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    Northwestern Opens Big Ten Season Saturday at Penn State

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Corey Wootton leads all NU defensive linemen in tackles (20), and leads the team in TFL's (4.5).
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Corey Wootton leads all NU defensive linemen in tackles (20), and leads the team in TFL's (4.5).
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Sept. 25, 2006

    NU Football Game Notes (vs. Penn State)
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    NU-Penn State ABC Television Map
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    The Game
    With the nonconference portion of its schedule complete, Northwestern now turns its focus to the Big Ten season, which got underway for eight conference schools this past weekend. Northwestern, along with Michigan State and Indiana, play their first Big Ten game this Saturday.

    The Wildcats, who fell to Nevada 31-21 in Reno last Friday night, open conference action at Penn State, the 2005 Big Ten co-champion. Kickoff is set for 2:36 p.m. CT at Beaver Stadium. ABC is televising the game to a regionally split national audience.

    The game marks the Big Ten debut of first-year coach Pat Fitzgerald. Ironically, Fitzgerald, the nation's youngest football coach at 31 years, gets to match wits with the nation's oldest coach, Joe Paterno, who is 79, in his first Big Ten contest.

    Saturday's matchup between the Wildcats and Nittany Lions also features the lone two Big Ten programs with first-year quarterbacks -- Mike Kafka for Northwestern and Anthony Morelli for Penn State. Both signal callers replaced an accomplished starter -- Brett Basanez for Northwestern and Michael Robinson for Penn State. Basanez and Robinson were the Big Ten Co-Offensive Players of the Year in 2005.

    Besides Robinson, the Nittany Lions lost 12 other starters from their Big Ten championship team that defeated Florida State in the FedEx Orange Bowl. Defensively, Penn State has rebuilt its defense around its three returning linebackers, led by 2005 Bednarik and Butkus Award winner Paul Posluszny. Tim Shaw and Dan Connor are the other PSU linebackers.

    Offensively, the Nittany Lions lost their tight end and three interior linemen, along with Robinson. Tailback Tony Hunt (97.0 ypg) and a slew of talented and speedy receivers lead the list of key Penn State returners. Jordan Norwood, Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Brendan Perretta are PSU's top receiving threats, along with Hunt, who has nine receptions. Norwood ranks fifth in the Big Ten (along with NU's Shaun Herbert) with 4.5 catches per game.

    Penn State is averaging 370.3 yards per game offensively (44th nationally) and 264.8 yards per game defensively (25th nationally).

    The Wildcats, who suffered five turnovers in their loss at Nevada, are in the middle of a three-game road stretch.

    The Broadcasts
    Radio -- WGN will carry the game, but the broadcast will be heard on WCPT (850 AM). The broadcast also can be heard live via the internet at wgnradio.com. The pregame show begins at 2 p.m. 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. (Channels 197-199).

    Television -- ABC is televising the game to a regionally split national audience. Mark Jones (play-by-play), David Norrie (analyst) and Stacey Dales (sideline) call the action. The game is also available on ESPN's GamePlan package.

    (For the complete set of game notes, download the PDF above.)