2010 Record: (7-6, 3-5 in Big 10)
Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (34-29 All-Time, 18-22 in Big Ten)
Last Bowl Game: 2010/2011 TicketCity Bowl (lost to Texas Tech 45-38)
CFBZ Northwestern Links
9/3: at Boston College
9/10: Eastern Illinois
9/17: at Army
10/1: at Illinois (2010 result: lost 48-27)
10/15: at Iowa (2010 result: won 21-17)
10/22: Penn State (2010 result: lost 35-21)
10/29: at Indiana (2010 result: won 20-17)
11/5: at Nebraska
11/12: Rice (2010 result: won 30-13)
11/19: Minnesota (2010 result: won 29-28)
11/26: Michigan State (2010 result: lost 35-27)
2010 Offensive Statistics:
Scoring: 26.4 ppg (8th in Big Ten, 63rd in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 155.92 yds/game (6th in Big Ten, 59th in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 235.2 yds/game (4th in Big Ten, 48th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 391.1 yds/game (5th in Big Ten, 48th in Nation)
2010 Defensive Statistics:
Scoring: 29.0 ppg (8th in Big Ten, 77th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 185.0 yds/game (9th in Big Ten, 92nd in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 241.2 yds/game (10th in Big Ten, 95th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 426.2 yds/game (10th in Big Ten, 97th in Nation)
2010 Misc Stats:
Turnover Margin: -0.08 per game (7th in Big Ten, 62nd in Nation)
Penalties: 56.6 yds/game (9th in Big Ten, 81st in Nation)
Top Returning Statistical Leaders:
Passing: QB Dan Persa, Sr (222 of 302 for 2581 yds, 15 PTD, 9RTD, 4 INT)
Rushing: RB Mike Trumpy, Soph (116 for 530 yds, 4 TD)
Receiving: WR Jeremy Ebert, Sr (62 rec for 953 yds, 8 TD)
Tackles: S Brian Peters, Sr (107)
Sacks: DE Vince Browne, Sr (7)
Interceptions: S Brian Peters, Sr (3)
Athlon Sports: Pinstripe Bowl (vs UConn)
Phil Steele: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (vs Cal)
Northwestern started out the 2010 season at 7-3 and 3-3 in the Big Ten but the season quickly took a turn when their star QB, Dan Persa, went down against Iowa. After Persa's injury the Wildcats went 0-3 to finish the season. It looks like Dan Persa will be back for the 2011 season and I think Northwestern is a team that is flying under the radar. According to Phil Steele, Northwestern is the 2nd most experienced team this year (trailing only SMU) as they have 7 seniors projected to start on offense and 9 seniors starters projected on defense. Northwestern was sketchy on defense last year but does return some talent. While the defense should be better this year the key to Northwestern's season is the offense and the dynamic Dan Persa. If he can stay healthy the Wildcats have a chance to make some noise in the Big Ten this year as they have a pretty favorable schedule. The Wildcats don't play Ohio State or Wisconsin this year and that could be a huge benefit to them. To get an inside perspective on the 2011 season we caught up with the Northwestern blog Lake The Posts.
After Dan Persa got injured last year, the Wildcats went down pretty quickly. Who needs to step up this year to help Persa?
I'm going to go with the OL. I'm actually quietly confident about our ground game with Mike Trumpy and Adonis Smith. Mike Trumpy averaged 85 ypg rushing in his final four starts of the season before getting injured. I am beyond psyched with our deepest WR talent base in the 20 years I've been following the team. The OL was inconsistent at best last year and with Persa on the mend, you can bet he's not going to be put in as many situations where he needs to scramble. We'll need more traditional spread pass protect and hence, OL will be key.
In our 2010 Exit Survey you listed the defense as your biggest disappointment. What has the coaching staff done this off-season to help correct this issue?
Tough to say as I'm not at practice. For starters, Fitz went against his coach speak immediately following the Ticket City Bowl list and called out the senior class. He's no dummy and did so knowing this senior class is filled with leaders who are also some of the best players. He truly opened up every defensive position for grabs with the exception of CB Jordan Mabin and DE Vince Browne. He meant it. We were plagued with spring injuries, but a sense of true, hard-core competition emerged and some new faces stepped up to offer some potential light. However, I'd still say that most of us are relying on our offensive productivity converting to more ppg as the key to winning more games.
There were some key freshmen contributors on last years team. Which newcomers might be able to help out this fall?
I've got three pegged as impact freshmen with two of them redshirts. The first is DB Ibraheim Campbell out of Philly. He's a RS F and turned a lot of heads in the secondary and had Sr. DB Jordan Mabin talking big time about his athleticism. I think true frosh RB Jordan Perkins, who was an oversign victim at Stanford and committed to NU at the last minute, will be very happy about his decision and will likely get some reps this season. I also see DE Chance Carter getting a chance to step-in to some quality minutes as a RS F.
