Nov. 3, 2008
NU FB Game Notes (vs. Ohio State)
Press Conference Video
Full Monday Press Conference Archive
Fitzgerald opening statement
Fitzgerald on performance in the fourth quarter
Fitzgerald on facing James Laurinaitis
Fitzgerald on his quarterbacks
Fitzgerald on team depth
Gill on facing Terrelle Pryor
After playing a pair of Big Ten road games the past two weeks, Northwestern returns home to Ryan Field to take on 12th-ranked Ohio State this Saturday. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. CT with ESPN2 televising the game to a national cable audience. The game is a sellout.
The Wildcats are nationally ranked in one of the three primary top-25 polls: NU is 25th this week in the USA Today Coaches' poll. The Wildcats just missed the cut in the other two polls, ranking 26th in both the AP and Harris. Northwestern is ranked in the BCS standings again (after an initial ranking of No. 22) at No. 24. Ohio State is ranked 12th (AP and coaches) and 11th (Harris). The Buckeyes are No. 11 in this week's BCS ranking.
Northwestern is coming off a stirring 24-17 road victory at Minnesota. Safety Brendan Smith's 48-yard interception return for TD with 12 seconds left snapped a 17-17 tie and gave NU its third road win of the year. Smith's "pick-six" is one of four plays up for this week's "Pontiac Game-Changing Performance." Fans can visit pontiac.com/ncaa and view and vote for their top play.
NU's victory at Minnesota upped its record to 7-2 and ensured the first winning season and a likely bowl bid for third-year head coach Pat Fitzgerald.
Ohio State, which did not play last weekend, enters Saturday's game still clinging to Big Ten title hopes. After suffering a 13-6 setback to unbeaten Penn State in their last outing, the Buckeyes need some help in order to win a fourth straight Big Ten crown. OSU has won 13 straight Big Ten road games. The Buckeyes' last Big Ten road loss came on Oct. 8, 2005 at 16th-ranked Penn State.
The Buckeyes, who offensively are led by freshman-phenom Terrelle Pryor at quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Chris "Beanie" Wells at running back, tout one of the nation's top defensive units. Ohio State ranks eighth nationally in scoring defense (13.3 ppg), eighth in total defense (267.1 ypg), 14th in rushing defense (104.1 ypg) and ninth in pass defense (163.0 ypg). All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis ranks second in the Big Ten with 10.0 tackles per game.
NU's Mike Kafka and Brendan Smith were named the Big Ten's respective Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week for their performances against Minnesota. Kafka, who shared the honor with Purdue's Justin Siller, set a Big Ten record for quarterbacks with his 217 rushing yards.
The Big Ten Network's "Friday Night Tailgate" show visits NU this week. One of the show's highlights is the "Teammate Game" and representing NU are, ironically, Brendan Smith and Mike Kafka.
NU's players of the game against Minnesota were: Kevin Mims (defense), Mike Kafka (offense), Brendan Smith (defensive big play), Jeremy Ebert (offensive big play) and Jacob Schmidt (special teams).
Gameday Promotions/Ticket Info
Saturday's game vs. Ohio State is a sellout. There are plenty of tickets available, however, for NU's regular-season home finale vs. Illinois on Nov. 22.
Saturday is Bank of America Day at Ryan Field. The first 10,000 fans will receive a special commemorative Pat Fitzgerald Hall of Fame coin.
Signing autographs at halftime this Saturday (on Randy Walker Terrace) is former Wildcat quarterback Zak Kustok.
Radio -- WGN (720 AM) will carry the game live with its pregame show starting at 10:30 a.m. The radio broadcast can also be heard live via the internet at wgnradio.com. 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. (Channel 198).
Television -- ESPN2 is televising the game to a national cable audience. Dave Pasch (play-by-play) and Andre Ware (analyst) call the action. ESPN360.com is also carrying the game live via ESPN's signature broadband sports TV network.
(For a complete set of game notes, download the above PDF.)