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    Football Gets Back At It With Michigan State

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM The Wildcats battle the Spartans Saturday in East Lansing
    The Wildcats battle the Spartans Saturday in East Lansing

    Sept. 28, 2000

    DATE/TIME: Sept. 30, 2000/11:00 a.m. CT
    SITE: Spartan Stadium (East Lansing, Mich.)
    artificial surface/capacity 72,027
    TV: ESPN Plus (WBBM Channel 2 in Chicago)
    RADIO: WGN (720 AM)

    Fresh off one of the most scintillating wins in recent memory, the Wildcats are finding out again that life in the Big Ten never gets easy. There is no chance to sit back and rest easy after last weekend's wild win over Wisconsin -- today, Northwestern lines up opposite yet another ranked conference team, Michigan State.
    Allow us to indulge, though, on last Saturday's heroics at Wisconsin. "Trust" was the theme for the entire week, and as a result Northwestern is 3-1 for just the third time since 1963. The other two times? 1995 and 1996, of course.
    The Wildcat offense, which had stagnated a week earlier at TCU, racked up 544 yards of total offense -- its best outing in 15 years. On three occasions in the fourth quarter, Northwestern trailed and each time the Wildcats were able to answer. In addition, the Wildcats did not turn the ball over once against a Badger defense that was eighth nationally in turnover margin entering the game.
    On defense, the linebacker trio of Kevin Bentley, Napoleon Harris and Billy Silva was again on display. They combined for 42 tackles, and Bentley ran a fumble forced by Dwayne Missouri all the way back for a touchdown on the first series of the second half.
    With the win came honors, both conference and nationally. Kevin Bentley was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week and also received the Bronko Nagurski Defensive Player of the Week from the Football Writers Association of America. Tim Long was the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week, while Damien Anderson was the National Player of the Week.

    MSU leads, 30-12 (16-3 in East Lansing)
    Current Win Streak: MSU, 2
    Most Recent Meeting: Nov. 13, 1999 (MSU, 34-3)
    First Meeting: 1905 (NU, 37-11)
    Last NU Win in East Lansing: Nov. 2, 1991 (16-13)
    Last MSU Win in East Lansing: Oct. 31, 1998 (29-5)

    * Northwestern is 3-1 for the third time since 1963. The other two times were 1995 and 1996, and both times NU won the Big Ten title.
    * The win was Northwestern's first against a ranked team since a 15-14 win over Iowa in 1997.
    * Northwestern is now 2-0 all-time in overtime games. Last Saturday's win was the first to go to a second overtime. In three OT possessions, the Wildcats have scored three touchdowns.
    * Northwestern's 47 points represented its highest output since a 47-21 win over Hawaii in 1998. In four games, the Wildcats have 134 points -- just seven fewer than they had for the entire season in 1999.
    * Northwestern's 544 yards of total offense represented its first game over the 500-yard mark since a 525-yard day against Michigan State in 1992. It was also the highest offensive output since a 649-yard day against Northern Illinois in 1985 which remains the school record for a single game.
    * Northwestern had three rushing touchdowns on the day. Prior to Saturday, Wisconsin had not allowed a rushing touchdown in three games.
    * For the second time in four games this season, Northwestern did not have a turnover.
    * Northwestern has outgained Wisconsin in total yards two years in a row.
    * RB Damien Anderson had 174 yards rushing, his second 100-yard of the season and the eighth of his career. He also had two touchdowns, including the longest of his career at 69 yards and the game-winner in the second overtime. In four games so far this year, he has seven TDs which matches his total from his first two years combined.
    * QB Zak Kustok established career bests with 21 completions and 278 passing yards. He also ran for 76 yards including a career-best 28-yard TD in the first quarter.
    * After catching just four passes in the first three games, WR Teddy Johnson had six receptions and a TD in the first overtime.
    * WR Derrick Thompson's 29-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter -- on a fourth-down play -- was the first of his career. Thompson is a fifth-year senior who was originally a walk-on.
    * As a team, Northwestern completed passes to eight different receivers. The Wildcats have had at least seven different players catch passes in each game this season.
    * PK Tim Long established a career best with a 46-yard field goal that tied the game at the end of regulation.
    * LB Kevin Bentley scored the second touchdown of his career with a 50-yard fumble recovery.

    Head coach Randy Walker loves to preach about busting out for the big play. At Wisconsin, the Wildcats only found the red zone once in regulation, yet scored 34 points -- the three touchdowns scored by the offense went for an average of 42 yards. In all, Northwestern has scored nine touchdowns from outside the red zone this season, and the Wildcats' last six TDs (aside from Saturday's OT scores) have averaged a staggering 50.7 yards in length. Damien Anderson alone has averaged 40.2 yards on six regulation TDs this season.

    Zak Kustok has thrown seven touchdown passes so far in 2000, and they have gone to six different players. Teddy Johnson is the only Wildcat with multiple TD receptions. Sam Simmons, Derrick Thompson, Kunle Patrick, Ronnie Foster and Eric Worley have one apiece.

    Randy Walker took over the reins of the Northwestern football program on January 20, 1999, and with last weekend's win he has guided the Wildcats to a 6-9 record during his tenure. Overall, he stands 65-44-5 in his 11th year as a head coach. Walker came to Evanston with an impressive coaching resume already intact. 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 currently in the teeth of its schedule -- Michigan State will mark the last of three straight games against teams ranked in the Associated Press poll. In fact, in its seven remaining games this year, the Wildcats will face four teams that are ranked by the AP this week. Five of those seven teams had winning records in 1999, then went on to play in a postseason bowl game. Only South Carolina (9) and Notre Dame (8) faced more bowl-bound teams than Northwestern (7) in 1999. Sports Illustrated ranked Northwestern's 2000 schedule the seventh toughest in the nation in the preseason.

