Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Big time’ comes to Evanston

Northwestern’s Big Ten opener features the Wildcats’ high-powered offense against Penn State’s hard hitting defense. However, the real battle may come with both units on the sidelines.

NU (2-1), whose defense currently ranks 114th nationally, looks to stop the bleeding after a 52-21rout at Arizona State in which the Sun Devils racked up 773 offensive yards.

Meanwhile Penn State (3-0) is trying to continue to prove its offensive prowess. The Nittany Lions have averaged 35 points per game just a season after scoring 10 or fewer in more than half of their games last season.

This offensive output has been fueled by Penn State’s mobile senior quarterback Michael Robinson.

“They have some kids capable of making big plays,” NU coach Randy Walker said, “but it’s all going to start with Michael Robinson.”

Robinson, who split time under center each of the last three years with Zack Mills, threw one pass in last season’s 14-7 NU win in Happy Valley. That pass was intercepted by safety Dominique Price.

This year, Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno said, is different.

A former wide receiver-slash-quarterback, Robinson has completed 34 of 55 passes for 584 yards, with six touchdowns and three interceptions in wins against South Florida, Cincinnati and Central Michigan. He also has three rushing touchdowns.

“I think Michael Robinson, right now, is a big-time quarterback,” Paterno said.

Robinson’s not the only one trying to prove himself on the offense. Last season the Nittany Lions began 2-1 with a 48-10 win against Akron and a 38-17 defeat of Central Florida, but 21-7 to Boston College and finished 2-6 in conference. This included a 6-4 loss to Iowa and a 16-3 loss to Wisconsin.

The Cats, meanwhile, have not shown signs of weekly defensive improvement. In fact, it’s just gotten worse.

NU gave up 239 yards in its 38-14 win against Ohio, but combined to allow 1,275 yards in a 38-37 win against Northern Illinois and the Arizona State loss.

“I was amazed (about the Arizona State game),” Paterno said. “Northwestern will be a challenge for us on Saturday, believe me.”

For that to happen, junior linebacker-turned-defensive end Demetrius Eaton said his team must get more pressure on the quarterback after recording no sacks in the last two games.

“It starts up front with the front seven,” Eaton said, “and once we get that down pat, everything else will follow through.”

The match-up between the other units isn’t nearly as full of questions. Senior quarterback Brett Basanez (72 for 106, 797 yards, four touchdowns) said the Nittany Lions simply will line up and make NU beat them, creating what may become a stalemate.

Therefore it likely will be the movable object versus the resistible force that determines whether NU can win its eighth straight home game and begin the all-important Big Ten season with a win.

“Every game’s important,” Walker said. “But I do look at it (as), ‘OK, here’s the non-conference.’ And no matter what, that last week in September, the slate’s clean. There’s nobody in first, there’s nobody in last. We’re all 0-0.”

Patrick Dorsey can be reached at [email protected]

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Big time’ comes to Evanston