Nov. 19, 2001
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NORTHWESTERN (4-6, 2-5) at No. 10/10 ILLINOIS (9-1, 6-1)
Date/Time: Thursday, Nov. 22, 2001/Noon CST
Site: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.
Capacity/Surface: 70,900/Artificial Turf
Radio: WGN 720 AM (Dave Eanet, play-by-play, Ted Albrecht, color) (also on wgnradio.com)
It is rivalry week for the Wildcats.
Northwestern closes the 2001 season against the Illinois Fighting Illini at noon this Thursday, Nov. 22 in Champaign-the first Thanksgiving Day game for the Wildcats in 59 years. There is no television coverage of Thursday's game, but fans can listen to the contest on Chicago's WGN Radio (720 AM) or via the internet at www.wgnradio.com.
The two schools, who are meeting for the 74th straight year, play for "The Tomahawk," a trophy that dates to 1945. The original Indian trophy, named "Sweet Sioux," was stolen in 1946, and the following year, a tomahawk replaced "Sweet Sioux." Since the trophy was instituted in 1945, the Illini hold a 29-23-2 edge in the series. The Wildcats won the trophy back last year after a two-year reign by Illinois.
Heading into last year's game with Illinois, the Wildcats needed a victory to assure themselves of winning a Big Ten co-championship. This year, the situation is reversed. The 10th-ranked Illini have won their last six games, and with a victory over the Wildcats, can wrap up their 15th Big Ten championship. An Ohio State victory over Michigan on Saturday, coupled with an Illinois win, would give the Illini the outright crown and a berth in the BCS Bowl Series. The Illini are paced by quarterback Kurt Kittner and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. Illinois opened the year with three straight nonconference wins before losing its Big Ten opener at Michigan, 45-20. Since that Sept. 29 loss, the Illini have averaged 34.5 points per game in their last six Big Ten wins.
Northwestern has been relegated to the spoiler role this week after watching its losing skid reach five games last weekend with a heartbreaking 43-42 home loss to Bowling Green. The Wildcats began the year 4-1 and were ranked as high as No. 14 after their 3-0 start.
The Series with Illinois
Series Record: 49-40-5, Illinois leads
At Champaign: 23-17-2, Illinois leads
At Evanston: 26-23-3, Illinois leads
Last Year's Result: 61-23, Northwestern
Series Streak: 1, Northwestern
Series Notes: The Illinois-Northwestern series dates to 1892, a 16-16 tie ... The Wildcats and Illini have met 94 previous times, placing it 26th on the Division I-A list of "most-played" rivalries. That is third in the Big Ten behind Indiana-Purdue (103 games) and Michigan-Ohio State (97) ... Northwestern has won four of the last six meetings, which includes two of the last three games played at Memorial Stadium ... The Wildcats' 61-23 victory over Illinois last year at Ryan Field marked the most single-game points by an NU team in the series history ... NU coach Randy Walker is 1-1 against Illinois.
Kudos for Kustok
While the Wildcats suffered a disappointing loss to Bowling Green on Saturday, the outstanding performance of senior quarterback Zak Kustok (Orland Park, Ill./Carl Sandburg) did not go unnoticed. Kustok turned in the best total offensive effort in Northwestern history-532 yards-and the third-best day in Big Ten history. For his efforts, he was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season and the fourth time of his career.
Kustok threw for a career-high 421 yards (26-of-39 passing) and ran for 111 yards (29 carries). With his tremendous day, Kustok upped his Big Ten-leading total offense average to 297.4 yards per game. His season total of 2,974 yards breaks the NU record that he set a year ago (2,894) in 12 games. He also has rushed for 548 yards this season, which eclipses his own NU record (505) for most rushing yards by a quarterback. The following are the top three total offensive days in Big Ten history:
1. Dave Wilson (Illinois) 585 vs. Ohio State, 1985
2. Tim Schade (Minnesota) 536 vs. Penn State, 1993
3. Zak Kustok (Northwestern) 532 vs. Bowling Green, 2001
The Bowling Green Recap
Nov. 17, 2001 -- Despite piling up 618 yards in total offense, the Wildcats could not fend off Bowling Green in the game's final minutes and Northwestern fell 43-42 in heartbreaking fashion. The Falcons scored four fourth-quarter touchdowns to overcome a 28-14 deficit. The loss also overshadowed some tremendous offensive performances, most notably a school-record 532 yards of total offense by quarterback Zak Kustok. It was the third-best figure in Big Ten single-game history. Junior wide receiver Kunle Patrick (Brooklyn, N.Y./Poly Prep Country Day) also had a career day, catching six passes for 179 yards, which included an 80-yard touchdown reception.
