Chicago. The schedule for this season's five luncheons is as follows: Sept. 7, Oct. 5 (Harry Caray's in Rosemont), Oct 13th (Please note: this is on Friday due to Homecoming), Nov. 2 and Nov. 16. Members of the media are invited to cover the luncheon, however, if you wish to eat, please contact Jean Yale at 847-491-3694 to make a reservation. Tickets are $25 apiece.

    The Wildcats host Duke on Saturday, Sept. 9 at Ryan Field. Kickoff for that game is set for noon.