Dec. 15, 2000
EVANSTON, Ill. -
#18/19 NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY -- (8-3, 6-2)
vs. #8/9 University of Nebraska -- (9-2, 6-2 Big 12)
Next game: Sylvania Alamo Bowl (Dec. 30, 2000)
Time: 7 p.m. central
Site: Alamodome (San Antonio, Texas)
Radio: WGN (720 AM)
NCAA Football Radio Network
The 18th-ranked Northwestern University Wildcats, co-champions of the Big Ten Conference, will take on the eighth-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Sylvania Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30, 2000 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
The Alamo Bowl will feature two of the top offenses in the country. Northwestern ranked third in total offense, averaging 475.6 yards per game, and eighth in rushing offense (257.3 ypg). Nebraska led the nation in rushing offense at 349.3 yards per game and was sixth in total offense at 460 ypg.
Northwestern's offense is led by All-American Damien Anderson. Anderson finished the regular season second in the nation in rushing averaging 174.0 yards per game. Anderson averaged an amazing 193.6 yards per game in Big Ten games, breaking Lorenzo White's 15-year-old conference record. D.A. gained 1,549 yards in Big Ten games which was also a new mark. He broke these records in 54 fewer carries.
The triggerman for the Wildcat offense is quarterback Zak Kustok. Kustok ranked 20th in the nation in total offense averaging 245.5 yards per game. Kustok also led the Wildcats to fourth-quarter comebacks against Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.
Northwestern's defense is led by All-Big Ten first teamer Dwayne Missouri. Missouri, who hails from San Antonio, was second in the conference with nine sacks and led the Big Ten with five forced fumbles. Middle linebacker Billy Silva, an All-Big Ten first team selection by the media, was second in the conference with 114 tackles.
Nebraska's option attack is led by quarterback Eric Crouch, who was fifth in the country in scoring averaging 10.91 points per game. Running back Dan Alexander shares the backfield with Crouch and is 21st in the nation with 1,154 rushing yards along with eight touchdowns.
The Huskers defense is led by First Team All-Big 12 selection Carlos Polk. Polk has 89 tackles this season, eight for loss and one sack. Defensive back Troy Watchorn picked off five passes in 2000 and broke up seven more.
NORTHWESTERN vs. NEBRASKA
All-Time Record: Nebraska leads 2-1
Current Win Streak: Nebraska - 1
Most Recent Meeting: Sept. 28, 1974 (NE 49 - NU7)
First Meeting: 1902 (NE 12 - NU 0)
Last NU Win: 1931 (NU 19 - NE 7)
NORTHWESTERN IN BOWLS
Bowl Record: 1-2
Jan. 1, 1949: Northwestern 20, California 14 (Rose Bowl)
Jan. 1, 1996: USC 41, Northwestern 32 (Rose Bowl)
Jan. 1, 1997: Tennessee 48, Northwestern 28 (Citrus Bowl)
Press Headcourters: The San Antonio Marriott Riverwalk will serve as the official media headquarters for the Sylvania Alamo Bowl. The media headquarters will be in operation from 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. beginning Tuesday, December 26, until Friday, December 29, and from 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m., on Saturday, December 30.
All press credentials must be requested directly through the Sylvania Alamo Bowl. Complete an official request form on-line at www.alamobowl.com. Rick Hill, Director of Marketing of the Sylvania Alamo Bowl, will review all requests. Credentials will not be mailed. They can be picked up at media headquarters beginning Tuesday, Dec. 26.
MEDIA WILL CALL
Credentials not claimed at the media headquarters will be transferred to the Alamodome at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 30 and will be available for pickup until the end of the first quarter of the game. Media Will Call is located on the east side of the Alamodome at the East Plaza Entrance. A Media Will Call table will be located inside the East Plaza Entrance, with the media elevators also located adjacent to the Will Call table.
The Wildcats will conduct daily practices beginning December 24 at Trinity University. Trinity is a short 10-minute drive from the Marriott Riverwalk or any other downtown hotel, with easy access off U.S. Highway 281.
