Sept. 2, 2014
Coach Fitzgerald Weekly News Conference Video
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Two schools located approximately 70 miles from one another meet Saturday on the gridiron for the first time since 2005, as Northwestern hosts perennial Mid-American Conference power Northern Illinois. The Wildcats are unbeaten in seven all-time meetings with their neighbors to the west, with six victories to go along with a 1987 matchup that ended in a 16-16 tie.
The game will air live on the Big Ten Network (Channel Finder) and stream live to the web and mobile devices via BTN2Go. On the radio, the game can be found on 87.7 FM The Game in Chicago or TheGameChicago.com, with 25-year veteran Dave Eanet -- who last week had his broadcast booth at Ryan Field named in his honor -- and Ted Albrecht being joined Jordan Bernfield from the sideline.
Northwestern Game Notes
NIU's last visit to Ryan Field in 2005 was a memorable affair highlighted by the breakout performance of a highly touted true freshman tailback by the name of Tyrell Sutton
. In just his second college game, Sutton exploded for 214 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries, but Northern Illinois hung in the game thanks to an equally impressive performance by running back Garrett Wolfe (245 rushing yards, three TDs). Sutton appeared to clinch an NU victory when he found the end zone with 1:05 remaining to break a 31-31 tie, but Northern Illinois quickly countered with a 19-yard scoring TD with six seconds left in the fourth quarter. Huskies head coach Joe Novak elected to go for a two-point conversion and the win, but NIU's pass attempt into the end zone fell incomplete as Northwestern emerged with a 38-37 victory.
Northwestern enters this week's matchup carrying a 10-game winning streak against MAC opponents, which has brought its all-time record against MAC schools to 17-8-1. The Wildcats' most recent win vs. a MAC foe came last September when they dispatched of Western Michigan, 38-17.
Like in 2005, Wildcats fans are likely to see a true freshman carrying the ball out of the backfield for NU Saturday, as they did last week against California. After strong performances throughout training camp, both Justin Jackson and Solomon Vault earned carries in their first career outings last week, combining for 65 yards on 13 attempts and each averaging 5.0 yards per rush. Jackson, who led all NU players with 40 rushing yards in the game, also scored his first career touchdown with a 7-yard run in the third quarter.
A year ago, the Northwestern defense ranked among the nation's leaders with 19 interceptions in 12 games. In NU's season-opener versus Cal, the 'Cats showed they plan to continue that trend in 2014, with both Collin Ellis and Ibraheim Campbell notching interceptions in the game. For Ellis, the pick was the fourth of his career and third against the Golden Bears, having recorded two "pick-sixes" vs. Cal in their 2013 meeting. Campbell, a fourth-year starter at safety, now has nine career interceptions, tied for the seventh-most in program history. Ellis and Campbell also were NU's two leading tacklers in the game, with 12 and 11, respectively.
QB Trevor Siemian began the year with the third-most career passing yards among Big Ten opening-day starters, and enters today's game needing just 54 yards to reach 4,000 for his NU tenure. The 6-foot-3 Siemian, whose 21 career passing TDs leave him two shy of entering the top 10 in Wildcats history, also flashed his running ability last week vs. Cal when he scampered 17 yards and eluded several defenders to score on a QB throwback play. Delivering a perfect pass to Siemian was redshirt freshman superback Jayme Taylor, who was a high school quarterback in his days at The Woodlands High School in Texas.
Northwestern was the only FBS team in the country to be assessed zero penalty yards in their season-opener. NU was flagged once for intentional grounding, in which case the ball is placed at the spot of the would-be sack. Last year, the 'Cats ranked second in the Big Ten and 12th nationally in fewest penalties committed per game (4.08).
Northwestern Vice President for Athletics and Recreation Jim Phillips is quite familiar with Saturday's opponent, having served as Director of Athletics at NIU for four years immediately preceding his arrival in Evanston. While in DeKalb, Phillips oversaw the fundraising and construction of several new facilities on the NIU campus and helped increase the school's media and competitive presence in the Chicagoland market.
The Last Meeting
|Northern Illinois (Heroes' Day/Band Day)||37
September 10, 2005
Northwestern Triumphs With 38-37 Win Over Northern Illinois
Tyrell Sutton ran for his fourth touchdown of the game with just over a minute left, and Northern Illinois failed to convert a 2-point conversion in the final seconds in the Wildcats' 38-37 win Saturday. After Sutton put Northwestern up 38-31 with a 5-yard touchdown run, Northern Illinois marched down the field in less than minute to set up Phil Horvath's 19-yard scoring pass to Sam Hurd with 6 seconds left. Instead of trying to send the game in overtime by kicking the extra point, Northern Illinois football coach Joe Novak decided to go for the win. But Horvath's pass to Hurd, who was closely guarded by Cole, was incomplete.
Northern Illinois Notes
After graduating a senior class that took NIU Football to new heights in recent years -- including the 2013 Orange Bowl vs. Florida State -- Northern Illinois eased into its second season under head coach Rod Carey with a 55-3 victory over Presbyterian last week. The Huskies were able to run a school-record 109 plays on offense in the game, accumulating 635 yards of total offense and 424 rushing yards.
Junior QB Matt McIntosh made his first career start after backing up 2013 Heisman Trophy finalist Jordan Lynch during the early part of his career. A former Gatorade Player of the Year in Indiana, McIntosh debuted with 87 passing yards on 10-of-14 passing in limited action.
Northern Illinois has a former Wildcat patrolling the sidelines today, with 2006 Northwestern alum Joe Tripodi now in his second season as offensive line coach and his fifth overall in DeKalb. Tripodi was a starting left guard for the 'Cats in 2005 and 2006, helping protect QB Brett Basanez and RB Tyrell Sutton during Northwestern's prolific 2005 season.
Download complete game notes for both teams by following the links at the top of the page.
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