Sept. 3, 2012
Northwestern (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) vs. Vanderbilt (0-1, 0-1 SEC)
Saturday, Sept. 8 7 p.m. CT
Ryan Field (47,130) Evanston, Ill.
TV: Big Ten Network (Crew: Eric Collins, Derek Rackley, Lisa Byington)
Radio: ESPN 1000 (Chicagoland) (Dave Eanet, Ted Albrecht) and WNUR (89.3 FM)
Live Twitter Updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
Northwestern vs. Vanderbilt -- Weekly Release | 2012 Northwestern Football Yearbook
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Looking to build off its dramatic one-point win in last week's season-opener, Northwestern begins a four-game homestand and makes its 2012 Ryan Field debut Saturday night vs. Vanderbilt (7 p.m. CT, BTN). The occasion marks the first time since 2000 that the Wildcats will host a night game (6 p.m. start or later) for their home-opener.
The last time NU played four consecutive home games in the same season, as it is prepared to do this month, was in 1934 (Oct. 27-Nov. 17).
|Coach Fitzgerald Press Conference: Free Preview|
Northwestern's penchant for pulling out close games was on full display in its season-opener at Syracuse as NU rallied from six points down with less than three minutes remaining to knock off the Orange, 42-41. The Wildcats are 32-12 since 2004 in games decided by seven points or less and 22-10 since Fitzgerald took the reins in 2006. Fitzgerald's mark includes a 4-0 ledger in one-point contests.
Junior Venric Mark had a day to remember against Syracuse, and not only because it was his first career start as a Wildcat. Mark dazzled in his role as NU's punt and kick returner en route to his second career Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honor (sharing the accolade this week with Iowa kicker Mike Meyer). A look at some of Mark's achievements from the week one victory:
Single-game school record 134 punt return yards (previous record: 121, Lee Gissendaner vs. Stanford, 1992)
82-yard return for a touchdown, the fourth-longest punt return in school history
First punt return for a TD since Marquice Cole against Northern Illinois on Sept. 10, 2005
Became NU's all-time leader in kickoff return yardage with 1,513 (previous record: 1,499, Ricky Edwards
Set a career high with 82 rushing yards, including 46 yards on four carries to set up NU's fifth touchdown
Compiled 281 all-purpose yards, tying his career best set in the 2010 regular-season finale at Wisconsin (when he notched 274 kickoff return yards). That is the second-highest single-game total in the country this season. NU's single-game record for all-purpose yards is 336 set by Jason Wright (2003).
Senior wideout Demetrius Fields can be forgiven if he experienced déja vu while hauling in the game-winning touchdown at Syracuse Saturday. Fields, who was able to plant one foot in the end zone while running full-speed toward the boundary, made a similar game-winning grab in NU's 21-17 upset of No. 13 Iowa back on Nov. 17, 2010. On that play, Fields worked his way right-to-left across the field when Dan Persa lofted a pass to a well-defended Fields, who was able to come down with the ball and lift NU to victory with 1:22 remaining in the game. It was the last pass thrown that season by Persa, who ruptured his Achilles tendon on the same play.
Under fifth-year defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, Northwestern has succeeded in creating extra possessions for its offense by taking the ball away from the opposition. NU has forced at least one turnover in its last 15 games, beginning with the 2011 TicketCity Bowl vs. Texas Tech. In fact, the Wildcats have at least one interception or fumble recovery in 37 of their last 40 games.
Northwestern-Vanderbilt Series Information
All-Time Series Record: Tied, 1-1-1
Last Meeting: Sept. 4, 2010
Northwestern 23, Vanderbilt 21
Northwestern and Vanderbilt, two of the top academic institutions in major college football, renewed acquaintances on the gridiron in 2010 for the first time in 58 years. Prior to that season-opening matchup two years ago, the 'Cats and 'Dores hadn't met since Oct. 4, 1952 in Evanston, a game that resulted in a 20-20 tie. The Commodores won the only other contest in the series, a 3-0 outcome in 1947 at Northwestern.
Saturday's contest marks just the 11th time in school history that NU has faced an opponent from the Southeast Conference. The last two times were played in succession, when the Wildcats faced Auburn in the Outback Bowl (Jan. 1, 2009) followed by Vanderbilt in the 2010 season-opener.
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