Patrick's touchdown, the Wildcats' longest play from scrimmage in 2001, put Northwestern ahead 35-21 with 12 minutes remaining. Bowling Green countered, however, driving 83 yards to cut the advantage to 35-28. Then Northwestern answered with a 12-play, 65-yard drive that was capped with a 3-yard scoring run from first-time starting running back Torri Stuckey (Robbins, Ill./D.D. Eisenhower). The touchdown, with 3 minutes 44 seconds left, gave Northwestern a 14-point cushion (42-28) once again. After another Bowling Green score, Northwestern recovered the onside kick and just needed to run out the clock. But with just under two minutes left, Stuckey fumbled on the Falcons' 22-yard line. Bowling Green quarterback Josh Harris then drove the Falcons 78 yards in 59 seconds to pull BGSU to within one at 42-41. The Falcons opted for the two-point conversion to try and win the game. The conversion was good and Bowling Green gained its first lead of the day at 43-42. Northwestern tried to move downfield to get within field goal range, but an interception by BGSU's Chad Long snuffed out the last-second comeback.
Northwestern Head Coach Randy Walker
2000 Dave McClain Big Ten Coach of The Year
Randy Walker is in his third season at Northwestern after spending the previous nine years (1990-98) at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. In just two years with the Wildcats, Walker directed a stunning turnaround. After a 3-8 season in 1999, he engineered a complete overhaul of the Wildcat offense and the result was an 8-4 record, an Alamo Bowl berth and a share of the 2000 Big Ten championship.
Walker was recognized for his efforts last season by both his peers and the media, as he was named Dave McClain Big Ten Coach of the Year and the Region 3 Coach of the Year by the AFCA. Walker owns a 74-53-5 career record in 12 seasons and a 15-18 mark at Northwestern. Prior to gaining his first head coaching job at Miami in 1990, Walker spent one year as an assistant at Miami (1977), 10 years as an assistant at North Carolina (1978-87) and two years as an assistant at Northwestern (1988-89).
Walker came to Evanston with an impressive coaching resume already intact. The 47-year-old Walker 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 has produced: Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian, Bo Schembechler ... and the list goes on.
Walker graduated from Miami in 1976. He starred for Miami as a fullback, leading them to three-straight Tangerine Bowl victories. Upon graduation, Walker was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, but returned to Oxford 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. 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.
Austin King, Sean Wieber Named Academic All-District
The College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) announced last Thursday that junior center Austin King (Cincinnati, Ohio/Purcell Marian) and senior safety Sean Wieber (Sandusky, Ohio/Perkins) were named to the Verizon Academic All-District squad. King carries a 3.29 cumulative GPA in secondary teaching and Wieber owns a 3.34 GPA in political science. The two are now eligible for the Academic All-America team, which will be announced Dec. 10.
On Friday, Aug. 3, Northwestern suffered a tragic blow as senior safety Rashidi Wheeler (Ontario, Calif./Damien) died while running a summer conditioning drill on campus. In his memory, the Wildcats are wearing a patch on their uniform with his initials, RAW. Also, for the first time in Northwestern football history, Wheeler's jersey number (#30) was retired. Wheeler's locker in the John Evans Club locker room is also being preserved with a glass case surrounding his jersey and helmet. Wheeler started 12 games at strong safety in 2000 and registered 88 tackles (59 solos) and three pass deflections.
