O-line toughens up against Duke; kicking game remains a question

DURHAM, N.C. —- After last week’s debacle at Miami (Ohio), center Matt Ulrich said the offensive line played like “sissies.” This week at Duke, he said, they played more like “animals.”

Why the toughness transformation?

Perhaps it was youth, as the line often featured true freshman Trevor Rees in Ulrich’s spot at center. Ulrich sometimes slid over to left guard for Ile Ndukwe, and Greg Lutzen also spent some time at right guard for Bill Newton.

Rees said he runs with the first team about half the time in practice, but was surprised at his playing time.

Running backs Jason Wright, Noah Herron and Terrell Jordan knew just what to do with the improved protection — the trio ran for a combined 294 yards.

“The offensive line did a great job today, ” Wright said. “Trevor did an excellent job and looked very impressive out there.”

A kick in the pants: Northwestern kickers say head coach Randy Walker, who is also their position coach, often uses golf analogies to help them with their kicking game.

After Saturday’s game, Walker explained his concerns over freshman kicker Slade Larscheid as about on par with his own golf game.

“It’s like my swing,” Walker said. “Sometimes the ball goes straight and sometimes it doesn’t . I love Slade and he’s one of the best kids I’ve been around. He’s got the leg and all the tools, he just needs to make kicks in practice.”

Larscheid’s lack of consistency in games — he missed a 20-yarder at Kansas and a 39-yarder against Miami — and last week’s practice was part of the reason Walker chose not to attempt field goals in three red zone situations.

“I should have kicked the field goals, but I’m not as comfortable as I need to be,” Walker said. “He needs to make the kicks in practice and I’ll have confidence in him.”

Larscheid is 13 of 13 on extra point attempts this season.

Double the pleasure: Jason Wright and Noah Herron both reached 100 yards rushing on Saturday, but they did it in radically different ways.

The duo was the first pair of NU running backs in 15 years to run for 100 yards apiece. It last happened Nov. 12, 1988, when Bob Christian ran for 138 yards and Byron Sanders finished with 118.

Wright was the workhorse, earning his two touchdowns and 149 yards on 27 carries, averaging about 5.5 yards per carry.

Herron averaged a walloping 25 yards on his four carries, a number boosted by a weaving 69-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

For Wright and Herron, the double honor was a long time in the works.

“We’ve been dreaming about double hundred yard games on the same day, ” Wright said. “But Noah did it a lot more impressively.”

Herron added that while the honor is old news to Wright, it was still thrilling for him.

“As good of friends as we are, he always has 100-yard games,” Herron said. “It was nice for me to hit that mark too.”

NU went with a two-back set more frequently than usual in the Duke game. But even with the usual one-back set, the ball got spread around when Wright left the game to rehydrate.

“We’re evolving into more of a two-back offense, but one back or two, it doesn’t really matter to me,” Herron said. “Ijust feel comfortable when the ball is in my hands.”