Aerial attack featured in spring scrimmage

Tania Ganguli

Aerial attack featured in spring scrimmage

Walker impressed with his team’s focus, but says NU has not yet ‘arrived’

By Tania Ganguli

The Daily Northwestern

The Northwestern football team hasn’t “arrived” yet, and this spring, coach Randy Walker wanted to make sure his players knew it.

“We made some progress as a football team last year, but we’re a long way from being the program we want to be,” Walker said.

NU showcased its progress when its offense squared off against its defense on Saturday at Ryan Field in a scrimmage that ended spring practices. The passing game showed the most dramatic improvement, as a young receiver emerged and the quarterbacks showed promise.

Going into the game, the biggest question mark for NU was its passing game, and resuscitating it had been Walker’s focus throughout the spring.

Starting quarterback Brett Basanez completed 12 of 14 passes for 166 yards in the scrimmage, but most of his passes were for short yardage, just as they were last fall. He also threw one interception — which linebacker Nick Roach picked off — and another near-pick that a defender dropped.

Basanez’s backup, redshirt freshman Chris Malleo, played more in the scrimmage than Basanez did, throwing 28 passes and completing 16, including two touchdowns.

Redshirt freshman receiver Kim Thompson made an impressive touchdown catch and stood out in the scrimmage.

“I have the ability to stretch the field,” Thompson said.

Thompson caught five passes for 99 yards, while Frank Bass snagged four for 50 yards.

Thompson’s high school teammates, receivers Ashton Aikens and Brandon Horn, sat out of the game with injuries.

Guard Matt Ulrich, cornerback Jeff Backes, safety Bryan Heinz and running back Terrell Jordan sat out with injuries as well, but Walker said he was pleased his players escaped spring practices without any major injuries.

Jordan’s absence allowed Noah Herron and redshirt freshman running back Nathan Shanks to take all the carries. Herron played a limited number of snaps and stayed true to his image as a powerful back. On one play, he drove into the end zone with a defender draped on his jersey.