Lineman takes shot in stride (Football Notebook)

Tania Ganguli

The Northwestern defense has blocked three kicks so far this year, but offensive lineman Ikechuku Ndukwe has stopped a kick, too — only this kind doesn’t go on any stat sheet.

In Saturday’s win over Wisconsin, backup kicker Joel Howells, in the game for the injured Slade Larscheid, kicked an extra point attempt and a field goal attempt into the offensive line. One of those kicks went straight into Ndukwe’s backside.

“It was actually my lower right butt cheek. I never knew kickers kicked so hard,” Ndukwe said. “I thought it was blocked, but I guess it was a little low.”

Pat Durr said it was an easy target.

“That’s a big bootie,” he said.

Center stage: Freshman center Trevor Rees knew he would have a tough job when he came to Northwestern this year — he was replacing Austin King, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I wasn’t really nervous,” Rees said. “I saw him leave and no one really step up behind him, so I knew there was a chance I would have to. I prepared for it pretty early.”

And Monday, NU coach Randy Walker said he saw bits of his old center in the new one.

“(Trevor’s) a lot like Austin King,” Walker said. “It’s mayhem out there, and you need to have a certain amount of poise.”

Rees said that poise comes from taking the game one play at a time. When he heard about Walker’s comparison, he chuckled to himself.

“He was one of the best centers in the NCAA,” Rees said. “I don’t personally think I’m up there, but that’s definitely an honor.”

Half & Half: If someone showed up in the middle of any football practice this week, he wouldn’t see any players on the field.

That’s because the Cats have started having a halftime during practice.

The Cats have outscored opponents in the first quarter 37-0 in the last three games, but their third quarter collapses prompted changes.

“That was just trying to help them learn how to refocus after a break,” Walker said. “That was the closest thing we could come up with to try to simulate that.”

The Cats also had a toned down practice Friday night. Walker said he didn’t know if it was the routine change that gave them the edge this weekend against Wisconsin, but they plan to keep their new routine just in case.

“It’s like a hitter in a slump,” Walker said. “You just do something to shake it up.”