MEDIA ACCESS TO PRACTICE
Northwestern's practices will be open for approximately 20 minutes at the beginning of practice each day from December 24-28. At a time determined by the coaching staff and enforced by the media services office personnel, practices will become closed to media personnel for the remainder of practice. Once practice is over, media personnel may come back into practice and conduct interviews at that time. Northwestern's practice walkthrough at the Alamodome on December 29 is closed to the media.
Coach Walker, assistant coaches and Wildcat players will be available for media interviews following each day's practice. ALL post-practice interviews will be held on the Trinity University practice field. Coach and player requests can be made to Kyle Coughlin (Interim Director) or Mike Mahoney (Asst. Director) of NU Media Services.
NORTHWESTERN PRESS CONFERENCES
The Alamo Bowl has scheduled several formal media opportunities during game week. All the Alamo Bowl press conferences will be held at the Marriott Riverwalk (media hotel) in Salon D on Floor 2. NU head coach Randy Walker and the team captains will conduct an informal session with the media upon the Wildcats' arrival at the team hotel on December 23. The weekly schedule follows:
Sat., Dec. 23 -- 5:30 p.m. Hyatt Riverwalk
Head Coach Randy Walker, Conrad Emmerich, Harold Blackmon and Dwayne Missouri.
Tue., Dec. 26 --2:30 p.m. Marriott Riverwalk
Head Coaches Press Conference
Wed., Dec. 27 -- 2:30 p.m. Marriott Riverwalk
Defensive Coordinator Jerry Brown and selected Wildcat defensive players.
Thu., Dec. 28 -- 2:30 p.m. Marriott Riverwalk
Offensive Coordinator Kevin Wilson and selected Wildcat offensive players.
Fri., Dec. 29 -- 11 a.m. Marriott Riverwalk
Head Coaches Press Conference
Coaches and players will be available to the media following the conclusion of the game. A formal interview room for each school will be located directly across each school's locker room and will be clearly marked.
ON DECEMBER 31
A final post-game press conference with the two head coaches is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 31 at 10 a.m. at the Marriott Riverwalk Salon D.
THREE CHAMPIONSHIPS IN SIX SEASONS
Northwestern was one of only two schools to win three Big Ten titles in the last six seasons, the other being Michigan. During that span, 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.
WALKER AGREES TO CONTRACT EXTENSION
Northwestern University and Head Football Coach Randy Walker agreed to a long-term contract extension that will keep Walker in Evanston through at least the 2007 season.
"I'm thrilled we were able to agree on an extension," said Walker. "This assures my family, our coaches and our players that we'll be at Northwestern for the long term."
In just his second season in Evanston, Walker was named the Dave McClain Big Ten Coach of the Year after leading the Wildcats to an 8-3 regular season record and a share of the Big Ten championship. He was also named the American Football Coaches Association Regional Coach of the Year for Region 3.
"I am very pleased that this extension assures Randy Walker will be Northwestern's football coach through 2007," said Taylor. "As excited as we are with the team's Big Ten title and bowl game in 2000, we look forward to even better things in the future under Randy's leadership."
NU ATHLETES GRAD RATES - BEST IN COUNTRY
Northwestern University was recently cited for having the highest overall graduation rate among student-athletes in the country among NCAA Division I institutions. The results are based on a report conducted by the NCAA that is profiled in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
According to the report, 92 percent of Northwestern student-athletes graduated within six years of entering school, the highest rate in the country among NCAA Division I colleges. The study took into account student-athletes who entered college from 1990-91 to 1993-94.
Breaking it down by gender, 90 percent of Northwestern's male student-athletes and 98 percent of its female student-athletes completed their degrees in that time -- far above the national averages of 47 percent (male) and 68 percent (female), respectively.
The Wildcat were well-represented by their major programs, as well. The football program, with an 88-percent graduation rate, was second in the country behind Duke. The Wildcat men's basketball program, with a 92-percent graduation rate, was third in the country behind Stanford and Manhattan College.