    This weekend's game marks a return to the home state for two Wildcats on the travel roster this weekend -- quarterback Matt Danielson (Rochester Hills/Adams HS) and running back Noah Herron (Mattawan/Mattawan HS).

    Did you know that of the 44 players on Northwestern's two deep in 1999, an amazing 35 have come back to play in 2000?

    The 2000 edition of Northwestern football figures to remain largely intact when the 2001 season rolls around. Only nine players (5 defense, 3 offense, 1 special teams) on the current roster of 87 are slated to depart Evanston at the end of the season. They are: Harold Blackmon (CB), Javiar Collins (DL), Conrad Emmerich (DL), Jack Harnedy (OL), Teddy Johnson (WR), Tim Long (PK), Dwayne Missouri (DL), Rashad Morton (FS) and Derrick Thompson (WR).

    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).

    People have been surprised by the early-season success of Northwestern. However, those close to the program know that last year's travails helped develop this year's boon. Specifically, 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 is off to another impressive start this year, with 539 yards in four games (134.8 ypg). That includes a pair of 100-yard outings (187 vs. Duke, 174 vs. Wisconsin), giving him eight games in his career over the century mark. Anderson's total places him ninth in the country, but amazingly just fourth in the Big Ten. He is also fifth in the Big Ten and 22nd nationally in all-purpose yards per game (144.5).
    Anderson also has seven touchdowns already in 2000, matching the total he accumulated in 1998 and 1999 combined. His 10.5 ppg average is second in the Big Ten and seventh nationally. Most amazingly, however, is that his seven TD runs have come from an average distance of 36.1 yards -- an average that bumps up to 40.2 yards if you eliminate his 12-yard overtime TD vs. Wisconsin.
    Last year, Anderson became the third 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). With 1,128 yards -- the fifth-best total in school history -- Anderson became the seventh Wildcat ever to accomplish the feat.
    In addition to his 100-yard outings, Anderson has also run for 88 yards against Northern Illinois -- he sat out the second half -- and 90 yards against a TCU defense that had allowed 150 yards combined in its previous six games.
    A junior eligible, Anderson's career rushing mark of 2,204 yards already ranks him fourth on NU's all-time list. He needs 261 yards to pass Stanley Davenport and move into third place.

    One of last year's major injuries was Sam Simmons, but the junior has bounced back in a big way in 2000. He kicked off the campaign by being named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week on Sept. 4 after totalling 211 all-purpose yards against Northern Illinois (one reception for 40 yards, four punt returns for 102 yards, and three kickoff returns for 69 yards). He is tied for 14th nationally in punt return yardage (17.0 ypr), holds 30th in all-purpose yardage (135.8 ypg), and is 46th in kickoff return yardage (22.0 ypr).

    Northwestern believes that its linebacker corps is among the best in the Big Ten, and their performances through four games have done nothing to dissuade the argument. Last weekend, Kevin Bentley ran a fumble back for a touchdown, and the trio combined for 42 tackles (Billy Silva 9-8-17, Bentley 10-3-13, Napoleon Harris 7-5-12). In the season opener against Northern Illinois, they all figured in a fumble recovery (Silva made the hit to force the fumble deep in NU territory, Harris batted the ball away from NIU players, and Bentley recovered it), and Silva added an interception. Harris also has two interceptions this season, while Bentley's fumble recovery against Wisconsin was his second of the season. Currently, they rank 1-2-3 on the team in tackles (Silva 25-22-47, Harris 25-17-42, Bentley 27-12-39).

    Defensive end Dwayne Missouri had a season-best three tackles-for-loss at Wisconsin, giving him six for the season and 35 for his career. That moved him up to fourth on Northwestern's all-time list in the TFL category. Last year, Missouri had 20 TFLs, the second-best mark in school history. If he duplicates that total in 2000, he will finish second on NU's all-time TFL chart behind Casey Dailey, who racked up 53 from 1994-97.

    Northwestern has 16 pass breakups through four games in 2000. Last year, Northwestern shattered the team record for pass breakups in a season with 60. That was 16 more than the old record of 44, which was set in 1996.

    After assaulting the pass breakup portion of the Northwestern record book in 1999, senior Harold Blackmon has four PBUs in 2000, giving him 30 for his career which is already the school's all-time record. Last year, Blackmon had 17 PBUs, breaking the single-season record of 13 set by Rodney Ray in 1994. Blackmon, who also has three interceptions in 2000, earned honorable mention All-Big Ten accolades from the media and coaches last year.

    Austin King, who started nine contests in 1999 as a true freshman, snagged second-team All-American honors by Football News. He will anchor a seasoned offensive line this season.

    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. The Wildcats' graduation rate was 91 percent for its 1994-95 freshman class. Syracuse University won the Academic Achievement Award with a graduation rate of 100 percent. Northwestern won the prestigious award in 1998 with a 100 percent graduating percentage.

    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 is finally back home next Saturday, hosting Indiana. Kickoff between the Wildcats and the Hoosiers is set for 12 noon Central at Ryan Field. The game will not be televised.