Big Ten Conference Standings
2001 Standings Conference Games All Games
Illinois 6 1 .857 9 1 .900
Michigan 6 1 .857 8 2 .800
Purdue 4 3 .571 6 3 .667
Ohio State 4 3 .571 6 4 .600
Iowa 4 4 .500 6 4 .600
Michigan State 3 4 .429 5 4 .556
Wisconsin 3 4 .429 5 6 .455
Penn State 3 4 .429 4 5 .444
Indiana 3 4 .429 3 6 .333
Northwestern 2 5 .286 4 6 .400
Minnesota 1 6 .143 3 7 .300
Injury Ends Damien Anderson's Collegiate Career
Senior Damien Anderson announced last week that he will have surgery to repair his dislocated left shoulder, thus ending his collegiate career. He injured the shoulder in the third quarter at Indiana on Nov. 3. Anderson is expected to have surgery before the month of November ends. For more information on Anderson's season and career, see page eight of the game notes.
Damien Finishes Sixth On The Big Ten Rushing Chart
With his career complete, Damien Anderson is now the sixth all-time leading rusher in Big Ten history. He fell 515 yards shy of the coveted 5,000-yard mark. The following is a look at the entire Big Ten top 10:
Rank Yards Name Years Played
1. 7,125 Ron Dayne (Wis.) (1,220 attempts) 1996-99
2. 5,589 Archie Griffin (OSU) (924) 1972-75
3. 5,299 Anthony Thompson (IU) (1,161) 1986-89
4. 4,887 Lorenzo White (MSU) (1,082) 1984-87
5. 4,654 Darrell Thompson (Minn.) (936) 1986-89
6. 4,485 Damien Anderson (NU) (953) 1998-01
7. 4,472 Anthony Thomas (Mich.) (924) 1997-00
8. 4,393 Jamie Morris (Mich.) (809) 1984-87
9. 4,212 Tico Duckett (MSU) (836) 1989-92
10. 4,178 Tyrone Wheatley (Mich.) (688) 1991-94
Turnovers Tell The Story
Once again, Northwestern is proving that if you win the turnover battle, the odds of winning a football game climb significantly. This season, the Wildcats are 4-0 when suffering fewer turnovers than the opposition and 0-5 when commiting more than the other school. Against Purdue on Oct. 27, the turnovers were even (one apiece) and NU lost a narrow decision (32-27). Versus Penn State on Oct. 20, the Wildcats suffered just one turnover, but it proved to be costly as PSU played an error-free game. Since coming to NU, head coach Randy Walker is 12-1 when turning it over fewer times than the opponent. Last year, NU had five games without a turnover. This season, Northwestern has recorded at least one turnover per game.
For just the second time in Randy Walker's 12-year head coaching career, he suffered a defeat when taking a lead into the fourth quarter. It was the first time he lost a game with a fourth-quarter lead since he became the Northwestern head coach in 1999. Over the years, Walker has proven to be nearly unbeatable when his teams carry a lead into the fourth quarter.
In his 12 years as a head coach, Walker's teams have compiled a 61-2-1 record when leading at the end of the third quarter. Earlier this season versus Penn State, Walker unblemished record (11-0) when leading at halftime as the Wildcats' coach ended with a 38-35 loss. The Penn State game also marked the first time that, with the score tied (28-28) heading into the fourth quarter, a Walker-coached team lost a contest with the scored tied after three quarters. Earlier this season, the Wildcats came close to losing a fourth-quarter lead when Michigan State overcame deficits of 17-14 and 24-20 on Sept. 29. Northwestern pulled out the game 27-26 with a last-second field goal.
Cardiac 'Cats Not Living Up To Nickname Of Late
Over the last year-and-a-half, Northwestern deservedly earned its "Cardiac 'Cats" tag. On back-to-back weekends in 2000, the Wildcats threw a "Victory Right" pass to beat Minnesota on the game's final play before edging out Michigan the following week with a 54-51 victory. The winning score in the Michigan game came with 20 seconds remaining. They also pulled out a double-overtime win at Wisconsin.
In 2001, Northwestern pulled out a gut-wrenching victory over Michigan State on Sept. 29, which became its second "ESPN Instant Classic," game in as many years.
But in the last few weeks, the Wildcats' magic has disappeared, and for the first time in Randy Walker's Northwestern coaching tenure, the 'Cats have failed to win games that were decided by seven points or less. Northwestern fell to Penn State 38-35, dropped a 32-27 decision at Purdue and then suffered Saturday's 43-42 loss to Bowling Green. Walker is now 7-3 in games decided by seven points or less at Northwestern.