KUSTOK -- THE STRAW THAT STIRS THE DRINK
He may not have the gaudy passing stats of a Drew Brees or the total offense numbers of an Antwaan Randle El, but great quarterbacks can also be measured by their leadership ability when the game is on the line. In three games this season, Zak Kustok led the Wildcats to come-from-behind victories. Against Wisconsin, he engineered a drive with less than a minute left in regulation and put the 'Cats in position for the game-tying field goal, then threw a touchdown to Teddy Johnson in the first overtime before Damien Anderson won it in the second overtime. Against Minnesota, Kustok led the 'Cats back from 21 points down with 17 minutes left and won the game with a 45-yard TD pass to Sam Simmons as time expired. Against Michigan, Kustok and Simmons hooked up again, this time from 11 yards out with 20 seconds left, to defeat the Wolverines. For the season, Kustok ranked 20th in the country in total offense (245.5 ypg) and 29th in passing efficiency (129.7). Kustok passed Steve Schnur's single season record for touchdown passes with 18 and has the third most passing yards in a season (2,251) and eighth most all-time (2,992) in NU history. Kustok was named Honorable Mention All-American by Football News.
Did you know that of the 44 players on Northwestern's two deep in 1999, an amazing 38 have come back to play in 2000 -- 20 on offense and 18 on defense.
AND THE FUTURE'S SO BRIGHT
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 86 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).
THE SHOW-ME DEFENSIVE END
Defensive end Dwayne Missouri had a sack, a forced fumble and a blocked punt against Illinois. Missouri has 14 TFLs for the season (tied for the sixth-best season total in NU history) and 43 for his career, which places him second on Northwestern's all-time list in that category. He is also third on the all-time sack list with 17. Last year, Missouri had 20 TFLs, the second-best mark in school history. Missouri was named first team All-Big Ten by both the media and coaches in 2000.
Senior wide receiver Teddy Johnson is having the best season of his career. Johnson scored a touchdown in five consecutive games, setting the mark for consecutive games with a TD catch in a single-season, and leads the team with six touchdowns receptions this season. For his career, Johnson has caught 10 touchdowns which ties him for seventh on the all-time NU list with Scott Yelvington. With his next TD reception, Johnson will move into a tie for fifth on the all-time charts with Brian Musso and Steve Graig. Johnson was named All-Big Ten honorable mention by the media in 2000.
SIMMONS BACK WITH A VENGEANCE
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 totaling 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). Against Duke, he tied for the team lead with four catches for 62 yards -- including a 26-yard TD -- and totaled 65 yards on five returns (4 punt, 1 kickoff). Against Indiana, he caught a 23-yard TD pass. After not playing against Purdue because of a stress fracture in his back, Simmons again was back with a vengeance at Minnesota with two touchdowns, one from 13 yards out on a fourth-down play and the other a 45-yarder as time expired to win the game. He added to his late-game heroics vs. Michigan, catching the game-winning touchdown for the second straight week, this time from 11 yards out. Simmons garnered All-Big Ten honorable mention honors by the conference media.
Northwestern believes that its linebacker trio of juniors Kevin Bentley, Napoleon Harris and Billy Silva is among the best in the nation, and their performances during the regular season have done nothing to dissuade the argument. Silva was named All-Big Ten first team by the media and honorable mention by the coaches in 2000. Harris garnered second team honors by both the media and coaches, while Bentley was named honorable mention by both polls. And now, the 'Cats can make it a quartet with the emergence of Pat Durr late in the 2000 campaign. Durr was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after registering 11 tackles (one for loss) and an interception against Illinois.
BREAKING UP ISN'T HARD TO DO...
Northwestern has 51 pass breakups through 11 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.
AND BLACKMON KNOWS BETTER THAN ANYBODY
After assaulting the pass breakup portion of the Northwestern record book in 1999, senior Harold Blackmon has 20 PBUs in 2000 which surpassed his mark from last season. He now owns the top two spots on the list and has 46 PBUs for his career, which is the school's all-time record. Blackmon also has five interceptions in 2000 to give him 10 for his career, good for fourth on the school's all-time list. He earned second-team All-Big Ten accolades from the media and honorable mention from the coaches in 2000.
COULDN'T CATCH A BREAK IN 1999
People have been surprised by the 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 corps the entire 1999 season. They became so depleted that many times a walk-on or third string player lined up for NU.
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. Derrick Thompson fractured his rib in the Minnesota contest, but continued to play the remainder of the season.