Transfer and losses taint summer (Football)

Patrick Dorsey and Patrick Dorsey

The Daily Northwestern

Every team expects to lose starters from one season to the next. But not like this.

After 11 starters graduated, Northwestern lost four more -and other key players -in a bizarre barrage of injuries and suspensions that defined the Wildcats’ summer.

Senior defensive end Loren Howard underwent season-ending knee surgery, then transferred to Arizona State. Junior center Trevor Rees, a would-be three-year starter, was suspended for academic reasons. Defensive backs Jeff Backes, a senior cornerback, and Bryan Heinz, a junior safety, also will miss the season -Backes left the program with a lingering shoulder injury, while Heinz tore his ACL.

The Cats also lost projected starting running back, senior Terrell Jordan, out since the spring with a hamstring injury, and senior receiver Brandon Horn, suspended in camp due to a violation of team rules.

“There are a whole bunch of guys we don’t know much about,” coach Randy Walker said in late August. “As hard as we’ve worked, as much as we’ve tried to do the last couple of weeks, we still don’t know.”

But just as the Cats didn’t expect the loss of so many players, another surprise -a good one -appeared as NU jumped to a 2-0 start with wins over Ohio and Northern Illinois.

NU routs Ohio in debut

Northwestern University, meet your next great running back.

That’s what it looked like after freshman Tyrell Sutton shot out from behind the offensive line and into the consciousness of Cats fans, beginning the season with a 17-carry, 104-yard performance in NU’s 38-14 win against the Bobcats on Sept. 3.

Sutton scored two of the Cats’ five touchdowns after starter Brandon Roberson left the game with an ankle injury. Roberson carried the ball just three times for zero yards before leaving.

The Cats grabbed a 31-7 halftime lead against Ohio, playing its first game under former Nebraska coach Frank Solich. The Bobcats’ only score came when Dion Byrum snatched senior quarterback Brett Basanez’s option pitch and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown.

Despite the failed pitch, the four-year starter Basanez led the Cats in the rout, completing 27 of 37 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns -even after 2004 leading receiver Mark Philmore was limited by an ankle injury.

“I wasn’t surprised by how well Tyrell did,” Basanez said. “He had a great camp. …He has made it clear to the seniors that he wants to do whatever he can to help us win.”

cats run from defeat

After its first blowout win in two seasons, NU faced a considerable challenge in 2004 bowl qualifier Northern Illinois. But instead of the battle for north Illinois supremacy, Sutton again ran away with the attention in the Cats’ 38-37 win.

Ohio’s 2004 Mr. Football ran for 214 yards and four touchdowns, keeping the Cats ahead while Northern Illinois junior running back Garrett Wolfe ran through NU’s defense for 245 yards and three touchdowns.

Northern Illinois had a chance to win late. Coach Joe Novak went for two after the Huskies scored to make it 38-37 with six seconds left, but quarterback Phil Horvath threw an incomplete pass, sealing NU’s second win.

“We’ve been as unlucky as you can get,” Walker said. “I didn’t see any of our guys going: ‘Oh, woe is us. We lost Brandon, we lost Mark Philmore.’ (They say), ‘OK, next guy go make a play.'”

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