Oct. 17, 2011
Coach Fitzgerald Weekly News Conference Transcript
NU FB Game Notes (vs. Penn State)
Northwestern (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten) vs. RV/22 Penn State (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten)
6 p.m. CT Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011
Ryan Field (47,130) Evanston, Ill.
Television: Big Ten Network
Radio: WIND (560 AM), WNUR (89.3 FM), Sirius (Channel 92)
Internet: WGNradio.com, WNUR.org
In-game Twitter Updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
Playing the last of three consecutive night games, Northwestern hosts a Penn State squad that is unbeaten in Big Ten Conference action at 6 p.m. Saturday in Evanston. The game, part of NU's Homecoming festivities, marks the 14th night game in Ryan Field's history and the 10th since 1997.
Northwestern controlled the ball on offense for much of the game in its 41-31 defeat at Iowa Saturday, thanks in large part to converting 16-of-22 attempts on third down. That performance improved NU's season success rate from 41 to 48.8 percent, which ranks the 'Cats in a tie for 20th nationally. Northwestern has finished in the top 20 in the country in third-down conversion rate each of the last two seasons. By contrast, NU's defense limited the Hawkeyes to just one third-down conversion on seven attempts for the game.
Northwestern's three-game losing skid has come despite the Wildcats climbing to the top of the Big Ten rankings in turnover margin. After finishing the 2010 campaign ranked 12th in the nation in turnover margin, Northwestern again sits in that position with a per-game average of +1.20. NU's four giveaways on offense are tied for the fifth fewest nationally.
Northwestern employed a two-quarterback system during the game at Iowa, alternating between Dan Persa and Kain Colter. Colter had success as a runner and a receiver, racking up 147 all-purpose yards with 76 on the ground and 71 through the air. He is the first Wildcat to record at least 70 yards in those categories in the same game since Tyrell Sutton had 77 rushing yards and 72 receiving yards, also at Kinnick Stadium against Iowa, on Sept. 27, 2008.
The tandem of Persa and Colter has been a productive one since Persa's return from injury three games ago. The two have combined to account for 299.3 of the Wildcats' 420.7 yards of total offense per game in that stretch, during which Northwestern has averaged 30.0 points per game.
The Wildcats secured another takeaway against the Hawkeyes when Demetrius Dugar intercepted a pass late in the second quarter, their 11th forced turnover of the year. NU's turnover margin for the year now stands at plus-5, with its six giveaways ranking in a tie for sixth-fewest in the country.
A Win Against Penn State Would ...
Be Northwestern's first victory over the Nittany Lions since a 14-7 win in 2004.
Bring NU's current senior class to within one victory of matching the school record for most wins by a five-year class (34, set by 2009 and 2010 seniors).
Move Pat Fitzgerald ahead of Ara Parseghian (1956-63) and Dick Hanley (1927-34) for second place (tied with Randy Walker) on NU's career coaching wins list.
Ticket Information/Next Game
Northwestern's next home on Nov. 12 begins a string of three consecutive home games to wrap up the regular season. The Wildcats play host to Rice University on the 12th, and then will conclude the Big Ten season with Minnesota (Nov. 19) and Michigan State (Nov. 26). Call 1-888-GO-PURPLE to speak to a ticket sales representative.
Following the Penn State game, the Wildcats will hit the road for their final two away contests of 2011 (Indiana and Nebraska).
(For complete game notes, download the PDF linked at the top of the page.)
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