Zak Attack -- Unitas Golden Arm Award Finalist
The orchestrator of the Big Ten's number-two offense is senior quarterback Zak Kustok. Kustok, who was named one of five finalists for the Unitas Golden Arm Award two weeks ago, developed into one of the nation's most consistent and dangerous signal callers in 2000. Kustok's lowest single-game completion percentage during the regular season was 51.2 percent (21 of 41 at Wisconsin). Until the season-opening 24-for-49 (49.0 percent) effort at UNLV, he had completed 50 percent or more of his pass attempts in 12 consecutive regular-season contests. Prior to a sub-par 9-of-20 effort against Iowa, Kustok had completed 153 of 255 passes (60.0 percent) in his previous seven games. Last month against Minnesota, he set a career-best single-game completion percentage of .688 (22-of-32). He came back from his Iowa performance with a career day against Bowling Green: 532 yards of total offense (421 passing, 111 rushing) -- the third-best day in Big Ten history.
Prior to suffering his first interception in eight games against Michigan State, Kustok attempted 277 straight passes without being intercepted -- the longest streak of his career. He has tossed just nine interceptions in 363 attempts this year, but six in his last three games.
Dating to the 1999 season, Kustok has thrown at least one touchdown pass in the Wildcats' last 23 games, an NU record. Kustok added another notch to his belt at UNLV when he rushed for a career-high three touchdowns. He also tossed a pair of TD passes, giving him a hand in all five NU TD's. Kustok equaled that feat against Bowling Green, tossing a career-high three TD passes and running for another two.
Kustok now has registered two of the top four total offense days in NU history in the Wildcats' last five games. On Oct. 20 against Penn State, he rang up 413 yards of total offense, the fourth-best figure in NU history. Four weeks later, he followed with his 532-yard performance against Bowling Green. Kustok ranks eighth nationally in total offense with a 294.7 ypg average. Besides total offense, he ranks first in the Big Ten in the category "points responsible for." Nationally, he ranks 12th in the "points responsible for" category.
Besides the Unitas Golden Arm Award, Kustok was a contender for the Davey O'Brien Award, which honors the nation's top quarterback. Kustok ranks second in passing TDs at NU, fourth in completions and fifth in passing yardage.
With his 115-yard rushing effort against Penn State, Kustok surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for career rushing. He now has 1,262 career yards and is the only quarterback in NU history to top the 1,000-yard mark. He also has 22 career rushing TD's, which ranks third on NU's all-time list behind Damien Anderson and Darnell Autry.
Anderson/Kustok 10,000-Plus and Counting
The quarterback/tailback tandem of Zak Kustok and Damien Anderson became the Wildcats' top total offensive duo in school history Oct. 13 against Minnesota. With Anderson now sidelined with his shoulder injury, Kustok's figures will be the only numbers boosting the total in the season's final weeks. Entering this week at Illinois, Kustok and Anderson have a combined 11,303 career yards. During the middle 1990s, when Northwestern captured two Big Ten crowns, quarterback Steve Schnur and tailback Darnell Autry combined for 9,335 yards-the previous best by a Northwestern duo. Kustok presently ranks second all-time in NU total offense with 6,818 yards while Anderson finishes sixth with 4,485 yards. Len Williams holds NU's career record with 8,029 yards.
Sam is in the Books
Sam Simmons (Kansas City, Kan./F.L. Schlagle), who was slowed in Northwestern's first two Big Ten games with a broken right ring finger, followed up his Big Ten Co-Special Teams Player of the Week performance (vs. Minnesota) with a career-best showing vs. Penn State. Simmons caught seven passes for a career-high 168 yards and one touchdown. The 168-yard performance was the 11th-best single-game figure in NU history. Simmons had his best game in the past four weeks with six catches for 98 yards and a touchdown against Bowling Green. He ranks sixth on the Wildcats' career receiving yardage chart (1,603 yards) and eighth on the all-time reception list with 100 career catches.
Northwestern's three leading receivers-Kunle Patrick (Brooklyn, N.Y./Poly Prep Country Day), Sam Simmons and Jon Schweighardt (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton-Warrenville South)-have combined for 139 receptions and 1,776 receiving yards. The trio is responsible for 59.1 percent of NU's receptions and 69.3 percent of its receiving yardage. The trio also has 12 of the team's 17 aerial scores. Patrick maintained his team lead in receptions after catching six passes for a career-high 179 yards against Bowling Green. The 179-yard performance was the sixth-best single-game effort in school history. Simmons has moved into second place on NU's stat sheet with 45 catches for a team-best 712 yards. Schweighardt, who is third with 41 catches for 455 yards, has played sparingly the past two weeks due to an ailing ankle.