Two additional newcomers of impact are Christian Jones and Max Champman. WR Christian Jones will long-term be the likely gem of the class. He was a 4-star caliber guy being recruited by every major program in the country before a major injury had most back off. He's a long way from his pre-injury status, but has that big playmaker potential like a D'Wayne Bates level if, and I stress if, he can get to full strength. Jones will likely RS as a result of this injury plus the overwhelming depth we have at WR with a slew of sophomores.
DL Max Chapman is a beast. I wouldn't be surprised if he makes the 2-deep as a true freshman and gets minutes by BC kickoff time. It's extremely rare for an NU lineman on either side to not get redshirted, but Fitz is committed to go with the best talent and Chapman seems to have instant impact potential.
What is the one game you want to win more than any other this year?
This feels like the "stoke the Iowa thing" question. A great question though. My answer might surprise you, but it is a coin-flip between Penn State and Michigan State. JoePa has absolutely owned us since he joined the league and Fitz has yet to beat him (joining Ohio State as the only two teams he hasn't beaten) and last year's loss was a soul-crusher after we blew a 21 point lead on ABC in JoePa's 400th win. That game is homecoming (Oct 22) and one of two primetime home games. We're still in the attendance building phase and that kind of win to the casual fan means something, despite the fact most of us feel that Penn State is a slightly above average team this season.
Michigan State might have the edge. Similar to Penn State, they own us since Fitz got here and it seems to be getting borderline head game-ish. Like Penn State, we blew a huge opportunity to close the deal against the then undefeated Spartans blowing a 17-point lead on the now infamous fake punt play. Add that to the ignominious 2006, year one Fitz epic loss - an NCAA record 35-point blown lead ( we were up 38-3 midway through the 3rd and lost 41-38) and you've got some real heartbreak on our end in recent years. Plus, our fan base doesn't particularly care for Sparty fans as they're at the top of the "no respect for NU" factor AND have become quite the recruiting rival in recent years. It's a late November game, but if you pinned me on this one I'd likely say Michigan State.
What do you see as the most pivotal games on the schedule?
Three games stand out for different reasons. The opener at Boston College will be a great test and answer a lot of questions about just how much Dan Persa has recovered. The stats don't favor him in the comeback, but we all know Persa defies stats. He's our make or break and how he plays in the opener on the road against a very solid opponent has tone-setting potential. The other two are the two night games - the Big Ten home opener against Michigan and the homecoming night game against Penn State two weeks later. We had the highest total attendance increase in the nation last year (over 10,000 more per game than 2009) which is good news/bad news. Good news in that we're trending up, but bad news in that we're not close to averaging a sellout of 47,130 mostly purple - one of the last knocks on the program.
At NU its about converting the non-alum fan in a pro sports town. Name appeal of opponent usually trumps actual ranking. Michigan, despite their recent dip, gets butts in seats. Plus, the potential of both teams having near perfect records in that game is good since it is early, thus putting the Dan Persa vs Denard Robinson show on a primetime stage. It is a HUGE momentum game for us in every way. Potential buzz generating, attention-grabbing, electrifying, get fans to come back and oh yeah, the W-L in Big Ten factor against a fellow division opponent kinda game. While the first trip to Lincoln has NU fans buzzing, it also feels like a potential "L", thus I'd again put the Penn State game on the table with Michigan. Same reasons as above on why it's important.
What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
I've got anything under 8-4 as major disappointments-ville. Our non-conference schedule is much more challenging than the past with road games @BC and @Army which means 4-0 non-conference is no gimme, but logical. Overall many feel that this is that once every four year opportunity to really make a run for a Big Ten title, which we hope is going to be more frequent. The senior leadership is there, the young playmakers are there (see: WR corps), but it has been painfully hard to look in the mirror all winter long and expect the "D" that was so darn awful down the stretch to improve THAT much to get us those extra couple of wins. I'd be "OK" with 8-4 but slightly disappointed and in my heart am hopeful for a 9-3 season. NU is currently tied with That Team From South Bend for the all-time record bowl losing streak (8 games) and as you can imagine we are a tad sensitive to the words "Northwestern" "losing", and "streak" even appearing in the same sentence, let alone like they have twice, in context, in this post. Hence, I caveat the above with the fact that no matter what the record is, NU fans want one thing - a damn bowl win to get the monkey off our backs. Fitz is going for his fourth straight bowl game adding on to his own school record and the school's 9th since 1995, yet NU fans are catching up with others in their "what have you done for me lately" attitudes and are snippy about our inability to end the season with a "w". Bottom-line, we win a bowl, it's a good year.
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