In the past few weeks, the Wildcats have been hit hard on the injury front. Besides losing Damien Anderson with a shoulder injury, Northwestern has suffered nine season-ending leg injuries to starters or key reserves. Roger Jordan (League City, Texas/Clear Creek) has a stress fracture in his right femur, Matt Anderson (Belvidere, Ill./Belvidere) suffered a right knee injury in the Penn State game and became the third defensive lineman to suffer a season-ending injury, Gilles Lezi (Laval, Quebec/Cegep du Vieux) broke his left fibula at Purdue, Marvin Brown (Pueblo, Colo./Central) is out with a knee injury, Noah Herron (Mattawan, Mich./ Mattawan) suffered a fracture in his foot two weeks ago in practice, Kevin Lawrence suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee against Iowa, Tom Fluegge (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge) injured his right knee last Wednesday, Chasda Martin (Phoenix, Ariz./Moon Valley) is suffering with a pulled left hamstring, and second-leading tackler Billy Silva (San Diego, Calif./St. Augustine) suffered a third-degree posterior cruciate ligament tear and a posterior lateral capsular disruption in his right knee against Bowling Green. Silva will have surgery this Friday, Nov. 23.
In The Trenches
Generally regarded as one of the nation's better units, NU's offensive line is anchored by a veteran group that features four players who garnered preseason honors: right guard Jeff Roehl (Orland Park, Ill./Carl Sandburg), center Austin King (Cincinnati, Ohio/Purcell Marian), left guard Lance Clelland (Reisterstown, Md./McDonogh) and left tackle Leon Brockmeier (Tallahassee, Fla./Lincoln). Right tackle Mike Souza (Kaneohe, Hawaii/Punahou) is the other returnee and he owns 37 career starts, the most among the five. Combined, the unit has 148 career starts. In September, King was one of 21 players named to the 2001 Rimington Award watch list, which honors the country's top center.
With its defense suffering some hits to injury, Northwestern defensive coordinator Jerry Brown has had to unleash some of his freshmen the past month. Last month at Purdue, two freshmen, Herschel Henderson (Houston, Texas/Clear Lake) and Luis Castillo (Garfield, N.J./Garfield), made their collegiate debut. Henderson, playing safety, was especially impressive, recording four tackles and a quarterback hurry. Another true freshman, Dominique Price (Jeffersontown, Ky./Dupont Manual), made his first collegiate start at strong safety that day. He totaled seven tackles and a forced fumble. Price followed up his Purdue performance with a career-high 11 tackles, his second career interception (17 yard return) and a pass deflection at Indiana.
Linebackers Lead The Way
Northwestern's top three tacklers are its three starting linebackers. In the past two games, Kevin Bentley (North Hills, Calif./Montclair Prep) has totaled 15 tackles vs. Iowa and a career-high 20 against Bowling Green. With the season-ending injury to Billy Silva, Bentley will finish the year as NU's tackle leader. He presently has 132 total hits. In the latest NCAA defensive report (for games through Oct. 27), Silva ranked 11th nationally in total tackles and Bentley was 16th. Silva was one of 12 semifinalists for the Bronko Nagurski Defensive Player of the Year Award. Junior Pat Durr (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles) has 96 hits, including nine for a loss.
'Cat Tails ...
* The Wildcats' current five-game losing skid is the longest winless string in Randy Walker's 12-year head coaching career. Northwestern last lost five in a row in 1998 under former head coach Gary Barnett.
* The Wildcats' roughest quarter for reaching the endzone is the second: they are getting outscored 80-40. NU tallied its first second-quarter TDs of the year in game six versus Penn State. NU's slow starts in recent weeks is evidenced by the fact opponents have scored 95 points in the first quarter.
* After allowing just six fourth-quarter touchdowns in its first nine games, the Wildcats gave up four in Saturday's game vs. Bowling Green.
* Northwestern started the season 3-0, its best start to a campaign since 1962.